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.

December 12, 2011

Student Spotlight: A Visit with Finn & Co. Owner and Founder, Meg Spencer

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

I was born in Portland Maine. I have spent most of my life here in Maine. I also spent 15 years off and on the beautiful island known as Nantucket. I love the beach! If I could not be in Nantucket on the beach, you could probably find me on Ferry Beach in Scarborough, Maine. Though I am a beach lover, I love my sun hat, SPF, and my Kindle. I love the salty air along the Maine Coast! It is truly refreshing, and always gives me peace of mind.

I found my way through a lot of trial and error. I went to school in NY, and returned to Maine after 911. I needed to be near family and friends after such a tragedy. I also felt lost. It was during this time I had to be honest about what I wanted in my life, and who I wanted to become. I always knew I wanted to be a business owner, but I had no idea how to do that. after taking some private Pilates lessons, thanks to my parents, I opened a small private Pilates studio first known as You studio in Gorham, Maine. I added Gyrotonic to the studio, and then I went on to school at Spa Tech in Westbrook, Maine. I had a true passion for skin care, and working one on one with people. It all came so natural to me, so I assumed this was my path.

I also found Back Porch Soap Company which completed my search. It felt very meant to be when I first met Marla. I spent the last two years focusing on becoming a strong business owner of a small luxurious product line, but also becoming a new mom. My daughter Finnley is the best part of all of this. I named the company after Finnley Frances Spencer.

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

I became interested in beauty care products after I became a licensed esthetician. Through my schooling I did a few classes on how to make perfume and lotion. However, I wanted to know more, and there is no where in Maine I could go to learn exactly what I wanted to learn. I was looking for something that I could use with my license. I was searching the web, and I found Back Porch Soap Company. You never know sometimes when you find things online, so I called back Porch Soap company. I was able to speak with Marla, and it all just clicked! There was immediate chemistry. It was such a comfortable place to learn, and I did learn a lot! Marla is an amazing patient teacher, and I am grateful for her classes. I feel that I have found a career that truly is an added joy to my life.

When did you launch your company?

I launched Finn & Co. in September of this year, but we are doing another launch in January right before all the gift shows! We will be exhibiting at the Boston Gift Show in March 2012. Please come see us!

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

We currently sell three small collections of natural, luxurious products for babies and adults. We have our Luxury Collection which consists of a Face Oil, made with 11 highly moisturizing, balancing, and nourishing oils. It's great around the eyes! Also in that collection we have a body oil and a balm. People love the balm. It is great for all those dry hard to hydrate areas. Each product is natural, paraben free, and very soothing! We use less than 1% of a paraben-free preservative. We only use preservatives in the Luxury Balm and the lotions.

Our products are formulated for all skin types. Our second collection is the Sea Class Collection. In that collection we have our White Sand and Black Sand fragrances. Not only will you find a luxurious fragrance, but a luxurious body lotion that is so silky and hydrating. The smell is soft and subtle, and gives you that fresh clean and sexy feeling! This collection also includes a soap we call Sand Bar. It's a highly moisturizing bar that is the perfect base for all these products. The goal is to get clean, not strip all your skins natural oils.

Lastly, our Little Luxe Collection, is made for the most delicate skin. The collection is 100% natural and we use organic ingredients. The collection makes a great gift set. I use the balm after Finn’s bath time. Her skin is already silky, but the balm makes it even softer and it is a nice barrier. The winter months can be very harsh on the skin here in New England . I use the baby balm on my hands, elbows, and heels after a hot shower.

What course(s) did you take with Marla? Which were your favorite and how did they benefit you?

Let me think, there were quite a few! I took the Cold Process Soap making class, How to run a successful Bath & Body business, organic scrubs, salves, balms & butters, baby care, and also natural anti aging products. I loved them all! I spent a lot of time practicing what I learned, but Marla made it so much fun, and she made it easy for me to love this new career path.

What is your favorite part of running a bath and body business?

