Hot topic this week! Frequently asked questions on Google which I will answer honestly and candidly. You may be surprised!
Is selling homemade soap profitable?
Does making soap make money?
How do I start my own soap business?
The short answer to the above 3 questions is yes, yes and with a lot of hard work. And that final answer is the key. Like most things in life you get out what you put in. I have pretty much lived and breathed soap for the last few years which is why I can answer yes to those first 2 questions.
I am frequently told I am an inspiration, what I have achieved is amazing. I'm lucky! Yes lucky! I wish but the reality is I have worked hard and possibly more importantly, worked smart, and that second point is key - hold it in your mind as I will come back to it at the end.
This seems like a really good time to answer all these questions as would you believe, I am featuring in a glossy mag next month. Not for for my glamour or fashion sense but because I decided I was going to start something new slightly later in life and I'm doing ok with it, maybe better than ok but I don't want to tempt fate and yes for me soap making is paying a good part of my bills.
So if you are considering starting a soap business this is my honest, genuine, because I want you to succeed advice. Yes it will put some of you off, that is absolutely not my intention. I know some of my soap making students have plans to start their own businesses and I am behind them every step of the way.
So here goes.
1. Learn to make soap, I mean really learn, understand the science, practice, make mistakes. It will cost money. Rome was not built in a day is a true saying.
2. Niche right down. Natural, handmade soap is not a niche. Coconut Oil dog soap (my baby) is a niche. You can find me at The Dog and I. Google Dr Squatch. He is very successful. His niche is rugged mens soap. Others specialise in honey or milk based soap. Tea based soap. Annings here in Dorset make soap with ground sea shells. Think outside the box.
3. Start off the way you want to be in 5 years time. I started with a really good eCommerce website (Shopify if you are interested). Yes it costs me money every month but I am not lining Etsy's pocket. Learn to do it yourself so you can add/ change/tweak it at any time and not have to pay someone to do it. Shopify really is user friendly - I am not being paid to say that but as a technophobe I know how you feel.
4. Be legal. You will need insurance and a whole load of red tape fulfilled to sell soaps (see this blog for more info on that) Yes it is a lot of work but perfectly doable.
5. You are going to have to get to grips with social media and have a business account with at least a couple, I am on Facebook and Instagram. And show up regularly. No-one is going to look for you. You need to put in the leg work.
6. If you really want to make a decent wage you are going to have to do wholesale - ie sell your products to other retailers who will sell them for you. Let them do what they are good at ie selling. You do what you are good at ie making soap.
7. Pricing. Get your pricing right to allow for wholesale. Unfortunately we all have bills to pay. There is no point in you making thousands of bars of soap and making very little out of it. (be aware that in the UK if you are not turning a profit by year 3 HMRC will deem you to have a hobby not a business)
8. Be savvy about what you take on - I have made mistakes here I admit. But it is your business and if you do not want to make that bespoke line of 20 soaps for the local B & B which is going to take far more time than it is worth then say no.
9. Take all the support you can, online business groups, facebook support groups but don't get sucked into the vortex of listening to every bit of advice or podcast that shows up on your feed. Pick 1 or 2 or in my case 3 that really resonate with you and stick with them. I am in a womens business group called The Cocoon run by the wonderful Erin Thomas-Wong of The Mumpreneur Collective, that is a paid subscription group but worth every penny. And I listen to the Limitless Mother Podcast by Cori Javid and The Janet Murray Show podcast with coincidentally Janet Murray I get different things from all of them and they are all amazing and I highly recommend them. Which leads me on to me next point.
10. Invest in yourself. I have spent money on attending seminars or purchasing online courses/templates with all of the above women. Again, I am not on any sort of commission. I say it because without all 3 of them I would not be where I am today.
The Cocoon has been a source of amazing business advice and practical information and support. And as it happens I am being featured in Erins new book, 'Mumpreneur Evolution. On Our Terms' which is due out next month.
All of Cori's templates are amazing and I also purchased her Limitless Money course. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that course directly led to me starting to teach soap making last year. I was going to wait until much further down the line - and that in turn led to me renting my long dreamt of workshop in Poundbury. Oh and getting my long awaited and much loved Land Rover defender. To put that in perspective I purchased the course in I think July last year - so less than a year to achieve all that!
Janet Murray is the queen of building your online audience, I have never met her but I did purchase her course about taking your business from Offline to Online when Covid hit and it was brilliant. Worth noting that I have several online options now and the Soap Coach Power Hour is one of the ingenious suggestions she comes up with. Her podcast is one of the highlights of my week.
I know I have spent a lot of time on point 10 - a/ because I think it is really important to spend time and money on these things. They save you a lot of time in the long run and will drive your business forward and b/ I really want to give something back where these 3 ladies are concerned. Their collective expertise , both free and paid content has been the making of me
11. Get an accountant. Goes back to point 6 really. Stick to what you are good at.
12. Have amazing, and I mean amazing customer service. No customers means no business. Seriously, I am forever grateful to each and every one of mine and I know they appreciate the fact that I pride myself on my customer service.
13. Remember this is a business not a hobby. You may love rose geranium soap but you are going to have to make gallons of lavender and mint because that is what sells best (insert whatever is applicable for those) You are also going to have to spend far more time at the laptop than you ever anticipated.
12. Have faith in yourself. You can absolutely do this if you want it enough. There will be blood (ok maybe not quite blood), sweat and tears. You will doubt yourself. You will have awful lows and mahoosive highs. It will be harder than you think. You will have imposter syndrome. You will get bored making the same soaps again and again, You will agonise over packaging. You will get yourself in a pickle over stock control but you will also be super proud of yourself when you look back and see what you have achieved which takes me back to that key point right at the start. Work smart, pay others where it makes sense to. This can save you a huge amount of time leaving you free to grow your business. And yes there will be hard work involved.
Phew - still want to take that first step? Then take a look at all my soap making workshop options here.