Marla Bosworth is the founder and owner of Back Porch Soap Company. She teaches classes, corporate events and experiences including candle making, soap making, organic skincare and perfumery.

January 20, 2010

How to Start a Soap Business, Part Two: Profile of a Successful Soapmaker

This is Part Two in a series on How to Start a Soap Business (Part One is here.) It's important to really delve into your personality and passion as to whether you are the kind of person who can turn your hobby/craft into a full-time business.

There are common threads that run through every successful business soapmaker I've ever met. Those common threads are a fire in their belly, a resistance to failure (because it comes knocking again and again), and an undying enthusiasm as well as passion for their products and business. There's not a class that will teach you about passion. Either you have it - or you don't. But there's much more beyond passion.

It's imperative to strike a balance between the passion of making your handmade beauty products and incorporating the business side. A well-run soap business is like a finely tuned machine. First the soapmaking, then the marketing/selling (usually more than the actual product making), then the bookkeeping. Some weeks the focus is more on marketing/selling. Nonetheless, review the bottom line weekly, then repeat.

Why is it important to review the bottom line? It gives a telltale sign as to what is working for your business, and what isn't. We'll discuss this more later in the blog series.

What happens frequently is that a soapmaker may get caught up in the soapmaking, afterall it is fun to create. We are all artists at heart, yes? But one of two things is going to happen. First, soapmaking funds are going to run dry, and you'll be sitting amidst a lot of stock that needs to be sold. Or second, you keep pouring funds perhaps from your day job into soapmaking while giving away stock and realizing you've never made a dime.

Successful soapmakers know the importance of the company's bottom line. Turning a fun hobby into a money-making business requires a watchful eye on your finances - what's coming in (profit) and what's going out (cost of goods/expenses). The encouraging part here is that if you're not the accounting type, you can hire someone to manage your financial books. Be honest with yourself. If you're not entering your receipts and knowing where you stand on a weekly basis, then it's time to hire help. Depending on the size of your business, you should be able to hire a reputable accountant for as little as one to two hours a week. Not only will this help get your business finances on track, it will also allow free up your time to focus on growing your business.

Owning and running a soap business is not for the faint of heart. A successful entrepreneur needs creativeness, a vision, confidence, can-do attitude, fearlessness, business savviness, and the ability to be a world-class multitasker. Afterall, you are going to be creative director, computer specialist, customer service rep, shipping agent extraordinaire, chief bottlewasher and janitor all wrapped into one (or at least until you have the funds to hire someone for these respective positions).

You must be able to spot and seize opportunity and be open to changes in the marketplace. Every successful entrepreneur I know is passionately obsessed about their business. They are constantly brainstorming – at various times of the day - ideas about ways to improve their business whether it be marketing, new products development and possible joint ventures or leveraging with other businesses.

A wide spectrum of marketing is crucial to bring exposure to your handmade products. To some entrepreneurs, marketing is almost innate. Stay tuned for more in future posts.

Building a part-time or full-time business takes time. It also takes money. So don’t quit your day job yet. Roll up your sleeves and be prepared to work on this new venture when you are not at your full-time job – evenings, weekends, whatever it takes.

What are some characteristics or traits that you've noticed in yourself or other soapmakers?
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