How taking a soap making course can change your life - Interview with Suzanne, founder of White Horse Soap Company
It may sound a little dramatic but taking a soap making workshop really can change your life.
If you are signed up to my email list you will know that one of the emails you get from me within the first few days is titled 'From Little Acorns....' One of the sentences in that email reads 'In my case I somehow ended up with 2 businesses, 'The Dog and I' where I sell my soaps and 'The Soap Coach' where I deliver my teaching. And so yes, it is true 'great oaks from little acorns grow'. which is a very brief description of what happened to me when I learnt to make soap.
I didn't plan this path and if you told me 10 years ago I would have ended up where I am now I genuinely would have laughed at you.
I have never considered myself a maker, a creative, an author (ebooks count I am sure!) or even a business woman never mind an entrepreneur, I say that last word slightly tentatively and yet I do believe I fall into that heading now.
All this has happened since I retrained at the grand old age of 43 to be a dog groomer which is where the interest in soap, and initially dog soap began. I share all this information as I genuinely hope it will inspire others to look at their options in life, it is never too early, too late or the wrong time to start making steps towards something new and you never truly know where it may lead.
Which leads me on to the true star of this blog, Suzanne, founder of White Horse Soap Company
Suzanne attended my very first ever paying customer soap making workshop back in September 2019. I will never forget it. I had 6 of the loveliest ladies join me and it was a lot of fun.
She probably won't believe me but I remember everyone from that course including Suzanne, it was a massive turning point for me so when I asked if anyone would like share their soap making experiences a few weeks ago I really was over the moon when Suzanne replied 'Yes' :) I could not have asked for a better example of someone for whom soap making has been 'life changing'
I will hand you over to her now and I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did.
Q Why did you decide to learn how to make soap?
A I had started to use shampoo bars, to try and reduce bathroom plastic. Intrigued as to how they were made, I did quite a lot of research on the internet, and learned a bit more about the properties of different soaping oils. The whole subject really interested me.
Q When did you learn and how did you start to learn the process?
A As part of my research into soaping oils, I also watched a lot of YouTube videos on soap making. The process seemed quite involved, and a bit scary! The whole sodium hydroxide thing was something I would never have tackled without some hands-on learning. I decided, therefore, to look for such a thing as a “soap making course”, and to my pleasant surprise I found one. So, in late summer 2019, whilst my family enjoyed Weymouth beach for a morning, I got gloved and goggled up, and learned how to make my first batch of soap!
I can honestly say that the course gave me every confidence to try soap making at home, and even though sodium hydroxide still worried me, at least I knew how to deal with it safely.
Q How long did it take for you to feel confident with what you were doing?
A I made sure when I got home from the soap making course, that I made soap as soon as possible, so as not to lose the momentum (or courage!). It probably took a few weeks before I was truly comfortable.
Q What did you find the most difficult aspect to get your head around (if any)
A SoapCalc lol! An amazing tool, but to really understand it, and to appreciate what it can do for you, takes a lot of time. I did, ultimately, use it to formulate my own soap recipe, which I use now for my business.
Q Have you had any epic fails along the way? (Mine is squeezing too much hot process in one pot and it literally volcanoed all over the floor for several minutes and there was nothing I could do but watch!)
A Do you know what, I didn’t have my first volcano until about 5 months after I’d launched my business, and I was quite shocked at the utter mess a relatively small pot of hot soap batter can cause. Mine was a small batch, but it took ages to clean up. I did rescue what I could, and re-batched it for home use. It’s surprising how much it knocks your confidence when something like that goes wrong.
Q Was there anything you found particularly challenging and if so how did you overcome this?
A The cosmetic safety process is quite tough going, not just from a paperwork element, but also the waiting times involved. You think that once you’ve got your recipes sorted, because, let’s face it, that’s a huge deal, you just pop the completed form (and the payment) through, and it will ping out the other side. That’s not the case. It takes a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, even when you think you’ve got everything you need from all of your ingredient suppliers. There is a lot to understand about essential oils, for example - being able to read an IFRA statement, and actually get what all the figures mean and what percentages you are allowed to use.
The second time around, for additional soap variations, I was better prepared, but third time around, for a different cosmetic product, I’m hoping I’m nearly there!
Q Is there one top tip you would give others looking to learn from scratch?
A I did so much research before I decided I wanted to give it a go, but having the hands-on training is something I would strongly recommend. No-one can learn effectively from a training manual, you need the practical element too.
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?
A Gosh, it still doesn't seem real that I am doing this for my actual job lol! So, I guess timing, as usual, was everything. I’d been slowly, in the background, developing my “business plan”, which was really to make and sell soap as a hobby. Ironically, about a week or two after I attended the soap making course, I was put at risk of redundancy by my employer. After 30 years service, it was a shock, but I believed that it could be a positive. I eventually left just before lockdown, in March 2020, and by that time I had put everything in place to set my business up properly. Once I’d finalised my soap recipe, it was then a case of waiting for it to be approved, and I could start selling, yay!
I officially launched in June 2020 and I feel very fortunate to have had a successful start. In a relatively short space of time, I already have repeat customers. I’m still growing the business steadily, and I’m taking my time, so that it grows through word-of-mouth, and by recommendation.
Q Any tips for other budding soap makers and/or those looking to start their own soap making business?
A Mainly, just don’t rush. Take your time to understand what you want to get out of the process, and what your reasons are for wanting to do it. That should be your motivation, for when things go wrong, or you’re going through a quiet spell (trust me, I’ve just done my first January!). Research recipes, test them, and find one you’re happy with. Also, having a good basic understanding before attending a practical course will definitely help maximise your learning experience there.
Suzanne - you are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I am sure many will find it inspirational and a source of positivity in what has been a long year. Please do follow her over Facebook here White Horse Soap or on Instagram here White Horse Soap
Looking to learn soap making right now despite Covid?
I totally have you covered with my Online Video Course and eBook bundle. It covers everything you need to know as a complete beginner and you will be on your way to making that first batch before you know it.