The Week in Soap: 9th Sept ’18 – Eight Weeks!

Eight weeks to the day since my last post. EIGHT WEEKS!!  I totally underestimated how difficult the summer holidays would be without any formal childcare in place, and it’s been a bit of a struggle to be honest.  I had prepared to a certain extent. I’d hammered the soapmaking in the couple of months before so I had plenty of stock and didn’t have to worry about running out of product (I can’t say the same for the bathbombs – I’ve been skating on thin ice as far as they’re concerned, but more on that in a mo).  BUT whilst my working hours were drastically reduced for six weeks, the business demands kept growing (woop!!)  and while my ever supportive husband took as much time off as he could to help with the kids,  there was precious little ‘family’ time and we were very much tag-teaming most of the summer.

I did manage a couple of sessions of soapmaking (more as therapy than out of necessity if I’m honest lol) but almost every ‘making’ opportunity I had was taken up with bathbomb making.  I took my eye off the ball in the run up to the summer break there, and was totally unprepared for how popular these were going to be.  The making, wrapping and labelling of mounds of bombs just to keep up with orders had to take priority and THAT needs to be better organised next year!

My last soapmaking session

My last soapmaking session

Bathbombs

Bathbombs

Needless to say, I now have a list of lessons learnt from this summer, not least of which is to actually put aside, diarise, and actually HAVE holiday time with my family next summer. Don’t misunderstand me, the kids had a whale of a time this summer, didn’t miss out on anything and always had one parent or the other with them. But next year, whether we go away or not, there will be at least a week, if not two, during which nobody works, and we spend the time together, having fun.

I’ve started supplying another four (I think it’s four, it’s at least four anyway) stockists over the summer – in Criccieth, Bala, Dolgellau and another on Anglesey, which I’m thrilled about. They’re all lovely shops, and I want to tell you more about them, so I’m going to write an updated stockists post very soon.

Bathbombs on display

Bathbombs on display

The facial bars were launched last month, and wow, what a response. The first batch was sold out within twenty four hours, and the feedback I’ve been getting is just incredible.  People are enthusing about them left right and centre, so again, I’ll be writing a separate post about them in the next week or two.

Facial Bars

Facial Bars

The mini guest soaps are also seem to be gaining traction, and I’m getting more and more enquiries.  I’ve supplied two new customers in the last couple of weeks, and have a couple more in the pipeline.

Guest Bars

Guest Bars

I also have a post about breast milk soap in the pipeline. Yep, you read that right, breast milk soap 😀 It’s absolutely a thing you guys…

Oh, oh, oh I almost forgot – I have a new soap cutter, a flippin’ multi-wire soap cutter!! I’ve wanted one for a long time, but wasn’t thinking of shelling out for one until the beginning of next year (after I make my millions in the run-up to Christmas lol).  But my hand was forced somewhat when I heard my preferred vendor would no longer be making and stocking them, and only had four left. I moved fast, and got one. Phew…  There’ll be another post on it’s way about THAT, too (I’ve not yet got round to photographing yet, so can’t even share that much yet!)

On a personal note (as if this isn’t all kinda personal eh? :-D) I took part in the village craft, horticulture and produce show this year again, and did just a little better than last year – I got a trophy! I don’t think I’ve ever won a trophy in my life before (well, maybe at school? If I did I’ve forgotten, but then I do have a terrible memory)  My chocolate cake not only won best in its class, but best entry overall in the cookery/preserves section – woop!!  I have to admit, it was rather tasty lol….

Village Show Haul

Village Show Haul

Finally, a quick heads up about my next post – a review of some fragrance oils I was sent to try by a new (to me) supplier here in the UK.  They were sent almost a month ago now, and the soaps were made on the 16 August, so I really need to get my thoughts written down and back to the poor supplier who’s probably thinking I’ve forgotten all about them by now!

Fragrance Oil Samples

Fragrance Oil Samples

So there you go, a quick tour through my crazy summer. The kids have started back at school, I’m slipping gratefully back into my regular routine, and blog posts will return to some semblance of regularity.  Thanks for reading, back soon!

 

Advertisements

The Week in Soap: 15th July ’18

This is going to be a quick post – I haven’t made any soap this week, but it’s been a busy week for wholesale and guest bar orders, so most of my time has been spent putting them together.

