Saturday, March 31, 2007

Go Rosie?

So Barbara Walters misses a day and wow, meltdown on the view! I almost feel sorry for Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Easter is here. Make soap instead of dyeing eggs!

Easter is almost here and I know your family is probably descending upon your house (not that I'm not thrilled and excited to see them!). For a fun afternoon activity, after all the children are in a post-sugar-induced-blank-stare-state and the adults are just thrilled that the furniture has lived to see another year sans chocolate hand prints, Bramble Berry has the most adorable kit for making Easter Soap.

For $30, you'll have enough materials to make, package and label 8 - 10 bars of adorable Easter themed soap - and memories of fun creative family fun to last a lifetime.

Steak Soap anyone? The soap is scented with Cranberry fragrance and apparently was designed to match a meat-themed-bathroom. You would think I was kidding ... but I'm not.

It's a very cool example of creativity and thinking outside the proverbial, cliched box.

Trip to Rome anyone?

Apparently, archaeologists exploring Cypress have found the world's oldest perfume factory. Spanning over 40,000 square feet and thought to employ over a dozen people, the factor even had its own oil pressing machinery. Scientists have recreated some of the fragrances based on bits of materials and finished products that they found on site. The fragrances are on display at the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

We're supporting Captain Seahorse

That's right, a band called Captain Seahorse is going to be where we're putting some of our charitable donation funds this month. Downtown Renaissance Network helps to pick up where Bellingham City services leave off - for example, DRN pays for someone to clean up trash off the streets. (Total aside: how pathetic is it that private industry has to pay to do what, in theory, is supposed to be a public works department, taxpayer sponsored job?). They also do cool, community events like the Bite of Bellingham where bands play, food is served and the community has a family oriented, safe way to come together and celebrate summer.

Bramble Berry and Otion are incredibly excited to sponsor the opening band Captain Seahorse for the Bite of Bellingham this year. If you're in the area, join us. If you're not, think good thoughts and pray for good weather for our outdoor concert!

Google? Not so many satisfied useers

My best friend's son, Kyle, was recently diagnosed for an intrinsic brain stem glinoma. For the blissfully uninitiated, that means that he has an inoperable brain tumor. For once, I have something to obsess about that's not soap or business related. So, I've spent copious amounts of time in the last five weeks searching, searching, and searching the 'net for information, would-be cures, pediatric oncologists, pediatric neurosurgeons and the holy grail of a doctor that will try to operate on Kyle. I'm about 0 for 45 on that count. But, I keep searching and trying.

When I don't find what I want, I switch terms, try the " " in different places or just plain skip to page 10 on the search engine and hope that it's a better fit than the first 5 pages of non-hits. I never switch search engines. It turns out that I'm not alone in this. According to Convera, 93% of search engine users don't switch to a new engine if they're not getting the answer they want out of the first engine.

Why not? They're different companies, with different algorithms. You would think that we'd all switch. But instead, we just bang our head against the same wall, but in a slightly different spot by trying to refine the search engine terms.

Only 10% of searchers find what they want on the first attempt. And only 21% of online searchers feel like their search engines understand the queries.

Well, duh. They're computers, not humans. Of course they don't "understand" your search engine query! But aside from that, artificial intelligence is supposed to be farther along than only getting 10% of our search engine queries right.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Me at the Women's Hall of Fame dinner

I had the great privilege of serving on the Women's Hall of Fame board this year. We had our awards banquet this weekend and to the left, is a photo of me speaking to Mauri Ingram (on left) from the Community Foundation and Rachel Meyers (on right) from Whatcom County Literacy Council.

The Women's Hall of Fame honored four amazing women for their outstanding service to Whatcom County. I was most touched by Rosalinda Guillen who spoke passionately about the plight of the farm worker and the need to reinstill a sense of pride in the important work that they do.



Monday, March 26, 2007

You trademarked WHAT?!

