A (very) Belated Happy New Year

Well hello 2018!  I’d like to say you snuck up on me there, but nope, I knew you were coming, and. while I planned to welcome you much sooner than this, it just wasn’t to be…

Happy New Year everyone!  Yes, I know it’s late, and most of you are so over it, but I wasn’t sure how else to start this post, it’s been so long! During the run up to Christmas I was seriously busy with soap selling, rather than soap making, and then Christmas came, and I more or less stopped all things soap related for a couple of weeks and had a proper break with the family.  I’m a little ashamed at how long it’s been since I last posted (almost two and a half months) – this blog is supposed to be all about building a business, and I failed to post anything at all about what I was doing during my busiest time of the year. Oops! Ah well, a learning curve, and I plan to be more organised next time.  In hindsight perhaps trying (and succeeding, to be fair) to complete Blogtober wasn’t the best idea in the run up to such a busy period 😀

So anyway, I’m back!  I’m into the swing of things, have lots of plans, and will be sharing more of the business side of things on the blog in future too (selling at craft fairs, gaining more wholesale accounts, demos & classes, and generally more facts and figures about what I make / sell and the time I spend doing various things)  If there’s anything you’d like me to cover, please don’t hesitate to ask and I’ll share what I’ve learnt. Just remember that I’m no expert, I’m learning a lot as I go along, and winging it a lot of the time!!

There’ll be some more posts very soon covering how I got on with last year’s goals and those for this coming year (both business and personal) and also what I’ve been up to since the beginning of 2018.

I did get to make some soap during that quiet week between Christmas and New Year.  I realised that my stock levels were seriously depleted and I would need to crack on with making more sooner rather than later, so I made four double batches of (clockwise from top left) Oatmeal Milk & Honey, Welsh Rose, Scrubby Peppermint and Bewitched:

Soap in the Mould

Soap in the Mould

Thank you so much for staying with me even during my period of absence – I’ll be back again very soon

Vickx

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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?

 

 

 

 

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.

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!

 

 

January 2017 – Goals Roundup

So that was January! Four and a half weeks of my least favourite time of year, but you know what? It’s been pretty productive.  Back on the 3rd January I posted my goals for the month, and I’m really happy with what’s been achieved since then.

I completed my tax return.  Deadline was today, 31st January, but I made sure it was one of the first things I ticked off my list. Missing that deadline was not an option!

I finally got round to making some Castile soap – something that had been on my list of things to do for aaaages. I’ll be posting an update on the cure is progressing towards the end of next month:

Castile Soap, first attempt

Castile Soap, first attempt

I’ve done a fair bit of research for my facial bar. I’m planning on making two – a charcoal bar for younger / combination skin, and a bar aimed at older skin.  I have a good idea of the recipes now, and hope to make some trial bars next month.

Finally I hoped to post on this blog at least 8 times. Well, this post is the eighth of the month, so a big fat tick for that one too…

I was gentle with myself as far as the personal goals went – I wanted to run 30km, and read a book, any book, just to try to get back into the habit of reading again. Well, I smashed the running – I’ve run 65.5km (!!) during January, and it would have been more had I not picked up a bug which morphed into a cold towards the end of the month which meant I only really ran for the first three weeks or so.  I’ve also started kickboxing once a week, which is hard work but amazing fun.

The reading went pretty well too.  I finished the book that I’d been crawling through for the last three months of 2016 – Lingo: Around Europe in Sixty Languages by Gaston Dorren It’s an extraordinarily interesting book (if you’re as fascinated by languages as I am) and a very easy read. Each stand alone chapter is only a few pages long but packed with facts that made me ooohh and aaahhh with delight as I learned about the vast similarities and differences that exist within the languages of Europe.  I also got halfway through a novel – The Magicians (Book 1) by Lev Grossman. I enjoyed it enough at the beggining, but I had a nagging feeling that it was aimed at a younger readership – maybe a YA novel? Turns out it’s not, but I can’t get excited about the characters, and have decided life’s too short, and reading time too precious, to continue with something that I’m not ABSOLUTELY loving.  I only found out today that it’s been made into a TV series in the US. Have you seen it?  Is it any good?  Anyway, I now need to find a better book to read for February, ‘cos it’s going on that goals list again 🙂

So there we go – January goals smashed… I was going to include my February goals in this post but it’s got a bit longer than planned, so I’ll leave them for tomorrow – which gives me a little longer to think about them too 😉

Don’t forget to comment below if there’s a particular novel that you would absolutely, definitely recommend I read – I’m open to all and any suggestions and genres (except horror – I don’t do horror)

Thank you if you’ve read this far – the fact that someone might actually read what I write is definitely an incentive to stick to my plans.

