Christmas is just around the corner! Can you believe how time flies? I wanted to share with you a fun family activity that makes for a fantastic homemade gift. This is a fun recipe for both beginners and novices! In this recipe I will be using non-toxic, acrylic paints that are washable and safe for kids. It is a fun way to embellish the soap and will simply wash off as you use the bar. Be sure to put an apron on because while the paint will wash off your skin, it may not wash off your clothes as forgivingly.
This recipe yields six Christmas tree soaps so I will need 1.5 lbs. of soap base. I’ve chosen one of my favorites, SFIC Clear Low Sweat, as it has a lower glycerin content and doesn’t feel as oily as some other bases. This also helps prevent dew from forming on the finished bars if you happen to live in a humid area.
Using a kitchen knife or soap cutter, dice the soap into small chunks and place into a microwaveable container. I love working with our color blocks because a little goes a long way, especially when used in clear melt and pour bases, They are highly pigmented so I used 1/4 of the color block. You can adjust the amount of color to your liking. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
Melt the soap base in increments of 30 seconds, stirring in between. It’s important to not microwave it for too long causing it to scorch – that’s why it is advised to stick to short bursts in the microwave. Alternatively, a double boiler can be used.
Once the soap is completely melted, it’s time to add the fragrance oil. I chose Northern Woods fragrance for this soap because it’s not your typical Christmas scent, but it has delicious notes of pine, amber and a sweet musk base.
Pour the soap into each cavity and give it a quick spritz with rubbing alcohol to get rid of those pesky bubbles. Allow the soap to cool for at least 6 hours before unmolding. Alternatively, you may place it in the refrigerator to speed up the process.
The trees come out beautiful whether you proceed to paint them or not. I like this mold because it’s more whimsical than some other tree molds.
Time to Paint
I’m a big fan of mixed media which inspired this soap. I like to create something and put a little twist on it. You can pick up acrylic paints at practically any retail store at an affordable price.
The kids and I had a lot of fun with this activity! Simply dip your paintbrush into the desired color and gently tap the tip of the brush on the ornament and star areas of the soap. I recommend doing three coats of paint for optimal color. Allow the paint to dry in between each new coat – patience is virtue. The soap that is already dry will help anchor the next layer.
Aren’t these just adorable? There’s nothing like a homemade, practical gift. Use your imagination to adopt the same type of painting element into other soap bars. Get creative with the colors! Don’t be afraid of failure. Remember, a lot of soapmaking can be trial and error – it is important to do your research before executing a new idea.
What are your favorite family-friendly projects? Drop us a note in the comment section below. We value your feedback and would love to hear your experiences!
Craft show season is once again upon us, providing the perfect venue for Artisans to get out in the public eye and gain some exposure. As more and more individuals are turning their hobby into a small business, this is the time of year where many new businesses have a chance to shine and showcase their products.
Have you ever meticulously planned a vacation, making a list to account for all items needed, yet you still manage to forget a toothbrush? We’ve all been there.
If you Google “craft show checklist” you will find thousands of results including infographics and web links. These all include extensive lists, some printable, that will help you plan everything as far as supplies are concerned. However, today I want to talk about some of the other little things that often slip our mind but are still very important to our success.
Start planning early by taking steps to put some policies in place. While it is important to remain professional, keep in mind this isn’t Walmart or some big corporation – it’s a craft fair that is meant to showcase local crafters and artisans. At this point, you do not need to have a store or company policy written out, but you’ll want to keep a few possible scenarios in mind. For example, will you accept returns, and if so, in what timeframe? Will you allow exchanges on unsatisfactory, but non-defective product? Decide your stance on these topics before you are put in a situation where you have to make a decision on the fly.
Use this same concept for any questions the customers may ask about your product. What do you want them to know about what benefits your product has to offer? I am introvert and sometimes fail myself by not speaking on all of my product knowledge. Sure, the soap smells pretty, but I could also educate my customer on how it’s made, the difference between handmade and commercial soap, how different oils give the bar different qualities – the list goes on. Prepare yourself for questions because you will be asked! It is much easier to answer confidently when you have thought of any potential queries prior to the event. Keep in mind that this is all in a conversational discussion – not selling your product. The benefits of your product will sell themselves once your customer is educated.
