Making the Change, pt. 3

You can read the first part of this saga here, and the second part here.

I was sitting at the beach, and I’d lucked out on a bench swing overlooking the ocean.  The air was nippy (it was April), the water was a beautiful greenish blue, the sky was a crystal clear gradient blue, and the wind whispered through the sea oats on the dunes.  I closed my eyes and allowed my other senses to study my environment.  My mind went back to countless beach days – warm beach, friendly kids for the girls to play with, sand in the bathing suit (hey, it happens), sunscreen.  And there it was.  I would make soaps that capture by scent my memories and associations of various North Carolina beaches, and this would be my niche.

I already had been making one soap, Crystal Coast Morning, that was inspired by wonderful memories of waking up at Emerald Isle in the late autumn (think early December) when the air is clean and brisk and the beach is silent but for the waves and breezes.  Kure Beach is kissed with a bit of sunscreen and a little sand.  Outer Banks is wild and primitive – sudden storms, cedar-sided houses, the ghosts of pirates.  And Ocean Isle has a hint of fruity drink (with an umbrella, of course) served ocean-side.

These four soaps form the heart of my new niche.  A surprise gift of 5 pounds of Bolivian pink sand were the inspiration behind a new type of salt scrub, also in these fabulous scents (though, being a “man scent,” Outer Banks isn’t yet available in salt scrub).  You know how your skin feels after you’ve been at the beach?  That fine layer of sand exfoliates your skin as you wash it off.  Then you wash off all the sunscreen and salt, slathering on the lotion afterwards, and you feel sun-kissed, moisturized, and completely luxurious.  That’s what Bolivian Pink Sea Salt Scrub does for your skin.

From my niche came my conception of my ideal customer.  It was the oddest thing.  I was transferring soaps from table to rack late one night before bed, and I started talking to her in my mind.  In a flash, my ideal customer came to me, and I knew everything about her.  Experts put out worksheets to help businesses identify their ideal customer, but I kept getting stuck when I’d do them.  Apparently, though, at 11:00 while I’m doing mindless tasks, I can come up with lots.

Anyway, moving on…  (I just get really excited about my new products, if you couldn’t tell!)  We’re moving forward on this rebrand, right?  I had the blessing of 1 1/2 weeks without the girls to make products, take pictures, talk to my web developer.  Things were looking good!  I would take a few pictures a day as soaps cured and were close to being ready for sale.  My web developer and I worked hard, troubleshooting and setting things in place.  The launch date was 1 June, and I was trusting him to be working his coding magic behind the scenes while I dealt with the front-end and administrative tasks.

Then another one of those screeching halts came at the end of May.  My husband and I both lost two people close to us – his mentor/friend and my grandmother.  My work time was then pushed into traveling, and I pushed the launch for the following Monday, giving us the weekend for final tweaks and adjustments.  I wasn’t hearing anything much from my developer, so I took deep breaths and trusted that all was going fine on his end.  Then Monday comes.  And Monday goes.  No website, and nothing at all from my developer.  It’s like he’d dropped off the face of the earth.  Panic ensued.  If this site was going to be ready for the grand new business launch, I was (a) going to have to build it myself, or (b) pay someone big bucks to build it for me.  I knew I couldn’t afford option B, so A it was.

I started with my shopping cart, a trusted one that I’d used for years with my old site.  I was familiar with the admin, was pretty comfortable navigating the cpanel, and I was ready to roll.  The first problem hits.  No big.  I go to the support forums, find the solution, fix the problem, roll on.  The next problem crops up.  Same thing.  By the third problem, I had figured out I was in over my head and started exploring other shopping carts.  Getting started and through the first three problems took me…  probably about 20 hours to deal with, and I hadn’t gotten very far at all.  I found a new shopping cart, scrapped those twenty hours’ worth of work, installed the new cart, and after about another six hours’ work, had a rough but working website.  Score one for the not-developer!

