Monday, September 1, 2014

Re-evaluating Your Soap and Cosmetic Business

If you are a handmade soap and cosmetic product maker who is in the process of re-evaluating your business you're not alone. There are a lot of business owners re-evaluating their businesses this year. It's a common situation for small business owners - and if you are finding yourself in this predicament know that you are not alone. 

Some small business owners are dealing with life challenges and unsure how or whether to keep their business afloat. Others are unaware of their business’ profitability and coming to terms with getting honest and real about financials or closing their doors. You might know someone going through something similar right now. Or that person might be you.

Just to be clear, I’m not referring to everyday challenges that are part of being an entrepreneur. I’m talking about life challenges that rattle you to the core and stop you dead in your tracks. These struggles might be with family members, health matters, personal finances, blinders on business finances and/or a business that no longer serving you and your needs.

I went through my own personal struggles back in 2001 when I was a divorced, single mom trying to keep my business afloat. There were days when I didn’t know if I should give up or continue the fight. But re-evaluating my business and pinpointing my strategies helped me made decisions to reshape my life and business.

For some entrepreneurs, the choice to close a business is the right move. Every situation is different. My challenges brought out the fighter in me. Either way, there is no wrong answer – only the right answer for you.

I was recently talking with another entrepreneur and she made an interesting point of how many people launch a business for one reason – because it fits into their current lifestyle and vision for the future. But when vision and/or lifestyle change, there becomes a need for personal assessment to evaluate whether the business still fits into the plan. Her point may sound obvious, but I think we all need to hear it over and over again. Ask yourself “Is my business serving my needs and my dreams?” It make take some time for the truth to reveal itself. Be honest.

Let’s look at some reasons you may have started your business. We’ll call this the “then” moment:
  • Drawn to Entrepreneurship
  • Flexible Hours
  • Convenience of Working from Home
  • New Business Replaced a Lost Job
  • Extra Income
  • Sole Income
  • Enjoying Creativity and Making Product
 Now let’s look at common curveballs that could change the way your business is no longer working for you. I’m not implying that these are the sole reason(s) to quit your business. More on this in a moment. We’ll call this the “now” moment. 

Are any of these going on in your life:
  • Hobby Turned to Business – Now What?
  • Financial Problems
  • Divorce
  • Death of Loved One
  • Aging Parents Who Need More of Your Time
  • Children Who Need More of Your Time
  • Forced to Move/Loss of Workspace
  • Layoff from Primary Job/Income
  • Not Sure If Your Business is Profitable
  • Other Opportunities Are Beckoning You
Determining the distance between “then” and “now”:
  • Does the reason you started your business still resonate?
  •  What has changed between the “then” and “now”? How big is the gap?
  • Are there other opportunities that excite you more than your soap business?
  • Can those opportunities be combined with your soap business?
  • Does your business no longer serve you?
  •  Is your business no longer profitable? 
Next, ask yourself what solution(s) can you put in place to help you keep your business? 
Does it make sense to put these solutions in place vs. closing your business? 

This may not be a quick answer, but hopefully it will start a thought process within you to gain insight into whether you should move forward in your business or think about new opportunities instead.

Look to Strategy for Simpler Problems

Sometimes problems that seem insurmountable can be easily fixed. For example, if you need more time in your life, perhaps you are trying to do too much yourself. Can you afford to hire employees? If you’re not sure about your business’ finances and bottom line then that’s an easy fix. You need to hire an accountant or learn Quickbooks to determine the profitability of your business – sooner than later. Or perhaps you’re burned out? Get clear on your reason for burnout by taking a few days off and getting away for a fresh approach. Determine what is causing burnout. Boredom? Overworking? Reach out to a mentor to give you insight in how you can change up your outlook and business operations.

Often it is too easy to think about the “right-now” aspect of our business, because we only see the results immediately in front of us. But what about the big picture? Do you have that big picture for your business as well as long-term goals?
Spend time for a few days envisioning what you want for your business. Where would you like to take it? What is your plan from taking it from here to there? Set goals and then develop an action plan to turn them into reality.
Advice on Moving Forward

If your wounds are new (such as divorce or death) it may be time to put your business on hold to care for yourself or a family member. Maybe you’ve already come to terms with closing your business, but open to starting a new venture either at a later time.