Back to that introvert thing – doing your first craft show can seem scary or intimidating, but you can do it! Believe in yourself and your craft. While you may look in the mirror and see a person that just happens to make soap, someone else may be looking up to your insight and knowledge as an entrepreneur and seller. Do not sell yourself short. You made it this far! The fact that you got accepted into a craft show is enough reason to be proud.
You will want to get a restful night’s sleep before your first event. Sounds impossible, right? I have a theory and it is this: if you feel well, you do well. Lack of sleep is detrimental to our health and you want to be well-rested for the busy, exciting and perhaps even hectic day ahead of you. If you have difficulty falling asleep, try sipping some decaffeinated tea, relaxing with some lavender or even try a free guided meditation app for your phone.
I highly recommend loading your car up the night before the show. Be sure to take enough stock with you to the show and use cardboard boxes to store any excess product underneath your table.
Your booth space should not be overly cluttered or too sparse. Invest in things like a nice tablecloth and anything else for your display that may complement your product line. Prior to the event, I suggest doing a mockup of your booth at home if you have space. Play around with different table layouts and experiment using different elements to add height to your display. Consumers are drawn in by items displayed at eye level.
Make your display stand out! Remain within your allotted booth space and see if the venue has any particular restrictions. It’s no secret that people are drawn to items that are aesthetically pleasing as we covered in our labeling series. Sure, you’ve got a great product, but do you want to compromise the look of your business by displaying it on a wrinkled vinyl tablecloth from the dollar store?
While you are at the show, take note of other crafters’ areas. See how they have decorated their space and how they have their product displayed. Your peers are an invaluable resource. There are also many online forums where crafters can share their tips and photos to help one another. Social media is a great way to network to find these groups and crafters.
By interacting with your customers face to face, you have the opportunity to establish a connection, build trust and establish your business in your community. What was your first craft show experience like? If you could give a new small business owner one piece of advice to succeed at these venues, what would it be? Drop us a line in the comments below!
Where to Sell Your Product
Finding a place to sell your handmade goods can seem overwhelming if you’re not sure where to start. It’s a no-brainer that one of the easiest ways to work from home is to create and sell your own products. Whether you decide to create your own website, sell from an established online platform or rent a booth at your local flea market, let’s take a look at some of our favorite outlets to sell your handmade goods.
Etsy is one of, if not the most popular platform to sell handmade goods. Here you will find crafters and Artisans with an endless offering of imaginative handcrafted products. From soap to greetings cards to scarves, you can find a little bit of everything on Etsy.
I’ve always loved to go “window shopping” on Etsy. (As a matter of fact, that’s how my interest became piqued by handmade soap years ago!) It’s a lot like Pinterest – one click leads to another and before you know it, you’ve spent an hour perusing through handmade goods from all over the world.
Setting up an Etsy shop is surprisingly easy and as you can see, it’s got a very user-friendly dashboard. Being one of the most affordable online outlets, it is the prime choice for many handmade crafters. I highly encourage you to check it out for your business needs as well as to see what other people are making.
Shopify is a fantastic choice for small businesses looking to sell their product online. Not only do you get a free 14-day trial period, but thereafter the platform’s basic plan costs an affordable $29/month. Shopify offers many different shop themes to choose from, basic features and a user-friendly interface. There are also more costly plans available that include more shop functionality such as reporting tools, shipping discounts and the ability to ship through third parties. Check out their plans and pricing here to determine which would best suit your business needs.
Big Commerce is one of our favorite platforms for online sales. Similar to Shopify, Big Commerce gives users a 15-day free trial. It is a wonderful selling platform because besides your standalone website, Big Commerce allows you to integrate your inventory to sell through numerous outlets such as Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Pinterest and Google! Talk about a one-stop shop, literally.
Basic membership has a monthly fee of $29.95 and three more tiered memberships offering tools like inventory management, the ability to integrate communication and live chat for your customers, allowing an outlet for customer reviews and even abandoned cart notifications. Check out their pricing plans here.
