Archive for the ‘Featured Crafters’ Category

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Watson and Gracie - They aren't sleeping, they are growing!

Watson and Gracie – They aren’t sleeping, they are growing!

Have you ever wondered what kinds of questions we get for our Technical Support team? Well, I can tell you the questions are all over the place and we must learn new things every day. I’ve learned about horses, armadillos, snakes, gophers, ingrown toe nails, threading eyebrows and more in just the last month. Our customers have a varied collection of interests and experiences. Sometimes we have brilliant answers and sometimes we ask just the right question that allows the asker to solve the problem themselves. The synergy that happens is amazing. Our guest blogger today is the result of this type of question.

You can imagine what I thought when I was asked if our tins were magnetic and if a magnet would stick to the bottom. I wondered what kind of lip balm was going to have a magnet! Come to find out, it has nothing to do with lip balm. Let’s have Megan explain.

My name is Megan and I’m a soapmaker and dog lover/trainer (as well as a handspinner spinning wool from our sheep mixed with “fur” from our dogs!). I make soap under the Cowdance Soap label. I began soapmaking in 1998 when our Jersey cow, Fiona, started producing far more milk than we could drink. I turned the surplus creamy milk in to soap and fell in love with the whole process, especially the fragrant scents used in the soaps. Scents are terrific in all sorts of “forms” and recently I have started using several essential oils with my dogs, training them in a new, rapidly growing sport called Nosework (or Scentwork). Nosework training is similar to training a dog to “alert” to drugs or bombs only in our sport we train our dogs to detect three different essential oils: Sweet Birch, Anise (Pimpinella Anisum or Aniseed), and Clove.

I knew where to go for my essential oils (the Sage, of course) but I also needed little tins to hold the scent-impregnated Q-tips used in training. I found the perfect tins, the lip balm tins, here….so now perhaps they should be re-named “lip balm and NOSEWORK tins”!

Nosework or Scentwork is not only a fun sport but it is wonderful for dogs with special needs. It is used very successfully in shelters to provide shelter dogs with mental stimulation and build their confidence, helping them to be more easily adopted. Senior dogs, dogs with disabilities, ALL dogs love this “game” because it uses their natural ability to smell odors. People love it because the training is completely positive and motivational …. and, the essential odors used smell wonderful!!!

Check out these website for more information: nacsw.net and unitednosework.com

So many uses for essential oils…..soap, canine scentwork….and, of course, I always add a dash of essential oil to the fleece I wash and handspin!

I now have another handspinner to chat with (YEA!) and I learned what I can do with Gracie, our Golden Retriever mix, that has a nose like no other. Eating? She knows. Leave a dirty sock in the sofa? She’ll find it. Missing a cat? She’ll track her down to the hiding spot at the top of the book case and remind the kitty it is time for dinner. Going for a ride? She knows the box of Milk Bones is hidden in the haul from Home Depot. She does the: “I think I’ll stop for a treat before I leave the garage, OK?” type of maneuver. Dogs are amazing and so many are eager-to-please breeds. I can see why dogs that need a job to feel they have value really respond to this sport.

So, you might be wondering if the tins actually can be held by a magnet. The answer is yes, they can.

Tina

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Special Feature: Lisa at ForGoodnessGrape

Thursday, March 28th, 2013
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 Lisa at ForGoodnessGrape. I hope you enjoy our conversation!

Andee: I see you opened the ForGoodnessGrape shop on Etsy in April of 2010. What first drew you into making lip balm? Where did the name come from?

Lisa: Well I first started out with making melt and pour and cold processed soaps and I opened my first Etsy shop in 2009 called My Spa Secrets. I thought I’d like to add a line of lip balms to complement my soaps and other bath goodies. So I started off with a purchased lip balm base. I had already learned so much from researching oils for soaps, lotions and other bath and body goodies that I knew I could make a much better balm myself starting from scratch so that is what I did and I fell in love with making lip balms.

Where did my name come from? I made a grape flavored lip balm and went to name it, the name ForGoodnessGrape is what popped into my head. The reception was so GRAPE from my lip balms that I knew I just had to start an entire shop devoted to lip balms and ForGoodnessGrape was born. From there, I added perfumes both oils and solids and then added lip tints as well. I now have more than 400 items in my shop on any given day.

Andee: What is your favorite thing in the day-to-day operations of ForGoodnessGrape?