It seems like if you have enough money, time and high powered attorneys that you can get anything trademarked. Speaking from experience, I tried for five or six years to get Bramble Berry trademarked (and finally got put on the supplemental registry!) but it took serious effort, time and money. If Pfizer can trade mark "Thank you very much," I don't see why the Trademark office gave me such grief over trying to trade mark "Bramble Berry."

Trademarked phrases:

Thank you very much. Pfizer.

Yes. Book-of-the-month club

Thank you! THank you! Little Casars

Very Funny. TBS

What's your number? Express


And service marked:

ThankYou. Citigroup.

Nice 80 lb signage paper


The Paper Element truly makes some of the most sassy background paper for signs. It can easily take Rub-Ons so that makes it versatile for greeting cards (if you're like me and you happen to do both). Be thinking about your summer craft show booths. How nice would a uniform sign program look? For what it's worth, I ordered $250 worth of heavy stock paper for signage at Otion for this summer and fall.

FBI and soap go together like ...

I just got a fun note from Mr. Wood in South Korea who read the Yahoo Finance page story on me. I like the FBI connection. I am going to write him back and see what kind of business he's going to start up. I also am interested to dialogue with him about the challenges of setting up a business in South Korea.

Ms. Faiola,
I just loved your story on yahoo.com. It epitomizes the American dream. It's awesome!

I, too, wanted to join the FBI after the military. I was recruited in NC but the wait was too long for me, 8-10 months. So I ended up working with UNIX-based systems. I think it was the better choice in the long-term.

I'm trying to start a small business, too, but it's not easy drumming up customers. I'm keeping my day job for now. :)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Double Rainbows and Fudge Sundaes


Chris and I went out to dinner last night with a super cool couple - Max and Sarah from Handcrank Films.

We went to Anthony's and watched the most amazing sunset, complete with hundreds of seagulls drifting up on air currents and a double rainbow! It was entirely picturesque and reminded me why I live in Bellingham - because the 4 days a year that it's not raining or having an epic windstorm that rips my roof off and breaks my retail store windows, it's gorgeous.

Dinner was delightful and I was entirely inspired by Max's theory on working to live and not the other way around. When he mentioned that he worked 40 hours a week or less, I about fell off my chair in jealous amazement. Here's a small business owner - and a successful one! - who is living the dream of working a normal week while still running his own show.

When the entire table, spouses included, started animatedly talking about what work meant to each of us, I realized that it's easy for me to put in 70 hour weeks routinely because I love what I do. I literally work my hobby. It's a dream job. I'm surrounded by people I genuinely respect and admire. I have an amazing customer base. And, I get to immerse myself in soap, toiletries and good smelling things all day long. What's not to love? So, when I find myself logging into work at 10 p.m. at night, it's not with a heavy heart and irritation. I log into work with supreme joy and anticipation over what I will find and be able to accomplish.

Last night, over brownie fudge sundae dessert at the Bellweather, surrounded by great new friends and in a wonderful atmosphere, I felt so lucky and blessed. I'm going to try to hold onto that feeling for the rest of the week.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Very nice soap wrapping paper

Scenic Route Paper Co. creates some amazing wrapping paper designs for soap. You can find a list of local retailers to get yourself 10 sheets for about $7.50-$10.00 and wrap up your soap in a beautifully sophisticated and eye catching manner. Remember, it's all about differentiating yourself from other bars of soap out there and elevating yourself from a mere commodity to an experience, a gift to be treasured. Great wrapping is one step of that process.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Yeahhhh, the demise of bar soap?


I just read an interesting blog posting saying that bar soap was becoming a thing of the past. The rationale for this theory is that consumers are switching to liquid soap for any number of things - from fragrances, to added vitamins to larger bottles of soap meaning less trips to the grocery story.

While I get that soap and bathing is very much a personal preference, the reality is that soap (any soap - liquid or bar) is a rinse-off product. Rinse-off means that extra vitamins don't much matter - they wash right down the drain.