Boutiques & Rented Space
I’ve said it before and I will say it again – always get out, explore and shop other small businesses! Pay attention to your local shops. Not only does this support your fellow Artisans and small business owners, but it also gives you an indication as to what is selling – or what product of yours could potentially sell in their space. Some boutiques will allow you to sell your items as consignment – meaning you will get paid after the product sells and you will gather any remaining unsold merchandise at the end of the term. Other shops may take a certain percentage of sales, while other boutiques are more aimed towards exposure of local artists.
A friend of mine has recently taken some steps to transform her craft from hobby to business. She had been wanting to take this step for a while, and it was just by chance that a local yoga & meditation studio reached out via Facebook in search of crafters and small businesses whose work they can showcase and sell during the holiday season.
She signed the holiday season agreement and the shop owner enjoyed her and her handmade jewelry so much, she asked her to stay on board after the holidays are over! Case in point: you can sell your product in places you’d least expect.
Farmers & Flea Markets
These types of markets are usually held on the weekends and limited daytime hours, so these are great for people with families and busy schedules. Many flea markets will allow you to have the same spot week in and week out if you choose to rent somewhere established indoors. Your continued presence will allow your customers to easily find your booth, thus setting yourself up for future business through customer retention.
Take the time to look for these markets in your area. Vendor space pricing and availability will always vary, so it’s important to do some research, take some detailed notes and figure out which market would generate you the most return on investment.
For example, one of the biggest and well-known flea markets local to us here in Northeast Ohio is the Hartville Flea Market. At this market, you are able to rent an outside 5’ x 5’ space for as little as $14.00 a day or pay a higher price to have indoor vendor space. For that price, it’s worth it to even take a shot at selling even if you aren’t fully prepared yet.
Another advantage is that you get your name and face out in the community. Selling products online is a different ballgame because you are not experiencing face-t-face customer interactions. By approaching patrons with confidence, knowledge and kindness, you are able to really put a face to your brand which builds consumer confidence and trust.
What are some other ideas you have for selling your handmade goods? There are so many more outlets and ways to sell a product. Have you ever thought about utilizing product demonstrations and tutorials to help drive sales, or perhaps a behind-the-scenes look at the production of your goods? In today’s technologically-savvy times, it’s easier than ever to spread the word about your offerings and promote your brand. Join us next week as we tap into some of the best ways to utilize social media to expand your brand presence and boost sales.
The Incredible Properties of Oats
It’s no secret that oatmeal offers powerful skin benefits. As a matter of fact, its use for treating skin conditions dates back to Ancient Egyptian times when oat baths were thought to relieve anxiety and insomnia. The Romans also utilized the positive effects of oats by using it as a dermatological medication for conditions like itchiness and burns. I’m sure you too can think of a time that you or someone you know utilized oatmeal to calm down the autoimmune response of the skin. Oatmeal baths have been a common home remedy for conditions such as poison ivy and chickenpox for decades. I mean, come on – oatmeal offers such therapeutic qualities, there’s an entire line of bath & body products focused on oatmeal as their main ingredient!
So, we know that oats are good for us, but why? Sure, they offer fiber to our diet when ingested, but what about when our skin absorbs it? I wanted to dig a little deeper into why this stuff is supposedly so beneficial for my skin.
The compound responsible for the therapeutic qualities of oatmeal – avenanthramides – have been widely studied for its therapeutic effects and was even approved as a skin protectant by the FDA in 2003. Scientists have found that avenanthramides reduce the body’s inflammatory response, thus reducing the urge to itch.
I have been experiencing a bit of redness on my face due to the seasons changing here in the Midwest. It happens to me every season without fail. As I continually work to eliminate harsh ingredients from my routine, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try whipping up my own face mask. So, there I was, sitting on my couch at 9 pm concocting up a mixture made purely from my pantry. This recipe is simple and easy.
Here’s What You’ll Need
1/4 C. Finely ground oats
1 tsp. Honey (make sure it’s pure!)