Several more hours, messages between the shop’s developer and me, even more hours, and the site was done and ready to launch a little over a week later.  Given that website development really isn’t my forte’ at all, I really have to be proud of the fact that the launch was only delayed by two weeks, and for the most part, I built my site by myself (though again, with valuable help from the template developer’s team and my own friend Bobby).  My web developer is still MIA.

Even while all that was going on, I ordered note cards, postcards, and business cards.  I invested time in sending personal notes to some of my customers.  I set up email addresses…  And to my surprise, last Monday, one of my customers who received one of those notes talked about it in her own blog.  You can read about that here.

So, that was pretty much my rebrand, start to present.  There’s so much minutiae to doing this – opening new accounts, changing account information on websites, making it official with the state – but that’s boring stuff.  However, if you’re rebranding or launching your first new brand (the steps are quite similar), be sure to include these tedious but necessary tasks on your task list so you don’t forget them.

If you have questions about rebranding I didn’t address, please leave them in the comments below.


Garden Fresh for Spring

I love spring bulbs.  Daffodils and hyacinths are my favorites.  Planting bulbs in October’s chill is hopeful.  We’re anticipating seeing those bright blooms after six months of cool (or cold), dark days.  And the smell!  Oh my goodness, there’s nothing like the subtle sunny smell of a bright yellow daffodil or the sweet aroma of a pastel rainbow of hyacinths.  When I was a child, we had daffodils lining our driveway and hidden among the natural areas in the yard; I still smile thinking of those yellow spots amongst the greens and browns.

Several years ago when we lived in our townhouse, we planted some bulbs.  There were so many!  We’d gotten a little bit crazy, and in the back in front of the raised bed were crocuses and tulips, and in pots, one on either side of the sidewalk leading to the front door, were hyacinths.  I was thrilled the first time I saw the first bud peeking up between the green leaves – thrilled, that is, until the snow buried the young blooms.  Obviously, they didn’t do well that year, and, frankly, I was a little disappointed when my mystery bulbs of promised “assorted colors” turned out just to be pink and lavender.  Don’t get me wrong; they were pretty before they got the deep freeze, and they did smell nice, but I’d hoped for more variety.

Then came the next spring.  I did not realize that these bulbs I’d planted so lovingly a year-and-a-half before were technically tubers and had multiplied.  Greatly.  And the colors I’d longed for had arrived.  Now, in addition to the pink and lavender, I had rich purple, white, dark pink, and yellow blooms, and each time I passed them, their sweet aroma with that hint of spice greeted me.  I was in love!

My bulbs didn’t survive the move and resettlement.  Trying to finish settling into a new home with a new baby and new routines just didn’t leave much energy for dealing with bulbs.  Other plants grace the yard, different blooms and colors, but I still look forward to the autumn when I can see the freshly mounded dirt under which my bulbs are buried and the excitement of the little green shoots giving way to riotous blooms of color come spring.

To sort of tide me over until that day comes, I found a lovely hyacinth fragrance that perfectly reminds me of those glorious flowers.  Some floral scents just don’t translate well into their fragrance oil counterparts, but this one is simply lovely.  Yearning for a bit of springtime?  Grab a bar of this gorgeous hyacinth soap to experience spring in your shower (especially for you folks that are having a white Easter).  If you like spring flowers, you’ll love this soap!

hyacinth soap
Lovely, true-to-scent hyacinth soap

My Lemony Love

It started with an angel.  Long story short…  Boy meets girl.  Girl needs angel for her Christmas tree.  Boy suggests this shop at the beach (not knowing that Girl LOVES this shop).  They go to the shop, buy an angel, start a flotilla tradition.  At one point, Girl sees people watching the flotilla from large balconies of an inn while sipping wine or hot chocolate – and not grappling for space on the boardwalk.  Girl thinks, That sure would be nice.  Over time, that becomes a reality, a part of the tradition.

