Running a soap business
It was a decade since I last made soap and lockdown provided the extra ‘headspace’ and time to explore creative hobbies. By the time Christmas had arrived, we had over 100 bars in the house all with varying stages of success! However, they made great Christmas presents paired with Homemade jam and gin.
Naturally, I felt it was time to get my favourite recipes certified and out to the general public. After 5.5 months of waiting (always go direct and not via a 3rd party!), the recipes were approved. After a week of completing the necessary government requirements, trading standards etc. I suddenly found my launch date arrived and sales were live!
I am not sure people appreciate the genuine pride and satisfaction that occurs when one receives an order – I can’t help but do a little happy dance each time.
The order is packed with such care as you send your creations out into the big wide world hoping they arrive safe and sound.
I purposefully sourced and selected 100% recycled, sustainable and low environmental impact packaging options. It was also important to maintain a handcrafted look – relying heavily on 100% recycled kraft paper. I really want the new owners to feel like they are opening a present when the receive our soaps!
Designing soap labels is quite difficult without Adobe or design programme - initially I went for a simple design and will look to create Cornish inspired labels in the near future. It is suprising how many legally required information is required on the label - not forgetting to add batch numbers!
Currently, the soap labels are printed on kraft paper, and the soap wrapped at 4 weeks of age (once cured). I handstamp the boxes with our logo, handstamp the tissue paper that lines the box, add woodwool or recycled shredded kraft paper, add a recycled sticker and wrap the box in hand stamped kraft wrapping paper.
The next task is the post office! I try and post on the day of purchase – some days take longer than others but I am already firm friends with the clerk! A good tip is to write what class postage is required in the corner of the package - having been caught out and had to pay for both on one package was a hard lesson!
This is the ‘chicken and egg’ scenario of any business. You have to spend money in order to be found. Finding your niche and shouting out what makes you stand out is critical. I decided to use Facebook and Instagram to reach the target audience – but I am most looking forward to craft fairs where people can physically see and touch the soap. Not many people really know what a pure/real soap bar can do for their skin as its been so long they had one in their hands. I won’t add a jab at Dove – that’s too easy. I have realised one flaw in my soap business name ‘Wild Cornish Soap’ in that it seems to primarily attract gift seekers rather than natural skincare purists! Having realised this, I have set about creating a few batches of coastal and Cornish Blue soaps. There is always a slight mis-match between what a creative wants to create and what people want to buy. I LOVE making goat’s milk soaps – the feel of them on your skin is SO special – but I have yet to sell one!
I have yet to nail this. What you think will be popular often isn’t. I am trying to keep at least 10 bars of each recipe in stock at all times. Due to working full-time, I favour a couple of evenings and the weekend for making soap (and hopefully designing new ones!). People seem to want selection boxes over full size bars – so I am already looking at providing half bar boxes.
Getting out there
Working on this! Craft fairs seem to be hard to enter into due to competition and lots of soapers. Also the questionable value of paying £60 to attend (also buy all the tablecloth, display, signs etc..) vs potential sales on the day.
I have booked two dates for Padstow Craft market – August and December. Working full time in my actual job prohibits a regular spot at local markets – but hopefully Christmas markets will be an option!
In hindsight so far:
Work out what your niche is (not just make pretty soaps!)
Choose a suitable (and marketable!) name
Don’t be over ambitious – start with 8 really good unique soaps
Don’t worry about costs - you have to spend to create, design, procure, promote and pack.
Be prepared to pay for advertising – especially on social media platforms
Giveaways/competitions don’t really work. I found most people who entered were just competition trawler’s not genuine or potential customers!