Less trips to the grocery store? Well, maybe but I don't know that this is the case either. You use more liquid soap per use than bar soap. And generally, liquid soap costs a minor fortune compared to bar soap.

And fragrances? I take umbrage to the idea that liquid soap somehow has more fragrance options! As someone who sells bar soap fragrances, I am pretty sure anything you can get in a liquid soap, I can get you for bar soap.

I think that Joyce is overstating the liquid soap case and believe that bar soap is definitely here to stay.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Scammers

I came across this thread on the SoapDish Forum today. It should be required reading for all new soapmakers and business people.

We have aggressive SPAM filters at work but still Bramble Berry gets thirty to ninety emails a day that want to buy our product (without knowing what our product is), give us money (normally from a deposed dictator that obtained said-money fraudulently), or just want us to invest in some new company (which will be hitting it big "any day now!"). It's irritating from a normal "Ugh, and I waste my time on this?!" standpoint, baffles me from a "And yet people believe this myth be true enough times to make it worth the scammer's while" perspective and infuriates me from a "And I pay someone to sift through these emails?!" view.

Supposedly filtering SPAM costs $874 per employee per year. I'm not surprised. So, that means that I spend $21,850 (give or take a few hundred dollars) per year because some industrious spammer bought a program to send out Viagra emails to 30,000 people per hour and .0001% of those people end up buying the Viagra, thus making it worth said spammers money.

I love this quote from the article referenced above:

"If one of out of every 72 of your employees showed up to work and slept all day, you'd be upset about that, but you're losing that productivity simply because you have spam coming through."
But I digress. Head over to the 'Dish and read the thread about one small soaper's dilemma on whether to treat a phishing-type email as a legitimate business inquiry. It certainly gave me food for thought.

Super Cute Lip Balm Project


Cute handmade lip balm with hand scribbled decorations for a rainy-afternoon project or perfect for a sleep over party for your 13-year-old.

Fan Mail

I just got the sweetest note from a customer that made me smile, laugh and feel very happy. For what it's worth, I love the Hungarian Lavender as well as I noted in this post back in February.

Thank you so much for my box of goodies... As usual, every Bramble Berry Fragrance is fabulous! I have to tell you, I am totally amazed by each of them... Talk about a diversity of scents... And yet, each is absolutely fabulous on it's own merit! I do not know how you do it, but you have a very gifted nose, that's for sure!

First off, I was just about to start the hunt for a really good lavender EO that didn't have that medicinal edge to it... Hunt over! The Hungarian Lavender with it's lovely green edge, and no medical smell at all, is a dream come true. I have never been able to find a Lemon Verbena, that I could just fall madly in love with... They were mostly"Okay"... This one, however is to die for... It is multi layered, crisp, with nice soft edges... A fabulous almost classic sort of scent... I am totally in love with this wonderful jewel. The Black Amber and Lavender... Is a very ying and yang blend... Totally amazed how the balance of the rich amber and crisp lavender go so well together... Very exotic... Wonderful, simply wonderful!!!! The one that just has me in awe, is the Sugared Walnut... Smelled it, and nothing at all like it's name... So I went to your site, and looked up the description..Well it just boggles the mind... Definitely a "Foody" scent, but much, much more... This one is in a category of it's very own... It is very complex, and multi layered... Simply Lovely, just LOVELY... Can hardly wait to make it up in CP. Thank you so very much... Like Christmas in March!!!!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Entrepreneur of the Week from Yahoo

Yahoo chose me a their Entrepreneur of the week.

It's great. I'm happy to be honored. I work really hard every day. My staff puts in huge amounts of effort every day as well. It's nice to see our successes recognized.

It's still amazing and strange to me every time someone points to me or Bramble Berry as a role model because some days seem like a serious struggle as I wrestle with random staffing issues, vendor disagreements and customer opportunities. So, it's nice to read my story and the Bramble Berry story through someone else's eyes.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Silver Plated Lip Balm Stand, anyone?