2 T. Distilled water
Spatula or Spoon
Use a coffee grinder, mortar & pestle or a food processor to grind the oats down to a fine powder. To make one face mask, 1/4 C of oats is sufficient. Place the ground oats in your mixing container and add 2 T. water. Add the water slowly and stop when you have achieved a malleable paste. Stir in a teaspoon of honey and incorporate fully. I promise this part is not as messy or sticky as you think it may be. Honey is a wonderful addition because it is a natural humectant. A humectant is an agent that draws moisture from the air to the skin.
Remove any makeup and wash your face with your favorite soap and lukewarm water. Store-bought facial cleansers irritate my skin due to the high amount of synthetic ingredients, so I used a bar of the gentle Lavender cold process soap I made a while back. Side note: Witch Hazel makes a great astringent! I use it every day on my oily skin. Gently pat your skin dry.
Look, this is a homemade oatmeal mask. It’s not going to be pretty! It smells delicious and tastes good. Just ask my cat who licked a cheek’s worth of oatmeal mask off my face! (Don’t worry, I checked, oats are safe for cats in small amounts.) I recommend applying the mask with a spatula, popsicle stick or a utensil of that sort. You can even apply it by hand – just wash them first. Start with your cheeks, nose and chin then apply to the forehead area. You’re going to look silly and you’ll probably want to take a selfie to remember the time you had breakfast on your face.
The mask is so soothing and will begin drying after about 15 minutes or so. As the mask hardens, it may feel itchy on your face. This is normal, don’t be alarmed.
The easiest way to remove this mask will make you feel totally glam – just flake it off into the trash can! (Unless you have a garbage disposal, then use the sink.) Once you have removed the mask, give your face a gentle pat down with lukewarm water and a washcloth. If you have any leftover mixture, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to a week.
How do you incorporate oats into your bath & body products? If you currently do not utilize oats, what have you found that works to soothe your skin? We want to hear from you! Head on over to our Facebook page and show us what you’ve got!
Welcome to Part 2 of the Labeling segment in our Hobby to Business Series. Ideally, you have now either conjured or created a vision for your logo and labels. Maybe your soap business leans more towards the holistic realm and you’ve decided to use various shades of green and brown with earthy, natural imagery and a rustic-looking font. Perhaps you are someone who prefers more simplistic design, such as a circular black & white label for your hand creme that contains nothing other than FDA required information. Or maybe you have no idea how you want your product labels to look and would like the input and assistance from a professional. No matter where you are in the labeling process, we are here to help!
How it Works
When you are ready to turn your graphics and artwork into tangible product labels, reach out to us via our handy custom quote calculator. Please note that our custom quote calculator does not generate a purchase, but serves to help us better understand your needs while also giving you a tool to determine the pricing of the labels based on the quantity you desire. Once you submit your information through the calculator, we will review your inquiry and follow up with you to further discuss your needs and address any concerns you may have. Even if you aren’t yet certain you want to invest in custom printed labels, I still recommend the tool because it is so useful in planning ahead for accounting packaging costs into your budget.
To make things easier for our customers, we offer labels that will match the specified label area for whichever jar or bottle you may have purchased from our website. These stock sizes can be found here and have the same standard dimensions as the labels that come on your Nature’s Oil products. If you are using packaging materials from another supplier, be sure to measure the bottle as not all have the same dimensions.
Once you’ve purchased labels, you will receive a confirmation email that contains an order number. This number should be attached to all correspondence, preferably from the same email address, so we can keep your dedicated file as organized as possible. One of our graphic designers will be in touch with you and at this point, you may send us your print-ready artwork. Our designers draw up a proof, show you via email, and once you approve the digital proof of the label, off to the printer it goes.
Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, it is, but only after you’ve come to learn and understand some of the industry-standard terminology used in commercial printing. There is a lot of information to take in when you are delving into an unknown realm.
Let’s face it – some of us are just not that great with technology. And that’s ok! But it’s important to remember that technology is imperative in today’s world, and especially in graphic design since we are in the digital age.Let’s discuss some of these unfamiliar terms to help us better understand the labeling process without the frustration of a bunch of foreign jargon.
Custom Printed Label Glossary
Simply put, a die cutter is a mechanism used to mass produce cut-out shapes uniformly in a line. The die, which is typically made of a sharp metal, can be used to create many different shapes and sizes and can be hand or computer programmed.