Wedesday was the exception to the regular routine, and I spent the morning at my monthly networking group, telling them all about my business.  I’ve done so many soapmaking demonstrations and talks, but I’ve never had to speak to a room of business people people about MY business. About my struggles and successes, and future development and growth.  I was a little nervous to begin with, but soon warmed up, and I even made some sales, which is  always a bonus!  I joined the group  back in January, and although time constraints have meant that I haven’t been able to attend every meet-up, I’m really beginning to really appreciate the benefits of being a member.  There was a time, not so long ago, when I would have been rather dismissive of this kind of group. And all the more so because it’s called ‘Women Working Together’.  But to be honest the idea of networking was a little daunting, and I’d heard some horror stories of pushy men practicing their sales patter on unsuspecting newbies at networking events.  So, I decided to give this group a whirl, and I’m so glad I did.  I was welcomed from the beginning, and the advice and support I get from other members, who have far more experience of growing businesses, is invaluable.

I’m really short of soapy pics to share with you this week, but here are a couple of the guest bars that I put together for one of my holiday home orders.  These particular ones were for a gorgeous cottage on the Lleyn Peninsula (well worth checking out if you ever fancy a break in this neck of the woods!)

Mini guest bars

Mini guest bars

More mini guest bars

More mini guest bars

I’ve got some new ceramic soap dishes on the way, made by my talented friend Helen of the Snowdonia Blue Slate Pottery.  These are so beautiful, and sell well as part of sets.

Ceramic Soap Dishes

Ceramic Soapishes

And here, just for you, is the very first look at how I’m proposing to package my new facial bars when I launch next month:

Facial bar packaging

Facial bar packaging

There’ll be a tag on the ties (as I have now) and a stamp on the bag with my logo – that’s the plan anyway.

Oh, and I’ve finally taken the plunge and signed up for a card reader, so that I can take card payments at fairs and markets. I don’t think that not having one has caused me to Iose an awful lot of sales in the past, but I know I have lost some.  People who say they’ll come back later when they’ve been to the cash-point, but they never do.  Perhaps they never meant to do so, but who knows?

Over on Instagram, this was my best performing post of the week – a #throwbackthursday collection of discontinued bars. I still love the all-blues one, and I’m thinking of using that colour scheme to make a nice ‘ice blue’ themed bar for next Christmas:

Discontinued Drop Swirls

Discontinued Drop Swirls

And this one was my favourite IG post of the week, purely because it combines my two passions of soapmaking and books – a selection of my favourite soaping books. How many of these do you have?  I’m open to recommendations too 😉

Soapmaking books

Soapmaking books

 

On a personal note, this week saw the first harvest from the garden – a cucumber and two (TWO lol) beans. This was taken at the beginning of the week, and there have been a further two cucumbers since. Fortunate, as my son absolutely loves them!

Cucumber & beans

Cucumber & beans

This weekend has been pretty active, with an early morning walk with my friend yesterday (Saturday) morning. The sun shone, the birds sang, and I got home in time for breakfast feeling, dare I say it, awesome!!

Beddgelert walk

Beddgelert walk

And then today (Sunday) my husband and I took the children on a walk up into the mountains, to a hidden lake called Llyn (Lake) Idwal:

Llyn Idwal

Llyn Idwal

 

Kind of an incongruous place to find a beach, but a beach it certainly is – there were even a couple of swimmers.  We had a bit of a paddle, and the kids did a load of rock climbing, before we headed back down and home just in time for dinner. My kind of day 😉

Thanks for reading!

The Week in Soap: 8th July ’18

I’ve realised this evening that I need to start some kind of daily diary. This blog is supposed to serve as a record of the development of my business, but as I sat down this evening to write, I wasn’t entirely sure what it is I’ve been doing all week 😀  I think it’s the heat, going to my head.  It’s been another scorcher, with temperatures around 28-29 degrees every day, and I’m loving it…  I have fingers, toes and everything else crossed that it hold up after the schools break up for summer (less than two weeks away now – yey/eek!!) but I’ll confess to being a little pessimistic about the chances…

Back to last week then, and on Monday I took the day off and climbed a mountain.  The perfect start to week, despite the oppressive heat.  I went with three girlfriends, and we took our time, putting the world to rights as we walked.  This is the view back down towards our village from the top:

Beddgelert from the summit of Hebog

Beddgelert from the summit of Hebog

We got back in time for the school run and then we all headed down to the river for a cooling dip.  By the time I got to bed that night I’d clocked up over 28,000 steps on my Fitbit.  That’ll do me 🙂

