Joy-Sparking Soaps

“Does it spark joy?” This seems to be the question we’re hearing most commonly lately as the Konmari Method of tidying up sweeps throughout the country. We started “doing the Konmari thing” last weekend, and I’ll be talking about that process soon in future posts. As I was spending time to myself yesterday, letting thoughts drift in and out of the ether, I spent a bit of time focusing on my products. I make them, I use them, and I so often take them for granted, so this was a great chance for me to remember the joy in each product.

How to approach this? Do I start chronologically to my making journey? Do I begin with the core four of my brand? I’m going to begin with Au Naturel. This soap began as Soap of Milk & Honey (and Oatmeal!), and it brings happiness. When I made my very first batch of this soap, I knew pretty much nothing about gelling temps and how both insulating the soap and sugars in the soap increased them. I’d insulated my mould and left it alone. When I unmoulded my soap the next day, it was dark and had caverns, complete with soapy stalactites and stalagmites. Plus, it oozed oil. What in the world??? My gelling temperature had gotten so hot that it caused separation. Over time, the oil absorbed into the soap, but there was no fixing the caverns. It was divine to use, nonetheless. It’s so rare that a bar of this soap makes it to my shower that I do a happy dance when the stars align and it happens. This one is an incredible, gentle, uber-moisturizing head-to-toe treat.

The next soap that harkens back to my humble beginnings is Goat’s Milk & Lavender, originally Ooh La Lavender. This is another goat’s milk soap, and I still have a bar from the original batch stashed away on a rack. I want to use it, because after nearly 11 years, it’ll be so incredibly mellow, but then again, I don’t, because it’s special. This is another one of those soaps that brings happiness when I get to use it, partly because of the rarity of the event. It has lavender oil in it along with vitamin-rich goat’s milk. It’s incredibly moisturizing and has a completely relaxing fragrance.

The next soap that has been a part of my collection from the early days is Lemon Grove Gardener’s Soap. Back in the days when I made soap exclusively by the melt & pour method, I made and sold this scent in a bright yellow glycerin bar. In fact, one night I dreamed about how to make, package, and market four soaps that were scented with these four custom created scents I’d developed. Lemon Grove was one of them. It is a special blend of essential oils, and when I started making cold-processed soaps, I decided to craft this into a gardener’s soap, complete with cornmeal for grit and calendula petals for interest. This one shows up in my shower more frequently than the other two soaps mentioned here; in fact, there’s a sniglet of a bar of this one in my shower now.

In my next post, I’ll be sharing with you the joy that I feel with my “core 4”: Outer Banks, Crystal Coast Morning, Kure Beach, and Ocean Isle.

Which one of these is your favorite or on your must-try list?

You Can Take It Back Home With You

Do you ever go to the beach and wish you could bring something back home with you?  Other than the tons of sand in towels, beach toys, and shells, that is?

When I was growing up, we had really hard well water.  After a while, of course, the minerals from the water would build up on our hair.  Every time we went to the beach, Mom would luxuriate in how the soft beach water made her hair feel – soft, light, and conditioned.  When my parents built their house some 20ish years ago, one of their top priorities was a water softening system, because Mom wanted her hair always to feel soft and not weighted down.

Also when I was growing up, my grandparents had the best water.  They lived 20 minutes from us (so nowhere near the beach), and that water made the most amazing coffee!  It was so good and turned this one-cup-a-day drinker to a 3-cup drinker while I was at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  When I was in high school, my grandparents got a place at the beach so Grandpa would have someplace to stay when he was fishing.  Welcome beach water!  It had the same sweet flavor of my grandparents’ water, but even better!

Fast forward several years to my meeting Peter and spending time at his parents’ beach house.  I was living in a place with awful municipal water; I had to add lemon juice to make it palatable to me.  But the beach house…  One sniff and I knew the water would be as incredible as at my grandparents’ home.  I tasted it and was sent back to their house while I was growing up.  Cup after cup of the smoothest coffee went down while I sat or stood on the dock, savoring the delicious flavor dancing on my tongue.

Fast forward a few more years, and since we couldn’t bring enough water back to keep me satisfied, we went to where the water is.  We moved to the beach, and the water is almost as smooth and soft as what my Grandparents had.  (And I certainly drink enough of it!)  A little farther east, and we discovered the water at Kure Beach is reminiscent of that which was at the beach house.  I can bring a little of that back with me, and I do every time we’re there.

Moving to the beach isn’t an option for many people.  Some can’t afford it, some prefer living elsewhere, and still others love the idea all the way up to hurricane season, when the idea doesn’t seem quite as winning.  When you can’t turn your vacation into something more permanent, you can bring the beach back home with you (no vacuuming required).