Believe it or not, die cutting was initially introduced in the back in the 1800s and was utilized to create uniformly shaped shoelaces made out of strips of leather. Shoelaces that were produced by hand had many inconsistencies in shape and wouldn’t string as easily. The invention of the die cutter has been a blessing to many industries, including custom labels and printing.
Some people may have heard of or even own the Cricut® cutting machine. It brought many new innovations to scrapbooking by utilizing a die cutter. This machine happens to be one for personal use to craft at home.
The quality of your artwork depends on many factors, file type being one of the most important. Here at Bulk, we accept files in the following formats: .PSD (Photoshop Document), .PNG (Portable Network Graphic) and .PDF (Portable Document Format). Though one of the most familiar photo file types, JPEGS are not acceptable for printed material. When printing in JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group, who initially created the standard) format, the print quality of an image becomes compromised because it depends upon the pixel dimension (widely known as DPI or “dots per inch.”)
When you print a JPEG, what you get on the screen isn’t necessarily what you will see on paper. Most JPEGs are designed for use on the internet/computer screens, so the files are kept as small as possible. This becomes a problem when you have the image professionally printed; it will end up looking blurry and pixelated on paper compared to the image you see on your screen.
It is important that your artwork is in the correct dimensions. For instance, if an artwork is 2” x 2”, it will not translate well if your label size is 3” x 5”. The imagery and text on this label would be stretched and skewed and quite unsightly. When adjusting a file, it is important to keep the size in correct proportion.
When you are obtaining images or graphics to include in your artwork, make sure they are not infringing on copyright and especially pay mind to ensure they do not have a watermark.
Artwork with a resolution of at least 300 DPI is needed to print clearly. Resolution lower than 300 DPI is usually associated with a lossy file format (such as JPEG) and does not always translate well from screen to print. By zooming in on the image below, we can see that there is pixelization and it may lend itself to a blurry print.
RGB refers to the primary colors of light: Red, Green, and Blue. These are used in computer monitors, television screens, digital cameras and mobile phones. CMYK refers to the primary colors of pigment: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black and are most commonly used in printing.
There are limitations of CMYK printing and when printing both CMYK and RGB designs, they might not come out the same. This is because the CMYK colorspace does not include all the colors in the color spectrum that RGB includes. This can be seen in the images below.
As you see, there is a slight variance when RGB colors are converted to CMYK. For this reason, we highly recommend knowing the CMYK color values of the visuals on your label so it prints as true as possible to what you see on your screen. This information is attainable through your graphic designer or your preferred design program. Keep in mind that on printed materials colors are produced differently from how they are made on a computer monitor. CMYK color values are much more dependable when working with custom printed labels.
The bleed is an extra area outside of your label where you will extend any background colors or patterns to account for any shifting of a die cutter. The bleed’s sole purpose is to make sure your design or image reaches the very edge of the label without leaving any white edges. Be sure to keep any words or images away from the edge of your label to avoid them being trimmed off.
The cut line is exactly what it sounds like: it is the place where your label will be cut out with a die. In other words, it’s the exact size of your label. If your label is 2” x 2”, the cut line will be the same. This is the actual size of your label.
The safe line is simply a visual guide within the cut line that is meant to keep all text and images from getting trimmed off by the die machine. While extremely precise, due to the nature of machinery there can be a slight variance
Labels with a matte finish offer a simple, subtle elegance. Since the material has no glare, it makes it easier to read the label text and does not take away from your product’s look. These labels are also ideal for product photography due to the smooth, matte finish that won’t reflect light. Matte labels are widely preferred in the bath & body industry because they offer a more natural look without an artificial sheen to them.
Labels with a gloss finish are also a great option. They are vibrant and eye-catching. Think about printing a family photo on your home computer vs. your local drug store. Which version appears more lively? Adding a gloss finish to your labels will make the colors appear more intensely. These are great options for jars and bottles because they too are shiny surfaces.
A print run refers to the process of printing multiple copies of an item at the same time. In this case, that would be your labels!