That inn – an interesting hybrid between a bed & breakfast and a hotel – offers lovely, well-appointed rooms, great views, convenient location, and quite nice toiletries, one of which is lemon verbena soap.  We’re talking real soap like what we make, not mass-produced syndet bars that leave the skin dry and itchy.  One sniff, and I was hooked.  The scent was lightly sweet and sharply lemony at the same time with beautiful green notes and just a tinge herbaceous.

It took me forever to find a similar lemon verbena scent.  I found what was marketed as a lemon verbena essential oil, which was pretty nice, only to find out later it was a blend of synthetic and natural ingredients.  L’Occitane‘s Lemon Verbena is fabulous, but too strongly lemon for what I was seeking.  Imagine how excited I was when I found both a duplication of L’Occitane’s Lemon Verbena and another lemon verbena fragrance at one of my suppliers’ online stores!  The L’Occitane is still too lemony, and the other fragrance is a bit too floral.  But when I put them together in just a certain way…  Whoa!!!  It’s perfect!  Lemony, green, floral, herbaceous.

Lemon Verbena Soap - Sunshine in the Shower!
Lemon Verbena Soap – Sunshine in the Shower!

I found my lemony love in this Lemon Verbena soap.  it’s like sunshine in the shower, perfect for cold days, grey days…  Shoot!  It’s perfect for any day that you need your eyes opened.  Yes, I’ll admit, I did have to steal a bar for my shower, but there are still several bars of this dream soap left for you to fall in love with.


Why Creativity Takes Time + Costs Money

The discussion came up with a customer:  The question was, “Why is this soap so much more expensive than this other soap?”

That’s a fair question, certainly.  Soap A (the less expensive one) requires a one-time pour with mica accents finger-brushed on top.  Soap B (the soap in question) COULD just take a one-time pour of a single color of soap, but this customer was expecting it to be colorful, and “colorful” meant several individual pours of different colored soap.  This took time, and since I’m a professional, time = money.  And I had to craft each soap individually.

Pelican soap
Pelican soap – This is it resting on its mould

And as I make slabs of soaps, the types I can whip up in one glorious pour, I think of what it takes to make various soaps.  I’ve made soaps before that are a simple scent and no color, or a scent and just one color.  Those are quick and simple to make.  Then there are the soaps with elaborate swirls and multiple colors, or soaps that contain interesting botanicals and custom created fragrance blends.  Truth is, I could whip out batch after batch of no-color scented soap, but that would be so boring!  We LOVE color!  And design and fun, unique fragrances, and everything else we bring to our soaps!  But creativity, again, takes time, and time is money, even when you enjoy what you do.

I tripped across this great video today that takes a look at the relationship between time and creativity.


Sure, creativity takes more time to achieve, but we are infinitely more pleased with our results.  We’ll continue to take the time to be creative, because it’s just so much more fun.


How to Get Me to Vend Your Event

You have a spectacular event.  It’s well-planned, scheduled at just the right time of year, and you are expecting some crazy-good crowds,  You have tripped over my website or heard of me through the show grapevine, and you send me an application in the mail.  What will make me say, “Oh my gosh, I will simply perish if I can’t vend this event” and part with a chunk of my hard-earned money?  Well, barring a scheduling conflict, here are some things I look for before I sign my name on the line and mail in my booth fee.

One, how long has this event been going on?  I’m more likely to toss my hat in the ring for an established event that already has a following.  I might consider a first-time event.

Two, What sort of advertising are you doing?  If you’re so committed to your event to invest in billboards, TV ads, and radio spots, then I know this is a huge big deal to you.  Your striving for success tells me I have a chance to be successful, too.

Three, What other vendors do you have?  If you’re an artisan-only show, then I expect vendors to be well-juried to weed out multi-level marketing companies.  I promise you, those sellers/representatives are not artisans selling artisan products.  If you’re allowing commercial vendors, then what’s your ratio?  As an artisan, I personally have no desire to compete against a commercial vendor selling inferior soaps made in some overseas sweatshop in upscale packaging for $3.00 a bar.