Wherever your vacation takes you along our glorious North Carolina coast, we have a soap for you so you can savor those vacation memories just a little bit longer.  Starting on the northern part of the coast takes you to world-class surfing, wind-swept dunes, and wildly primitive beaches.  Outer Banks Storm captures this area with its rustic cedar-shingled homes and the sharp tang as a storm blows in from the sea.

Outer Banks soap
Outer Banks Storm


Go south just a little bit and the southern Outer Banks takes you to Crystal Coast Morning.  You know those mornings at my in-laws’ beach house I mentioned?  I captured them in this scent – sans coffee.  Zippy and fresh, this scent is like waking up on a late autumn morning to an empty beach in the off-season when the air is pure and crisp and all that tickles your ears are the sounds of waves kissing the sand.

CCM soap
Crystal Coast Morning

Keep going a little further south and you arrive at our gorgeous Cape Fear beaches.  The Cape Fear River meanders its way from mid-state to the ocean and lends its name to this region.  Surf City, Topsail, Wrightsville, Carolina, Kure Beaches… Each wonderful in its own right, depending on what you’re looking for.  We generally go to Kure Beach.  It’s a quiet beach with a fishing pier and lifeguards, as well as a public bath house and free parking.  And I mentioned the water, right?  Kure Beach Afternoon is pure ocean with a slight tangy zip underscored by a whisper of sunscreen.  It’s hanging out at the beach with a bunch of other local home educating families on a beautiful late summer day as clouds scuttle overhead.

Kure Beach soap
Kure Beach Afternoon

And finally, we come to Ocean Isle Beach, easily one of the jewels of our Brunswick County Beaches.  This island is paradise just after the season ends when it’s still warm enough to enjoy the beach but the isle isn’t thronged with tourists.  My teen and I enjoy weekends away each year to a resort on the island.  Wide, powdery, sandy beaches; calm waters; and the rustle of palm fronds overhead as we sit on our balcony or float in the pool.  It’s a beach vacation made for chillin’ and sipping something cold and fruity while all the stress melts away.  That moment became Ocean Isle Beach.  A crisp ocean scent mingles with sweet fruits as you remember what it was like to watch your cares blow away on a warm breeze.

Ocean Isle – Weekend in Paradise

Which one of these jewels of the beach would you want to bring back with you?  What memories will you love to capture in your shower?

Pouring Flip Flop Soaps

They’re he-ere!  The absolutely adorable flip flop soaps are poured and nearly wrapped, all ready to deck your bathroom in coastal Christmas flair.  I decided to take you behind the scenes and show you how I make these soaps.  They’re a bit of work, but the results are so totally worth it!  Check it out!

Pouring Flip Flop Soaps from Sara Nesbitt on Vimeo.

These charming soaps come in two festive scents:  Sleigh Ride, a brisk fragrance that blends mint, vanilla, and pine; and Christmas Spice, a lovely spicy seasonal scent that has been a favorite among my customers for fifteen years.  Not only would these look awesome in your bathroom, but they make unique stocking stuffers and thoughtful gifts for the beach lovers in your life.  I invite you to pick yours up today.  Quantities are very limited, and I don’t think these will be around for long.


How to be an Overnight Business Success

Are you ready?  Got pen and paper?  Here it is…

Buy a kit, make the stuff, price it exactly as recommended by the wholesaler from whom you bought it, rent booth space, sell it (along with at least a half dozen other people who had the same idea as you), and voila!  You’ll be a success overnight.  Or maybe that’s just for overnight.

My dear artisan friend Denise and I joke, “It takes a long time and a lot of hard work to become an overnight success.”  Newbie crafters/hobbyists see what we’ve achieved over years of owning our businesses and want what we have, only without the hard work, trial-and-error, discipline, learning, or experience.  It really does take a significant amount of time and unique experiences to achieve success in business, and I’m happy to show those off in my blog, newsletters, website, and social media outlets.  Today, though, I thought I’d share with you some of my flubs that have led me to where I am now.

“Do a show!”  I was brand new in my business, and the ink on my business license was barely dry when a lady recommended I participate in a huge selling event.  It cost me $325 to rent a booth for the 4-day weekend, and I made probably around 1000 bars of soap for it.  Imagine my joy – how thrilled I was! – to see this line of people at my booth.  Only, they weren’t at my booth; they were in front of it, in line for the gourmet candy apples next door.