I love being my own boss! I love being creative, and actually creating something that is good for people’s skin. I feel proud of my work, as I have spent two years working on my line. I did not do it alone. I had a lot of help from Marla, and also my mother, who is the other half of Finn & Co. I love the challenges that I face. It is not easy to run your own company, but those small challenges that I face remind me how much I love my work, because I just keep going!

What is your least favorite part?

I am not a mathematical mind. I love the dream, the writing, the packaging, the creative marketing end of this job, but sometimes I am faced with that MATH. There is a lot of book keeping! I always want to create!

What are your biggest challenges as a small business owner?

My biggest challenge is getting people to know Finn & Co. As a new brand, among the millions already out there, it is hard, but I have the faith, and the passion to keep this little company going and hopefully succeeding! I believe in word of mouth, and getting some good press. We should not have to pay a fortune for this!

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

When I have free time, I am with my husband and baby. I like to read, and exercise. I love being a business owner, and it is sometimes hard to break away, but when I look at Finnley, I just want to play! We also have a 100-pound golden retriever who needs a lot of walking, so we walk a lot!

What are your words of wisdom?

I feel that passion is priceless, so to be successful , your passion should always shine through your work, even when you are having a bad day.

September 06, 2011

Charna Brings Her Two Natural Perfume Classes Back to Boston this Month!

Have you gotten a whiff of the popularity of natural perfumes lately? Natural perfumes are hot, hot, hot! If you're new to the idea, Natural Perfumery (NP) is the creative art and science of using natural aromatic raw materials that are beautiful and complex to produce lovely perfumes. These aren't synthetic or man made fragrances - instead they are made with natural essential oils. Whether you want to learn to make natural perfumes for yourself or add it to your product lineup, mark your calendars for two Boston area workshops on September 17.

We welcome back workshop instructor and natural perfumer extraordinaire, Charna Ethier! She is the “nose” and founder of Providence Perfume Co. (Providence, RI) a natural perfumery specializing in luxurious botanical fragrances. After spending years working with large beauty and fragrance companies such as Aveda, she desired to create her own line of perfumes that were truly natural.

She is member of the Natural Perfumer’s Guild obtaining Professional Perfumer status and a regular participant in global perfume projects and collaborations. Her perfumes have received critical acclaim and have been featured on AOL, The Rhode Show, numerous magazines, and fragrance websites and blogs.

On Saturday, Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon, Charna will teach a "Blending Natural Perfumes" workshop. Under Charna's guidance, students will create and take home:

  • Two Liquid Perfumes
  • One Solid Perfume
  • 10 essential oils (to take home after use in class blending)

In addition, Charna will share her knowledge on:

1. The Components of Natural Perfume: Essential oils, Absolutes, Floral waxes/concretes, Natural Isolates and Alcohol.

2. Tinctures (Hows and Whys)

3. Importance of Notekeeping (formularies, impressions, revisiting)

4. Measuring

5. Labeling and Ageing

6. Storage of Perfumes and Perfumery Ingredients

7. Accessory Notes

8. Botanicals Requiring Dilution

In addition, each student will receive a valuable handout containing reputable sources for ordering supplies; standard proportion of base, middle, and top notes; as well as formulation guidelines.

On Saturday, September 17 from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Charna will teach "Fine Tuning Natural Perfume Blends."

In this class, students will learn a myriad of techniques to create well-balanced, well-blended natural perfumes. Under Charna's guidance, students will create accords and bridging accords, as well as accessory notes. Charna will share her tips and tricks on creating perfumes with longevity sillage (the lingering of perfume).

Join us and experiment with accessory notes. You'll learn the effects and importance they play in building your natural perfumes. We'll also discuss how to measure these effects in proper dosages.

Students will take home three accessory note samples and a tincture created in class, along with instructions for further developing the tincture at home.

It will be a lively and interesting class, as Charna explains fragrance family classifications and perfume potency. Students will learn how to fine tune and troubleshoot perfume formulas. In addition, Charna will share how to store and preserve natural perfumes and perfumery materials. In addition, students will learn the importance of filtering.

