The Week in Soap: 28th May ’17

Building a business one soap at a time.  That’s my blog’s sub-heading, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few years.  Just like putting one step in front of the other, I’ve been making one soap after another, and slowly growing the business  But a lot of the time it feels like I’m flying by the seat of my pants.  I knew nothing of business before I started this venture, and it’s been (and still is!) a huge learning curve.  I was simply a soapmaking hobbyist who frankly, was looking for a way to make a bit of money when I realised that I really DIDN’T want to go back to the long hours of Project Management when my son, my eldest child, was born seven years ago.  Seven years ago today in fact.  I’m not sure where I’m going with this ramble, but it’s my gorgeous boy’s birthday today, and I’ve been reminiscing on the passing of time.

Before my boy arrived I loved my job.  It was fast paced and I worked long hours, but it was absolutely not compatible with a baby – for me anyway. So I started wondering whether it was possible to build a profitable business making handmade soap.  Seven years on and the business grows month by month and I love THIS job. Working my own hours is so family-friendly (and will be even easier when my youngest starts school full time in September) but I’m still nowhere near making the kind of income I had from my pre-children employment, and I don’t know if I ever will.  It’s exciting, exhilarating even, and sometimes it makes me anxious.  At times I drive my long suffering husband insane by fretting and worrying about how much I have to do in what little time I have available to me, especially when he’s working away and that available time is further reduced.  I’m frightened of taking too much on, overstretching myself and letting customers down.  I’ve been holding back on launching the website because I really don’t know if I can handle more orders than I’m already getting…  A great position to be in, but it means that growth is slower than it could otherwise be.

Well, having said all that, I was lucky enough to secure two new stockists this last week. My soap can now be found in Conwy Art & Craft, 7 High Street, Conwy and Slate and Things at 38 High Street, Caernarfon.  Do pop in and check them out if your in the area – both gorgeous shops with loads of lovely items for sale.

Needless to say, I’ve been doing a lot of wrapping and labelling recently, but  I also made soap (of course!).  Two batches each of Serenity and Botanica:  (please forgive the shadows – I thought I’d try some ‘arty’ photos in the dappled sunshine but, erm, it didn’t quite work :-D)

Serenity & Botanica in the mould

Serenity & Botanica in the mould

And I even managed to get it cut in time to share some pics with you:

Serenity Mid-cut

Serenity Mid-cut

Botanica Mid-cut

Botanica Mid-cut

I’ve been inundated with orders for the mini guest bars – plenty of them gone out this week:

Guest bars ready to ship out

Guest bars ready to ship out

I’m STILL in discussions with a couple of companies re boxes for my soap – I’ll be sure to share more when I have something definite to report.

On a personal note, I’ve already mentioned that it’s my eldest’s birthday today. We held a party for him and his friends yesterday, and much fun  was had:

The birthday boy (and me)

The birthday boy (and me)

He absolutely adored his Minecraft themed cake:

Minecraft Cake

Minecraft Cake

made by the super-talented Julie of Stickytreats – check out her Instagram account if you love creative cake decor…

That’s it for today, thanks for reading, I’ll be back soon!

 

 

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The Week in Soap: 21st May ’17

Did you have a good weekend?  I’ve no idea where this last week has gone – seemed to fly by!  My husband was away for a couple of nights at the beginning of the week, so although I managed to make a couple of batches on Tuesday night, once the kids were in bed, I didn’t manage to get as much done this week as I usually would… He’s away again next week, for three nights I think, and as it’s half term and both kids are off school, it could well be a rather unproductive week soapwise…

Anyhow, back to the good stuff. These were Tuesday’s batches – Clarity and Luscious Lavender:

Clarity & Lavender in the Mould

Clarity & Lavender in the Mould

And, for once, I managed to photograph the freshly cut bars – forgive the rough edges, these were taken just minutes after cutting:

Clarity - brand new and freshly cut

Clarity – brand new & freshly cut

Luscious Lavender - brand new and freshly cut

Luscious Lavender – brand new & freshly cut

I’m still on the hunt for soap boxes – I knew there was a reason I put it off for so long, it’s not an easy search!  I’ll update when I have something to share.