Here is a lovely Silver Plated Lip balm stand that holds 3 lip balms. Maybe it would be a cute tester rack for craft shows? At $3, you really can't go wrong.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Salt, salt and oh, more salt


Just when you thought that we couldn't have enough salt (2 types of Dead Sea Salt, Bali Reef Salt and Pacific Sea Salt), we've added yet another salt - Organic Salt from New Zealand. We've watched the organic market grow and it shows no signs of stopping, so we're dipping our feet into the water with our organic essential oils and trying out the organic salt. If sales of these two lines stay strong, we'll consider some organic oils for cooking and soap.

Emma Faust Tillman

I came across some outdated news that Emma Faust Tillman, once the world's oldest living person, died at 114. Normally I would marvel at her longevity and then move on to the next news article. In this case, something caught my eye - she was an entrepreneur with her own business! A woman, and a black woman at that, with her own business in 1910 is something worth doing more research on.

She was the daughter of former slaves (one of 23 children in her family!) and became the first black graduate of her high school. She had bookkeeping experience and took courses in bookkeeping so that she could keep the books at her father's farm.

But, racial discrimination was very prevalent and she was not allowed to take those bookkeeping skills to work in an office setting. So, she started her own cooking and baking catering company (something in common with our beloved Martha Stewart who started on her multi-billion-dollar business from similar humble beginnings). She baked for such greats such as Katharine's Hepburn's father and Jackie Robinson and even President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he stayed at the old Heublein Hotel in Hartford.

Being a woman entrepreneur comes with its own challenges today. The obstacles must have been tenfold back in Ms. Faust's day. We are so fortunate to have access to SBA small loans (where women get preference points just for being of the female persuasion), strong female leaders to look up to (Oprah, Andrea Jung, Anne Mulcahy, Martha Stewart, Idra Nooyi to name a few) and a culture that is more open to women taking charge of their own destinies. My hat's off to Ms. Faust for leading such a long and storied life, helping to pave the way for other women entrepreneurs.

The Bubble Room strikes again?

Can this man do no wrong? Wow, David from The Bubble Roome has gotten another national press mention. On page 99 of the new People Style Watch, he gets another shout-out as a "local fave." One of these days, we'll have to get him to share his wisdom with us on attracting national press.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sparkle Fluff - Fun Stuff!



Sparkle Fluff using foaming bath butter! Fun stuff! Sharon, the owner of Sparkle Cookie, is going to school to be a librarian and she's also incredibly crafty as you can see from her web site.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

My response re: complaints about our prices, part 1

I recently read a post on a soapmaking board about how Bramble Berry's pricing is higher than the would be customer would like to pay. I don't argue with customers on a regular basis, I usually stay silent when I hear comparisons about Bramble Berry's pricing versus other, lower cost soapmaking supply providers.

But, I have a blog just so I can spout about anything that strikes my fancy. Today, talking about the true costs about running a business from a fanatical customer service standpoint, is something I want to talk back on.

Just the other day, I heard from a customer, "You're pricing is too high!" I held my tongue when the same customer said in the next breath, "I just ordered from XYZ, and then took 6 weeks to ship my order! And they didn't answer my 6 emails asking about the status. Can you believe their nerve?" When I politely inquired why they ordered from the other company, the response was, "Oh, they got my business because they were cheaper than you."

Yes, and they are cheaper because....? Anyone care to venture a guess why there are cheaper soapmaking supplies out there to buy?

Customer Service. Fanatical, be-all, end-all, Herculean customer service.

Did you know that one of our very large, main competitors refuses to take phone orders anymore? I know why they don't take phone orders. It makes perfect sense from a strictly financial perspective. And, most of their customers won't ever know that they don't take phone orders because, if they're like us, 95% of their customers order online. And the 5% that don't order online? I pay for a full time, expert soapmaker to work 8 hours a day answering their phone calls and taking that 5% of phone calls. It's certainly not efficient from a pricing standpoint but it's something that rings true for one of our five values statements "Be kind to our employees and customers." Answering the phone is kind to our customers. Answering the phone raises my overall labor costs though.