Surround yourself by people who want you to succeed.  Or something.  It was a year later, now 2003, and the memories of that awful event were still plaguing me.  It was my first time doing the EPA show with Mom as my sponsor and right-hand woman.  We were two hours from the end, and business had been quite good, when Mom started offering discounts without consulting me.  I was like, “What are you doing?”  She said, “I thought since you weren’t making a profit, yet, that you’d want to liquidate.”  It takes 3-5 years to turn a profit in business, and she’s been a super-tremendous help since.

Then there was the grand mal soap seizure that turned the beautiful funnel swirl of my plans into “murdered Mardi Gras clown soap.”

Over the course of a few years, that first EPA show led me to markets and monthly artisan events, which, in turn, began to lead to other opportunities.  An artisan potter was opening up an incubator co-op and invited me to join for $100 a month.  I was spending $20 a month to sell for 4 hours, and this way, my wares would already be set up, and I wouldn’t have to worry about doing the selling.  It seemed like a good idea.  It’d be nothing to sell $100 of products a month, or so I thought.  I discussed it with my husband – I was so excited!  He didn’t really think it was the best idea.  I persisted.  It was fun doing the Art Walk, chatting up customers, and just being in that atmosphere.  I made $100 one month of the six I was there, and I pulled out after six months.  That was the only year my net profits went down since my first year in business.

I’m pretty sure at this time I may have still had a few soaps from that first event left over.  I’d systematically melted most of the soaps down to cats, because I quickly discovered that cat soaps sell very well.

So many scents!  So many soaps to make!  And bath salts and bubble bath and bath bombs!  And no one in that area really takes tub baths.  Plus there was a drought in the state that effected us for a couple of years.  So.  Much.  Inventory leftover!  I still have some of those bath salts and bath bombs, because I don’t often get time to take tub baths, either.  It’s so important not to get carried away with making stuff.  I have over a hundred fragrances still, and I’m selling them or using them in very limited edition soaps – or simply in soap for us.

Event A, Event B, and Event C, all carrying high costs to do.  While there is a formula to determine if a show has been poor, fair, good, or excellent, there comes a point where I had to say, “Nope.  No more.”  Because it’s not just the expense of the booth fees, gas, food, and possibly lodging to take into account, but it’s also the intangibles – child care, labor of workers, and just the pure pain-in-the-butt it is to schlep tables, canopy, and products, set it up, work all day, and tear it down.  Given all this “invisible” expenses, it just stopped being cost-effective.  The day before the first of these events I gave up, I waltzed around town with the same dopey smile on my face my mom had her first day of retirement.

Selling on consignment is another one of those flubs.  The seller doesn’t pay me for my products until they sell them, so they have no personal investment in my wares.  I lost inventory to shop-wear, sun fading, and age.  It’s so much better financially and for my stress to sell the products myself retail through my website or via one of the two events I do each year, or to one of my stockists and be done with it.

It’s now been almost fourteen years since I officially started my business.  I have an online soap boutique, three private label accounts, and I’ve had a number of wholesale accounts as well.  My net profits go up every year, which is good; it means I’m selling more products, but also managing to buy smarter.  I have faithful, loyal customers.  Judging by these factors, you could say I have gained a measure of business success.  It hasn’t all been easy, though, and I certainly have made a slew of mistakes, er, “learning opportunities,” along the way,

If you’re in business, what, um, “learning opportunities” have you encountered that have led to your success?

Love Day





You know, Valentine’s Day is coming around the corner. It means sweets, love, hearts and goodies are coming, too; and I have some hearts for you. They look elegant which makes kids feel a lot better about having to wash. They are absolutely beautiful which girls love.

Victorian heart soaps
Lovely heart soaps

They smell good, too. The wonderful scents are a wee bit sweet but not overly so – lightly girly and floral.  The light sparkly mica work looks radiant and adds joy to girls’ faces. These soaps are perfect for Valentine’s Day, because these hearts are filled with love. The soaps are a limited edition through Valentine’s Day, so they aren’t here for long. That’s all for now. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lessons for a Stressed Out Kid Entrepreneur

Sometimes, life is feast or famine.  A couple of months of ease have given way to a week of total insanity, as a wholesale order, a private label order, and a major show have all come together at one time.  Mary has had to make a bunch of Reindeer Poo soaps and bags for the wholesale order and the event, and she’s feeling the stress.  On

Reindeer Poo soap
Reindeer Poo soap

top of that, she needs to make a couple of more gift sets.  And do school.  And her chores.  Yes, my sweet 11-year-old girl is in agony right now!

Well, guess what?  I’m stressed, too.  Can you imagine how awful and unproductive it’d be if both of us were stressed at the same time?  So, I’ve decided to create teachable moments from the stressful moments.  I can’t take the stress away from her.  Oh, if only I could!  The best I can do is give her tools to manage her stress.

