Goals: September 2017

September Goals

Does anyone else feel like September is a bit of a fresh start? Almost like a mini New Year if you will.  It’s always been the same for me, probably because it’s the start of the academic year, and therefore was often a time of change during my younger days.

Anyway, this September, things get serious for The Soap Mine.  My youngest starts full time school next week, and I’ve known for a couple of years that this September will be a pivotal month for the business.  Up until now I’ve had to work during the evenings and weekends, but going forward I’ll have 22 more hours a week to really grow and take this business forward.  (I’ll continue to work in the Village Pre-school for 8 hours a week – on Wednesdays and Thursdays, for the time being)  Having said that, it won’t actually  be 22 hour MORE, as I’ve no intention of continuing to work all evenings and weekends like I’ve had to do this last couple of years.  I’m taking some time back for me!

Ok, back on task. There really should be only one goal for September – get the website up and running.  I’ve made a start – today I spent a couple of hours inputting text and uploading photographs – but it’s going to be quite a long process if today’s anything to go by. Many of my photos need to be re-shot too so that may take some time.  Part of the website launch will involve migrating this blog onto the new site – I have no idea how that’s going work – am I likely to lose all my readers in one fell swoop or will you all somehow, magically, be redirected to the new site? We’ll see I guess :-/

But one goal’s just not going to cut it this month. I need to get the majority of my Christmas soaps made if they’re going to be cured and wrapped by the beginning of November. I also want to get back into the swing of regular blog posts too. I’ve committed to doing Blogtober again this year, but aiming for 8 – 10 during September should keep me on my toes.

So there we go. Website, Christmas soaps and blog posts.  Together with the ongoing restocks, they’re the priorities for this month. What are yours?

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

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 Week in Soap: 5th March ’17

I got back into the swing of making soap this week. Having realised that I need to be making far more to keep up with demand, a new process was required.    Previously I would usually make three different batches during an evening’s soaping, once a week, but the new routine is four batches a night, twice a week. By doubling up the batches – ie making two lots of two fragrances, rather than three lots of one, I find I can make the four batches as quickly as three, if not faster.

Wednesday was the first day of the new regime – two lots of Welsh Rose and two lots of Bewitched on the cards.  But, wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of lye. Arghhhh – I felt sure I had a second tub but nope…  Nevermind, I had enough for three batches: two Bewitched and one Welsh Rose:

2 Bewitched, 1 Welsh Rose

Two Bewitched, One Welsh Rose

More lye was ordered and arrived within 48 hours, so I was able to make more today – two lots of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey and two of Blodau (Flowers):

2 OMH & 2 Blodau

Two OMH & Two Blodau (Flowers)

I clearly need to have a better handle on inventory.  I do have have the Soapmaker 3 program, which comes highly recommended, but haven’t got round to using it yet. :-/ Maybe that should be one of April’s goals.

This week I also delivered another couple of batches of ‘Ar Lan y Mor’ (By the Sea) and Potters’ Soap – exclusive fragrances/designs for Glosters in Porthmadog:

Ar Lan y Mor / Potters' Soap

Ar Lan y Mor / Potters’ Soap

I also finished off wrapping and packaging the mini guest bars for Plas Colwyn Guest House right here in the village – these are just a small selection of them:

Mini Guest Bars

Mini Guest Bars

We celebrated St David’s Day on Wednesday, and as is traditional, I made up a big batch of Teisen Gri (Welsh Cakes) for the village school show.

Welsh Cakes

Welsh Cakes

I’ve been asked again to share the recipe, so I’m planning on getting that written up this week and posted here on the blog.

This is my little three year old in her traditional ‘welsh lady’ costume, singing her heart out at the front of the stage. She’s normally pretty shy, so it was wonderful to see her enjoying her moment in the limelight…

Little Welsh Lady

Little Welsh Lady

 

I also managed to get out for ONE run this week – 5km on Friday morning. If you saw the post about my goals for March, you’ll know that I want to run at least 30km this month. Easily doable, IF I can get my running mojo back where it was in January. Throw some motivation my way?