The Week in Soap: 22nd Jan ’17

The holiday period is well and truly over, and things are starting to pick up again business-wise.  I’ve started receiving orders for Valentine’s themed bars, and the first one was delivered to a local retailer yesterday. Here in Wales we also celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St Dwynwen’s Day, considered to be the Welsh St Valentine’s Day) on the 25th January, so there’s a double whammy of love related promotions at this time of year 😀

On the making front I’ve only made two batches this week – a restock of Welsh Rose and an as yet unnamed project for a swap I’m participating in soon. Can’t say too much about that one yet, but all will be revealed eventually 🙂

Welsh Rose & 'No Name' in the mould

Welsh Rose & ‘No Name’ in the mould

So basically I’ve only made one batch for general sale this week – I think I’m going to have to increase the production rate PDQ!

I also cut last week’s Castile soap. Having read so much about how long it can be before it’s hard enough to be unmoulded, I left it a full eight days before unmoulding and cutting, and I was really surprised at how hard it already was.  I had to be very careful and cut slowly, I was so concerned that the wire on my Bud Cutter would snap, but all was well. This was the finished bar:

Castile Soap, first attempt

Castile Soap, first attempt

It’s a lot whiter than I expected it to be when it was first poured, though I’m not too happy about the streaks in it – we’ll see how it looks as it cures.

One of my goals for January was to research facial bar recipes with a view to hopefully making some in February.  During my research I came across a blog/website, Lather Lass, which collects and collates soap recipes from all over the web – it’s worth having a browse if you’re looking for something in particular.

On a personal note, did I mention that I’ve started going to a kickboxing class? Every Wednesday evening, 6-7pm, and it’s amazing. Seriously hard work but I’m hoping it will do wonders for my fitness levels and be a good complement to the running (another of those goals!)

Anyway, talking of goals, it’s time to start thinking about what I want to get done in February, it’ll soon come round!  Thanks for reading – back soon!

The Week in Soap: 15th Jan ’17

It’s been another fairly quiet week in the soapmaking cave this week.  I cut the bars that I made last Sunday, and I made another three batches, one of which was the Castile that I’ve been promising myself that I’ll make for many months. (It would seem that this monthly goals malarkey is working!) I also did a full stock check and tidied up the soap store. I haven’t yet found a fool-proof stock control method, and I don’t always keep proper track of what’s been sold (*red face*) but I’m back on track now and have a good handle on what needs making next.

Of last Sunday’s three batches I only photographed two immediately after cutting. I didn’t bother with the Clarity that got a little too thick to make pretty drops – still great soap but not worth sharing lol.  First up is the soap made with a new-to-me fragrance oil called ‘Flora’.  It still doesn’t have a name, though I’m leaning towards Daisy or something…  Despite the fast acceleration it’s not as ‘ploppy’ (apologies, but it’s as descriptive a word as I can come up with for this effect :-D) as I expected it to be – this is a good thing!

Spring soap

Spring soap – ‘Daisy’ perhaps?

And the First Kiss:

First Kiss

First Kiss

Due to the high levels of vanillin in the fragrance oil the white drops will discolour to tan, and the brown drops will discolour to dark brown, but the pink should stay pink as I didn’t add any fragrance to that portion.  I’ll post it again in a few weeks time to show you the full effect.

On Thursday evening I made another three batches, Boho Baby, the aforementioned Castile, and Delicious:

Boho Baby, Castile & Boho Baby

Boho Baby, Castile & Boho Baby

And  a close up of Delicious, because I love it so much – this FO always behaves itself so well…

Delicious in the mould

Delicious in the mould

Oh and guess what?! Halfway through the month and I’ve already run 50km – I’m rocking those goals!!

Thanks for reading – back soon!

 

Hello 2017!

Another year, another set of goals… To be honest, last year’s weren’t a huge success – on a personal level I didn’t read as many books as I’d hoped, and I certainly didn’t run as far as I wanted to. Luckily, I’m not anywhere near as bothered as perhaps I should be 😀 On a business level I achieved two out four of my goals – I generated significantly more income than I did in 2015 and I nailed down my bath bomb recipe / got my assessment paid for and certified, so I can now crack on with making and selling them.  Lip balms and website are back on the list for this year…

Speaking of which, I’m going down the route of monthly goals this year.  Last year’s goals weren’t time specific enough, so without any further ado, here are my personal and business goals for January:

Personal

Run 30km.  Yep, I’m running again.  Last year I started off with a rather gung ho attitude and injured myself. I was out of action for a good couple of months and never really got back on track properly after that. This time I’m starting very gently. I’ve run 6.5km so far, so I think 30km is achievable.