This class is held in our Duxbury, Massachusetts studio, which is located approximately 40 minutes southeast of Boston and one hour from Providence. For more information and to register, please visit our website.

July 22, 2011

Hot in the City: Soap Making in NYC

While most of the country is under a heat wave, New York City is no exception. Temps soared close to 100 degrees yesterday. But that didn't stop 12 energetic students from learning to make cold process soap on the Upper West Side last night. We cranked up the air conditioning, and cranked out close to 40 lbs. of handmade soap formulated with organic oil goodness!

Three sisters the island of Dominica flew in from to join the class. They are opening a soap business there this year. Other students came from all over the U.S. to learn tricks of the trade for business and personal use.

In addition to making soap, we discussed recipe formulations, safety precautions, the best molds to use, sourcing ingredients, liability insurance, water discounting, fragrance tips, essential oil blending and more.

Check out our next series of NYC soap making classes!
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June 22, 2011

Students from Overseas and Across U.S. Trek to NYC Soap Making Classes

Fifteen adults spent their Memorial Day weekend dressed in face masks, latex gloves and protective goggles in an Upper West Side craft shop to get up close and personal with the caustic chemical lye.

Instead of heading out of town for the long holiday weekend, the group stood in a classroom at Little Shop of Crafts, learning soapmaking from Marla Bosworth, founder of Back Porch Soap Co.

About two hours into Friday night's three-and-a-half hour session, Bosworth was supervising students as they mixed melted shea butter, lye, and water in a plastic bucket with a hand blender.

Bosworth teaches students how to incorporate organic ingredients, where to source supplies, and emphasizes the use of natural and organic colorants like the parsley shown here

One student sprinkled dry parsley, a natural green colorant, into the mix, which looked like cake batter. After pouring in essential oils may chang, cedarwood and vetiver, a lemony scent filled the air.

"Isn't it fun?" Bosworth said. "When the whole thing happens, it's just magical, isn't it?"

Bosworth was once a market research analyst who dabbled in making her own creams at home for fun. When she was laid off in 1998, she used her severance package to start Back Porch Soap Co.

Now she manufactures her own line of bath and beauty products out of her home studio in Duxbury, Mass. She teaches hands-on classes there — topics include organic body butters and artisanal bath fizzies — and also consults with clients on how to start their own bath and body products business.

Bosworth teaches classes at Little Shop of Crafts on Amsterdam Avenue and West 94th Street about every other month. Later this summer, she's opening a permanent store and classroom inside Little Shop of Crafts.

During Friday's class, Bosworth dispensed plenty of tips. Some were business-oriented, such as where to get insurance if you're going to sell soap out of your home, and how to look up information about the FDA-approved method for labelling soaps.

Other information was more in keeping with the theme of Bosworth's product line, which is entirely vegan and uses all natural ingredients, some of which are organic.

"There's nothing like essential oil to change your mood," Bosworth said as students stirred a combination of rosemary, patchouli and lavender oils that she dubbed her "Good Karma" blend. "If you're a little off and bummed out, smell some rosemary."

Some students at Friday's class were enrolled in an $895 four-day series of classes called Bath & Body University, for people who want to start their own businesses.

Others took the soapmaking class for fun. One students was a retired nurse whose son gave her the class as a present, another was a woman who wanted to learn how to make soap for a husband with sensitive skin.

Gina Francois, a web designer, said she took the class because she wanted to learn how to make soap "the right way."

Francois started making her soap at home after her daughter was born with mild acne and a doctor advised her to seek out cleansers with natural ingredients. She taught herself how to do it mostly by reading information on the Internet, she said.

Francois was enrolled in the four-day Bath & Body University. "I've been here since Wednesday and there are so many things I've found out I was doing wrong," Francois said. "It's been great."

At the end of the night, students left with two plastic tubs filled with still-warm soap batter. It would set overnight, then get sliced into bars, then spend another four weeks "curing."

Bosworth said she got "completely addicted" to soapmaking as soon as she made her first batch.

