Sunday, March 29, 2009

Standing in the Way of My Own Success

Going into this business, or any for that matter, I knew it was not only a distinct possibility but a matter of time before I would seemingly stand in the way of my own success. As long as I'm online behind the safe haven of my flat panel display everything is fine. It's when I appear before the public that I become my own hindrance. I'm speaking about my appearance in public. It's off-putting and quite frankly takes many people off guard. It distracts them from what's on my table, and redirects their attention to me personally. Now, I guess you're saying to yourself that's silly. Why not change your clothing? That's easier said than done. You see I am a Muslim woman. That alone without the accompanying attire is enough to stop some folks in their tracks.

I wear all appropriate attire dictated by my religion. I wear a hijab (head scarf) and a veil (face covering). Yes, I wear both of those, but I'm an honest soap-maker I swear it! I wear pretty much what you see in that photo, although Sadie the bellydancer who is the lady in the photo, is a bit more beautiful about the eyes that I am. My eyes aren't quite so captivating. I assume though that you get the point. I am covered almost completely from head to toe and it is most intriguing to some.

I suppose you may be able to imagine exactly why this may present me with a unique situtation when selling things in person at a show. The big issue is that people see me. I have been wearing this attire, (and yes I wear a myriad of colors so as not to totally scare people with an all black ensamble) for about 11 years now so I am fully accustomed to stares, oohs and ahhhs, the ever-present look of disgust, the looks of pity, and the pseudo-frightful startling that I sometimes induce upon entering a room. All these things don't bother me as much as the prejudice I encounter when selling at a venue. Let me ask you reader, and you may answer this to yourself but I prefer that if you read this you answer the following in the comments section. If you saw a Muslim woman dressed as I have described, would you not buy from her based on her appearance? This is what happens to me. Whenever I go somewhere to sell the first thing I must overcome with the general public is my own attire. I must make extra efforts to strike a conversation with them to appear less intimidating. This is a small issue in itself, given that I am quite introverted and sometimes have a difficult time just striking up conversation with total strangers. However, it's a hit and miss kind of thing. Sometimes when I venture to speak I get a weird "don't-talk-to-me" look and they walk immediately away from the table. Only those people who aren't totally prejudice or thrown off actually ask the question on their mind. Usually they ask where I'm from. Well I'm from Chicago born and raised. I am an African-American and have never been overseas a day in my life. People sometimes are relieved to find that I have no foreign accent, and I can get on with the business of a sales pitch.

All this proves very difficult at times, and depending on where I am it can totally halt all sales. My best selling venture was not surprisingly at an all Muslim function. There, no one cared how I was dressed because we were all Muslim anyway. Many of the ladies knew me and I made a ton of money.

I guess I am writing this to get it off my chest and to write out loud how prejudice people are in reality. I mean your average American walking down the street has such hang ups about those who are or appear different from them, so much so that buying a product from me dressed the way I am is unthinkable. I'll keep plodding along though and never let it be something that prevents me from doing what I like, and offering a product to people that I believe in, and that I'm pretty sure they will enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nothing Much Going On....

Yep, nothing much happening. I just don't want to leave my blog abandoned and my precious few followers wondering why I dropped off the face of the Earth.

The Etsy street team that I am a proud member of (the SAFE TEAM) hosted a very informative 'soap symposium', and the topic of discussion was how to label soap and cosmetic products properly. Some of the rules got our feathers ruffled a bit, but we are a strong team and able to stand by our creed of producing safe and wonderful products for all our customers! In any case, the lady that spoke to us, Marie Gale, was very knowledgeable and very nice. She answered as many of our questions as she could as thoroughly as possible, and we were very pleased with the outcome.

For those reading this blog who are new to the idea of handmade soaps, and wish to know more about it, our team will be hosting these informative little shindigs every Monday at 4:00 pm central time. The next one will have a different guest speaker, and the topic will be preservatives in products. To come sit in on one of these meetings, all you need to do is sign up with a buyer account on Etsy. This is completely free by the way. There is a link on the main page at the top that says 'community'. Click on it then click on the button that says 'virtual labs'. This takes you too another page where you will then click on the 'gallery' button. That's it, you're there and ready to join us. It is set up like a chat room, so there isn't a whole lot going on that most internet savvy people haven't seen. For more info on all this, click the link to the left that says Safe Team Blog. There you can learn about our team and what we stand for.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Fruit and the Flower is Here!!