I was back to work on Tuesday, wrapping and labelling stock to replenish what I’d sold at the fair the previous Saturday.  I spent a bit of time reorganising my office, and came across these bars that I hadn’t put up for sale because of the partial gel:

Botanica with partial gel

Botanica with partial gel

It’s great soap (of course!) and has been curing for months so it’s wonderfully hard, but it’s just not perfect, so I wasn’t happy selling it.  Anyway, there’s only so much ‘reject’ soap that we can get through at home, so I decided to offer it for half price on my Facebook page.  I had absolutely no idea it would prove so popular. I went off to a dentist appointment and forgot about soap for a while, and when I came out my notifications were going crazy and they were all sold no time.  Why on earth has it taken me so long to do that?

On Wednesday I sent off my application for the largest Christmas fair around here, the Portmeirion Winter Fair. It’s held on the first weekend of December, and I had a great (and profitable!) time there last year, so fingers crossed I can return this year.

Thursday was soapmaking day – woop!  I made 4 loaves (60 bars) of my most time-consuming bar, the seven colour Tutti Frutti, scented with a jelly beans fragrance oil.  I also made a batch of my luxury Facial Bar, in my tall ‘n’ skinny mould from The Moulds Shop.  Nope, I’m not on commission, I just love their moulds :-D.

Tutti Frutti in the mould

Tutti Frutti in the mould

Freshly poured facial soap in the mould

Freshly poured facial soap in the mould

(Yes, that’s a permanent kink in the silicone liner 😦 Entirely my fault, I stored it badly)

Generally I don’t gel my soaps.  It’s too difficult to cover my textured tops to insulate them, so I don’t normally bother.  Last time I made the facial bars I got a partial gel so this time, when I saw that the batter in the mould was starting to gel, I popped it outside into the (hot!) sunshine and let it do its thing. Because I don’t often get to see the gelling process, I excitedly took a few snaps along the way:

Gelling...

Gelling…

More gelling...

More gelling…

(nearly) fully gelled...

(nearly) fully gelled…

At this point I had to go over to the office and was worried that the batch might overheat if I left it in the sun unattended, so I brought it indoors again. I’m sure it would have been fine, and I kind of wish I’d left it out to finish off, but never mind…

On Friday morning I unmoulded and cut the facial bars:

Facial Bars, freshly cut

Facial Bars, freshly cut

I am ridiculously, utterly excited about this facial bar. I’ve been using it myself for months, to the exclusion of anything else, and I absolutely LOVE it.  I don’t want or need anything else.  It’s been tested by many others, and the feedback has been amazing, so this batch is the first that I’ll be offering for sale, probably in mid to late August.  It’s got some wonderful ingredients, including evening primrose, sweet almond, jojoba and argan oils, and I’ll be writing a post about it closer to the launch date.

I took Friday afternoon off (yes, more time off lol) and caught up with an old friend, so I was back into the office on Saturday, just briefly, to cut the Tutti Frutti soaps:

Freshly cut Tutti Frutti

Freshly cut Tutti Frutti

Freshly cut Tutti Frutti

Freshly cut Tutti Frutti

The rest of Saturday (or what felt like an awful lot of it anyway) was spent painting our hallway.  Not exciting, but very satisfying. Oh, and avoiding the flippin’ football. Apparently England are doing ok?  Bah – give me the Tour de France any day 😉

Thanks for reading, have a great week, and I’ll be back soon!

 

 

The Week in Soap: 17th June ’18

Did you think I would make it back again so soon? It wasn’t a given, to be honest. I truly have got out of the habit of blogging, so it came as a bit of a shock to the system this evening when I realised it was Sunday and I really should be pressing ‘publish’ on a blog post at some point… Ah well, I made it, that’s all that matters.

So I guess today’s post really should be titled ‘The Last Three Months in Soap’, but like I said in my last post, I’m not going to give myself palpitations by trying to cover everything that’s gone on since I was last posting regularly, I’m sure it will all come out over time…

Back to this week then. This almost feels like a confession, but it’s been over a fortnight since I made any soap. That’s not strictly true as I did make a small, very special batch for friend a week or so ago (more about that one in a forthcoming post) but soap for the business? Over a fortnight. Fortunately I have over 800 bars cured and ready, and another 400 at various stages of curing, so I’m not too desperate, but I’ve sent out a lot of wholesale orders recently so I want to top up the shelves this coming week (yey!!)