Along with that, how many other artisan soap vendors will be joining me?  Some competition is great, and I enjoy meeting other soapers.  Plus, we might sell different products that appeal to different customer bases, which is cool.  However, four soapmakers out of around a hundred vendors, all selling about the same type of product, is a bit much, don’t you think?  Yes, that has happened.

Four, what sort of crowds are you expecting?  You could be planning a small, cozy event with maybe 200 attendees who will spend lots, or a humongous event with a projected 40,000 attendees who may or may not spend much at all.  I have a good reason for asking.  My first show was a 4-day event, 44 hours across those 4 days.  The event coordinator said that on one day, there could be 20,000 coming through in a few hours’ time period.  The “surge” I was expecting was a mere trickle.  A veteran vendor said at the end of the night, “I estimate we had 10,000 all day.”

Five, How can I get more information about your event?  I would look for things like a Facebook page, reviews of past events by other vendors who’ve done it, or a website.  A current Twitter or Instagram feed shows me you tend to be active about keeping your followers up-to-date and are likely to post right before and during the event to draw interest and generate excitement.

Six, Is your booth fee realistic for the duration of the event?  Two separate events, same month.  One is essentially a one-day event; the other, 3-day weekend.  The booth fee for the weekend is just $20 more than the booth fee for the one-day event.  Considering other expenses, it’s important for me to determine if your event is cost-effective for my business.  Some argue, “But it’s contact.  It’s exposure.”  Sure it is, but if nothing comes of that exposure, then I’ve wasted a good deal of time and money.  I’d rather invest that same amount of time in building and strengthening relationships with my customers.

I love events, speaking to customers face-to-face, seeing their expressions when they smell particular soaps (a little Perfect Man, anyone?), and teaching them about the amazing benefits of artisan soaps.  As my business has grown and I’ve matured as its owner, I have learned to be more picky about the events I do.  No more selling myself short or cheap chasing after the almighty dollar.

What things do you look for in events you would do?

The Joy of Saying No, pt. 1

The Joy of Saying No, pt. 2

Pucker Up at the Soda Shop!

We’re zipping back to the corner drugstore and soda fountain with this brand new lip balm collection.  Pucker up and enjoy these delicious flavors in scrumptious artisan-made lip balms.  Imagine creamy Root Beer, Sparkling Cola and Effervescent Lemon Lime.  You can smell the fizz in these balms – the flavors are that amazing!

Soda Shop Lip Balms
Yummy scrumptious Soda Shop Lip Balm Set

Holidays and Christmas

As we navigate through the coming months, you’re going to see and hear me use different words to refer to this time of the year.  Already you’ve seen references to “holiday event” and “Holiday Shoppe.”  Yet, those who know me know I’m a Christ-follower (it’s pretty much everywhere on my social media profiles) and are probably wondering why in the world I’m not referring to everything red and green as “Christmas this” and “Christmas that.”

Christmas is a holiday, a holy day.  It’s a day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus with family and friends.  This is a beautiful thing.  We observe our traditions, like attending a flotilla each year and watching Christmas specials together.  We bake Christmas cookies, and we spend time with family and friends.  The girls help me make the traditional family coconut cake for Christmas dinner with my family, and we attend a Christmas Eve Lovefeast service each year before driving around and looking at lights.

Holiday refers to this time of year marked by commercialism, secular trappings, sales, promotions, and Christmas-theme products.  This doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with the true meaning of Christmas.  Now, I know I’m a business owner, and I make and sell Christmas-themed products.  I love these products because they’re fun products to make and sell.

But you want to know something?  While I like making money from my business (otherwise, what’d be the point, ya know?), that’s not what drives me this time of year.  My absolute favorite part of selling during the holiday season is sending smiles.  It goes like this.  I pull orders off my site’s admin section, then I start pulling products, usually with the help of someone in my family.  We spread all these orders out on the table, I print off the packing slips, and we start packing these to ship.