That same person that answers the phone does a lot of other things for our customers too. Guess how many orders she's taking? Maybe 5 a day. But that same person who is available to our 5% of phone ordering customers is also available to the other 95% of our customers that have product questions, technical support needs or just general toiletry making questions. We happily answer any and all phone calls, no matter how intense, long-winded or difficult. We even go so far as to make our customer's recipes (usually 1 to 2 a week) when we cannot diagnose a problem over the phone. The 45 technical support phone calls per day plus the time and materials to test customer recipes all adds to my overhead as a business person. But the majority of our customers wouldn't have it any other way. After all, do you want to be able to actually phone your supplier and talk to them or get the draconian "Email us, no phone calls, and by the way, we pick and choose what emails to answer and trust that you'll figure it out on your own and eventually forget that we gave you sub par customer service."?

We employ 3 full time staff members just to answer customer (and non-customer) emails. I'm willing to bet that most of our competitors don't do this level of customer service support. Those 3 full time staff members literally sit in front of a computer all day, looking up orders, tracking Fed Ex packages and answering general soapmaking questions. Answering copious amounts of daily emails raises my overall labor costs. What I really love is when we get an email something like "I ordered XYZ product from your competitor. They won't answer my emails or phone calls and so I don't know how to use it. Can you help me?" And, in keeping with one our five values statements, "Be an industry leader," we always try to help.

More another day on why going with the low cost provider isn't always a great idea when you're trying to build a soapmaking business or if you're just a general shopper of any product on the 'net.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Aw, a fun blending idea from a customer!

A local Otion customer, Gail, just wrote me about some fun things she's doing with her fragrances.

Anne-Marie, I just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying the new scents I bought, and the samples you gave me from your store. Thanks to you I'll be trying some scent combinations I may not have thought of otherwise. I made some gingered peach soap bars w/the peach sample fragrance, a sachet w/Beach Breezes, and am looking forward to creating some tropical blends w/the lime fragrance sample. Thanks again for your great service!


I personally think that the Lime makes a great blending fragrance. Lime, plus a little Ginger, plus a dash of Dark, Rich Chocolate? Hummmmm, so good, so good. Can you imagine that as a body scrub or a whipped souffle creme?

From a business angle of things, making new products with ingredients you already own (no new outlay of capital, no new inventory to store) seems like a win-win situation. If you make up any fun new blends and want to share, be sure to email me and I'll publish your good idea in our newsletter or on this Blog.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Adorable packaging for a soap company

Seriously, how cute is The Bubble Roome's packaging? Amazing! And a great representation of what a small cottage industry can do. They've gotten gotten some huge press (Lucky magazine this month, for one) which is a tangible example of how great packaging can really move your product up to the next level of stardom. And, I love that TBR is run by a guy. We have so few customers at Bramble Berry that are men so I'm excited to see David into the craft, and with such success!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Arizona in June? Who's crazy enough to go there!?

I am *so* excited to be speaking at the Arizona Soapmaker's Conference this year. What a huge honor! I'm going to talk a bit about Bramble Berry's history and helpful business lessons that I've learned from teachers and mentors along the way. Some of these lessons include things like my friend Bob Pritchett recommends ("Fire Someone Today") and Verne Harnish ("Figure out your Values before you do anything else") have taught me. Some anecdotes are sad little lessons that I've learned along the way through my own many many mistakes ("Don't rehire people you've fired.")

In addition to my talk, I think I'll be delivering a bunch of Bramble Berry orders to the gathering so that should be a bit of an organizational nightmare as well as rewarding. I can't wait to see customer's reactions as they try our latest fun creations.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

And in the "I don't know whether to laugh or cry" category

This site purports to repeat actual student comments overheard at a college in Ontario, Canada. It's entirely funny and also entirely scary, especially if you have college age kids. Click here to read Overheard at Western.