No, the last few weeks have been about wrapping, labelling, and sending out order. Not just soap either. The bathbombs are starting to take off in a big way, and they’re being stocked by quite a few of my soap retailers now, and I’m getting a lot of repeat business. That’s all well and good (great even), but keeping up with demand is becoming an issue. Some of the time I would previously have spent making soap is now being spent making bathbombs, to the extent that I even spent quite a few hours making them today (On Fathers’ Day. Ooops. Well, it did mean that my better half got to spend a lot of the day with the kids – that’s what it’s all about right?? And we did go out for breakfast, en famille, to mark the occasion, so…) I digress, again… Right – bathbombs:

Bathbombs Galore

Bathbombs Galore

I have a few new wholesale customers since I last updated the blog, but I’m going to save them for future posts and give them the spotlight they deserve. I’ve also sent out my first large order for wedding favours – I’ll be writing a post about that separately too.

On a more personal note, my ankle still isn’t right from when I sprained it three months ago, just before my last update post actually. It didn’t stop me from going to my kickboxing grading last week though – I am now officially a purple belt kickboxer. Hard to believe that I’ll now be working towards a belt with some brown on it!!

Kickboxing Purple Belt

Kickboxing Purple Belt

Oh, and having just quickly skimmed over that last post, I saw that there was a bit of a teaser at the end about an Instagram giveaway that I’d won?  I suppose three months is long enough to keep you in suspense (lol!!) so here’s what I got – a handmade fused glass wave by Pam Peters Design – isn’t it absolutely gorgeous?

Fused Glass Wave

Fused Glass Wave

I’m going to leave it there for this post. It feels a little disjointed and not particularly informative, but it’s a post – woop!  I’ll be back into the swing of things again very soon, I’m sure.

Thanks for reading, back soon!

The Week in Soap: 11th March, ’18

I normally try to get this weekly round up out on Sunday evening but yesterday was Mothering Sunday here in the UK and there was no way this was going to get written last night.  I had a lovely day actually – woken by very excited children at 7am and brought a card, flowers AND chocolate in bed.

Lilies & Apple Blossom

Lilies & Apple Blossom

A quick 5k run at 8.30 was followed by an extremely good breakfast at a local cafe Caffi Gwynant, a long walk in the hills:

Beautiful Snowdonia

Beautiful Snowdonia

and the day was rounded off with a roast dinner at home with my mum and her partner.  A glass of wine turned into a couple more, and while we managed to get the washing up done, writing wasn’t really an option lol…

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.  The week started, as it so often does these days, with a soapmaking session… Four loaves of Bewitched:

Bewitched colours ready to go

Bewitched colours ready to go

Bewitched in the mould

Bewitched in the mould

And I also made two loaves of Castile.

Castile in the mould

Castile in the mould

Castile  isn’t one of my best sellers, but I have a small (and growing) group of return customers, so I always make sure it’s in stock.

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos worth sharing of the cut of these two yet, but here’s a new photo of Bewitched from a batch that’s just finished curing…

Bewitched Handmade Soap

Bewitched Handmade Soap

I sent out a couple of wholesale orders last week – one to the shop at Storiel in Bangor, and one to Siop Ogwen in Bethesda (which reminds me I really need to update my stockist list), and I also spent the best part of one whole day wrapping and labelling bathbombs…

On Thursday we woke up to an unexpected dump of snow, and soon after we got notification that the school was closed.  The kids were thrilled, me not so much – another day’s work missed, but we baked a couple of Lemon Drizzle Cakes so it wasn’t all bad 😀

Lemon Drizzle - yum!

Lemon Drizzle – yum!

Did you see my Happy Mail on Instagram or Twitter?  The super generous Terry of Oldways Soap agreed to trade soap with me, and this is what our postie delivered last week:

Aren’t they gorgeous?  Five varieties of soap (one of which has already joined me in the shower) PLUS a bunny each for the children (who were utterly thrilled – far more than they ever are with any of my bars lol…)  Terry is an expert at the Hot Process method (which I tried for the first time a couple of weeks ago) and she’s given me some hints and tips for my next batch which I’m looking forward to putting into practice soon.