Lisa: My favorite thing is interacting with my dear customers. Without them there would be no ForGoodnessGrape. I also love dreaming up new concoctions and designing my labels for them.

Andee: What separates you and ForGoodnessGrape from the competition?

Lisa: I know that there are some really great handmade lip balms out there. I did a lot of research, testing and product development to come up with what I believe to be an awesome lip balm product. I use outstanding all natural ingredients and I offer a formulary that is moisturizing and healing and has great staying power. I have an extensive line of flavors and essential oils. At any given time I have more than 150 flavors of lip balm available in my shops. I do offer 3 different lip balm formula options, my Lip Candy Lip Balm and my Lip Essentials Lip Balm and my Moose Lips Lip Balm. Lip Candy is sweetened with stevia and flavored with flavor oils. Lip Essentials only uses essential oils for flavor and fragrance. Both of these use my proprietary lip balm base which, by the way, is made exclusively with ingredients from The Sage. My Moose Lips formula is different and is made more with men in mind and has a no to low shine factor and sun block as well.

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

Lisa: Dream big. Be passionate and GO for it. But never lose sight of your dream. Do what you love and do it better than anyone has ever done it. No shortcuts. It will take a lot of blood, sweat and tears to realize a dream but there is no feeling in the world quite like that of being the boss of YOU and deciding your own destiny. My favorite quote by an unknown author is: “Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.” (This is so true for me because I am very dedicated to my customers and offering what I believe to be the best the products out there and because of that I think about my business 24/7)

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

Lisa: I would definitely quit my day time job and do nothing else but focus entirely on taking my brand to the next level. What would that be…perhaps doing more marketing to get into a few more local boutiques and maybe even approaching Whole Foods Supermarket and Wegman’s.

Andee: What was the biggest challenge you have faced so far?
That would be giving up time spent with my loving and supportive husband to build my business.

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

Lisa: I am a history buff and love going to Gettysburg and doing a little ghost hunting with my husband.

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

Lisa: I think that all natural products will be more prevalent in 2013. More and more people are becoming conscious of all the chemicals being used by the big name companies and developing medical conditions as a direct result of some of these chemicals such as GF being used and people developing gluten intolerances. I believe that handmade and natural products in general are what consumers will be demanding more of in the coming years and these natural products will hold a larger share in the market place.

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

Lisa: Reading my first customer feedback that confirmed that all of my testing and product development was successful which said, “mmmm…YUMMY!”

 

 

 

Thanks Lisa! I had a great time “talking” with you and your website is so much fun to peruse! I kept having to wipe drool off my keyboard because there were so many yummy things available!

Want to visit and support Lisa and ForGoodnessGrape?
Visit her website at www.forgoodnessgrape.com
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/forgoodnessgrape
Twitter: twitter.com/4goodnessgrape

I hope you find inspiration with Lisa and ForGoodnessGrape. I know I have created quite the wishlist of goodies from ForGoodnessGrape and now I just need to narrow down my list!

FGG4

First Kiss Lip Candy Lip Balm - Inspired by Carrie Underwood

First Kiss Lip Candy Lip Balm – Inspired by Carrie Underwood

Rose Sugar Shimmer Stix Lip Tint

Rose Sugar Shimmer Stix Lip Tint

Lip Survival Collection with 2 Lip Balms, 1 Lip Tint and 1 Sugary Lip Scrub

Lip Survival Collection with 2 Lip Balms, 1 Lip Tint and 1 Sugary Lip Scrub

Peeps Lip Candy Lip Balm

Peeps Lip Candy Lip Balm

Irish Cream Sugary Lip Scrub

Irish Cream Sugary Lip Scrub

Dark Angel Shimmer Stix Lip Tint.

Dark Angel Shimmer Stix Lip Tint.

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

Friday, March 22nd, 2013
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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Special Feature: Ana at AnaBanana’s Bath & Body Treats

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

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 Ana at AnaBanana’s Bath & Body Treats. I hope you enjoy our conversation!