"I love the fact that you can take all natural ingredients and create your own soaps from scratch and not have to use any chemicals," Bosworth said.

More info on upcoming New York City soap classes.

Reprinted with permission by Leslie Albrecht, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

May 19, 2011

Day One Kickoff! Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild Conference in Miami

The Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild kicked off their 2011 Handcrafted Soapmakers Conference on May 18 at the Miami Downtown Hilton. This year's conference drew nearly 300 attendees. In addition to soapmakers from all over the U.S., there are 14 attendees from Canada, and others from Guatemala, few from U.K., Colombia, Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands, Australia, Bahamas, Ecuador and Venezuela.

The rooftop pool at the Miami Hilton is a bonus and great place to steal away for an hour or two! This is the view from my seventh floor, floor to ceiling window.

The view of Miami (harbor views are off to the left) from my hotel window. It's beautiful at night, too. I'll try to get a shot of the "moon over Miami."

Robin Schmidt of Dragonfly Handmade Soap (HSMG speaker coordinator) ready for a line of attendees awaiting their registration and highly coveted goodie bags.

My friend, Kim Johnson, with keynote speaker Barbara Corcoran, real estate mogul and one of the multimillionaires on ABC's "Shark Tank". One of my favorite parts of the conference is meeting up with new and old friends.

Donna Pixton-Hacker of Chamomile Cottage introducing Kayla Fioravanti of Essential Wholesale. Kayla gave a workshop on how to make your own melt and pour soap. I'm going to give this a whirl when I get home. soap making class in NYC and Boston?

The conference provides time for networking with other soapmakers. Seated on the far right is Gillian Deconto of Little Bitty Soap Company out of British Columbia. To the left is Trista Page of Indigo Bee and Laura Page, general manager at Essential Wholesale.

Jennifer Hardaway of Klean Spa making suggestions during the Legislative Issues workshop with Mary Anne Walsh and Rick Limardo.

The fabulous Feleciai Favroth (HSMG treasurer and conference committee member) making introductions and announcements.

Debbie May of Wholesale Supplies Plus kicking off the first night networking event. She shared interesting personal stories and business tips throughout the evening.

Wholesale Supplies Plus treated HSMG attendees with an espresso/coffee bar, sundae bar and more than $5000 worth of gift certificates.

Everyone behaving after line dancing and acting wildly to "earn" raffle tickets for the $5000 giveaways.

Networking continued late night for some attendees (especially West Coasters who are still on Pacific Time) - poolside or in restaurants around Miami. Stay tuned for another post after the completion of Day 2!

Did you attend the HSMG Conference? What was your favorite part of Day One?

April 05, 2011

HSMG Conference Tip 5 of 5: How Not To Miss Each and Every Workshop

This blogpost is the last in a series of tips for attending the Handcrafted Soap Makers Guild (HSMG) Conference in Miami next month. This tip is about how to not to miss each workshop. If you're attending this year's conference, or planning to attend future conferences, my hope is that you'll find these tips helpful.

Upon check-in at the HSMG Conference registration you'll receive a folder (see below), along with a fabulous goodie bag. The folder contains the conference schedule. View the schedule online at the HSMG website for pre-conference planning (which I highly recommend).

This is my folder from last year's conference in Denver.

The first thing you'll notice is that there are two tracks running throughout most of the conference. This means you'll have to make a choice as to which track you choose. There are already sessions that I'm torn between, and this is where a gameplan comes in handy:

  1. Partner with one or two other conference attendees. It is easier to keep track of if you only partner with one or two people. Otherwise you'll be chasing down too many people during the conference. If you don't know anyone read How to Get Your Social Media Game On Before and After the Conference blogpost (see link below).

  2. Determine who will attend each session. Divide and conquer!

  3. Take an extra handout for each of your "teammates" per session.

  4. Take legible notes for each session on a separate piece of paper. Or bring a laptop and type up your notes.

  5. Email your typed notes to your teammates. Or if you have handwritten notes, use the hotel copy machine (or scan when you return home and email to your teammates).