So other than sending out the usual stream of retail orders for soap and bathbombs, that was my week.  This coming week is going to be very busy – I have a bathbomb making workshop on Saturday morning, and then a craft fair on Sunday, both of which I need to prep for.  I also have a few wholesale orders to get out this week, I’m making soap tomorrow (Tues) for a change, I have a networking meeting on Wednesday morning, AND my grading for my next kickboxing belt is on Thursday.  Plenty to write about next week lol…

Thanks for reading, back soon!

Vickx

 

 

 

The Week in Soap: 25th Feb ’18

Happy Sunday folks!  Hope you’ve had a good week?  It’s flown by here – can’t believe it’s Sunday evening once again…

So, as it’s already 8.30pm and I still have a mound of ironing to get through, I’m going to make this fairly brief.

I made another 8 loaves of soap this week.  This was on Tuesday, as once again my regular Monday making needed to be postponed as the children didn’t go back to school after their half term break until Tuesday. These are four loaves of Luscious Lavender and four loaves of Blodau (Flowers):

Luscious Lavender & Blodau in the mould

Luscious Lavender & Blodau in the mould

This follows on from the previous week’s enforced trial, and it truly does save a significant amount of time.  I was a good 90 minutes faster making those eight loaves this week than it took me a fortnight earlier when I made two loaves each of four different varieties.  Now, you know by now don’t you that I LOVE making soap, but when I’m making restocks I just need to get them done as quickly as possible, so this is a big win for me.  A couple of close ups of this week’s makes:

I’ve finally hit my goal of having 1000 bars in stock (as I write the exact figure is 1041 bars) but I’ve realised over the last few weeks that it’s not enough, and I need to have at least 100 bars of each variety in the core range made at any one time. I don’t ever want to have to tell a wholesale client that they can’t have a particular bar, and whilst I’m prepared to accept that it may happen occasionally, it’s something I want to avoid if at all possible.  Obviously those 100 bars will be at different stages of the curing process, and so I hope that if I do happen to sell out of a variety, it will only be a week or two at the most before the next batch is ready for sale.

I gained a brand new stockist this week. I was contacted by Zip World about supplying soap to their gift shop at Zip World Velocity in Bethesda. If you’re a bit of a thrill seeker, do check out that link, you won’t be disappointed!! By last Friday they had received their stock and the bars were already on display. This is a quick snap kindly sent to me by a member of staff…

Soap on display at Zip World Velocity

Soap on display at Zip World Velocity

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were spent fulfilling orders and wrapping and labelling stock.  I’ve also been in discussion with another potential new stockist, more of which at a later date, fingers crossed.

This weekend has been a complete work free zone.  The weather was dry and bright, and although it was cold, it was the perfect opportunity to get out and tame a bit more of the garden.  I use the term ‘garden’ very loosely – it was an overgrown junk heap when we first moved in, and we’re spending an awful lot of time and energy clearing it, but we’ll get there eventually. In the meantime I’m giddy to announce that I have ONE raised bed ready for sowing! Look at this beauty:

Raised bed

Raised bed – woop!

Want to know how much work that was? Every single last bit of soil in that raised bed was sieved, by hand, to remove every last bit of glass, stone and rubble, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it (well, until it’s full of edibles anyway!!) If I wasn’t so sore this evening I’d be happy dancing 😀

I have quite a long ‘to-do’ list for this coming week.  I was contact recently by Plastic Free Snowdonia who were interested in solid shampoo bars. I’ve not made shampoo bars for quite a while, so that’s top of my list of things to do. I also need to make up bath bombs for a couple of orders, and for the craft fair I’ll be attending next Sunday in Abersoch (for which I also need to make up a load of gift sets – Mothers’ Day is coming dontch know! :-D)  Finally,  I want to make some shaving soap this week, this is a new one for me – the potassium hydroxide is on order and I can’t wait to start experimenting with recipes!

And I nearly forgot – look at this happy mail I received this week:

Creative supplies

Creative supplies

This rather suspicious collection of white powders was sent to me all the way from Ireland by Barb of, erm, well… I’m honestly not sure if I’m allowed to say yet as I suspect there may be a big reveal coming soon… Barb if you’re reading this do let me know if I can mention/link your new company name 😀 😀   Anyhow, she and I did a bit of a swap – I sent her some soap and she sent me this awesome selection of cream / gel / lotion making supplies, and these, together with Lisa’s e-book, are going to keep me quiet for a good while 🙂

Thanks for reading, back soon!

Vickx

A Spanner in the Works (Blogtober 25)

I had plans for today. Big plans. Important plans.