My favorite thing is when I see the shipping address and billing address are different.  That usually means someone is getting a gift.  So I wrap their products in tissue, tie them with a bow, and attach a gift tag (this is just something we do).  The person on the receiving end of the package gets a surprise, and who doesn’t love knowing that someone else is thinking of them?  Or, if the buyer has me ship the package to them, then there’s the chance that they’re going to be wrapping those lovely goodies themselves to tuck under the tree or into stockings.  Or, perhaps a soap and a lotion will grace a powder or guest room, all ready for visiting family and friends to enjoy.

Peppermint Twist Bundle
Zippy peppermint oil makes these products smell just like peppermint candy. Yum!

Do you see where I’m going with this?  It’s all about the giving.  I might be the middle man in this lovely gift-fest, but I have the privilege every year of helping send smiles.  And love.  And fabulous soaps.  And that’s just really several layers of awesome.

Punky Patchouli





This is the coolest, most prettiest soap I have in this house. It has a flaming swirl that could   probably take your breath away. My Mom, my sister and I made this. My Mom makes the soap. My sister stirs the colors into the oil, and I stir the colors into the soap and I hold the funnel. This was so cool to make and plenty cool to design. Mom wanted to leave the blue and gold. I wanted a swirl, so I suggested to do a tiny swirl in the center but just to the edge of the blue and gold. The funnel holding is not so fun because it gets boring. Here is a picture of the soap.

Patchouli soap swirl
The center of our amazing Patchouli swirl.

I am also including a picture of what the funnel looks like, too. Isn’t it beautiful? That is what it looked like when we got done pouring all of the soap into the mould.

Funnel with soap in it
The funnel after we finish pouring all the colors for this soap.

I love seeing the final product.

Pink Sugar – a New Special Edition Soap

Just gotta soap.  That’s my personal justification for making a new soap out of a fragrance that simply doesn’t rock my world when I have a whole slew of “must-makes” on my dry-erase board.  Sure, sometimes I get tired of soaping the same ol’ things, so I succumb to the urge to whip up something different and fun.  From that urge came my newest special edition soap, Pink Sugar.  This delightfully, totally girly soap is bathing bliss with a blend of some of the greatest soapmaking oils and lusciously rich coconut milk.  I topped it with sparkly soap frosting and Himalayan pink salt.

Pink Sugar Soap Loaf
My Pink Sugar Soap freshly poured into the mould

This is that same wonderful girly goodness sliced.  Unfortunately, some of the salt fell off, but the inside is so pretty.  I expect the white parts to turn very brown because of the vanillin content in the fragrance, which will leave me with a brown and sparkly, hot pink swirled soap.  How pretty will that be!

Pink Sugar Soap
Eight delightful little bars of Pink Sugar Soap

These will be all ready for your blissful bathing enjoyment in around three weeks.  I bet you know someone who would appreciate such a girly, fun soap.

Sunny Days Ahead


Let me introduce you to Sun on the Go sets.  We are trying small sets in a convenient vinyl spa bag so they are more travel sized.  They can be taken on a plane,  yet are able to take just a little bit of space.  We aren’t doing shampoo;  instead,  we’re doing detangling spray, so after a day in the sun,  you can brush your hair with ease.  The lotion helps after sunburns or tender areas, while, at the same time, you can use it for simply moisturizing your skin.  SOTG_Small2The soap will be good for cleaning sweat, germs and even shells off your skin.  You can use it on your face, though we can’t predict how your skin will react, since people are sensitive to different things.  The lip balm will not work as a sun screen lip balm, so don’t use it that way.  However it will work if your lips are dried out. You can pick these up at the Blueberry Festival this Saturday, 21 June 2014 or order them from our online store if you’re not going to be in the area this weekend.