As I type this, we’re both benefiting from one of my favorite ways to ease stress:  We’re listening to classical music.  She has heard me say dozens of times that I prefer classical when I’m strung, and this morning, Mary actually asked me to play classical today.  This is the same child who cries, “Oh, no!  Not classical again!” every time we’re in the car.  It’s working; she told me not long ago that she’s feeling much less stressed this afternoon.

This morning she asked me why I’m don’t seem very stressed.  I started to tell her, “I formulated a plan that I’m using to guide me,” but that just led to eye-rolling.  So I said, “You’re already stressed.  We can’t both be stressed.  That’d just be disastrous, so I’m going to be zen.”  My youngest piped up and said, “And if you get stressed, then I’ll be zen!  And if I’m not zen, then Daddy can be zen.  And if Daddy isn’t zen, then Grandpa can be.  And if Grandpa…”  I cut her off there with a smile and said, “Your Grandpa is always zen.”

Today, like every day this week, we’ve planned and executed.  The trite but true response to “How will we get this all done?” is simply, “We just do it.”  As we entered the last of the wrapping/labeling phase this morning, we have been able to see the fruits of our labors coming together as soaps have stacked up on the table to be transferred to bins for transporting or boxes for shipping.  Just that – seeing all this work moving from the production stage into the pre-selling stage – has been more motivating than anything else so far this week.

Earlier in the week, Mary was making bags for the Reindeer Poo soaps using my sewing machine when it started to make this really unpleasant noise.  We figured it was just struggling from lack of use.  But then, the next afternoon, the noise got louder, and the machine stopped working altogether.  Whee!  Let’s shoot that stress level up another notch or two or twelve!  Mary dug out her sewing machine, and as it fired up, a collective sigh of relief blew through the house – until that night, when it was being temperamental.  She was in tears of fatigue and frustration.  “It’ll be OK,” I told her.  “Go to bed, and we’ll attack it fresh in the morning.”  Sure enough, her sewing machine worked great the next day.

Along with all this, my youngest has been feeling left out.  She’s used to having more attention from Mommy and big sister through the day than she’s been getting this week.  There are some things she can do, but not many.  This morning, she admitted that she has been misbehaving more to get more attention.  I’ve had to be more attuned to her needs and wants, even when I’m labeling lip balms and wrapping soap and bottling Tahiti Kiss all at the same time.  Today at nap time, she said, “I’ve tried to behave better.”  She has.

While I’m used to this level of work and having to meet deadlines, Mary isn’t, so this has been a tremendous learning experience for her.  She’s had to learn time management, stress management, and the importance of working smarter instead of harder.  Those are all great lessons which will serve her well in life and business.

Warm Up Your Valentine’s Day!

We’re sh-sh-sh-shivering our way through the week here in Coastal North Carolina with our area looking like a beautiful Winter Wonderland as ice coats trees and lawns with icicles dangling from our mailbox, flag stand and grill.

With all this cold weather and ice, I’m trying to warm up with some warm thoughts.  I’m thinking about Summer beach trips or snuggling with my sweetie beside a roaring fire.  I’m pondering hot soaks and even hotter massages.  Maybe there’s a reason that the most romantic day of the year falls in the dead of winter.

We have all sorts of goodies to warm up your Valentine’s Day, whether you’re of a mind to warm that special someone’s heart or warm that special someone’s body.  Check out all the totally scrumptious offerings!

Chocolate AND Roses AND a long, hot soak.  What a great way to say, "I appreciate all you do!"
Chocolate AND Roses AND a long, hot soak. What a great way to say, “I appreciate all you do!”

This soap will put you in the mood for l'amour with its lovely romantic floral scent.
This soap will put you in the mood for l’amour with its lovely romantic floral scent.

Warm her heart with these lovely Victorian Heart Soaps. Aren’t they charming? (And much fewer calories than chocolate!)

A full body massage is the best way to heat up cold nights. There’s nothing like the feel of oil warmed in your lover’s hands before your lover rubs it on your skin!

Just for her, roses that will last longer and smell better than the overpriced long-stem variety so popular at Valentine’s Day. Treat her to a soap, lotion and lip balm that will make her body feel special.

If the weather is yucky and you can’t get what you need by the big day (Friday!), don’t hurt yourself trying to buy something.  I promise, if that special person is truly that special, he or she will understand, and you can stretch the celebration out for the whole weekend.*

What special way will you treat your Valentine this year?

* Due to inclement weather here, orders won’t go out before Thursday, so I’m afraid I can’t guarantee Valentine’s delivery.  Gift certificates, however, can be there within hours.

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