To soap makers around the world, Amy Warden is a household name thanks to her Soap Challenge Club. She kicked off the club in 2012 with the peacock swirl technique, and thousands of bars later, soapers line up each month to learn, create, and grow in their art.
“There are several hundred (participants) every month, and we always have new ones each time. I honestly don’t know the total number, but it’s been quite a few!” Amy said.
Some challenges have guest instructors, but Amy herself teaches most of the techniques with video tutorials. Along the way, she has picked up some new techniques she uses in her own business, Great Cakes Soapworks.
“The easier ones to do are always fun; drop swirls or hanger swirls,” she noted. “I’ve gone back to that pipe divider swirl, and that’s why we went back to that. Pointy Layers that Terry Endsley was teaching – I’ve been doing that for custom orders.”
Where the Story Began
The first soap Amy made was in 2002 as a Christmas gift for friends. She found the recipe online and went for it. Though her first batch was not without flaws and required rebatching, she stuck with her newfound hobby.
“We had so much soap at our house, my husband said, ‘You have to find something to do with all this soap!’” Amy laughed.
That led to her a local farmers market, where she set up on a borrowed cardboard table with a vinyl tablecloth and all her mismatched soaps in plastic wrap.
“A farmer told me I should take a bar out of the wrapper so people could smell them,” Amy said, noting she felt silly not to have thought of that herself.
Though she began as an uncertain vendor, she did sell some soap, and she continued with that market for several seasons. Naturally, Amy expanded on her efforts to sell, and it was not long before she founded her company Great Cakes Soapworks and began selling online.
“It’s not just making soap,” she noted. “If you want to make a business out of it, you’ve gotta be prepared to do the bookkeeping, inventory, all the stuff that goes along with it.”
That “stuff” includes learning marketing, website design, search engine optimization, and a host of other skills seemingly unrelated to making soap.
Much to Amy’s husband’s relief, she sold all her inventory. She now only does custom orders, which gives her plenty of time for the Soap Challenge Club. It’s not quite a full-time job, Amy said, but there are some very busy times.
“It kind of ebbs and flows with where we are in the timeline of the challenge,” she explained. “I have not figured out what the actual hours are.”
Always Been Crafty
Amy lives in Olathe, Kansas, with her husband and two daughters. She’s been crafty all her life, she said.
“My mom taught me how to sew when I was growing up. I’ve made Halloween costumes, curtains, done band uniform alterations. I even made a quilt.”
We are glad Amy stuck with soaping, though she probably would have made an equally awesome quilting instructor. Check out her website, and see if you find some inspiration for your own soap making adventures.