Today was the day for finishing off the wrapping and labelling of the first batches of Christmas soaps which had emerged, at the weekend, from their curing confinement

Today was also the day for delivering/dispatching said soaps to all the lovely people, both wholesale and retail clients, who had pre-ordered them.

I got up, and started making breakfast for the kids (pancakes, from scratch, in case you cared).  I made my husband a coffee and took it up to the bedroom. He works from home and I take him a coffee in bed every. Sodding. Morning.  Mind you, I can’t complain. I get a cup of tea in bed at the weekends. If I nag enough…

I digress. I should have known it was going to be a strange day.  Most days my kids are awake before me – they were both utterly rubbish sleepers as babies (my eldest was over 18 months old before he slept more than 2 hours at a time) and have always been early risers. Today, for the first time in our family history, I had to go in to each of their bedrooms and WAKE THEM UP!! (*Ahem* capitals are for effect – I didn’t actually shout – how mean would that be?!!)  Seriously though, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever had to wake one, or the other, up in the morning. Never, ever have I had to wake them both.

So, they were up a bit later than usual, and I was hurrying them along to eat their pancakes and get ready for school. At 7.45 the electricity went off. Complete power outage throughout the village. Never mind, teeth still got done, faces still got wiped, hair was still brushed and we put on layers of waterproofs to brave the howling wind & rain for the arduous 45 second walk to school (have I mentioned how close we live to the school?)

Did you see it coming? We arrived at the school door and were turned away. No school today – ‘Health and Safety’. Can’t do school without electricity. “Arrrrgggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!” (I might have said, under my breath)

So home we go. I couldn’t go to work, and I couldn’t even take the car to make deliveries as my husband, at a crucial point in his current project, needed to use the car to go hunt for the to nearest reliable wifi connection (which, it  turns out, is to be found parked up outside our nearest Tesco (8 miles away), laptop balanced on knees – who’d have thought??!!)

So I spent an hour trying valiantly to do ‘housework’ (but mostly boiling a pan of water to make cups of tea). The kids spent an hour not knowing what on earth to do with themselves until I remind them that they have some toys that don’t have screens…

Mum turned up at about 10.30am, saw the wild look in my eyes and took the kids for a couple of hours. I ran (literally, the rain was still an issue) over to the office and wrapped and labelled as much as I could in the gloom.  These are about half of the orders that were supposed to go out today:

Soapy Work in Progress

Soapy Work in Progress

It was dark, really dark, and although I had so much to do my eyes did get sore and I was glad when 12.30 came around – time to collect the kids.

The electricity finally came back on at about 5.30, just in time to illuminate our meal of  fish and chip suppers that Dean brought home, in full-on hunter-gatherer mode.  The family was fed.

I’m back at the day job tomorrow, so I have a lot of soapy catching up to do somehow but one thing’s for sure – I’ll be back with Blogtober 26 😀 #blogtobersoapers

 

 

A Change of Circumstance (Blogtober 20)

**Waffle Warning**  I’ve just reread this post before pressing publish, and it’s rather text heavy and lacking in pretty pictures.  While the turn of events is a little sad,  it’s exciting stuff in terms of growing the business and so I just had to share.

When I decided to take The Soap Mine forward as a bona fide business, I knew it would be a slow burner.  It was 2010, I had a small baby (I was still on maternity leave) and I had just discovered that it would cost me just shy of £1,000 a month if I went back to my full time job. Neither my husband nor I were happy with the prospect of putting our baby into full time childcare (I was a project manager in a Manchester ad agency – crazy long hours) and so I gave up paid work to become a Work At Home Mum and set to making a business out of selling soap.

I practiced and experimented for months and months, and finally applied for SAs (Safety Assessments – professionally certified documentation that proves that my recipes are safe), organised insurance and dealt with all the other legal admin that needs to be done in the UK before you can sell soap.

I spent a couple of years selling at markets and fairs in and around Manchester, and then we took the big decision to move back to my childhood home in Snowdonia, North Wales (well, not actually my childhood home, I don’t think my dear mum would have been too impressed at that, but the same village)  This was the turning point for my business.  I was able to slowly increase the number of wholesale customers that I deal with, start giving soapmaking demonstrations and talks, and supply local visitor accommodation with guest soaps.