This week saw the arrival of the last parcel (all the way from the US) in the 2017 International Soap Swap. I don’t want to spoil any surprises so I can’t really give anything away until all participants have received their return packages, but oooohhhhh I’m so excited to share.  There should have been 15 of us in total, but 6 had to pull out for one reason or another, and the final count is 9.  The contents of these boxes are stunning, and will be posted out to their rightful owners by the end of the week.  Stay tuned as I can’t wait to share their contents with you….

Soap Swap boxes - woop!

Soap Swap boxes – woop!

My soapmaking routine is taking a bit of a shuffle this week.  I’ve always been in the habit of making soap on a Tuesday night, so that I have a batch to cut at my soapmaking presentation on a Thursday night (48 hours later).  However, the venue has asked me to move my talk to Wednesday nights (after my kickboxing training – eek!) for the foreseeable future, and therefore I  need to make soap on a Monday night from now on.  It does however free Thursday night up for soapmaking too, so my schedule from now on will mean soapmaking on a Monday and a Thursday as a general rule.

There you go, that was my soapy week in a nutshell. In other news, we spent most of yesterday working in the garden.  Have I mentioned our back garden yet?  It was a complete jungle when we moved into the house, and it’s slowly being tamed into submission.  This was it last year – just look at those overgrown boundaries :-O (But on a positive note they hid pounds and pounds of juicy blackberries)

A couple of months ago...

Last Autumn…

Then, after lots and lots of hacking, digging etc etc etc we got to this point a couple of weeks ago:

Before yesterday's efforts...

Before yesterday’s efforts…

And by the end of yesterday:

After Sunday's efforts...

After yesterday’s efforts…

I’m starting to see potential, and am getting excited about what we could do with it.  It slopes upwards, so it’s foreshortened in this picture, and is actually longer than it looks.  I have dreams of a greenhouse, a seating area, raised beds for veg and salad, and plenty of flower beds.  I absolutely adore gardening, and can’t wait to get to it properly! And obviously I’ll be sure to share the progress 🙂

Thanks for reading – back soon!

 

The Fortnight in Soap: 15th May ’17

Good afternoon from a very wet Monday in Snowdonia!  We’ve had some glorious weather recently, but this morning we awoke to pouring rain and it hasn’t let up all day.  Ah well, the gardens will be all the happier for it!

I didn’t post a round up last Sunday, as, to be honest, there wasn’t that much to tell you. I’d made one batch of soap – yet another two loaves of Tutti Frutti (I’m selling out as soon as it’s cured, and I need to get stock levels back up):

Tutti Frutti in the mould

Tutti Frutti in the mould

And last week I only soaped twice – another restock of Welsh Rose:

Welsh Rose in the Mould

Welsh Rose in the Mould

and the second time was some wedding favours for my friend who gets married at the end of June.  I’ll share those in another post as I’ve not got round to photographing them yet.

I’ve been really busy with orders for my mini bars. These are really popular with holiday accommodation owners in the village and the surrounding area.  Three lots have gone out over the weekend, and there’s still more to do.

Welsh Rose Mini Guest Bars

Welsh Rose Mini Guest Bars

I only sell these on a wholesale basis, with the minimum order being 50,  they’re just too fiddly and time consuming to wrap to make them cost effective in smaller amounts.  I’m considering doing a selection pack of one of each of the core range, but I need to think a little more about the practicalities (I’m back to whether or not I can make them cost effective again)

The other big thing taking up my time over the last week or so has been trying to get some quotes for soap boxes.  I currently wrap in cellphane bags, but I’m looking for something a little more professional, and which will give the bars more protection in transit / on shelves. I’d like plain white boxes with a window, so that the soap can be seen (and smelled!) and early indications suggest that they’re not cheap!!  It’s a work in progress, and I’ll keep you updated.

