Introducing Caroline of Bee Soap
Q Why did you decide to learn how to make soap?We had a talk at one of our beekeeping association meetings by Dr Sara Robb, who used honey in the soap that she demonstrated to us. I bought her book and read more into it, but most of her recipes used palm oil which I wasn't happy using. A little more research online found a recipe for a shampoo bar which I tried. It wasn't the best and I had a steep learning curve using soap calc when I found I was a little short on some ingredients! It kind of came out OK, I tried a different recipe for my next one and it was a lot better...I was hooked!
Q When did you learn and how did you start to learn the process?
I started in 2018, and for two years my soaps were white, unscented and made in repurposed raw dog food tubs I got from a friend. I created my own recipe quite early on with coconut oil, olive oil, sweet almond oil and cocoa butter. I put a known recipe into soap calc to get an idea on what all the figures should be, and kept playing with the numbers and trying it out. Only after that did I look into the properties each oil gives to soap and what all those figures meant.
Q How long did it take for you to feel confident with what you were doing?
I thought I was quite confident pretty quickly, just in the process and making of my plain little bars. And then I joined Soap Glorious Soap and entered the Great Big Soap Off, and felt totally out of my depth again! By the end of it I was a little happier that I could create with some consistency.
(For context Soap Glorious Soap is a private facebook group I run for those who have taken any kind of course with me or purchased an eBook and in 2021 I ran a soap making challenge called the Great Big Soap Off - loosely based on The Great British Bake Off! Caroline was amazing at got right through to the final)
Q What did you find the most difficult aspect to get your head around (if any)?
It was probably accepting mistakes that happen while learning. Normally if I mess up then I give up, perfectionist tendencies here! But (nearly) all soap is still good for washing (more on that next) and we'll be getting through those practice bars for years to come!
Q Have you had any epic fails along the way? (I have several! The most recent being my batch of hot process demo soap not doing what it was meant to do in an actual live class !!)
My beautiful rainbow soap that I'd planned for the final of the aforementioned competition (still can't believe I got through to the final) I thought I'd calculated and measured out everything but when I got to the end I had quite a bit of oil leftover. Even with my planned superfat it was still really lye heavy and crumbly on cutting. It looks nothing like a rainbow either as my patience was missing with the excitement of it all too. Its still a pretty soap, but just not one you'd want to use with bare hands. 😅
Q Was there anything you found particularly challenging and if so how did you overcome this?
All the legal side of business just boggled my mind, it seemed way too much to get my head around...but that hours zoom chat and the templates that I got sorted it all!
Q Is there one top tip you would give others looking to learn soap making from scratch?
Work out how you learn best, and pick something based on that. Whether it's hands on, videos or books, or even just picking bits from various websites and having a go. Although perhaps the best tip is to learn how to use a soap calculator because then you can check and double check that what you'll be making is safe.
Q You have now started your own business which is amazing, tell us more about this and how you made the leap from hobby to business?
The business idea came about because my husband is expanding his beekeeping business and wanted to use more hive products in things to sell on a stall. He makes furniture polish, leather restorer and beeswax wraps and wondered if I'd make soap for him to sell too. After the top advice on the zoom meeting and getting prices for assessments I realised it was going to be a lot of effort to just do it for his sales, so went for it full on! I have a friend who has a refills business and so being a plastic free item, she sells my soaps too. They all have bee related names, with nectar bar starting that trend as I love a good play on words. It's been difficult knowing just how much stock to make, and the scents that I thought would sell haven't, and the ones I tagged on to make up the numbers on the assessment have been the hot sellers.
Q Any tips for other budding soap makers and/or those looking to start their own soap making business?