Special Feature: Susan at S~Design Jewelry and Skin Care 2


I enjoy seeing all the wonderful products that our customers make! I find every shop I visit to be inspirational in many ways. I want to share this inspiration with you by featuring a crafter just like you!Today, we are featuring an interview I have done with Susan at S~Design Jewelry and Skin Care . I hope you enjoy our conversation!

Andee: What first drew you into making soaps and other personal cosmetics?

Susan: I started out making lip balms. I was searching for a product that had tea tree and eucalyptus oils in it. My partner used to get terrible cold sores, fairly often. I have used essential oils and herbal supplements for a long time. I figured if I could formulate something with the essential oils I knew worked for me, maybe I could create something that would work well for him too. I still make that particular lip balm and it is one of my best sellers. I can’t remember the last time he had a cold sore either.
I also was interested in making a lotion for myself that contained some of the herbal supplements I was already taking. So I started looking for a good source for more oils and such. This eventually led me to the forum (MMS), where I discovered there were a whole bunch of friendly, interesting, talented, and helpful folks. Making my own products didn’t seem quite so weird anymore. Most of these folks were making soaps. This sounded fun, dangerous, rewarding. ‘Ooooh, caustic lye, hope I don’t blow up my kitchen’, I thought. But the temptation was too strong to resist. So with the help and advise of the forum members I dove right into soap making as well. That’s it, I was hooked. So for the same reasons that I started selling my jewelry (I can’t keep it all), I started selling my cosmetics as well. Now selling my product is just a good excuse to make more product.

Andee: What is your favorite thing in the day-to-day operations of S~Design Jewelry and Skin Care?

Susan: Hands down, my favorite part of my business is production. Photographing, promoting, listing, selling, are all neccesary, but the creation is what keeps me going. I love to see an idea become reality. Much like an artist with paint and canvas, except I don’t paint, I don’t even draw very good stick figures. So this is my creative outlet, my art, so to speak.

Andee: What separates you and S~Design Jewelry and Skin Care from the competition?

Susan: I am curious. My mind never really rests. When I was a child my mother used to ask me, “Susan, can’t you just sit still?” The answer to this day is still “no”. I like to turn things over in my brain and see how I might make them different. I am a recycler. Not the hip, trendy, modern recycler. I am the old farmer, “don’t throw that away, I might need it someday” recycler. “It might work for such and such, or maybe I could turn it into this, that, or the other thing”. I am always trying to figure out how to make something work for purposes it was not intended for. This mind set comes with lots of failed ideas. But every once in a while, I come up with something that actually works. Soap lends itself well to this train of thought. It can be colored, shaped, molded, and manipulated into many different forms. It’s a lovely canvas. I get the same satisfation from taking a bunch of beads, baubles, and findings, and creating a unique piece of jewelry out of those little bits and pieces too.

Andee: What advice would you give someone just starting their own business?

Susan: Turn off your television. Seriously.
Don’t overlook the capital investment. When you start out making something just for yourself, the quantities are small. But as you delve into production for sales you need to make sure you have enough cash, or enough credit, and enough room to store additional items. Storage is a big deal. Your products can take over the kitchen, the dining room, all of your closets, and you’re left wondering where you’re going to put the rest. If you know how you’re going to keep and care for your monster, everyone in your house will be happier, including you.
Also, ask yourself how much do you really like doing what you are doing. Can you see yourself still doing it in 10 years? Will you get bored if you have to make a large order of the same item over and over? Will you be able to handle the physical, pshycological, and emotional demands?

Andee: What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail?

Susan: I would buy and restore one of the historic hotels in town. This would allow for a brick and mortar store front for myself, and I would love to have an artists cooperative that filled the entire space with interesting and beautiful works.

Andee: What was the biggest challenge you have faced so far?

Susan: Learning to talk about myself. When customers buy from a small producer they are buying a little piece of you. Learning to be able to talk to people about how great a product I have, therefore how great I am, is still difficult. But being able to articulate to my client why I am doing what I am doing, and why they should buy anything from me, is terribly important. They want to know the story. Sometimes I don’t think my story is very interesting, and therefore, have a hard time telling it.

Andee: What was one of your most memorable experiences while making (testing) products?

Susan: I accidentally tipped over a bottle of lavender essential oil (expensive mistake) and it spilled off the counter and onto one of my padded mats. I picked up the mat to take it to the bathroom to wash it in the shower, and all the way down the hall I had little drips of black rubber from the mat. Who knew lavender would eat the mat? Fortunately I have all solid surface flooring, so I eventually got it cleaned up.

Andee: When you aren’t working on your products, what do you do in your spare time?

Susan: I have my own landscaping business as well. My summers are always VERY busy. I also watch my two granddaughters 2-3 days a week. Last year I started a rather large gardening project. It is a retaining wall/planter bed system made out of used tires. Phase two should be complete this spring. I also have two dozen chickens and enjoy tending them as well.

Andee: What do you see as the coming trends in the personal care industry and particularly with the soaps and that you make?

Susan: I think a lot of folks will want to jump into running their own business in the next couple of years. It will cause some disappointment for people who don’t end up where they expect. We have worked for ourselves for the last 15 years, so whatever business we tackle, we don’t enter blindly. There are a lot of hidden costs, especially taxes that are no longer paid by an employer. Consumables like soap seem like an easy sell. I think the competition will increase greatly in this category, be that on line or at local venues. I know there have been jewelry vendors in about 40% of the booths at some events I’ve done. I believe entrepreneurial folks will have to work very hard to set themselves apart from their competitors. It will be important to have the patience and stamina to ride the wave all the way in.

Lux Lavender Soap

Lux Lavender Soap

Down Under Wonder Lip Smoother

Down Under Wonder Lip Smoother

Hot Buttered Popcorn Soap

Hot Buttered Popcorn Soap

Rose and Hibiscus Cream.

Rose and Hibiscus Cream.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Hearts Soap

Chocolate Covered Cherry Hearts Soap

Rainbow Colors Soap

Rainbow Colors Soap

Super Hippie Soap

Super Hippie Soap

Nutty As A Fruitcake Soap

Nutty As A Fruitcake Soap

Tangerine and Tulips Soap

Tangerine and Tulips Soap

Thanks Susan! I had a great time “talking” with you and I find myself thinking about applying your advice myself!

Want to visit and support Susan and S~Design Jewelry and Skin Care?
Visit her Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/SDesignPersonalCare

I hope you find inspiration from Susan and S~Design Jewelry and Skin Care. I know I have created a wishlist of a few goodies found in Susan’s shop!

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About Andee

I’m a twenty something soap snob. I’ve grown up with hand made soaps and I love them! I really like making lotions, soaps and perfumes. I adore mixing scents to come up with something new. My favorite scent is either Wicked or Cotton Candy. I tend to hoard fragrances, I even have an Earl Grey Tea from the MMS catalog. I won’t tell you how old it is, but it sure is good!


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2 thoughts on “Special Feature: Susan at S~Design Jewelry and Skin Care

  • Leilani

    Susan, I am also one of those children that couldn’t sit still, and I sometimes think I’m schizophrenic with my many different interests and businesses. I glad to find someone else that is also into bubbles and baubles. I’ve been ramping up to open my own Etsy store, after selling both jewelry and soap at local craft fairs. Thanks for the advice! And Andee thanks for sharing soaper’s stories with us!

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  • caren

    I love these interviews, they make me feel like I am not such a wierdo. I feel normal and also could see myself spending hours upon hours talking and laughing with these people!!!

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