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

Ana: I’ve always loved to find out how things are put together. Clocks, carburetors, cookies… Whatever. If someone put it together, I wanted to know how to do it too. :) I particularly wanted to make my own soaps because I felt that I could do it better than the commercial products I was buying at the store. I had tried some that a friend made, loved it, and loved the idea that she made it herself, and so I wanted very much to try my hand at it too. I had no idea it could become such an obsession!! LOL! I noticed right away there was a big difference in what I made from the so-called soaps I had been buying before. I didn’t know they were synthetic detergents, didn’t know much about them at all, just that that’s what was available and that my skin was dry and itchy all the time. I just thought that was just the way my skin was. When I started using real soap, my skin got a lot less dry and itchy. In fact, I don’t have that problem at all anymore.

Andee: What is your favorite thing in the day-to-day operations of Ana Banana’s Bath & Body Treats?

Ana: Research. I love finding out about new-to-me oils and techniques and artistic styles. I spend a lot of time figuring out how to make a bar of soap look the way I’d like it to and to have the qualities that I really need for myself. I figure, if I like it, a lot of other people will too, because I’m a real person and so are they. :)

Andee: What separates you and Ana Banana’s Bath & Body Treats from the competition?

Ana: Well, in a word…me. :) I put myself into my soaps and cosmetic goods. They are a product of my imagination and I hope to impart some portion of my creative joy into my products.

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

Ana: Find your groove, find what thrills you and trust your instincts. Also patience. Yup, a lot of patience. Sometimes things aren’t going to go the way you planned, so be prepared to find the beauty in something unexpected. Soaps are like that. You decide what you want them to look like, and then they decide if they’ll cooperate or not. LOL! Be flexible that way.

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

Ana: I’d go from an on-line to brick-and-mortar presence. I would love to be able to make my goods in the same location that I sell them and talk to people. I do get some contact with my customers through email and sometimes on the phone, but really talking to people in person is something I’d enjoy very much on a daily basis. And people really like smelling the roses, so to speak, before they buy. I always include a small sample of something different in each order, just so they can do that too, but if I had a physical store, they could smell twenty different soaps instead!

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

Ana: Marketing has always been my nemesis. :) To be a really successful salesperson, you have to be able to be unapologetically self-promoting, and my natural tendency is to be very modest. Even writing the answers to your questions here is difficult in that I don’t want to brag, but really I should brag a whole lot! LOL! I love what I’m doing, and I know that if I can get people to try my goods, they will love them too! So… What holds me back in boasting about it all? Just that natural desire for people to appreciate my work without necessarily involving ME in there too.

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

Ana: Ohmygoodness. Hands down it was during a swap the Sage had a couple of years ago. I was making a soap with a new-to-me fragrance (one of my most favorites now, by the way), and it has a lot of lime in it, which makes soap want to do its thing much faster than I was expecting. The soap is called “Naked Man” and is made with The Sage’s Spicy Lime fragrance oil. I also include some ground luffa for scrubbiness and some color to bring out the green in the lime fragrance. When I was making the batch that I shared, everything was sort of “off” that day. It was late in the day, kids were clamoring for food (feed us NOW!!”), so I was hurrying and getting a little scatter-brained. I love this fragrance and so to me, the most important thing was to get that fragrance in my raw soap right away, except that I forgot to include the luffa and the color before I poured in the fragrance. I hadn’t realized I’d forgotten half my additives until I poured the soap, but by then, it was already starting to set up, so I was trying like mad to get it back into the pot before it seized. Being a superbly stubborn person, I was gonna make it happen! Or not! The soap turned solid on me about halfway through incorporating the extra ingredients, and I had what looked like something I’d rather not clean up after a baby-type “incident.” It looked awful! It looked awful AND was a huge blob on the end of my soaping spoon halfway between the bucket and the mold, at which point I froze up! What do I do?? Oh no! Luckily for me, just a week or so later, the Sage announced a swap appropriately named “Toiletry Tragedies.” I was in! We told our stories for the recipe books (I’m sure you remember this one, lol!) and my new hideous soap with that wonderful fragrance had a home and was also a hit! It was the ugliest soap ever shared, but it smelled sooooo good!

Andee: What inspired the creation of the Zombie Zoapz line?

Ana: Zombie Zoaps are an extension of my weird sense of humor. It’s out there for everyone to see. It’s sort of an alter-personality for me to try to be proper and rein in my quirkiness, but this is an outlet for my inner snarkiness. :) Zombies are so wildly popular, but I can’t take them seriously! I grew up terrified of “Night of the Living Dead” and “Dawn of the Dead” but I’m more of a “Shawn of the Dead” type of person. My sister-in-law is an writer, Pauline Baird Jones, and in one of her stories she had included some zombies that were freaking hilarious. They were in her steampunk romantic adventure “Steamrolled.” I loved them and was inspired by her humor to create something fun too. It’s also a way for me to have some fun with the ingredients list. Does anyone really read those? If they do, then I’ve included some fun stuff for them to find!