You will find that most printing companies will offer you a lead time for your project. Lead time is generally categorized as the time from proof approval to printing. By having your artwork print-ready at the time of your order, we are able to move forward with your project more efficiently. Note that industry-wide, lead times do not include weekends or holidays.
A Closer Look
Why are these terms so important? Here are a couple sample label artworks that are perfect examples of why these items are so pertinent to creating a professional looking label.
Even though it’s cute, there is still some work to be done here. The resolution is in 76 DPI. Do you see how there aren’t many crisp lines in this artwork? That is due to poor resolution. This artwork does not have the necessary ⅛” bleed which leaves the dragon’s feet and product name text susceptible to falling outside the cut line. As far as design, we can easily tell the dragon image has been cut & pasted on top of a watermarked background image. Not only that, but check out the font color and size – the text is difficult to read due to its tiny size and it also does not take up much space on the label. There are plenty of white areas that could be utilized here. Last but not least, the color of the text is illegible when placed upon certain areas of the label background.
The background is extended past the green cut line with the necessary ⅛” bleed to ensure the background doesn’t get cut off and cause any unsightly white lines. The text and imagery are kept in the safe zone as shown by the red line. The background photo has been obtained legally (there’s no watermark) and its transparency has been muted to allow the purple dragon image to really pop. The ingredients and instructions are listed in a larger, easier to read text with a clear font. The font sizes are in descending order beginning with the product name down to the ingredients.
Time to Get Creative
Ready get to work? If you don’t own Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, two of our favorite free, online design programs are Canva and Gimp. Both of these are intuitive and user-friendly. There are tutorials available as well as premade designs you can customize. Canva even has a handy mobile app where you can design straight from your phone or tablet. We can also design this label for you, and it requires a custom design fee of $60 an hour with a 1-hour minimum. This is typically sufficient time to complete a custom design project. Lead times for printing custom design work may vary.
What is your favorite photo editing software? What do your product labels look like? Head on over to our Facebook page and drop us a photo – we’d love to see!
Author Marie Gale said it best: “Getting the labeling right isn’t very complicated… but it is very detailed.”
In our previous posts, we’ve discussed how to establish your brand and product packaging, so hopefully, by now, you have gathered some ideas as to how you want your product to look, as well as the type of packaging that would best suit your product. But how can you sell an awesome line of products without corresponding labels?
I’ve met so many creative minds here at Bulk, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with our Graphics & Custom Label team for their insight as to what makes a successful product label. Today we will explore some of the general cosmetic labeling guidelines as well as some useful tips to take into consideration.
A Look at FDA Guidelines
Here in the United States, the Food & Drug Administration defines a label as “the written, printed or graphic matter affixed to any consumer commodity or affixed to or appearing upon a package containing any consumer commodity.”
The FDA defines a cosmetic as “a product, except soap, intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness or altering the appearance.” ***Important note: some melt and pour soaps are considered a cosmetic, not a “true soap” by FDA standards. (Yes, it is still technically soap but we’ll save that topic for another blog post!)
The FDA has a complete, comprehensive list of labeling guidelines available on their website, but today I wanted to talk about a few key points that specifically pertain to the labeling of cosmetics.
- Principal Display Panel – Often referred to as PDP, this is industry-standard terminology that basically means that this is the area of your label that is most likely to be seen by the consumer. The PDP, as you can imagine, is typically the front of the label.
- Ingredients – Your ingredients list, also referred to as an ingredients declaration, must include all ingredients in order of prominence, meaning that the ingredient that is used in the highest amount must be listed first.
- Net Weight – The weight of your finished product must appear on the label. This information is best displayed on the PDP.
- Warnings & Directions for Safe Use – Your product label should have warning information if applicable. This is usually not needed for things items such as soap. If you are selling a roll-on blend of essential oils, it may be a good idea to make sure your label includes a warning statement such as “discontinue use if irritation occurs.”
- Business Information – You want return buyers, don’t you? Then you have to make sure your customers can get in touch! You or your company’s name as well as contact information such as an email address, phone number or website.
About Medical Claims
It is important to be mindful of making medical claims about your product and what your product can do to benefit your customer. Did you know that a simple statement such as “treats acne” on your label could put you in violation of the FDA? That’s because it is considered a medical claim on a cosmetic product – which then becomes classified as a drug per FDA standards.
