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Making & selling handmade soap
Are you obsessed with good smells and cleanliness? Are you also on the prowl for a new hobby?
You should try making handmade soap! It can be challenging, but also very fun and fulfilling. If you can do some basic chemistry and enjoy thinking up new themes and scent combinations, this could be a winning hobby with great business potential!
Marketing handmade soap can be downright daunting, though. After you sell a bar or two to some family and friends, how do you scale your business?
Selling & marketing handmade soap
As with all crafts and hobbies, there are a few options to increase your sales and make money off of what you love to create.
Craft fairs are a natural choice, of course, but they have a limited season and they require a lot of prep, driving, and having a huge stock on hand so you don’t sell out!
If you make a commitment to a store or other retail space, then you’re taking a big step towards making your soap making hobby a real business, but that step could prove to be financially fatal.
A lot of crafters just aren’t in a position to make a big commitment to a store, where their soaps may sell out faster than they can make them.
That’s why it’s important to find a viable alternative to renting retail space or a table at a craft fair is the single most important task you will pursue.
Assure your crafting hobby turns into a small business by going online!
The internet is truly the great equalizer for business. Everyone can make a beautiful space online where they can sell whatever they want, and it doesn’t require much money to do so.
Still, there are thousands of small AND large business that failed online. Business is never a sure thing, and it is becoming harder to compete with the super retailers.
The good news is that you have an advantage: you can make unique products based on demand, and you can move faster than a large company would. While a large company has to have the approval of multiple people before putting out a new product, you only need to have the approval of yourself and your customers.
Even better, with unique products you can cultivate a fan base that loves your work and will only buy from you. I’ve had people spend weeks trying to track me down while I’m on vacation to get something they just ran out of!
Your customers are committed to buying products from local crafters because they want to help their local community and support local economies. Or maybe they know that your homemade products are made more lovingly and with better quality than what they can buy at CVS. These are the types of customers you’re targeting, and they can be found online and offline.
Online marketplace options for crafters
You have several options online to target craft buyers. Some charge small fees but they bring you their large audience and allow you to get your feet wet in your new business.
You can list several items and let the market tell you which products will get the best results, which means you only have to make multiples of products that get the most attention! This is going to save you time, energy, and space in your house.
One of the best sites is one that any crafter knows: Etsy. While they did just increase their fees, their fees are still the lowest of any marketplace I have ever been on. If you haven’t tried them, you should. It’s the best place to learn about selling your products online.
The buyers on Etsy want well made, hand crafted items, but they also buy vintage and craft supplies there! Their business is growing, too, and there are new buyers that join Etsy for the first time every day.
Other good websites that you should consider include Ebay and Handmade on Amazon. The fees are much higher on both websites, but they each have huge numbers of buyers and could open your business up to the entire world.
You have other options as well, of course, like starting your own website. But with new sales taxes on their way from all states, it may be easier and better for you to start off on a marketplace that deals with some of the paperwork and money collecting for you.
Making your handmade soap
As for how to make soap, well, it isn’t always easy. But it is a lot of fun!
I love making my own soap for myself, and giving homemade soap away to my friends and family is really fulfilling. I know they’re washing their bodies with a product that is natural and made with love.
Here’s a brief explanation of the three different processes for making soap:
Cold process soap making is just making soap from scratch.
There are three basic ingredients you need to make soap:
- Sodium hydroxide (also known as lye)
Lye is a hazardous material and should be handled carefully and with respect. You don’t want to burn your skin or your eyes, so wear gloves and safety goggles.
You also need a stainless steel sauce pan or pot and separate containers for storing your lye. Measuring cups are also a must have.
Most importantly, however, you need a good recipe! You can find many recipes online, but make sure you heed their warnings about mixing lye and water outside or in a well-ventilated area. Mixing water and lye creates a steam that is extremely toxic and can burn your lungs.
Be very responsible when handling lye. I know it sounds scary, but if you treat this process with respect you will be fine. If you prefer, there are two other methods that are much less scary:
Handmilled or rebatched method
When you use this process, you will need ready made soap. That’s where the lye comes from! So you grate the ready made soap, then melt that with added water and whatever oils and additives you want.
Some good additives include flower petals, lavender, oatmeal, spices, and maybe even small crystals for metaphysical healing power.
You then pour this melted mixture into molds and leave it to set. Setting can take around a day or even up to two weeks.
Melt and pour method
In my experience, this is the easiest method! This is the best method for a true beginner.
You just melt ready made soap blocks in the microwave or a double boiler, add your additives, and then pour into a mold and leave it to set. Once it’s set, it’s ready to use!