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

Ana: I spend most of my spare time reading. I love adventure/romance/paranormal/fun/you-name-it literature! If I’m not reading, I’m drawing or trying my hand at watercolor or learning how to use PhotoShop. I read this question and seriously had to ask myself… Spare time? What is that?? LOL! If I’m not doing any of those things, I’m probably comatose on the couch or in my comfy chair (with a book!). :)

AB1

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Soap - Limited Edition

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Soap – Limited Edition

Chocolate Sandalwood Soap

Chocolate Sandalwood Soap

Chocolate Mint Lip Treats

Chocolate Mint Lip Treats

Mojito Soap

Mojito Soap

Shampoo Bars

Shampoo Bars

Ana's memorable Naked Man soap!

Ana’s memorable Naked Man soap!

Zombie Zoapz - One Bad Apple Zoap

Zombie Zoapz – One Bad Apple Zoap

Puzhin' Up Daiziez Zoap

Zombie Zoapz – Puzhin’ Up Daiziez Zoap

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

Ana: Artisan-style soaps are hugely popular, and for good reason. Handcrafted does not mean homely/ugly, and it gives the creator a lot of opportunity to impart their own style into something and make it truly beautiful. I think that’s my favorite part of soaping – making it beautiful to look at, as well and wonderful for the skin. Soap stamps are one way to personalize your creations, and I’ve got one I love. I’m considering designing another one just for the Zombie Zoaps too. :) Swirls and colors and textured tops for soaps make each batch unique and beautiful too.

Thanks Ana! I had a great time “talking” with you and your descriptions just make me chuckle!

Want to visit and support Ana and AnaBanana’s Bath & Body Treats?
Visit her website at www.anabananacreations.com

I hope you find inspiration from Ana and AnaBanana’s Bath & Body Treats. I know I have created quite the wishlist of Zombie Zoapz as well as regular soaps from AnaBanana’s Bath & Body Treats and now I just need to narrow down my list!

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Special Features Wanted!

Monday, December 17th, 2012

OnAirMic At the end of November, I ruminated about the closure of the Hostess Brands company. In that post, I also talked about shopping to support small businesses and local economies. Even after writing that post, I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind about shopping and showing support for small and/or local. That brings me to the purpose of today’s request!

I would like to hear from you for this new project that I want to tackle! I want to feature you, our customers, and your companies here on our blog. How am I going to do this? I am going to request nominations from you! You can nominate yourself, a spouse, friend or fellow crafter/business . Simply send me a message through our Contact Us form and include the following information; Name of person to contact, contact e-mail, Business name, business site or blog (Etsy, ArtFire and other similar shops are welcome!), and your reason for nomination (not required, but helpful). Once I receive your messages, I’ll begin correspondence to interview you! I will release these Special Crafter Features once or twice a week (depending on how many nominations I receive).

I’m not going to just stop at customer and company features either! Have a special charity project that you are working on or are supporting? I’ll even write features about the charity projects that are close to your hearts! Again, submit your charity project nominations to me by message through our Contact Us form. Please include the name of the charity project, a website and why you support the project (or why it is so close to your heart)! I will release these Special Charity Features in a manner similar to the Special Crafter Features.

Let the features come in so we can support small businesses, local economies and causes that are dear to us!

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Renee’s Easter Egg Bath Bombs!

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012
Yes, I know Easter has already passed, but  I get a lot of inspiration from holidays and I found out that I am not the only one! I love learning what our customers are doing and love sharing that with our readers. Come see what one of our customers made for Easter! I will now turn the spotlight over to Renee, but before I do, if you want to share what you are making, email me! I would love to feature you. Now let’s join Renee in her test kitchen to make some Easter egg bath bombs!

Easter is here!! Stuck trying to figure out what to use to fill in the blank spots in your baskets? Look no further! This tutorial will satisfy everyone! (It’s also a great way to get a chocolate “fix” without having to worry about calories!)

