Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Soap Oil Waiting Game is Almost Over

Yes!! In a few days time I'll be able to order my soap-making oils. The end of the wait draws nigh. I died a little inside each day that I couldn't, or rather refused to make soap. So yeah, those are a lot of days that went by so I'm like at zombie status right now,lol! I refused to use oils that I had already had. Currently, I make a good bar of soap, but that isn't good enough for me. My skills have surpassed mid-grade oils and so now since I'm a big girl soap maker, my customers and I are ready for a better soap. I finally have the money saved to get my wish list to a certain degree. The oils I'm ordering are:

Babassu - For it's fluffy lather, cleansing and emollient properties.
Castor Oil- For its lather and conditioning properties
Coconut - for lather as well as hardness. Also a good conditioner for skin and hair.
Palm kernel - you guessed it for lathering, cleansing, and conditioning

As you can see I went for lather and hardness that can be usually achieved with solid oils. I may add some stearic acid to increase hardness of the bar. I tried to stay away from oils that produce DOS = dreaded orange spots. It can make an otherwise fine bar of soap aesthetically displeasing to say the least. I am tired of having to stop selling bars that have done this, so it was time for an upgrade. I'm happy that I'm about to be able to offer something even better than before to my customers.

My shop has come to a standstill because of this waiting. I also need to purchase some cotton yarn for the crocheted bath puffs I am about to offer as well. After this hurdle of soap oils is over, I can concentrate on buying other things like better colors, and some more fragrances. Slowly but surely it is all coming together for me.

Just a note I finally sold out of two of my soaps! The spearmint and the orange oats. I'm so happy that now I get to remake some soap instead of looking at soap on the shelf that I still have a few bars of that haven't all been sold.

Well, that's all for now people. Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Trip to Atlanta in All its Un-Glory

Okay so I learned a few things when I was down there about doing craft shows. Some things I discovered that would have made me happy, but the show didn't turn out so good. Here's what went down piece-by-piece.

The Show Itself:

The show itself was a flop to say the least. Firstly, there was hardly no one there attending. This was a very big decline from last year. Last year there were at least a few hundred people in all. There had to be at least 30 vendors as well. This year there was maybe 10 vendors and we were the only ones from out of town. I think it had more to do with gas prices and people just not having enough money to travel from far away on the hope of making that money back. So basically the locals attended and I was highly disappointed at the turnout.

We got there Friday before noon and tried to check into the hotel, which didn't have the two rooms ready. They had only one room available even though two rooms had been booked. We were so mad. We each had to take turns going in and taking showers and freshening up from the drive. Once we got that done we checked back with the front desk to have the lady tell us that the rooms would be ready by the time we returned. Okay fine. We left to attend Jumuah (muslim Friday services). Once we got there we were fooled into thinking the turnout would be fine. It was just because we were all crammed into the Morris Brown Gymnasium. Once jumuah was over we saw that some people had set up their tables already to start selling. Most of them were food vendors so we got some food and decided that we should go back to the hotel, get a good nights sleep and start fresh in the morning.

When we got back to the hotel we saw there were a whole lot of people waiting to get in. It was a family reunion and it was a LOT of them. We went up to the front desk to see what the status of the rooms were. Surprise surprise they weren't ready. Then the manager had the nerve to say they weren't reserved and no one had paid which was a complete lie. So after about 30 minutes haggling with him we got some rooms.

That Saturday we set out for day 2 of the show. We got there fairly early and began setting up the canopy and the tables. That took about an hour and a half to do. People starting coming in and the day started deceptively well. We figured that as the hours ticked by more people would show. They didn't. We all were very disappointed by that.

Things I learned:

1) My product and spiel is much improved from last year to this year. I would say an average of 80% of the people that visited the table bought something. Under optimal conditions this is excellent for a seller at a show. However, because of the low turnout and the fact that my target market was not present this didn't give me a whole lot to work with. The profit margins on soap is relatively low, so if a sell 10 things I haven't made that much money. I tried to draw attention to my pricier gift sets, but people just didn't have the money. The good news is that I was able to talk more about the product thusly making people more interested in it. It was unspeakably hot, so I could ill afford to be long winded while people stood in the hot sun. I had little time to make an impact and I was able to do that. The bad news was that I can't sell soap to the same 10 people over and over, lol!

2) Always stand to greet customers as they approach the table. Never sit. It seems to make people walk away faster as if you are not acknowledging their presence. Always stand to greet them and immediately began the sales pitch. Not too pushy, just start extolling the virtues of your product. The more you say about it the more you can pick up on what they want to hear and say more of that. For example, I started talking about how good handmade soap is for the skin. I started talking about people's sensitivities to color and fragrance, and I was able to pick up on the ones who had sensitive skin and market my color-free fragrance-free soap to them. Others I could tell liked fragrance if they picked up the lotion and sniffed, so I was able to market the fragrance soap to them. In short, learn to quickly read your customers. The more good stuff you can say in a short time, the more likely they are to show strong interest for later or buy something right then.

