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.

April 18, 2012

10 Important Tips for Choosing the Best Soapmaking Classes and Cosmetic Courses

Soapmaking classes
Soapmaking classes in New York City taught by Marla Bosworth.

Wondering how to make soap or how to make lotion? There’s no better way to learn than taking a hands-on class. Even if you are an experienced soapmaker or cosmetic formulator, continuing education can be a vital link that keeps you up-to-date with the latest techniques and new ingredients on the market.

Just as there are varying degrees of students, there are a plethora of teachers and classes from which to choose.
Here are my top 10 tips for choosing classes to best match your needs:

1.       Expectations – Depending on the type of class you’re interested in taking, check your own expectations. What it is the “takeaway” that you want most from a class? Are you taking it solely to learn how to make a single product or two as taught or do you wish to develop a product beyond the recipes that will be covered in class? Perhaps you’re interested in learning new techniques to add your existing products?  Inquire about the level off curriculum. If you are already familiar with the basics, will the class teach you above and beyond what you already know? Or on the other hand, if you are a beginner you’ll want to confirm that the information taught in class won’t “leave you in the dust.”

2.       Class Description – Try not to make any assumptions when it comes to reading class descriptions. If you’re not sure what will be covered in class, email or call to clarify. In addition to the class description, inquire about whether you will receive a thorough class handout with instructions. Does the instructor share a list of suppliers and industry contacts? Also make sure you understand any cancellation policies. What is included in the class: is there an additional materials fee, do you need to bring anything, and is the teacher available through email to follow-up with any questions once class is over?

3.       Class Size – What is the maximum size the instructor will allow? Will this class size allow for enough personalized attention?

Will you receive hands-on training?

4.       Instructor –Each instructor has different strengths. Some might be better at making creative soaps and can show you how to do the same. Others may have a better understanding and background in developing successful and profitable businesses. You can gain quite a bit from an online picture. Here are some questions to ask in regards to the teacher:
·         How long has the instructor been teaching classes?
·         Does the teacher appear professional?
·         Do they have affiliations with industry associations?
·         What is their background and experience?
·         Does the instructor have their own full-time bath and body business?
·         Confirm that they have teacher’s insurance in case of any unforeseen accidents in class. Ask for proof if this is something that concerns you.

5.       Location – This may not be at very top of your list, but it is certainly something to take into consideration. Are you interested in the class because is it located close to you and convenient? If you need to travel can you justify the level of teaching that you will be given in exchange for the additional cost of accommodations and other expenses? Also, will you be able to deduct your travel expenses? Perhaps there other opportunities in the area if you are traveling to a city. For example, target potential wholesale accounts or visit a trades how that coincides with the class dates.

6.       Website – Does the instructor’s website appear professional and organized? Is there a lengthy, in-depth description of the class? Typically this is a good sign that if the teacher is organized and will carry the organization through in the class.

7.       Contact the Instructor – Make the connection with the teacher. Leave a message if you are prompted to voicemail and make not of how prompt the instructor is in returning your call. When you do connect, are you treated professionally? Does the instructor have time to answer your questions? Does she or he sound organized and knowledgeable? Ask about class size, what is covered during class, whether the teacher is available for followup questions after the day of class, and where to find pictures and class information online. Ask how long the teacher has been making products, how long she or he has been in business, how long they have been teaching, inquire about their professional background, whether the they have a full-time soap or cosmetics business, especially if you want to learn how to run your own soap or cosmetics business.

8.       Search for Online Reviews – Search, Facebook business pages, Twitter, and conduct a Google search for class reviews. Simply type in the name of the instructor or company and see what online feedback you can determine from previous students. Check out previous class photos to see where workshops are held and the structure of the class.

9.       Ask for References - If you’re making a substantial investment, perhaps for an extended program, ask for references from former students. Also ask for success stories from the instructor. What have some of their students done with the information they gained in classes? Are they hobbyists or are do they have a business?

10.   Depth of Class Offerings – It this a one-time class or ongoing series that you’re taking? Would you like to develop the business while working with one instructor, or are you looking to work with a number of teachers?
With a bit of research and preparation, you'll be able to find the class that is the right fit for you. Set expectations and ask plenty of questions. A little time invested into research will give you a great payback in matching up with the type of class that fits your needs. 

This article is written by Marla Bosworth and reprinted with permission from Saponifier Magazine

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