 

Needed Items:

Ingredients
Baking Soda
Citric Acid
Sodium Laurel Sulfoacetate
Hot Cocoa Mix or Cocoa Powder
Sweet Almond Oil
Mokalata Fragrance Oil
Equipment
Spray Bottle with Witch Hazel or Water
Mixing Bowl
Plastic Easter Eggs (the kind that split lengthwise, if possible. I only use the “tops” that don’t have the lip on them.
If you use the pieces that fit together, you’ll end up with a “mushroom” affect. So use the pieces without a lip, so
that when you press them together, the edges will meet)
Old Egg Carton

 Note: If you want to make another scent, just omit the hot chocolate powder and use any of The Sage’s water soluble colorants. These are Lemon Yellow, Grape, Purple Raspberry and Ocean Blue.

Needed Items:

Recipe:
1 c. Baking Soda
½ c. Citric Acid
¼ c. Sodium Laurel Sulfoacetate
¼ c. Hot Cocoa Mix or Cocoa Powder
1 tbsp. Sweet Almond Oil
2 mL Mokalata Fragrance Oil

Measure out all of the dry ingredients. Stir well, making sure there are no clumps. Add the Sweet Almond Oil and Mokalata Fragrance Oil. Mix well. Spritz with a few sprays of Witch Hazel until the mixture holds its shape when squeezed. Then pack some of the mixture into each side of your plastic Easter Egg. Be sure to sprinkle some loose mixture in between the halves. Press firmly together and knock off any mixture that squeezes out. Gently squeeze and wiggle one half off. I like to let it sit in the bottom half, while I make one more. Then gently wiggle the other half off, and use your finger to smooth out the line between the halves. I like to set my bath bombs in an old egg carton while they dry. Once they are dry, package them up and slip them into a basket! Happy Easter!!!!!

Renee's Easter Basket

Collect Needed Items

Measuring Dry Ingredients

Mixing Dry Ingredients

Adding Sweet Almond Oil

Adding Mokalata Fragrance Oil

Mixing Well

Clumping after squirting with Witch Hazel

Packing Egg

Brushing Off Excess

Removing One Side

Both Sides Removed

Eggs in old egg carton

Comparing White Egg to Brown Egg

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Notes, Stamps and MPPs

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

May Day Surprise Inside Rural Mailbox: Artwork by W.C. Porter.

While we are trying to get Tina’s presentation ready to share on GoToMeeting, I thought I would give you a sneak peek with a site that she offered during her presentation. You will find it very useful to help you with your Zen Marketing and you can get a head start on the company stationery that Tina highly recommends.

To begin, the website you should visit is wcp-nm.com. Meet the folks behind this website, Kathy and William C. Porter. (He goes by Bill.)

Bill and Kathy work on many projects, but they specialize in office organization and fun. Bill’s own watercolor work or your company logo can be printed for note card stationery, Bill can make customized rubber stamps, and even all types of plaque engravings for low prices. We took lots of his watercolor artwork greeting cards with us to Miami for Tina’s presentation. Part of the presentation was writing a Thank You note to someone at home who was holding down the fort.

Bill knows the importance of making every part of your company look good and he’ll give you great service. He can help you create a Mailer’s Postmark Permit stamp to cancel the postage you put on an envelope or package. Bill even does perforating so you can print faux postage with your company logo right from your printer! Just ask him how. Would you like to offer a special or announce a new product? These faux postage stamps are great ways to put the idea in front of everyone. From Bill and Kathy we order:

rubber stamps (custom and stock designs)
stationery
ink pads
MPP supplies

Without Bill’s help we would not have our Cheeseburgers in Paradise postmark, our Stars and Stripes in Paradise postmark or our two Wellsville postmarks. Bill was extremely helpful in our application process of getting our MPPs (Mailer’s Postmark Permits).

We want people to shop with small, independent soapmakers. Bill is the small, independent printer and stamp maker. Not only will you get a good laugh from Bill, but his products are exceptional and his customer service is top notch. Please tell Bill and Kathy that we sent you.

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Special Feature: Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

If you liked the Special Feature on March 21st, I’m sure you will also enjoy today’s feature. As you may know, I love surfing the blogs from soapers and other crafters. One of the blogs I follow, The Great Cakes Soap Works Blog, had the cutest Valentine style soaps. Amy made these Sweet Pea & Rhubarb Soaps using cake decorating techniques! When she released these soaps to her store, I wanted to try them.