Throughout most of this time I’ve also had a part-time job in the village pre-school.  For the last 2.5 years I’ve been the Assistant to the Setting Leader – just the two of us and up to ten 2-4 year olds.  Happy chaos!!  To be perfectly honest it would never have been my first choice – working with children had never been a dream – but I was offered the job when my youngest turned 2, and I could take her to work with me. There aren’t many jobs out there where you can take your child to work so it didn’t take me long to accept.

BUT, as I got busier and busier on the soaping front, I had started thinking about giving up the pre-school role and running the soap business on a full time basis.  My youngest started school full time this September, and so, with some trepidation I told my employers that I would be leaving at the end of the Christmas term.  Then fate decided to move things on just a little bit more quickly.  Last week, the Leader of the setting handed in her notice – 4 weeks notice. She has another job, and we can’t replace her.  Not for want of trying, there’s just nobody out there with the appropriate qualification who wants the job, and so she is literally irreplaceable.

So, sadly, we have to close the pre-school. We’re shutting our doors for the last time a week today – next Thursday, and I’ll be officially out of work.  Except I won’t be. I have more than enough to do with the business, but now I need to think seriously about growth, and increasing revenue.  It’s extraordinarily exciting, but ridiculously daunting too.  I have so many ideas and plans, and now I’ll have the opportunity to put them into action – wish me luck!!

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

Vickx

 

Drop Swirls & Standardisation

I’ve been using a partial drop swirl for all my essential oil soaps for a long time but for my fragrance oil bars I’ve been using a mix of styles – In the Pot, Tiger stripe, Drop –  whatever took my fancy at the time of making.  As I’m now selling more wholesale soap than I am retail, I’ve slowly come to the realisation that my FO bars need to be of a uniform design too.

It took me a little while to settle into the idea.  Soapmaking is such a creative process and half the fun is coming up with new designs and trying out new techniques. I reluctantly came to accept that I needed to choose a style and stick with it, making it synonymous with The Soap Mine brand and making my soaps (hopefully!) instantly recognisable.

I wanted to retain a link between my EO soaps and my FO soaps, while ensuring it was easy to tell them apart, so the obvious choice was to make my FO soaps using a full bar drop swirl.

I’ve been making soap with this technique for a long time – this was the first one I ever made (years ago!),  fragranced with coconut FO.

Black & White Drop Swirl

              Black & White Drop Swirl

And these are some more recent makes – this is what my FO soap bars will look like for the foreseeable future.

Delicious (Similar in scent to the DKNY designer fragrance Be Delicious)

Delicious

                    Delicious

Oatmeal Milk & Honey:

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

        Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

Welsh Rose:

Welsh Rose

          Welsh Rose

Blue Belle (Similar in scent to Jo Malone’s ‘Wild Bluebell’ designer fragrance)

Blue Belle

                        Blue Belle

I guess the next thing to focus on is standardising the photography :-O

Thanks for reading – back soon!

Business Goals (finally)

I promised weeks ago to update on my 2106 business goals, but I’ve found it so difficult to decide what my priorities should be. The days have passed and I’ve pondered and prevaricated, mainly because the next 12 months could, hopefully, bring some serious disruption to my soaping.  When we bought our home 18 months ago, we knew we wanted to build an extension at the back, and within that extension would be a dedicated soaping area (woop!). We’ve finally had the planning permission through, and are hoping that the extension will be built this year.

All great stuff, BUT it does mean I’m unwilling to plan for expansion, or an increase in the number of retail outlets that carry my stock, for fear of being unable to keep up with demand if, as is likely, my current soaping area is out of action for a period of time.  It’s difficult to plan for, as it’s by no means certain that it will go ahead as planned, or if it does, how long it will take. So my goals for this year are modest and *crosses both fingers* easily achievable:

  1. Generate at least as much income as I did in 2015. If it’s more – happy days!
  2. Finalise my recipe for bath bombs / fizzes, organise – and pay for – the safety assessment (a legal requirement in the UK), and start selling them.
  3. Lip balms – as above
  4. FINALLY get the website up and running. This one shouldn’t be a problem, but given that it’s been ‘in production’ for over 2 years it’s going to take more focus than I’ve had thus far to get it done.

There, four goals. Nothing too taxing there is there?  We’ll see…

And a quick soapy pic – here’s a stack of a recent batch of ‘Delicious’, with a lovely upside down depiction of the island of Cyprus in the middle 😀

 

Delicious

Delicious

Cyprus

Cyprus

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back soon!