But the main reason I’ve not made soap for a while?  I was all out of Olive Oil, and had been for a week.  I strongly suspect that there’s a shortage at the moment as, although I could buy plenty of Pomace Olive Oil, I’m struggling to get regular olive oil at a good price. I know many soapmakers use pomace without any problems, but I find it accelerates trace compared to regular olive oil, and that’s no good for my drop swirls.  I usually get mine via Amazon’s subscribe and save facility, but they didn’t deliver April’s order, and when I went online to check what was going on,  they’d cancelled the order without so much as an email to let me know ARRGHH   May’s order is still in place so I’m hoping that turns up as planned. Anyway, I ordered some more from another supplier last Monday evening, and it finally arrived today…

Oh, and this blog was featured in Feedspot’s 100 top soap blogs last week. I’ll be honest, Feedspot was new to me, but it appears to be very similar to Bloglovin’.  If you’re interested in soapy blogs (and of course you are, right?!) do have a look through. There I am, right down at No. 62 😀 (and it seems my location is wrong – I’ve not lived in Manchester for over 3 years, so I’ll need to find a way to change that – I’m guessing it’s here in my settings somewhere?)

And don’t forget, if you have a soapy blog yourself then why not join our Soapmaking Bloggers Facebook Group?

Thanks for reading – back soon!

Facial Soap

It’s finally ready for testing! Back in early April I made up a small batch of what I hope will prove to be the final version of my long awaited facial soap.  I’ve been using it myself for the last week, and I have to say I’m really really happy with it.   It has a light, creamy lather and leaves my face feeling clean but so soft and not at all tight.

It’s unscented, uncoloured, and alongside the more commonplace ingredients, it also contains argan oil, jojoba oil, evening primrose oil and sweet almond oil.  My feeling is it’s suitable for most skin types, but I’m no skincare expert, so I’ve asked for some volunteer testers via my Facebook page.  I’m hoping to send out some samples this week:

This isn’t the final shape, and I have some work to do on packaging still, but hopefully I’ll be able to offer them for sale soon, together with a charcoal version for oilier skins.

Facial Soap

Facial Soap

 

 

 

When Fragrance Oils Go Rogue

My hands-down-most-popular summer special last year was my Lemon Verbena Confetti, so obviously I had to make it again this year.  It has a white base colour, is crammed with multi-coloured soap shavings and is fragranced with an amazing smelling Lemon Verbena fragrance oil.  I LOVE lemon verbena – it’s fresh, crisp and citrussy with herbaceous notes, but sadly, this particular lemon verbena fragrance does NOT behave itself in cold process soap.

I knew from my experience using last year that it was a fast mover, so I thought I was well prepared this time. The soap shavings were ready to go, the oils and lye were at room temperature, I didn’t discount the water, and was prepared to work quickly. It wasn’t enough…

Soap shaving ready to be added...

Soap shaving ready to be added…

I added my titanium dioxide AND the Lemon Verbena FO to to my oils, added the lye water and KAPOW!  it solidified immediately. I refused to be beaten.  I splodged the stick blender in and loosened it up a bit before adding all the soap shavings. How much soap shavings you use is entirely up to you – I don’t measure it out, I just mix in more and more until it looks like enough <not helpful sorry>:

Soap shavings added

Soap shavings added

I mixed as far as I could with a spoon but in the end I had to plunge in my (gloved!!) hands to give it a thorough mix. It was the only way to get everything properly combined without breaking up all the soap shreds with the blender.  I also used my hands to get the whole lot into the the moulds (one benefit of making confetti soap – two batches with added confetti makes enough soap to fill three moulds – yey!)