I promptly placed an order for not only soaps, but lotions and lip butters too! I ordered 3 of the Sweet Pea & Rhubarb Soaps and gave one to my mom, one to Taylor and the third is proudly sitting on our front counter as part of a soap display! I had to laugh, because while I didn’t get to try one, I still have four other soap bars that I ordered to try. The other soaps that I ordered are the Creamy Castile, Patchouli Beer Bar, Cinnamon Bun Coffee Soap, and Moroccan Spice Soap. The lotions are scented Fruit Stripe, Spiced Cider and English Garden! The three lip butters were flavored Vanilla Latte, Strawberry, and Butterscotch. Taylor promptly took the Strawberry Lip Butter and I haven’t seen a sign of it since, but she apparently loves it!

When I received my order, I had to show my soap around and finally I decided to e-mail Amy and find out if she would be kind enough to “sit down” for an interview. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I have!


Sweet Pea & Rhubarb Soap.

You began making soap in 2002 as Christmas gifts, what encouraged you to make soap in the first place?

I had set a precedence to give my two closest friends a handmade gift at Christmas. So that year I was searching online for ideas when I found Kathy Miller’s website and several others with all the information about how to make soap from scratch. The whole process seemed so interesting, yet challenging, and I knew I had to give it a try!

What do you enjoy most in your day-to-day work?

I think there are several aspects that I look forward to. First, is the idea of a new soap. What will it look like? How can I make it special? Second, is when I actually put the soap together and seeing how the soap in my head is translated into real life. Of course, the best part is then cutting the soap to see how it looks inside!

What separates you and your company from the competition?

That’s a tough question because there are so many great handmade soap businesses out there! My soaps are top quality – made with 7 different vegetable oils and butters. I’m starting to branch out into more of the artisan type soaps as well. I get compliments from shoppers and even other vendors on my presentation when I’m at the farmer’s market or other events that everything looks so professional, so they are surprised to find out that I make everything that I sell. This also translates to my online presence where I strive to create a very professional feel to my web store and blog, yet provide very personalized service. Melisa Carter, who is one of my customers in Zebulon, Georgia, sent this email to me last year: “Kenneth and I were commenting when our soap arrived yesterday, that you have done such a great job with your business. Very professional but yet personal. Kenneth has bought soap from a number of different people and he even commented how impressed he was.”

Peppermint Soap.

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

Stick to making soap! It’s the best selling product with the highest profit margin. Get a website started, then learn about search engine optimization. (I highly recommend Cricket’s SEO Techniques & Marketing classes, which are free classes via yahoo.) Have a customer list and send out regular communication with them via email newsletters. Have a presence on Facebook and regularly interact with your fans. And no matter how many people offer to sell your soap in their retail stores on a commission basis, don’t do it!

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

I would invest in retail and production space, and hire some help!

What was the biggest challenge you have faced so far?

How about getting my business set up on Quickbooks! I just purchased the software in December and I’m still trying to figure it all out. I finally started setting things up last month because I was completely dreading it. I like math, but this is just complicated.

Almost Paradise Soap.

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

 

I see my customers constantly looking for the next new thing, so the new artisan style soaps are selling very well. I’ve also noticed that more and more people are looking for products they can use on their sensitive skin – that includes both soaps and lotions. One of my childhood friends contacted me recently because she found out that her oldest daughter is allergic to tree nuts and she needed a lotion that didn’t have almond oil in it.

What was one of your most memorable experiences while testing products?

As in one of my biggest failures? Let’s see, that would have to be when I tried to make an all-natural sugar scrub with a highly superfatted, hot-processed soap. One of my soapmaking friends had done it with coconut and jojoba oil, and I tried replacing some of the jojoba with apricot kernel oil. Well, it was way too thick. I kept adding more and more oils, but it never relaxed. I ended up with two gallon-sized ice cream tubs full of the stuff and added some fragrance and colors to it so my girls could use it in the bath. It actually went rancid before they had a chance to use it all!

Sweet Surrender Soap

What ways have you found to be the most effective for promoting your business?

 

Regularly sending out newsletters to my Preferred Customer list is one of the best ways. Finding ways to have sales is also key. I did a 12 Days of Christmas Deals last year that was highly successful. Facebook and Twitter have also been great ways to advertise. I’ve had orders from high school classmates who never would have known about my business otherwise!