For some soapmakers, talking about your business challenges to a mentor is all you need to get you and your business back on track. Be sure to consult with those who are in the industry or have solid business background and are themselves successful, not someone just giving lip service. When you ask for advice, listen. Be open to constructive criticism that can ultimately lead your business to success.

Lastly, put your ego aside to make decisions about your business. Forget what others might think. Forget how it all “might look.” This is about being honest about how your business is affecting the quality of your life. Closing a business is not about failure. It’s about making a decision that is right for you. Most importantly, it’s not a an end, it’s the beginning of new dreams, opportunities and ventures.

What are ways you have re-evaluated your business? What decisions and actions did you find helpful?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Understanding Suggested Essential Oil & Fragrance Guidelines in Soap and Cosmetics

One question I get asked repeatedly is how to determine the safe amount of essential oil or fragrance to use when formulating soaps and cosmetics. I hope to shed some light on this subject. There are layers and layers of information on this subject, and I am merely peeling back the first layer in this blogpost.

There is not a simple answer such as 2% in leave-on skincare products and 5% in bar and liquid soaps. Why? Because there are essential oils that are known for skin sensitivity issues that need to be taken into account. So a  quick and easy answer is that we cannot assume that we can use up to 5% of one type of fragrance oil or essential oil as part of the scent component in our recipe or formula if it is known to cause sensitivity issues.

If we are using an essential oil such as cinnamon bark, for example, it is not recommended that we use it as the full amount of our fragrance component. There are voluntary guidelines for percentages in usage levels set in place by International Fragrance Association (IFRA), an industry organization which provides voluntary guidelines regarding the use of fragrance.  These are known in the industry as IFRA Application Guidelines.

A handful of industry essential oil and fragrance suppliers provide IFRA guidelines on their websites along with suggested usage rates in soap, cream, lotions, shampoos and any product that can be formulated using a fragrance. Call your supplier if they do not list recommendations to find out and tell them that you are asking because you want to make safe products for your customers.

There are three main reactions that can occur as a result from essential oils being applied to the skin:
  • irritation
  • sensitization
  • photosensitization
Cinnamon bark essential oil, for example, has been on IFRA’s Restricted Essential Oils list along with expressed citrus oils (“expressed” is a method of essential oil distillation) such as bergamot, bitter orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime.

“Fragrance is the second most common cause of skin allergy, after nickel. However ‘fragrance’ is not a single substance; it is a term that encompasses thousands of chemicals and hundreds of essential oils.” Robert Tisserand, Essential Oil Safety Second Edition. Book link:
Now, let’s back up and review the two types of fragrances we’re talking about so that any newcomers can follow this conversation. The first is essential oils, commonly referred to as EOs. Essential oils add fragrance to your product, as well as add therapeutic benefits to the body and mind. We can’t make therapeutic claims, but can make cosmetic or hygiene claims. So we can’t mention skin problems such as acne or psoriasis, but we can refer to essential oils being known to having properties such as antifungal, antimicrobial, as well as intended for oily skin, and so on.

Second, essential oils are different from man-made, synthetic fragrance oils, which are commonly referred to as FOs. If you choose to use fragrance oils, make sure they are skin safe. For example, you would not want to purchase a fragrance intended solely for candlemaking and use it in skincare products since it is not for use in leave-on or wash-off products.

Now that’s we’ve cleared the air (pun intended) about different types of fragrance, let’s get into guidelines about recommended usage rates. This is the percentage (not type of) essential oil or fragrance oil you’ll use in soaps and bath and body products.
Typically, fragrance usage rates in leave-on products such as creams and lotions are lower than wash-off products (bar soap, liquid soap, etc.). More of a leave-on product remains on the skin versus a wash-off product, so the amount of fragrance should be lower. The average recommended usage rate of fragrance is one to five percent for any product sold or marketed to ages one and up. Again, we cannot assume one fragrance or another can be used up to 5% - we need to research to confirm information from the manufacturer or supplier. (Off Topic Tip: I never recommend any fragrance for newborn through 12 months of age. Their little bodies are so sensitive and have a hard time processing fragrance unlike adults.)

Any recommended percentage relates to the total weight of your recipe. For example, for a 100 oz. weight batch of cream, 1% dilution rate would equal 1 oz. or for 2% a total of 2 oz. of essential oil would be used (100 oz. x .01 = 1 oz. or 100 oz. x .02 = 2 oz.).
If our research shows that the essential oil (or fragrance oil) we wish to use has a suggested usage rate of 3%, but we would like to fragrance at 5%, then a solution would be to blend it with another oil.