Moulds filled with confetti soap

Moulds filled with confetti soap

It was only then that I realised that one of my gloves had split and I had the beginnings of a lye burn on the end of one of my fingers – ouch 😦

Two days later I unmoulded and cut, and the result wasn’t too shabby:

Confetti soap, the cut

Confetti soap, the cut

It has a few small air holes here and there, trapped during the mould filling, but it’s pretty good, considering!

Incidentally, the company from whom I bought this FO claim on their website that it causes no acceleration in CP soap, but when I asked in a FB group whether anyone else had had an issue with this particular FO, it seems to be fairly common. Ah well, forewarned is forearmed eh?!

Another month gone…

I’m in holiday mode again. It’s May Day bank holiday here today, so even though Easter seems like just yesterday, we’re enjoying another long weekend, and I didn’t even think to get my weekly round up post done yesterday.  (*Ahem* If I’m honest, it did cross my mind briefly last night, but by that point we were binge watching Dexter on Netflix and enjoying rather nice bottle of red 😀 It’s all about balance eh?!)

This week saw me making a start on the summer specials – Lemon Verbena Confetti. I’ve not got round to taking a photograph of this year’s version yet, but this is a photo from last year to give you an idea…

Lemon Verbena Confetti

Lemon Verbena Confetti

The Lemon Verbena fragrance oil smells absolutely amazing, but it’s such a fast mover that I was in two minds whether to use it again this year.  In the end my (and my customers’) love for the fragrance won out, and last Thursday I made two batches. It was worse than I remembered 😦  I’m in the middle of writing a post about it, and I’ll definitely have some cut photos of the recent batches by then.

The rest of the week was spent fulfilling orders (inc one for a brand new stockist, Crumpton Hill Farm Shop in Herefordshire), end of month accounts and wrapping & labelling for the monthly Porthmadog Craft Fair on Saturday, including these:

Botanica

Botanica (Lavender, lemon & lime essential oils)

Serenity (Patchouli, orange, lemon & ylang ylang essential oils)

Serenity (Patchouli, orange, lemon & ylang ylang essential oils)

This week we also enjoyed the fourth birthday of the littlest Soapminer but I’m ever so glad such important birthdays only happen twice a year!!

Oh, and guess what?  I actually read a whole book in April!  Yep, I managed to finish The Girl on the Train yesterday and it’s definitely whetted my appetite to read more.

Goals.  Should I or shouldn’t I?  January through to March, one of my monthly goals was to read a whole book.  Failed on three counts.  In April I had no goals whatsoever and I read a book.  In February and March I wanted to create a wholesale linesheet, or at least put all the information into one place for customers to access.  Didn’t happen either month, but in April I managed to post about the Core Range.  Is it just a coincidence or am I subconsciously sabotaging my own efforts when I have a ‘goal’ to achieve? Why would I do that though? Am I asking too much of myself? Perhaps I should just have the one goal until it becomes a habit and then introduce another… On a personal level that’d probably work well, but I need to be a little more productive and proactive workwise, and push myself a little more, not less…

So here’s the deal – I’ll give myself just one personal goal, and that’s to read a book (I so very nearly wrote ‘two books’ before I realised how utterly ridiculous I was being :-D) My challenge now is to find a book that will grip me as much The Girl on the Train. To that end I did a quick ‘what should I read next if I liked…’ Google search, and I now have 7 books on order with my local library. I’m hoping that at least one or two will arrive pretty quickly and I can make a start.

Workwise there are a few things I want to achieve, alongside the regular restocks, and I don’t think I’m being over-ambitious here either:

  1. Get my facial bars out to testers
  2. Make trial batches of lipsalve
  3. Get back to posting on the blog at least eight times during May

I also have another 200 mini guest bars, for three different customers, to be cracking on with this week and my regular Tuesday (tomorrow) night session has been hijacked by an meeting that I’m expected to attend, so I’m having to bring my soaping session forward to tonight in order to have soap to cut at my regular Thursday night soapmaking presentation. Juggling, always juggling, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back soon with more soapy updates.