Optical Illusion Advertising



I love these cheeky advertising campaigns. They're clever. They're unexpected. And, at the very least, they make me laugh. As advertising gets increasingly ignored, innovative and fun ads such as these will increasingly become the norm as marketers try to slip their branding into our daily lives.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Fun times at college

I had the privledge of being a guest speaker at Western Washington University on Tuesday night for the International Business Club and the Marketing Club. It was entirely invigorating and I loved the questions posed by the students. It ends up being a bit of a trip down memory lane for me.

The talk was supposed to be focused on Bramble Berry's international marketing and a discussion about how we ship to international customers. It ended up being more of a general business talk so I worry that I didn't have enough topical information for the students. But, several of them did take business cards and hopefully will take me up on the offer to tour the warehouse and ask any follow up questions that they might have. So far, one very confident sounding student ("Jazz") who has owned a vending machine business has already called. That's the kind of follow-up I like to see with any would-be entrepreneur.

Some of the questions that were asked were general start up questions (How much money did it take? Where did you start out? How much did you work? What was the worst part of starting a business?) to current questions (Who helps run your business? How many people do you employ? How big is your warehouse? How much do you make? How do you market to your customers? Who are your customers?)

It was a fun talk and I hope that I get invited back. Not only was I inspired by the student's enthusiasm and proverbial zest for life but I liked taking a walk down memory lane and remembering the mattress at my 3rd warehouse so I could sleep there, or the pain of our first stolen credit card or the absolute joy after Bramble Berry grossed it's first $million. So, Western, if you're reading this, please consider this an open-ended acceptance for any invitations you've got open to speak. It was a great experience.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Amazing Embelishments



Seven Gypsies carries a great line of embellishments for truly sophisticated, one-of-a-kind soap packaging. Think gifts in a high end department store might be your market? These are the touch you need to put on your soaps to get them into those refined air spaces.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Fun stuff from customers



This week has brought a host of new products from customers - just sending them to us to strut their stuff or as a thank-you for good service.

From Linnie Schofield in California - Linnie sent us a huge box of goodies! Lotions, soaps and foaming bath melts. That's her bath melt in the photo that I'm holding up (beside the orange soap). She makes a fabulous luxuriant bath melt with citric acid, baking soda and fragrance. In this case, she did some sort of fabulous white ginger & amber type blend. Yum! I used one in the tub this week and came out positively moisturized and glowing.

Kelly, one of our own at Bramble Berry, made the fabulous orange glycerin loofah soap. She wet the loofah, shoved it down the pampered chef tube, sealed the tube with play dough and then poured energy fragranced, orange labcolor colored, clear melt and pour soap in the tube. This is the result! Cute, huh?

Finally, Rachael at PilgrimsSoap.com was having some trouble with DOS (Dreaded Orange Spots) in her Lavender essential oil soap so I tossed a bit of our new Hungarian Lavender her way to test out. So far, so good! No DOS and she sent me a bar to prove it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Introducing the soon-to-be-mayor




This weekend, I had the great privilege and pleasure to introduce the man that I believe will be Mayor of Bellingham in 2008, Dan McShane. The party was at the newly built Farmer's Market permanent home . About 200 people attended which the campaign was thrilled about, given that the primaries are a full 6 months away!

I was honored to be asked to introduce soon-to-be Mayor McShane. I think they asked me because of my activism in the community as well as my ties to downtown through our retail store Otion. Plus (blushing, eyes cast downward with modesty), I'm a pretty good public speaker (not naturally - it's a learned trait from attending a public speaking school - more on that in another blog post later). I also loved meeting people I wouldn't otherwise have an opportunity the interact with. Listening to the energy that was put into talking about how we can make Bellingham a better place was inspiring. I literally left with a buzz, a high of positive energy.