Read one book.  Any book. Just read dammit!! We’ll see… This is one I may have to give up on until the kids are a bit older.

Business

January is usually a quiet-ish month, but I’m generally kept busy restocking after the Christmas period, so that’s a given, not a goal. In addition I want to:

Complete my tax return.  This is not optional. It has to be done by 31st January, and WILL be done by 31st January, so I know I’m onto a winner with this one 🙂

Make a batch of Castile soap.  Castile is a pure olive oil soap, with no other oils or butters, which needs at least 6 months cure time. I’ve wanted to make it for a while but not got round to it. I figure if I put it down here as a goal I might be more motivated to find the time.

Work on a formula for a facial bar.  I probably won’t actually make it this month, but I’d like to start researching and formulating a recipe so that I can try making this soon.

Post a minimum of 8 times on the blog.

And there we go, nothing really groundbreaking but, fingers crossed, they’re achievable. If you’re reading this, thank you!  It’s you I’m counting on to keep me on track, if only because I have to report back here in four weeks time – hopefully with my head held high 😀

 

 

 

Personal Goals 2016 Revisited

Back in January I wrote this post about how I don’t really ‘do’ resolutions, and instead had a couple of simple (ha!) goals for 2016.  I naïvely thought that posting them here, with the odd update throughout the year, would keep me accountable. Unfortunately I was wrong.  Not only have I not written a single update this year, I haven’t remotely succeeded in completing either goal.

Goal one was to run 1000km by the end of December.  Ok, so the year’s not over yet but, as I’ve only run just over 200km so far (and only 10k during November to date), I think it’s fair to say that this goal is not going to be achieved. The reasons are legion, but when I’m motivated and I have the time, running is the best exercise for me, so I’ll definitely be running (more?!) in 2017

Goal two was to read 12 novels during 2016.  I started with Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. I didn’t finish it. I’m sorry Kate, it wasn’t because I disliked it, nope, not at all. I just found that I was reading a page, maybe two at the most, per night, before my eyes refused to stay open any longer, and somehow it became a chore rather than a pleasure. I gave it up in the hope of finding something (apologies again Kate!) more engaging, but it wasn’t to be. Whatever I tried to read, I had the same problem. Every. Single. Night.  I started The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, a book I’d look forward to reading for a long time as her ‘The Secret History‘ is utterly compelling, and I loved her ‘The Little Friend‘ almost as much.  Once again I gave up as, by the time I got to bed and tried to read, my brain and body started to shut down and I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  I’ve always been a reader, and in my head I’m still a reader. I suspect that, in order to read as much as I’d like, I need not to be parenting a sleep-shy pre-schooler while trying to build a business.  Sleep comes first 😀

Don’t be surprised if I have similar (if less optimistic :-D) goals for 2017, but this time, like my recent commitment to post at least twice a week, I’ll commit to updating once a month on my personal goals. Will it make a difference do you think?

 

 

 

October Goals – Blogtober Day 2

I’m pretty sure  I should be doing this every month – having a list of goals would probably lend focus to my work wouldn’t it?  October is going to pretty busy even without this daily blogging malarkey, but this is what I’m hoping to achieve by October 31st.

  1. Get my website up and running.  This has been a goal for so long, it’s become a bit of a joke, but I know what needs to be done now and I want the website live, even if it’s not perfect to begin with.
  2. Finish organising, and successfully hold a craft fair in my village.  This is a biggie – not something I’ve done before and it’s a bit of a learning curve.
  3. Prepare a wholesale linesheet.  I’ve managed so far without a formal linesheet, but wholesale enquiries are increasing, and it’s no longer good enough to be directing interested parties to my Facebook page to see photographs (especially given that I don’t even have a website yet).
  4. Prepare a stock of bath bombs. I’ve finally perfected my recipe, and applied for my assessment so that I can sell them.  I’m hoping the paperwork will come through so that I can start making them in readiness for the festive season.
  5. Post at least 31 blog posts – eeeek!!

So much to do, so much to learn!

Thank you for reading – I’m off now to make as start on that lot up there ⇑⇑⇑