  6. Schedule an end of day "briefing session" with your teammates to distribute handouts. During this time, while the information is fresh in your mind, point out any key observations that were made during the workshop.

Simple as that! You won't feel as if you missed a thing. Also, you will have networked with two industry colleagues that you may or may not have known previous to the conference.

You can read the prior posts here: Why You Should Pack
an Extra Suitcase or Box; How to Get Your Social Media Game on Before, During and After the Conference; Even if You're Shy Just Say Hi; and An Open Mind Could Lead to More Sales.

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See you in Miami!

April 04, 2011

Tip 4 of 5: Why You Should Pack an Extra Suitcase or Box for the HSMG Conference

Photo Credit: Jocelyn Mathewes

This blogpost is the fourth of five in a series of conference tips. Today we're talking about why you’ll be glad you packed an extra suitcase or box for the conference.

The first year I attended the HSMG conference, I had no idea how many freebies and goodies that would land in my lap. The moment you check into registration you’ll land a giant sponsor-filled goodie bag that in past years has contained molds, fragrance samples, herbs, pail openers, and so forth. The freebies don’t stop there. There are raffles, give-aways at evening special events and also vendor tables where you can buy and win more soap-related products and services. There are also three days of conference handouts, which pile up quite a bit. When combined, all of these can take up quite a bit of space in your luggage.

On my flight home to Boston after my first conference, I showed up at the Palm Springs, CA airport to find out that my luggage was 10 pounds over the limit. The ticketing agent looked and me and smiled politely, "I'm going to have to charge you a $90 over-the-limit fee." So I transferred 10 pounds of goodies back into my carry-on and lugged the bag all the way back to Boston (and a layover in Denver to boot..ah, no pun intended). I promised myself that would be the last time I would shlep all that extra weight. Somehow I would get those goodies home without paying the price with my wallet OR my back. Since then I’ve smartened up and packed a small empty carry-on size suitcase within my regular luggage. This allows you to strategically pack for the way home.

If, for whatever reason, you don't feel like packing a second suitcase, there is another option. Mariann Smith of Just Bubbly (Rockaway Beach, NY) packs a prepaid and pre-labeled, USPS flat-rate shipping box just for this reason. Simply pick up a large flat rate box at your local post office, purchase a prepaid label, pack it in your suitcase, and you're ready to go. You might want to bring along some packaging materials and plastic ziploc baggies to compartmentalize small items. When you've packaged up your box, drop it off at the front desk of the hotel and it will see you when you get home!

Whether you decide to pack the extra suitcase or prepaid flat rate shipping box, you'll be glad you did! Your shoulder, wallet and plane carry-on companions will thank you.

March 31, 2011

HSMG Conference Tip 3 of 5: Time to Get Your Social Media Game On

Today I booked my flight to Miami for the Handcrafted Soap Makers Guild (HSMG) Conference in May. It's hard to believe that the conference is only a little over a month away. This blogpost is the third of five in a series of conference tips and focuses how to get your social media game on before, during and after the conference.

If one of your goals is to meet and network with industry peers and experts, then reach out to them prior to the conference through Facebook, Twitter and blogs. First, simply head over to the Handcrafted Soap Guild Facebook page to chat with other attendees and HSMG members. Besides making new friends there and joining in on the conversation, you can join other soapmakers' fan pages and help promote each others' business.

Donna Pixton-Hacker, owner of The Chamomile Cottage (Mount Laurel, NJ) agrees. "One of the really fun parts of being at the HSMG Conference is taking photos of my new soapmaker friends and posting it on their Facebook page to show their friends and customers the lengths we go to keeping our businesses growing and learning," she said. "We will Tweet on each other's pages, post Facebook messages on each others' walls. It also gives us a short journal of the people we have met and the things we learned while at conference. I have spent many nights going back through my posts to recall what someone else captured from a speaker's presentation that I may not have gotten from it. So, I continue to learn from others long after the conference has ended."

