Craft Fair · Soap Musings

My First Craft Fair

Table Show.jpg

I participated in my first craft fair this weekend. I signed up for this a few months ago – once my hobby started producing so much soap that I could no longer use it all or give it all away to friends and family. Once I decided to turn my hobby into a business, signing up for the craft fair gave me a deadline. By that date, I had to be fully up and running with a business license, insurance, stock, and packaging. And I made it by the deadline! By the date of the show, I was officially open for business.

Here are a few lessons learned from my first craft fair.


What Worked:

  • My table design. I had a six foot table that I needed to fill with my products. It needed to look professional and display all my products without looking cluttered or haphazard. My husband and I spent a few hours the weekend before playing around with the table design and when we found one that we thought worked, we took a picture of it so I could replicate it at the fair. I also posted the picture on the Simson Street Soaps Facebook page and Instagram page and asked for feedback. To my delight, most people liked the layout, but I did receive a few suggestions that really helped to improve my table the day of.

Table Original.jpg

  • My stock. My goal was to have 100 bars of soap ready and fully cured by the date of the show. I had 92, so I was a little nervous going in that it wouldn’t be enough. I picked a smaller craft fair at a local high school just to get my feet wet. There wasn’t a ton of foot traffic, so the 92 ended up being the perfect number.

 

  • My selection. My original goal was to have 10 different soaps to display. About 6 weeks prior, I decided that was too few and made two extra types of soap that would be ready just in time for the show. The 12 soaps ended up being a good number for the smaller type of show I was at. It was just enough to provide a good selection – most people who bought the soaps looked through several before picking the one(s) they wanted.

soap box.jpg

  • My packaging. I deliberated about packaging for a long time. I did a lot of research. Some soap makers swear by shrink wrapping soap, while others leave the bars completely bare. I decided to go with a cigar band. I wanted people to be able to smell the soaps, but have a place to hold them so they wouldn’t actually be putting their hands all over each bar. In the end, the packaging was perfect. There were 2 other soap makers at this craft fair and both shrink wrapped their soaps. I had several customers tell me that they loved being able to smell each soap before choosing, so they knew exactly what they were buying.

IMG_2150.JPG

What Didn’t Work:

  • My preparation time. I procrastinate. I didn’t finish packaging all my products until the night before. I didn’t load my car until the morning of. Next time, I need to give myself more time to prepare everything.
  • Craft show research. Although I wanted my first show to be a smaller craft fair, the one I chose ended up being extremely slow. I did well, considering the low amount of foot traffic. In the future I need to do more research regarding how the shows have done historically to help me better prepare for how busy or slow I will be.
  • My selection. I know I said this was something that worked, and it did! But I did still have people asking for soap scents that are fairly common that I didn’t make because I don’t particularly like them myself (i.e. Lavender). I need to branch out and make things that the customer wants, which may not necessarily be what I would want, myself.
  • Business cards. I didn’t have any – I really should have brought some. I thought about it before hand and, for some reason, decided not to make/buy any. I had several people ask for a business card/information on my Etsy shop and all I could tell them was to look me up by name on Facebook/Etsy. Next time, I will have these ready.

All in all it was a great experience. I’m excited to see what the next show brings!

Soap Musings

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

I started my soap making adventures around the beginning of January 2017. I’d read several soap making blogs and watched a ton of YouTube videos. I went out and bought all of my supplies, which ended up adding up really quickly. The cost does get cheaper, but needless to say after buying Oils, Fragrance, Lye, a Scale, a Thermometer, Gloves, a Stick Blender and wood to build a mold, I was at least $75 poorer.

I have future blog posts planned about the supplies needed to start making soap, a simple starter recipe with a how-to guide, and information on how to build a soap mold (or where to buy one if you aren’t feeling very crafty). But for now, lets move onto my first soap making experience.

For my first soap I used oils that were readily available at my local grocery store: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil and Vegetable Shortening. I didn’t have a soap-making area set up in my basement yet, so I was soaping in my 100 year old, way too small kitchen! I mixed my Lye water and immediately realized why so many of the soap making blogs and videos had suggested that it be done outside. Those fumes are not something you want wafting around the kitchen.