If you are selling products to a healthy adult market (i.e., one that is not going through chemo, radiation nor sensitive to fragrances) most likely you’ll want to use a two to five percent usage rate. This is a range suggested for healthy adults and children older than 12 years of age. Again, research, to determine the safety levels of the fragrance you are using by familiarizing yourself with IFRA and asking your supplier for information.

If you're interested in studying the effects of essential oils in skincare and cosmetic products in detail, join me in a "live" 2-day seminar with Robert Tisserand on "Essential Oils in Skincare" held April 5-6 , 2014 in Santa Barbara, California and on August 23-24, 2014 in New York City.

What questions do you have regarding essential oils or fragrance oils in soap or cosmetics?


Friday, March 7, 2014

The Flipside of Social Media: How Facebook Could Be Stunting Your Soap Business Growth

What if I told you that quite possibly you’re spending around five or six weeks annually on Facebook? Would you think I’m crazy? Are you like me, and in denial about the time you spend on Facebook? You’re not alone – there are many of us soapmakers who need an intervention.

Let’s have a heart-to-heart about the time we spend on Facebook.  Does this sound familiar: You check into Facebook on any given time of the day only to be drawn into a friends’s post, which leads you to another soapmaking page, which then leads you to a soapmaking group. After all, it was just a pretty picture of a soap swirl that caught your eye. You innocently click on the photo and then begin to read the comments. Oh, and look! Under the comments is a question about how much salt to add to a soap recipe. You were wondering that too. Oh, and look! Another pretty photo. One group even has a challenge that you’re considering participating in. Next thing you know, you’ve been on Facebook for 30 minutes and haven’t even posted to your own business page. So much for productivity!
My 19 year old daughter walks by and call me out on it. “Mom, why are you still on Facebook?!” At first I resisted with “Umm, I’m not. I’m just posting to my business page.” But I knew I was in denial. I was checking catching up on comments in soapmaking groups and drooling over soap pictures - things that aren’t adding to my business growth. Sometimes I disappear into what seems like a vortex and then reappear 30 minutes later feeling guilty about what I could have accomplished in that timeframe.
Without a doubt, Facebook can bring in sales to your business. I generate business through my personal and business Facebook accounts. I track my ROI (return on investment) and I know the postings which account for purchases. But I know I spend too much time just browsing, being social and quite frankly, getting sidetracked. Looking in soapmaking groups and at other soapmakers business pages can be inspiring. But falling prey to the “pretty shiny object”  syndrome where you bounce from one post on Facebook to another is a problem. In fact, I would say that for some it could quite possibly be an addiction. Can you survive a day or two without logging into Facebook?
I need to cut back, and I was certain that many of you feel the same way. So I recently posted an informal poll on my Facebook business page and one in a popular Facebook soapers group to see how much time others are spending. Here’s what I found:

1.       Many soapmakers admitted to being signed into Facebook all day long. They would check multiple times per day ranging from “a few minutes” to “30 minutes per session.”

2.       One soapmaker admitted, “I’m logged in 24/7 with my phone. I have no discipline.” While another said plainly, “Too many!”

3.       “I need an intervention,” begged another soaper, who said she even has her home page set to Facebook and that she also stays logged in daily.

4.       Fewer respondents were disciplined. One said, “Two times a day for 15 minutes each.”

5.       A handful of respondents said that they just spend time on Facebook to promote their business.

A 15 minute stint on Facebook is not going to stunt your business growth. But what if you spend 30-minute stints four or five times a day?
Let’s pause for some math:
  • You spend 30 minutes on Facebook by logging in five time per day = 2.5 hours per day (Based on conversations and posts, I believe this to be very common)
  • 2.5 hours on Facebook 7 days/week = 17.5 hours per week
  • 17.5 hours week x 52 weeks/year = 910 hours or a total of 5.4 weeks per year

Think about it. On average we could be spending a whopping total of 910 hours per year on Facebook! That’s five and a half weeks gone. Adios Au Revoir. And we haven’t even begun to discuss time spent on other social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. I don’t know about you, but when I look at it that way there are other ways I would rather be spending that time: with family, with friends, taking care of my health and growing my business.
By decreasing the amount of time you spend on Facebook from 2.5 hours a day to 30 minutes, you will gain: 2 hours a day or 728 hours per year. Imagine adding a month to your life annually!
Now let’s take a look at some areas of your business that are commonly overlooked. What if you applied some of “Facebook time” to these often overlooked business projects: writing your monthly newsletter, writing blog posts, adding search engine optimization to your website, targeting wholesale accounts and building inventory.