As Donna mentioned, jump onto Twitter where you can find the Soap Guild under @TheSoapGuild. By following the Soap Guild you'll stay up-to-date with their posting. While there, enter in #SoapConf11 in the search box. It will populate results for anyone mentioning the conference. Using the hashtag (#) is a great way to meet attendees before the conference and keep in touch with them during and afterwards. I make sure I Twitter during the conference, and check the daily feed throughout the day to find real-time news, tips and funny stories.

Sara Nesbitt, owner of Sara's Soaps 'n Such (Burgaw, NC) did just that at last year's conference in Denver. "It's all about the hashtag," she said. "Use it on Twitter to find other Twitter users who are planning on going to the conference, who are tweeting from the conference and who are talking about it afterward. I didn't know about the hashtag prior to the conference last year, but I connected with several people online using it during and after the conference. That has led to anticipating this year's conference or future conferences and excited chatter about meeting."

An added bonus of using social media to keep up with conference happenings is the impact it can have on your business. Pixton-Hacker said, "I have noticed when my other HSMG Soapmaker friends do the same for me (post pictures on her business page from the conference) it boosts my customers' interest in what I'm doing, selling, or creating."

Lastly, use a search engine such as Google or Bing to search for recent blogposts on the HSMG Conference. You'll find companies and vendors who plan on attending and can comment on their blogpost, follow them on Twitter and Facebook, or simply email them to let them know you'll be at the conference.

Stay tuned for Tips 4 and 5 to be posted later this week: Why You Should Pack an Extra Suitcase and How Not To Miss Each and Every Workshop.

See you in Miami!

March 08, 2011

HSMG Conference Tip 2 of 5: Even If You're Shy, Just Say Hi

This blogpost series focuses on tips for attending the annual Handcrafted Soapmaking Guild (HSMG) Conference. This year the conference is held in Miami, FL on May 18-20, 2011. As I mentioned in my first post, the first year I attended I had no idea what to expect. I've picked up little tips along the way (and some thanks to input from other attendees) that I hope you'll find helpful if you're planning to attend.

Meeting other bath and body company entrepreneurs, industry movers and shakers, and networking is one of the highlights of the conference. It's common to be shy, especially if you are attending the conference for the first time by yourself.
If you're not much of a mingler, or have never attended a business networking function to hone your networking skills, here are a few tips to get you making new friends.

First, it really can be as easy as just saying hello. Remember, you're at a soap convention. Just ask someone what kind of soap they make and where they're from - it's that easy. I always joke that one of the reasons I go to the soap conference is because I can talk soap with other people 24/7 and no one fades out or loses interest. But it's true. Everyone is there for the same reason: we love soap and want to promote and sell more of it.

"Jump through the hoop - put fear aside. It's amazing what happens after the ice is broken," says Mary Humphrey of Annie's Goat Hill (Leesburg, OH).
She admits that she was previously a very shy person until she decided to just jump into conversations.

Second, go to Twitter or Facebook to find new acquaintances prior to the conference. "Pick a few people to interact with. Look online to get a feel for someone. Introduce yourself to them," says Kristen Bowen of Kristen Bowen Studio (Hyde Park, UT). One of the easiest ways to do this is to go to the HSMG Facebook fan page, introduce yourself and ask who else is attending the conference. Go to Twitter and follow @TheSoapGuild, @BackPorchSoap, @kbstudio, and @anniesgoathill.

Third, make friends with the wonderful HSMG volunteers. They wear brightly color aprons (easy to spot), have a great sense of humor, are friendly and are pros at making introductions. Even though they are quite busy throughout the conference, they have time for a quick hello, know many of the conference attendees, and are a great resource for meeting new people.

Lastly, use breakfast, lunch and dinner as a time to just simply say hello and talk soap to fellow colleagues. Remember that this isn't a time to sell your soaps. It's a time to be open to new friendships and to potential opportunities.

What are some suggestions you'd like to share?

Check back tomorrow for How to Get Your Social Media Game on During and After the Conference.
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