It was a typical rainy, gloomy day in the Scottish Borders. The weather was awful and my daughter was bored. She did not want to draw pictures, she did not want to play with her toys, she did not want to go on the computer - she wanted something new to do.
This is when I found melt and pour soaping. I purchased all the ingredients necessary and popped down to the local shop to find fragrance oils. My daughter thought this was great. She picked the sweetest smells she could find whilst I picked more musky smells - I needed to counteract the sweetness of strawberry!
It started out as making gemstones in plastic cups with her and her friends, to getting moulds to make shaped soaps and from there has grown in to producing artisan soaps.
Unlike a lot of the professional soap makers I have seen on Instagram and online, I use melt and pour soap base. I have found a passion for finding new techniques to using melt and pour soap to make them as pretty as cold process soaps. Plus I am not patient enough to wait the 6-8 weeks for cold process soaps to cure! I have great respect for the cold process soap makers for their patience with the craft.
After practicing with my daughter and on my own, I eventually decided (after my husband and son started moaning about how much soap we had in the house) to set up a small business to sell my soaps. This was no easy process, as I found out.
I started by setting up an Instagram account to showcase my wee beauties and see what people of the soaping world thought. This did not happen overnight and I am still building my following. I aspire to be like the soap makers who have thousands of followers, this might be a pipe dream but you've got to have aspirations! Nevertheless, I have had many interaction with my followers and have found the majority of them live in the USA, which abides by different laws to us in the EU. I was fortunate enough to speak to one soap maker from the UK who pointed me in the direction of statutory requirements and regulations required under the Cosmetic legislation. For a start I would not have realised soap comes under cosmetics - to me that's make up - so it was very much appreciated!
Having read through pages and pages of articles relating to regulations I decided to look at which safety assessors were right for me. This is not a large company, I do not know the process, not particularly experienced in setting up a business and wanted direction to make sure I crossed all the T's and dotted all the I's. I chose my safety assessor based on this. I found a company that catered for small businesses, included in the price was a start up guide on what I needed to do whilst waiting on safety assessments and the processes to follow to ensure that I kept within the EU legislation.
The process of safety assessing soap recipes can take up to 6 weeks, so in the meantime I gathered the experience of my friends and family using their expertise in their fields to help me with things like branding, accounting and general feedback. A box of free soaps later, one of my friends, who has experience in graphic design, created all the logos and branding for Bubble Trouble. We had a good laugh at thinking up names for the company; one of my favourites was Soap Slag but this was deemed not acceptable for a respectable business, I still plan to use this name as a future collection though!
Another box of free soap got me a sitting with my accountant friend who told me where efficiencies could be made to make a viable business - god accounting is boring! I hate things like this so with much huffing and puffing she eventually got through to me the importance of ensuring I am not spending as much as I am earning. It was like a teenager speaking to a parent. Underneath I understand that this is the backbone to the business but as this particular friend is of the best variety I made a point of being like a teenager!
A handful of other friends became my testers, telling me which soap designs they liked, what they would be willing to pay for the product, which smells they preferred and which they just outright hated etc. This was all very useful information and every thing that was fedback has been taken into consideration. It has been a very inclusive process amongst my friends and family and we have had some good laughs on the way.
I also use Instagram and Facebook to ask other soap makers their opinions - most recently on setting up this website - oh it has been a love hate relationship. I think that story requires a whole separate blog!
As I sit for the final few days and patiently wait on my safety assessments being confirmed, I watch all my fellow soap makers in other countries make and sell their beautiful produce. I continually interact on Instagram and on Facebook.
I am still saying 'I will be selling soon'. It is a phrase I became accustomed to using but it is now more of a reality than ever and I am excited!