It was a great event and I felt so blessed to be a part of it. I'm also incredibly confident that Dan McShane is the right person to lead Bellingham to an even better place in the future.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Ribbons, Ribbons, Ribbons



You need these ribbons for tags, for sprucing up your packaging and just because they're very cute! And really, who doesn't need more cute packaging in their life?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

On Lye and Lye Burns


I've been soaping for a blissful fourteen years now. I love it. I crave it. There is very little that makes me happier than seeing a perfect trace in my soap or the smooth texture of a freshly cut batch of soap (big sigh). If I could only make soap all day and never have to actually work for money (you know, answer emails, rally staff, figure out new products, and all the assorted minutae that comes with running a business), I would be exceedingly happy.

Still, there is a minor downside to soapmaking - safety considerations. To make soap from oil requires a bit of complex chemistry. The short story is that you need lye or sodium hydroxide. Lye is mostly commonly found in things like Draino to clean drains. It is also used to react with fats (like olive oil or coconut oil) to make soap. It is highly, highly caustic and will actually burn you So, when I make soap, I wear long sleeves and long pants and goggles (and look, there's the photo off to the left to prove it). I usually skip the gloves because I'm pretty used to lye burns at this point in my soaping career.

I don't like lye burns but as long as I wash them off my hands quickly, I'm none the worse for the wear. And since I've been making soap for so long, I (humble modesty coming up right here) am pretty good at it and tend not to spill too much fresh burning soap on my hands. So, no gloves.

I made the most delicious batch of Fresh Baked Bread soap today. It smells amazing, it acted like a dream and soapmaking was a snap. I was set up, weighed, measured, traced and poured in about 20 minutes. Then clean up time. Cleaning up fresh soap is a bit of a pain. This is because it is essentially thick, sludgy oil. It takes a bit of patience, a good degreasing soap and boiling hot water. While I was cleaning up, I managed to pour some fresh soap right into a cut on my hand.

Yowzers! Talk about sharp, intense pain! Note to self and soapers out there: if you have a cut on your hand, definitely wear gloves. Holy soaping gods, it still hurts a few hours later! And my cut is all pink and puffy. It is very impressive in its obvious nature. The take away lesson for me is the obvious one stated above (gloves, you fool, gloves) and also that even with fourteen plus years of soaping under my belt, I am not above making mistakes and learning what every newbie soaper knows: lye burns can hurt.

Friday, March 2, 2007

The Value of great support network

I just got the sweetest note about the Yahoo posting.
Hi Anne-Marie,

I just read your story at http://finance.yahoo.com/smallbiz/article/featuredbiz/26545.

I found it very inspirational. And it just goes to prove that we should be living our passion, and the success will come.

And, having a supportive husband is a must.

Congratulations!!!!!

Lori
A supportive spouse and family is a must. Being an entrepreneur often means long hours, weekends and disappointments. I can recall canceling many social dinners and sending my regrets to parties because I needed to work. Or rather, I wanted to work.

Right now, the big discussion in our house is whether I will bring my laptop on our upcoming honeymoon. My loving fiance is currently insisting I bring it. He's worried that I won't be able to relax without being able to check in at the office at least once a day. I fear that he's right. But I worry about what a laptop on my honeymoon says. I suspect it says nothing good. So, right now, for today, I am leaning towards leaving the laptop home. But that could all change tomorrow.



Soapmaking Studio Set - Ups

It takes a lot of work to set up a soapmaking studio. My first one was in the guest bedroom of my old house. It was about 400 square feet and even that wasn't enough room. I still exploded out into other part of the house with my growing soap business. The living room had a dining room table made out of soap and 5 gallon buckets and there was an entire area that a kitchen table should have been that turned into a very comprehensive little wrapping line. Plus, the storage of all the soap? It ended up in bathroom cabinets! I really liked seeing both of these set ups. They are both way more organized than mine ever was!

Here's a fun look at someones (even smaller!) soap studio.

This is an impressively designed soap studio in a garage.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Very cool log mold cutter


I think this cutter pretty much rocks. It's well loved in the soapmaking industry already because of its sturdy design and straight cuts every time.

It's a bit more pricey than some on the market but for the durability and the precision it gives, I'm hearing that it's worth it!