Changing Your Facebook Habits

For five days, keep track of how many times you log in to Facebook, and how much time you spend per session. If you stay logged in all day, I suggest that you log out after each session. Keep a notebook and be honest with yourself. Better yet, install a free application called Rescue Time that will track time that you spend weekly on social media. Rescue Time will email a report of your weekly computer-time productivity.
Check out pre-scheduling updates to your Facebook business page using Facebook tools or free tools such as Hootsuite can save time as well. Spend some time scheduling a month’s worth of business posts. It’s much more effective and productive to organize your posts in advance rather than post them “on-the-fly” daily.
Need Facebook for soapmaking community support? We all have our favorite groups that support us – and I’m no exception. Believe me, you won’t be missing anything if you check in with your friends twice a day versus five times or more.
If you spending hours per day on Facebook, I recommend you try cutting down to one hour a day for the first week. Log on in the morning for your 15 minute fix. Log out and check back at noon for 15 minutes and then again in the evening for 30 minutes. The second week cut back to 30 minutes a day by logging in twice daily for 15 minutes. If you’re old-fashioned, set an egg timer to help keep track of time. If you’ve got a smart phone use the alarm on it or simply watch the clock.
Hold yourself accountable for Facebook time. If it helps, write down the accomplishments you were able to achieve and the memories you were able to make by spending more time with your kids, family and friends. I’m with you on the journey!
I'd love to hear about the ways you limit your time online and any tips you have to share.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tips to Increase Profitability for Your Handmade Soap and Bath & Body Business

I bet you’re breathing a huge sigh of relief about now. 2013 is a closed chapter and a fresh, new 2014 calendar awaits your business strategy. If you haven’t already reviewed 2013, now is the time to do it. What worked for you last year and what didn’t? Where were you most profitable? Being more selective with opportunities presented to you in 2014 will positively affect your bottom line.

I’ve already let several projects from 2013 fall to the wayside in 2014. They made sense last year, but as I continually raise my business standards and become more selective in where I put my energy there were several things that I’ve let go.
In addition to reviewing 2013, another project on the top of your list should be your annual growth strategy. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to grow their business. But let’s get specific. Do you want to grow your business 5%, 10% or more this year?
There are several ways to grow your business. One way is to reduce your bottom line. The other is to increase your sales. Let’s take a look at reducing your bottom line first. A little planning and strategizing could save you a total of 5-30% in this area. Here are some simple suggestions to save money, which in turn will put more back into your bank account:
·         Negotiate lower merchant account credit card processing rates. Did your credit card sales increase this year? Do you expect more sales this year? Call the merchant processing company and tell them you are looking for lower rates. If you reduce your rate by 0.5-1% you’re doing well.
·         Review your annual cost of goods spending and shop around for the best prices on ingredients. This year work on buying in bulk to lower your costs. Instead of purchasing in small quantities frequently, determine price breaks and order quarterly or twice a year instead. This can save you anywhere from 3-5% or more on your cost of goods spending.
·         Re-evaluate contracts, service subscriptions (webhosting, etc.) and memberships. Which of these are worth keeping and which have little to no return on investment? Estimated potential savings here is 1-3%.
·         Review shipping costs from suppliers. Would you save money buying in bulk and shipping your orders via freight versus UPS? You could save up to 10% on current shipping costs depending on your buying habits.
·         Re-evaluate your marketing budget. What did you pay for marketing in 2013? Which of your marketing initiatives resulted in a high return on investment? Which did not?
Let’s look at increasing sales

Have a specific goal in increasing sales (i.e., this year we will increase sales by 20%).  Here are some suggestions on how to increase sales:

·         Nuture relationships with current customers. Your best customers know your brand and will have good suggestions on what products to add, how to improve customer service, new services and more. Tap into their resources and remember to reward them with discounts and paybacks.
·         Upsell to customers. Did you know that more than 80 percent of sales are impulse purchases? This is a relatively easy way to increase sales by 5-10 percent annually. Ask for the sale at checkout (i.e., “Would you like to take advantage of our lip balm special?”)
·         Add new products or services. Be specific. For example, how many new products will you introduce by May? How many by September?
·         Increase your wholesale and private label accounts. How many annually? How many new accounts does that mean per month? Per week?
·         Re-evaluate your retail sales. Which trade shows and retail shows were worth your time last year? Are there new shows you want to try this year?
·         Update your website. There’s always something to improve, from product photography to product descriptions. Add quality search engine optimization and increase your social media interactions.
·         How can you work more efficiently? Distractions lead to wasted time which cut into your bottom line. Schedule your time, limit access to time-wasting websites (use apps such as RescueTime to see how much time you’re spending on Facebook and other sites). If you spend less time on Facebook weekly (five to seven hours per week), what could you accomplish in that timeframe for your business?
·         Disorganization is another efficiency killer. How much time do you waste looking for ingredients or packaging that you were sure was “just right there” but now you have to place a rush order to fill an order? It’s frustrating – I’ve been there! Invest in inventory software. Get your business organized into a mean, lean operating machine.
These are just a few suggestions to get your business ready for a fabulous 2014. Prioritize what makes the most sense for your business. Then begin implementing them as soon as possible. Keep good records so you can track your results. Once 2015 rolls around you’ll be ahead of the game. Happy sales (and savings).

I'd love to hear your tips on increasing profitability. I'll respond to your comments.

Reprinted with permission from the January 2014 Saponifier Magazine, written by Marla Bosworth

Thursday, July 5, 2012

New York City August Soapmaking Classes - Learn to Make 15 Products!

Ready to learn new soapmaking techniques? Want to brainstorm with three movers and shakers in the handmade soap industry? Your timing is perfect, as we are heading into the busy sales of the fall and holiday seasons. Join us and learn how to make and sell more than 15 different types of soap (cold process natural bars, advanced color designs, felted soap designs, wine, beer and champagne soap, cupcake, chai latte and salt bar soaps, and four kinds of glycerin soaps, including photo and personalized bars!

This New York City Soap University 3-day weekend is an exciting, three-day soapmaking intensive program is a fun and educational soaping experience! Whether you're new at soapmaking, or a veteran soapmakers, you'll learn new techniques to apply to your line of soaps to help you increase sales or just have more fun at soapmaking. Choose one class, or come join us for all six classes.

Students receive six classes of training from: Marla Bosworth, founder and owner of Back Porch Soap Company (Massachusetts), Amanda Griffin of Lovin Soap (Texas), and Holly Port of Lotion Bar Cafe (Colorado). With more than 25 years of combined bath and body industry experience, these ladies will share their selling and product formulation expertise as well as their in-depth knowledge of soapmaking throughout the weekend with you.

This course intensive is perfect for entrepreneurs who own a business as well as for budding entrepreneurs who are seeking training in the field of bath and beauty. Students receive a certificate of completion at the end of class on Sunday and a photo with the teachers.

Remember to check with your tax accountant, as this class fee, your travel and accommodation expenses and more could be tax deductible.

Students have traveled from Ghana, South Africa, Germany, Chile, Guatemala, Ireland, Venezuela, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, Israel & and from around the United States to participate in our programs. 

Dates: Friday, August 24 through Sunday August 26
Times: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. daily

For detailed class descriptions, or to sign up for single classes, please visit individual class pages under "NYC August Classes" on our website.
Learn how to make these wildly popular felted soaps with Holly Port of Lotion Bar Cafe

Day 1
Morning Session: Cold Process Soapmaking with Marla Bosworth
Afternoon Session: Creating Beautiful Felted Soaps with Holly Port

Amanda Griffin of Lovin Soap will teach students how to make these adorable 
cupcake soaps as well as chai latte and salt bar drink soaps!

Day 2
Morning Session: Glycerin Soap Techniques with Marla Bosworth
Afternoon Session: Cupcakes & Specialty Drink Soaps with Amanda Griffin

Ready to color and swirl like a pro? Amanda Griffin of Lovin Soap will show you how!
Day 3 Morning Session: Cold Process Soap Advanced Coloring with Amanda Griffin
Afternoon Session: Wine, Beer & Champagne Soapmaking with Holly Port

Happy Hour Soaps! Holly Port of Lotion Bar Cafe will 
teach students how to make beer, champagne and wine soaps!

