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Starting a Home Soap Business

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

This is so exciting!


My DD, 17, and I are in the very beginning stages of starting a home business, making and selling organic soaps. We would like to sell at an awesome local year-round craft market, online, and in local shops. I have had a home business before (making baby clothes), and know a bit about how to do it in the general sense, although I was never online, so that whole aspect is new to me. This project is really hers - I look at it as a logical extension of our homeschooling - home Business College?orngbiggrin.gif If it takes off, it is her career. She has really great taste, business sense, and is highly organized - I think she might just excel!


We are at the stage of perfecting our recipes and production methods, and doing market research, both locally and online. We need to start on the proverbial shoestring, but have a little bit each month to invest. We hope to be up and running full swing by next (2013) Christmas season.


I am asking here for advice. Where to start? Online might be a smaller investment in inventory than a booth at a craft market - how much would we need to get started? How do you determine?  Do we need a real website, or is Etsy and Craftster (and are there others?) enough to begin? Do we need a good quality camera to get good pictures, or will my cheap phone do? We have checked out several library books, but would welcome resource suggestions (soapmaking related, and craft/business related). Is there any legal issue to using purchased soap molds for producing a product for resale? As a seamstress, I designed my own patterns, so never got into issues of copyrights - I don't know if anything similar would apply. What are we missing?


I also welcome support and encouragement - this feels a little like jumping off a cliff!

post #2 of 7

Here's a page with suggested books:  http://www.soapguild.org/industry/library/books.php


I don't have experience selling homemade soap, but I do have a bit of experience with a similar product.  I recommend that you look into a small business alliance or similar group in your city.  You will need a business license, possibly an inspected place in which to make your soap (from what I understand, some places allow soap made in a home, and others require it to be an inspected facility/building separate from the home), and some sort of insurance.


Good luck!

post #3 of 7

Hyenacart.com is a good one for the mothering-type crowd.

post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thank you, ladies. I have spent the early hours this morning at these websites. Lots of good information and ideas. Lots more to read!

And always welcoming more suggestions.

post #5 of 7

Check out http://indiebeauty.com/forum tons of amazing info. You can also get insurance through indie beauty. You wouldn't want to use molds like Hello Kitty, or Sesame Street characters etc.or call a soap Budweiser Beer Soap -  that's when you get into copyright issues. There are very specific rules regarding labeling. This book is amazing for detailed info & would be even more useful if you guys decided to expand into other body products. Soap & Cosmetic Labeling http://www.mariegale.com/maries-books/soap-cosmetic-labeling

I would begin with Etsy & craft fairs while also utilizing a blog/other social media. Then when you get a solid customer base you could begin to sell directly from your website. You can always get a domain name & link it to your Etsy storefront in the beginning. I would barter with a local photographer or a beginning photographer to do the pictures. It would save you $$$ in the long run & especially time unless you already have photography skills. 


Another great forum with lots of wise individuals - http://soapmakingforum.com/


Check this out for accepting credit cards at craft fairs https://squareup.com/card-reader


Congratulations & have fun on your exciting journey!

post #6 of 7



I make soap as a side (complementary) business (I also do massage, make all natural ingredient spa treatments and grow backyard to market produce for the farmer's market with my husband) and found my best audience locally.  I considered Etsy, but I have such a wealth of interest here in my local market in the end it seemed like it'd be a waste of time.


For us, we started selling soap at the farmer's market (no one else at this particular market sold it, and the town over had one person selling goat milk soap) along with produce and chair massage.  We pretty much made soaps that we liked and found what continuously sold out and also got lots of feedback from repeat buyers on what they liked and what they'd like to purchase from us in the future should we have it available.  With that we got custom orders, invitations to host workshops (on making simple beauty products like balms, scrubs, etc) and requests to teach soapmaking workshops and do onsite massage.


We also worked with the local paper and papers from nearby cities and got featured articles on our handmade soap and "unique" heirloom produce, which helped bring visitors to our booth at the market.  A lot of people came directly from the parking lot to our booth and said, "I saw you in the paper this morning and had to come by!"


Because our business is local, for a website all we used was one page with our domain name and a "flyer" stating where we would be next, pics and descriptions of soap and / or produce we would have and contact info.  Eventually, I'd like to expand the site into several pages and a blog.  As our business grows we will add an ecommerce option.


We really didn't get started with a lot.  Maybe 24 or so bars of each soap, sold them at $1.00 an ounce more or less and reinvested everything into making bigger batches after finding what our particular market liked most.  So, very much on a shoestring, not investing anything we couldn't stand to lose.  We made a citronella soap that I didn't think would go over well, but it ended being the season favorite.  One return customer bought our entire stock on hand one weekend so he could share it with friends, family and co-workers.  Pretty amazing!


TeachSoap.com was a great resource for me as well as SoapMakingForum.com.  Since I already worked for myself doing massage for years the only thing I was concerned about was getting insurance for selling soap. 


Best of luck and happy soaping!

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks, AnaKat! We are in a lull right now, due to the holidays and all; everything is on hold. But we appreciate the thoughtful (and useful!) post, and especially the personal experience.


Best of luck in your venture, and we may be back with more questions after the New Year.

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