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

I’m a mom and a wife. My girls are in 2nd and 4th grade, so one of the reasons I’ve kept the business small is so that I can spend time with them. My husband and I also enjoy lifting weights together 2-3 times a week and playing volleyball in our church league. If I actually have spare time to myself, I love to read a good book! But that is rare, precious time!

What gives you the inspiration for your products like the Sweet Pea & Rhubarb Soap, Fruit Loops Soap or even the Almost Paradise Soap?

These are some of my favorite soaps! The Sweet Pea & Rhubarb soap was inspired by the fragrance. I googled images of sweet peas and found one I thought would translate into soap. Then I took what I knew about cake decorating and applied some of those techniques as well as a technique from the Lovin’ Soap blog using bottles with yorker caps.

Fruit Loops Soap.

The Fruit Loops soap was inspired by the fragrance as well. Of course, the cereal is so colorful, and I wanted the soap to reflect that rainbow of color. I had seen a tutorial by Grumpy Girl on the CraftServer about how she made a salt bar soap with at least that many colors, so I knew it could be done.

 

The Almost Paradise soap was inspired by a customer. I had to poll my customers to come up with the name “Almost Paradise” for the fragrance. After that, I asked my Facebook fans what an Almost Paradise soap should look like. And wouldn’t you know, the customer who suggested the winning name also suggested that it should look like a beach scene. So that’s what I did! The sun part was inspired by Soaphora’s Chocolate Mint soap. I just used a much smaller pipe, so it was a real struggle to get the soap out! I was just so excited when the idea in my head actually translated into the final product!

Amy,
Thank you for this great interview! I had so much fun writing back and forth with you. I hope others will find your products just as inspiring as I do!


Do you know someone who you think should be featured on Adventures with The Sage? Use our Contact Us Page and send a note to the Blog Team. Tell us the name of the person, their company, and why they should be featured. It doesn’t have to be soapmaking or cosmetics related! Any feature recommendations will be accepted!

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Special Feature: Emily Caswell of GCDSpa.com

Monday, March 21st, 2011

In my spare time I love surfing the websites of various soapmakers and crafters to see all the cool things that people make. My home computer has LOTS of bookmarked websites that I find inspirational.

Baby Shower Lip Balm Favors.

Several weeks ago, I helped put a little gift package together for Emily Caswell since she had caught a mistake we made and told us about it. As a thank you for catching that mistake, I scoured her website and our catalog for items that we thought she might like to try. I couldn’t help myself, I kept going back to her website and drooling over her fun products. Finally, I decided that I have to share the wonderful items that she makes!

So, I sent an e-mail off to Emily and I’m so excited that she consented to an interview with me! I hope you enjoy this great interview!


Andee: What’s your background and what led you to start GCDSpa.com?
Emily: My degree is in biology and psychology and I was also pre-med, so I have a strong science background. My first “real” job was in a biotech lab, but I wanted to be able to work from home when I had kids. So I left that job, pursuing an interest in art and design and starting my own business. I did graphic and web design for small local businesses for about 8 years. Late in 2004 I made some holiday gifts with a friend, creating my own labels and packaging as I had done for my clients’ products. Our sugar scrubs and bath salts were a big hit with our families, who ended up ordering their own gifts. I realized this was a great way to combine my lab experience with my design work. Within a year I had launched GCDSpa.com and was working on wedding favors.

Andee: How did you get started making customized wedding favors and gifts?
Emily: Several of my design clients were in the wedding industry, so I had spent some time designing for weddings. Through that experience I knew how much customers liked having favors and gifts personalized just for them. I had grown accustomed to emailing drafts of designs to my clients, so I provided that same service to my new customers. I started by offering wedding and bridal shower gifts and favors, with an assortment of flavors, designs, and colors. Over time I added more product options and eventually added birthday party and baby shower designs, too.

Cherry Blossom Wedding Favor

Andee: What do you enjoy most in your day-to-day work?
Emily: What I enjoy most is that I love everything! Apart from doing my taxes, I love it all! In any day I might design some tags, pour lip balm, take photos of new products, and decorate party favors. Other days I’m blogging or chatting with customers and colleagues on Twitter and Facebook. I feel so fortunate to have a job that I really love.