Our classes are held at Little Shop of Crafts, 711 Amsterdam Ave. at 94th Street, New York City. 

We hope you will join us!

For more information or to register, visit our website for NYC classes.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Student Spotlight: New York's Soap Cartel

The following is an interview with Dayana and Hernan of Soap Cartel. Both took our New York City classes:

Dayana and Hernan of Soap Cartel

1. Tell us a bit about your background. Where were you born and whatever else you'd like to share as to how you got to this point in your life?

Soap Cartel is comprised of two extremely passionate New Yorkers. I, Dayana, was born in New York City and Hernan was born in Medellin, Colombia during the 70s. We are both artists and as true Pisces that we are, both of us enjoy expressing ourselves be it through music, writing, dancing; you name it, we've tried it at one point or another. I dabbled in TV production after moving back to New York in 2005, studied Information Systems at the Florida State University and Hernan studied at Purchase College in the Acting Conservatory. He is currently an analyst and I work in marketing. We both longed for something we could create with our hands, share with others, and something we could enjoy doing together, that's when Soap Cartel was born.

2. How did you get interested in making bath and body products?

Hernan has Tinea-Versicolor. It's a skin condition that causes discoloration of the skin. Many doctors had told him that there is no actual cure for this; after doing our research we came to the realization that some essential oils such as tea tree and lavender have healing properties that fight against the condition. We began understanding the difference natural products have on your skin, your body, and most importantly your overall health. After our extensive life-changing research we decided to become involved in the process and took better control over what foods we consumed and also what type of products we indulged in, as well as giving more thought into who was making the products we chose to spend our money on. What better way to handle all of this than controlling the process from start to finish by making it yourself; and so that's what we had in mind when we started Soap Cartel. 

Egyptian Rose

3. When did you launch your company?
The thought of the Soapcartel came about three years ago in 2009. We became an official LLC in April of 2012, trademarked our name, and handled all those pesky little things that need to be done in order to be considered an active business. We launched our website May 1st!

4. What do you sell? What sets you apart from other bath and body companies?

We have a complete line of naturally scented cold-processed soaps, which range from a variety of scents and homeopathic preferences. We also carry effervescent bath tablets, shea butter balms,  massage candles and currently working on lip balms and soy candles which should be available on our site soon. I suppose the thing that sets us apart from the rest is that we do this because we truly love it. We chose this path and were fully aware of the hurdles and obstacles that you have to overcome and so we are trekking on, enjoying every minute of it and giving people the best of us, our creativity, love, passion and doing so fully confident in the quality of the products we are offering.

Gorgeous Soaps

5. What course(s) did you take with Marla and what did you learn?

What didn't we learn! We took the How to Run a Successful Bath & Body and Hernan also participated in the Blending Natural Perfumes with Charna Ethier. This was a packed course full of extremely important information and we didn't put our pen down not for one minute! I think one of the most important points for me was that Marla taught us how to properly price the items we are selling. We dedicate so much time to our craft yet we neglect the importance of pricing our items appropriately.

6. What is your favorite part of running a bath and body business?
The favorite part of running a bath and body business is the creating process. Being able to have an idea after having a conversation with a colleague or a friend and feeling inspired to create a particular scent or a bar of soap that derived from an interaction/experience. One of our personal favorite bars of soap is Limonata and it came from a fascination our friend Rose has with all things lemon scented. Smells wonderfully and she loved it too!

7. What is your least favorite part?

Our least favorite part will definitely have to be the accounting process. We are a small business and so we try handle all aspects of our business but that doesn't mean we enjoy it all.

Limonata Soap

8. What are your biggest challenges as a small business owner?
We would have to say that the biggest challenge as a small business owner is being able to manage time wisely and effectively. This was a challenge in the beginning of this process and continues to be a challenge now as we wear many hats and also work full-time during the day.

9. When you have free time how do you like to spend it? Hobbies, sports, travel, etc.?

When we have free time we are creating soap; it's therapeutic and fun for us. When not creating we are diligently working on new concepts that we envision and want to see come to life. We also enjoy outdoor activities with our dog Hankie, as well as camping, hiking; anything that takes us out of the routine of life and places us in a state of total relaxation which allows us to disconnect for a bit. Difficult to do in New York City.