When you add lye to water it heats up very quickly. While waiting for the lye water to cool down, I melted and mixed my Olive Oil and my Coconut Oil. Following the soap recipe I was using, I waited until the lye water and oils were within 10 degrees of each other, and then I mixed my lye water into my oils. I blended and reached a medium trace a lot quicker than I thought I would, within a minute or two. I mixed in my fragrance oil and I poured the soap into my mold…and…the mold looked a little empty.

first-1-e1491531387158.jpg

I forgot to add the Vegetable Shortening. I didn’t add 1/3 if the oils……

Had I not noticed this minor (major) oversight, my soap would have been very itchy, to say the least.

At the time I didn’t know that I could quickly correct my mistake by making hot process soap. So I dumped everything in the trash…

first-2.jpg

 

I sent my husband back out to the store for more fragrance oil. I repeated the whole process over again, this time remembering all the oils. I poured them in the mold and let them sit over night

Being impatient, I was supposed to let the soap sit for 24 hours before unmolding, but I took it out of the mold after about 18 hours. It was a little soft, but I was able to cut it and lay it out to cure.

I was also supposed to let it sit for a few days before I used it for the first time to let it fully saponify, but I “tested” it after about a day. It was definitely soap! There were suds and it smelled nice, but it was still a little harsh.

I was also supposed to let it cure for a few weeks so that it became more mild and fully hardened. It was safe to use after 2-3 days of curing, so naturally I started using it after about a week. All in all, it turned out to be some pretty amazing first time soap. My husband even keeps a bar of it in his gym bag. It makes my skin feel really soft and I love knowing exactly what’s in it. Its not quite the quality of soap I am currently making — but it was definitely a great start!

First.jpg

 

 

Soap Musings

You aren’t using soap…

About three months ago I stopped using store bought soap.

While Christmas shopping for family, I found a bar of handmade soap at a local store that I thought my mother in law would like. When I looked at the label, the ingredients looked nothing like what you would see on a typical big box store soap label. The ingredients were things like olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil — all ingredients that, not only could I read, I actually knew what they were.

Piquing my interest, I started to research why this was..why the soaps we see in the grocery store have an unpronounceable laundry list of ingredients, whereas this bar of soap I just bought had maybe 5 ingredients total, all of which  are readily available at that same aforementioned grocery store.

As it turns out, the soap I had been buying and using my whole life wasn’t actually soap at all. What almost everyone is buying, and bringing home, and using are actually synthetic detergent bars.What you are likely buying at the local grocery store isn’t legally allowed to be called soap, hence why most of the labels say “beauty bar” or a “deodorant bar”. They are composed mainly of synthetic, often petroleum based, cleansers .

To legally be called “soap” in the United States, per the FDA, the product must be composed mainly of the “alkali salts of fatty acids,” that is, the material you get when you combine fats or oils with an alkali, such as lye. What that means is to make real, natural soap you only need 3 ingredients: oil (animal or vegetable oil), water, and lye. The lye causes a chemical reaction with the oils and fats called saponification. The end product contains no lye and is a bar of soap made of all natural oils and fats, that still lathers and cleans just as well, if not better, than synthetic detergent bars.

So naturally, after reading this, I started making my own soap. As it turns out, it’s not extremely hard, its very fun, and there are endless combinations of fats, vegetable oils, essential oils as well as colorants and fragrances to mix together and get natural, skin=loving bars of real soap. I love knowing exactly what is going into each bar of soap that I use,  and I really love how creative I am able to be while making them.

While not my most creative endeavor, the soap pictured above is something that I like to call “Simply Soap”. It is unscented and uncolored. Its made from just five ingredients:  Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Lard, Water and Lye.

So now that you know why I’ve become obsessed with this new hobby of mine, stay tuned! I’ll be posting about my soaping adventures, successes, failures and everything else along the way.