The FDA states that drugs are intended to “affect the structure or a function of the body.” By making claims that your consumer can cure, treat or manage a disease or condition by using your product subjects you to unnecessary legal trouble. Keep in mind that the FDA isn’t necessarily knocking on any handcrafter’s door, but as you scale up your business it’s important to keep ethics in mind. It’s vital to do things the right and legal way, not only due to common sense but also because this will allow you to uphold your professional, reputable image.
For example, instead of saying your lotion treats eczema, say that it soothes dry skin. Be as descriptive as possible without making any treatment or condition-relieving implications.
If you are having trouble making the determination whether or not your product would be considered a cosmetic vs. drug, ask yourself this: “Am I marketing my product to treat/cure an ailment?” If you answered “yes” to this question, it is likely your product would be considered a drug under FDA guidelines and you must follow those guidelines, especially if your product contains an active ingredient. For example, the alcohol in hand sanitizer is considered the active ingredient.
Now that we’ve covered some of the rules, let’s take a look at more of the exciting aspects of creating a label!
Excellent labeling and branding are conducive to your product selling itself. Sure, you need an ingredients list, but what about a product description?
You’ll want to pack a punch with your product description because when working with a label, you are limited on space. It is a great idea to get out a pen and paper and start brainstorming words and key phrases as to how you would like your product description to convey your brand’s message. I personally prefer to brainstorm on a sheet of blank computer paper – with no lines, this allows me to freely get all my thoughts & ideas out and tangible. Below are some items to consider when constructing your product description and I highly encourage you to jot down some of your own ideas.
- What kind of product are you providing?
- When your customer picks up your product, how do you want them to feel?
- What do your customers need to know about your product?
- Why should your customer use your product?
- What will your customer gain by using your product?
- What supporting illustrations would you incorporate to match your verbiage and brand?
Pick out 2 or 3 key product features to highlight in your product description. Keep it short and sweet. Customers are more likely to buy a product if they can quickly process the information and learn to understand how the product will benefit them before they even purchase it.
Color is absolutely one of the most valuable elements in label design. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a black and white label, but how boring would it be if every single product out there looked the same?
Labels with color keep your product noticeable among others and will leave your customer with a lasting impression. Think about how we use highlighters when we study or how we color-code items to better organize. We use these methods to help us remember things because it works! So, which feelings and emotions do certain colors illicit? Here’s a quick snapshot.
- Red – Stimulation, exciting, ambitious, powerful, courageous, warmth, excitement
- Orange – Fun, instinctual, new, motivational, safety, passion, sensuality, abundance
- Yellow – Optimistic, confident, attention-grabbing, creativity, childlike, friendly
- Green – Environmental awareness, wealth, prosperity, restoration, reassurance, peace, growth
- Blue – Trust, loyalty, responsibility, soothing, calm, contentment, efficiency, logic, purpose
- Violet/Purple – Luxury, vision, quality, authenticity, deep, royalty, awareness, reputable
- Pink – Tranquil, warm, loving, calm, intuition, femininity, nurturing
- Black – Powerful, sleek, sophisticated, glamorous, efficient, elegant, strength, mystery
- White – Purity, clarity, sophisticated, hygienic, clean, higher perception of space
- Brown – Nature, reliability, earth-friendly, conservative
- Grey – Neutral, calm, balancing
Choosing a color scheme that accurately depicts your brand’s message will help make the look of your label a memorable one.
Bringing Your Ideas to Life
Now that you have some ideas to reflect upon, it is time to consider investing in the expertise of a graphic designer and printing company. Perhaps you want a graphic designer to design your entire label for you, or would like to pay a small fee to have your pre-existing design cleaned up a bit. Just like we trust our family doctor when they prescribe us a medication or how we trust the cashier to give us the correct amount of change, it’s also important to trust the advice of a seasoned, professional graphic designer. We’ve got a team of them here at Bulk and there are many other great resources across the web for freelance design work.