10. Do you have any words of wisdom to share?

What we learned along the way is to be patient; that's the best pearl of wisdom. This cannot all be accomplished overnight! Building a business takes hard work, dedication, research, and most of all patience and belief in yourself and what you are trying to accomplish no matter what anyone says or what obstacles you may encounter along the way. Have a list of things you need to get done and make sure you get them done. Cross them out as you go along and when you look back you will see all that you have achieved throughout the process, pat yourself on the back and then keep going.

11. What are some of you greatest business accomplishments?

One of our greatest business accomplishments is seeing people enjoy the fruit of our hard work and dedication. Nothing is more gratifying than hearing back from our customers letting us know how much they've enjoyed our products. Best.feeling.ever

12. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you Marla for this opportunity, you are truly an inspiration and we can't thank you enough for all you have taught us as well as many others that take your classes and hear your words of encouragement and wisdom every day.
Ready to buy these fabulous products? Visit Dayana and Hernan at Soap Cartel, send them an email at or call 646.926.SHOP.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Spot Beauty Products Trends: Part Two
This is Part Two of a two-part blogpost on how to spot beauty trends to help grow your beauty business. If you missed Part One you can read it here.

In this post, we're going to continue the discussion and also provide tips that you can apply to your own bath and body business to update your beauty products.

Most “futurists” study what is going on now and apply trends that are happening in other areas to new ones. For example, the news and media keep reporting how insular we have all become within our smart phones and social media addictions. We nod and carry an in-person conversation while texting someone else and laughing. We are losing the ability to communicate in the real world.

So reading what people need now isn’t necessarily going to be some great new product. Sometimes it is a marketing angle or packaging  aesthetic that plays off of the situation.
When futurecasting, ask yourself how will you update an existing product to adjust to trends or capture a new vibe?
Here are some ideas to consider to get you started:
  • Try new color names, new color labels, update font or text.

  • A variety pack of small items instead of one large item to get across a theme or aesthetic.

  • Ask yourself, “What are my competitors doing? What are they promoting? Am I on-trend or are they wrong?”

  • What are getting the biggest hits on your website? Is it selling or do you need more variety in that area?

  • What is dying off? Do you need to put that on “hiatus”, discontinue or repackage with a new name, color or some other tweak?

  • What new lines or products are being promoted in the marketplace ( i.e: spa or organic categories). What’s happening in In Style, Allure, and Vogue magazines? Take advantage of the large corporation’s millions of dollars and expertise in reading the marketplace.
  • What is happening in home, bathroom and kitchen trends with style, color (i.e.: towels, drapes, accessories, etc.)? If your product relates to this – are you up-to-date?

  • Are you shopping in retail stores and researching competition online within your distribution level, above and below? You have to be aware of everything. You may see the same idea at all levels. How is it interpreted? How does it differ? Where does your price, quality, packaging fit in? Does it make sense to your target market? Evaluate and adapt. What do you need to do to catch-up, keep-up or change-up?

  • What products are being promoted on the beauty spots on morning shows (gifts, at-home spas, organic, sustainable, high-end organic, yoga, glam, etc.)? Would you fit in or could you raise the bar in regards to that product offering?
Futurecasting isn’t always finding the next trend or expanding on the one that seems hot...sometimes it is looking for the twist on the existing or the need caused by it. It doesn’t have to be innovative and startling in thought- being too early is just as bad as being too late. 

Be aware of who/what you want to be and who/what you don’t. Find one or several inspiration/ aesthetic/innovation “mentors” in the industry or outside of it. Apply those same thoughts or innovation or ideas to your own line with your own twist and the idea will probably cast a fresh light on your product.

This article is republished with permission from the May/June 2012 issue of The Saponifier Magazine. It is written by Jennifer Kirkwood and Marla Bosworth. Jennifer Kirkwood is the founder and owner of La Dolce Diva, Inc. ( a bath & body novelty gift boutique collection. She is also an award winning activewear designer and for 25 years has been reading trends and designing into them as an in-house designer and as the president of her own design consulting firm. She has worked at length with companies such as Callaway, Hanes, Disney, Russell Athletic, Soffe, LA Gear, Target and Spalding as well as for the Atlanta Olympics. 

Marla Bosworth is the CEO and President of Back Porch Soap Company (, a wholesaler and retailer of sea-inspired bath and body products. She is also an independent bath and body business consultant and teaches soap, natural cosmetic formulation and bath and body business classes in Boston, NYC and San Francisco. She is a market research analyst and has worked with companies such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Canon and Xerox.