 

The Week in Soap: 5th Feb ’17

Happy Sunday everyone!  It’s been a busy week, so I’ll crack right on…

More Luscious Lavender and Welsh Rose were made this week. They’re very popular, and I always like to have plenty in stock:

Luscious Lavender / Welsh Rose

Luscious Lavender / Welsh Rose

Both were cut, but I only got round to photographing the Lavender:

Luscious Lavender, just cut

Luscious Lavender, just cut

I also photographed the two custom batches I made last week. This pic, of Potters’ Soap, proved to be my most liked ever on Instagram – so far! 😀

Potters' Soap

Potters’ Soap

And this one is called Ar Lan y Môr (By the Sea):

Ar Lan Y Mor

Ar Lan Y Mor

I’ve spent quite a bit of time this week bevelling, packaging and labelling soap. It’s almost half term and before I know it the tourist season will be upon us, so I’m getting ahead of the game:

Bevelling Soap

Bevelling Soap

This evening I had planned to masterbatch a load of oils for the next couple weeks of soapmaking but discovered at the last minute that I’d run out of Shea Butter. Arrghhh!!  I’m usually really careful to reorder as soon as I’m getting low of something so crucial. I didn’t because I was sure I had more, but nope, it’s nowhere to be found. So, first off I ordered more Shea, and then changed tack and made some Bath Bombs (or Bath Fizzies, or whatever it is I’m eventually going to call them – decisions decisions!!)

Before Christmas I got my assessment documentation through for 8 varieties of Bath Bomb (in the UK/EU it’s illegal to sell any bath & body product without first paying to get your recipe assessed and approved by a qualified chemist), and tonight I made three of them – Welsh Rose, Clarity & First Kiss:

Welsh Rose, Clarity & First Kiss Bath Bombs

Welsh Rose, Clarity & First Kiss Bath Bombs

They’re not ‘perfect’ looking, but they do what they’re supposed to – gorgeously!!

Eventually I want to be able to provide matching Bath Bombs for each soap in my core range, but at the moment I can only sell the three above, plus Boho Baby (patchouli & orange),  Lavender, Bewitched (was Love Spell), Serenity and Oatmeal Milk & Honey.  I’m waiting on more colourants to arrive then I’ll be making more (woo hoo!)

I had a bit of an interesting experience with Facebook this week.  I’ve neglected my page somewhat recently as, if I’m honest, it sometimes feels like a waste of time. The Facebook algorithm means that very few of my ‘likers’ actually see my posts, and consequently there is very little engagement.  Regardless, I decided that I should give it a go again, and wrote a post explaining why I hadn’t posted for a while and that I would be grateful if people could occasionally like, comment or even (gasp!) share a post. Then I added the photo that had been so popular on Instagram  Well my friends, that post has gone bonkers!  165 likes, 54 comments and, and 47 shares at time of writing…

Soo…. I wonder if the same thing would work here?  May I ask you to click that little like button below?  Would you be amenable to writing a word or two to let me know you’ve been here?  Lol, I can but ask, hey??!  Thanks for reading, back soon.

 

 

Goals: February 2017

February will see an increase in the pace of restocking the core range of soaps and (finally) bathbombs. In addition, the plan is to:

  • Create a wholesale Line Sheet.  Wholesale enquiries are increasing and this is a high priority ‘must have’. ASAP…
  • Make a test batch of facial soap
  • Make 3 Spring Special soaps
  • Post 8 times on the blog

On a personal note, I have these (particularly un-SMART goals). I’m going to run 50km this month, read something (yep, that’s deliberately vague as I have. absolutely no idea what yet – better decide soon eh?!), and do some baking. I LOVE baking but never seem to find the time.  Maybe a cake or two, maybe some cookies, I don’t know,  but I WILL bake two somethings 😀

A short post, but it gives February some structure. Thanks for reading and keeping me accountable!

 

 

The Week in Soap: I made marmalade!

Ok, so I made soap too, but I’m more excited about the marmalade.

I was given 2lbs of Seville oranges last week – the perfect opportunity to indulge in a bit of preserving.  I used a Delia recipe (can’t beat a bit of Delia!) and it proved to be extraordinarily easy: 2lbs of Seville oranges, 1 lemon, 4 pints of water and 4lbs of granulated sugar.  It’s identical to this recipe here, except I took it out of my rather ancient copy of Delia Smith’s Illustrated Cookery Course, which has been my go-to recipe book for years…

Slicing the peel

Slicing the peel

Boiling

Boiling

A motley collection of jars

A motley collection of jars

I’m ridiculously pleased with it – it’s really tasty.

Last week’s adventures in soapmaking was a couple of custom batches – I first made these last year for a local retailer, and they requested more of the same:

Ar Lan Y Mor / Potter's Soap

Ar Lan Y Mor / Potter’s Soap

I’ll have some cut photos to show you next week, but in the meantime, here’s a photo of the Potter’s Soap just before cutting – it’s been one of my all time most popular photos on Instagram:

Potter's Soap

Potter’s Soap

Other than the day job I didn’t get much more done this week – I spent a few days under the weather – a bug which turned into a cold – and then I was away over the weekend (hence the late post). Oh, but more wholesale enquiries have come in this week – hopefully I’ll have some good news to share soon.

I’ll be back very soon with a roundup of January’s goals, and a plan for February – thanks for reading!