Andee: What separates you and your company from the competition?
Emily: There are lots of other companies providing custom party favors and gifts, but we’re different in several ways. We have very low minimums for personalization, we offer a wider selection of flavors and designs than most, we provide an emailed draft of all personalized artwork for customer approval before production, and we assemble and decorate our favors before shipping so customers don’t need to put anything together. I’m also pretty sure that we offer the fastest rush order service available!

Andee: What advice would you give someone just starting their own business?
Emily: Add new products or services a little at a time; it’s easy to get overwhelmed and end up with a product line that’s too big (and unprofitable). Also, find out about trade organizations that might benefit your business. For those of us in the personal care products industry, the Indie Beauty Network and The Handcrafted Soap Makers Guild provide reasonably-priced insurance, industry news, and ways to connect with colleagues. The support and continuing education I’ve personally received through IBN have been invaluable to my business.

Favors for a Divorce or Break Up Party

Andee: What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail?
Emily: I’ve been working on a new idea for personalized products and haven’t had enough time to work out all of the details and “officially” add it to my product line. That is happening too often now, so I think if I knew it would do well, I would hire someone to help me finish these ideas. Having even one extra set of hands would make a big difference, but as a small (micro-mini) business, I have always hesitated to hire. (Maybe that means it’s time to put the kids to work?!)

Andee: What do you see as the coming trends in the personal care industry and particularly the favors that you do?
Emily: When it comes to favors, I see parties getting very detailed and customized, but because of the economy (or maybe just a new interest in handmade), I feel like the trend is toward do-it-yourself. So there are opportunities for custom and personalized work, but those of us offering ready-made favors have to keep trying harder to offer really special, unique items with one-of-a-kind designs that can’t be duplicated! In the personal care industry, the buzz words seem to be natural, “green”, cruelty-free, and organic. I expect that customer demand will continue in this direction. Since some of the most exciting trends in personal care have been led by small businesses, it will be interesting to see if new cosmetics legislation is introduced and what impact this has on the role of small business in the personal care industry.

Butterfly & Ladybugs Label Collection.

Andee: What was one of your most memorable experiences while testing products?
Emily: I used to premix my lip-safe micas in dropper bottles with sweet almond oil, shaking them before use to make a “slurry” and then adding by the drop to my melted batches of balm. One time I was making a test batch of a new lip balm flavor and didn’t realize that the mica had settled in the dropper cap. When I squeezed the bottle, nothing came out. So I squeezed a bit harder and still nothing happened. Another squeeze and the entire cap popped off into the lip balm, splashing molten wax and butter all over the lab bench, chair, floor, my jeans, t-shirt, and lab book. Not long after that I acquired my lab coat and came up with a different way to add the mica!

Andee: What ways have you found to be the most effective for promoting your business?
Emily: I have always depended on search engines to get the word out about my products, through both organic search and, more recently, a bit of PPC advertising. I’m also finding Facebook and Twitter really helpful in maintaining relationships with my customers as well as promoting to new customers.

Andee: What was the biggest challenge you have faced so far?
Emily: The most challenging thing was finding affordable insurance, a problem solved by joining the Indie Beauty Network. My biggest ongoing challenge is time; my business is a full-time job, and I’m a full-time parent, too. There just aren’t ever enough hours in a day.

Easter Lip Balms

Andee: When you aren’t working on your products, what do you do in your spare time?
Emily: My first thought is, “What spare time?!” But I do enjoy reading, photography, Pilates, and sewing when I get the chance. My other love is my garden; from May through late September, I spend as much time as possible with the plants. I have always enjoyed growing flowers, but in recent years I have expanded my garden to include vegetables and herbs, too. I still work from home (now from a renovated office and lab space over my garage) so I also spend a lot of time with my two kids and (of course) my husband!

Andee: How can people get in touch with you to book your services?
Emily: You can see all of my work at http://www.gcdspa.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GCDSpa
Twitter: http://twitter.com/GCDSpa
all of my contact details are at: http://www.gcdspa.com/contact.htm

Emily,
Thank you for this great interview! I had so much fun writing back and forth with you. I hope others will find your products just as inspiring as I do!


Do you know someone who you think should be featured on Adventures with The Sage? Use our Contact Us Page and send a note to the Blog Team. Tell us the name of the person, their company, and why they should be featured. It doesn’t have to be soapmaking or cosmetics related! Any feature recommendations will be accepted!

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