Well, they're finally here. At least the first two are anyways. The beginning of my Fruit and Flower Collection is here, and soon to arrive in my store. I took some pictures of them and they are so beautiful. The fragrances of both are awesome as well. There are surely more to come to this bright and fresh summer collection!

The soap above is my pride and joy and the first in the series, Strawberry and Chamomile. This fragrance is much fresher then the first batch of this I made (which I was unable to part ways with, hence the second batch!). Chamomile is usually thought of as calm and serene, but this scent in just the opposite when paired with sweet strawberries. A zesty almost cool scent leaves you feeling and smelling wonderful!

This one to the right is Raspberry and Mint. Spearmint and eucalyptus was blended with a sweet and tart raspberry fragrance. Surprisingly this scent is more subdued than the soap above. Each scent works wonders at toning down and complimenting the other in this blend. You would be very pleased with this intoxicating smell!

Well those are it for right now, but I'm in the laboratory cooking up a (soap) storm and coming up with some unique and bold fragrances. These two beauties should be up before the end of this month (March '09).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stand Up and Be Noticed

Hi, my name is Kendra and I'm addicted to blending fragrances. Yep, it's a pretty bad addiction but I wouldn't be caught dead going to rehab for this one. It all started last year when I was searching some of my favorite sites for fragrance oils. Many of them were Bath and Body Works or Victoria Secret types of fragrances. Most famous fragrance designers don't want their name referred to in order to describe the scent. For instance if I used Aquolina Pink Sugar as a scent for my soap I can't call it that or say I used their "type". It was then that I said to myself, forget those big designers. I don't need their name or notoriety to sell a product often times superior to major brands anyway.

I started blending fragrances together to see what worked. Many times a soaper will blend scents to get rid of small amounts of fragrance or essential oils that aren't enough to scent products on their own. However, I believe it's time for handmade soap makers to look into making an entire line of custom blended scents all their own.

I thought about why those designer fragrances catch on so well aside from name recognition. I came to the conclusion that it was because they were coming up with unique scent combos that other designers didn't have, and that everyone else wants to copy. How do they come up with those admittedly wonderful smells? Well, aside from the truly unique scents that have no natural referrence such as Paris Hilton or Dolce & Gabbana Blue, these companies are finding different scents that go well together. Maybe two or three and sometimes even up to five or six different fragrances are used to achieve a single unique smell.

How can a small time soapcrafter achieve these same results you ask? Well I can't gaurantee that anyones scent combos are going to be all this summers rage, but we can be unique. It calls for thinking outside the box on what smells go nice. It also calls for lots and lots of experimentation. Instead of pairing together cucumber and melon, or apricot freesia, why not Lilac and Lime or something equally as fabulous?! There are so many fragrances out there to choose from and to blend that we don't need to wait for Philosophy or Perry Ellis to tell us which scents we should aspire to.

I also believe the exclusivity of the scent you create will make your product stand out more. Isn't that what people also pay the big bucks for, exclusive items? When they believe that they cannot purchase from anywhere else what they purchase from you, they will return to you again and again especially if your products are exquisite, like mine. My very first foray into making a custom scent was my Cedar Falls soap. I blended some essential and fragrance oils that came out beautifully and I advertise it as unique and exclusive to my shop.

Here's how to make your own custom scented line of products:

1) Pick some scents that you think will go good together and try blending them. Be sure to actually blend them in a small plastic or glass container to get the true sense of what they smell like together.

2) Allow them to sit at least a day so the fragrances can fully mingle. Sometimes they change on you!

3) If all goes well give the fragrance a snazzy name. Remember, don't be boring think outside the box!

4) Put the smell into your soaps and toiletries and voila, you have a custom scent that you made and you can feel free to advertize it like that.

No more worrying about if you can use the name of some designer. You can use your own name and in the end for us business owners our name is the most important one to put into the ears of your customers anyway!