3) Learn which customers are totally not interested in your products. You can tell when a person is just looking and when they are interested. For those uninterested people speak kindly to them and do not start the sales pitch. They just walk away mid-sentence or get an uncomfortable look on their faces as they wish you'd shut up.

The Overall Trip and Stone Mountain:

The overall trip was quite enjoyable despite not making as much money as I'd hoped. We even enjoyed Monday morning at Stone Mountain! Here are some pics.

This is a pic of the carving on the side of the mountain. Sorry I forgot who they said the people were. I wasn't listening. It was inexpensive to get in there. It was only like $25 to get in each adult, and with a Krogers card you could get like $5 off. My sister and I wanted to go to Six Flags but our husbands are lame and didn't want to go, but the mountain was cool though. It was a toss up between this and Lookout Mountain in Tennessee. We chose this so we wouldn't have to stop once we got on the road. I want to take a trip where we go the same route and stop at all the cave attractions that litter Kentucky and Tennessee, and stop at Lookout Mountain. Here are some more pics and a video that's also up on youtube.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Going Over the Preservative Issue Again

I was re-reading what I wrote regarding the preservative issue. I would like to clarify a few things.
The first is that these are my personal viewpoints. This is one of the rare occasions that my personal view does not reflect what I actually do with my products. From a business standpoint I am all about safety being part and parcel of what a good product means to me. So even though I have my own personal views on preservatives and all that, I do include a preservative system in the products that need them. Like I said before, this is one of those rare occasions that my personal view doesn't play into what I do with my products. I would always rather err on the side of caution than cause anyone any potential harm by being bull-headed.

The second thing is that I don't feel that preservatives are a bad thing at all. Many products need preservatives (I'm thinking particularly food here) and I wouldn't purchase without them. With that said, I do feel sometimes that those who create bath and body products engage, probably unknowingly in scare mongering. What I mean is they will often unnecessarily frighten consumers about the dangers of this and that, when in reality the dangers are there but sometimes over-exaggerated. True indeed that if produced improperly bath and body products can be very dangerous, which is why the utmost care, concern, and execution of recipes and formulas are absolutely in order. No way would I support nor encourage others to support a bath and body seller with inferior knowledge and even poorer execution of it. These people who haven't the slightest idea just how imperative understanding of the craft and proper manufacturing is are a danger to those who would buy from them. Fortunately I do not know anyone who fits this category, but I know they exist.

So I hope I made clear my feelings regarding this issue, so that those reading this won't get the wrong impression about me or my products. I absolutely care a great deal about the quality of my goods in all aspects. Not only if it's cute and smells nice, but does it work and is it safe for consumer use is one of many chief concerns for me.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Going to A Craft Show

In Atlanta, GA. I'm gonna be at the "riyaadah" (the name of the event), and hopefully I will do well there. I'm having high aspirations that I'll make money there, and will be shutting my etsy store down for the weekend.

After I come back, I'm most likely going to go soap shopping. On the list is soap oils, and fragrance oils. As a customer, what kind of fragrances would you like to see in my store?

I eagerly await anybody who wishes to post their answers. I'm really interested in the customers helping me make decisions that appeal to them for my products.

Thanks a bunch ya'll!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Soap Oil Waiting Game....

I am waiting and very desperately I might add, for the chance to buy some more soap-making oils. I want better quality and better prices and I found a really good site to buy from. It will cost me about $80 to get the oils I want though, but it is very worth it. The soaps I make now are very good quality. They clean very well and lather well also. But now as with anything, it's time for improvement. I want a wider range of oils to use.

Short list of things I need to improve on:

1) Colors and presentation of the actual soap.

I have focused on making a soap that people will want to come back for time and again. I have mainly focused on the quality of my soaps, moreso than having all the visual bells and whistles. I need to step my game up on that. People like to have something nice to look at as far as colors and such, so some ultramarines, iron oxides and micas are in order now.

2) Range of fragrances.

I don't have a lot of money at this time, and sadly it prohibits me from making the types of fragrance purchases in the quantity I need. I need at minimum 1lb of each fragrance I buy to be able to make soaps and lotions,and then be able to restock when the time comes. At the moment I can only invest in enough of any scent to make products once or twice and still maintain a strong scent. I need to improve in this area as well. More scents means my customers have more to choose from and consequently more sales.

3) Range of base oils.

What I was talking about at the beginning of this rant. I need to have at least 4-5 different base oils to combine to formulate soap for different types of applications. I wish to make shampoo and conditioner soaps, but lack the proper oils to make it truly effective.

These are three things crucial to my continued success in this business. Armed with these three things, I can create a wide range of product that people will want to buy, and keep buying, and refer others to buy too.