Professional-looking labels are absolutely worth the investment. A high quality, well-designed label will help your customers establish a level of trust with your product and brand. Not only are they able to gain all the information they need about your product, but they are also able to take in the imagery, verbiage and feel to walk away with a complete, accurate message about your product.
Join us next week for Labeling: Part 2 as we explore some industry-standard terminology in the world of custom labeling and printing. We will walk you through our custom labeling process here at Bulk to help you gain a better understanding of this aspect of your business.
Product packaging tells the story of you and your brand. Not only does it make a great marketing tool, but it also helps you and your product stand out among the competition. Packaging is one of the final touches put on a finished product and can sometimes make or break a sale. Our brains process visual information in a matter of seconds… what do you want your customers to remember about your brand?
Think of packaging as a first impression that will help your customer understand your product and its intended use.
Types of Packaging
Sometimes a brown paper bag is all you need for packaging. This would be a viable option if you were selling, say, a grab bag of something like candy or soap sample bars. A bag with a window may be a great option as it allows your consumers to visualize the product.
Of course, there are many types of bags available, some made of plastic, some paper, some fabric. Organza bags, in particular, offer a luxurious look at an affordable price. Perhaps you could sell that lavender cold process soap with a few lavender buds in a purple organza bag.
Boxes come in all shapes and sizes. They can be custom made to fit your product in all kinds of dimensions and materials. Let’s think about something purchased from Amazon. What is the first part of the packaging we see? It’s that brown box with Amazon printed all over it sitting on our doorstep.
This can also be considered the product’s outer packaging. This is the first thing your consumer will see. The outer packaging is typically designed to protect your product. This is especially important if you are operating a small business in which you take orders online and ship your products out.
Of course, the box doesn’t have to be the typical cardboard box. Many people opt to sell their soap bars in white boxes with windows because it allows for safe handling, plus it gives the customer a visualization of the product.
It probably wouldn’t be practical to sell soap bars in individual clamshell packages. Doesn’t everybody just love those? I hope you sense my sarcasm. Yes, I am referring to those beloved plastic clamshell packages that require scissors or a knife to open if they are tamper-proof sealed.
Maybe soap wouldn’t be too appealing in a clamshell package, but what about, say, wax melts or votive candles? This style of packaging can be very useful in that it allows a place for the product to be made, stored, and pieces can be used individually
Do you want your customers to be able to feel your product? If so, this method may not be quite on point for your product packaging. Don’t get discouraged – it’s all about what works best for you and your goods.
These are fantastic for sticking to a budget while still offering relevant packaging. You can purchase them in many places like craft stores or online shops – I’ve even able to snag them at the dollar store at times/
Take into consideration if this is the right type of packaging for your product. For example, it may be a little odd to buy a bottle of soda that has no label wrapped around it but has a tag hanging from its neck. Is a hang tag appropriate for your product? Would your product look right with a tag hanging from it instead of a “traditional” package?
Hang tags are a great option for candles. These allow the customer to gain all important information such as fragrance, instructions and contact information – while also being able to remove the tag if they’d like to keep a more chic look to their newly purchased candle.
Header cards are simply cardboard or cardstock that is folded in half and stapled to a bag, usually a type of plastic, that holds the product.
You know the little $1.00 bags of candy that adorn the snack aisle of drug stores? They usually have a header tag that hangs from the rack of the display. The header tag shows the candy type and logo, with its more pertinent information on the back of the header tag such as nutrition facts, ingredients and contact information. They are usually easy to open but are typically not resealable. They hang nicely, but how would they look stacked or placed flat on a table? Probably not as good.
Quite similar to header cards, backer cards are the same type of design except the cardboard or cardstock extends down to the bottom of the bag containing the product. A great example of a product that utilizes a backer card would be a multipack of car air fresheners.
Using shrink wrap protects your product from the elements and still allows the item to be tangible and seen. This is a great option for items like bath bombs that need to be kept safe and compact. Shrink wrap is an application that works for a wide range of products, anywhere from bacon to soap.
Products can be shrink wrapped at home by using special bags and a heat source such as a hairdryer. The convenience and practicality of this method makes it one of the most popular in our niche industry.
This is one of the tried and true, go-to methods for packaging bar soap and one of my personal favorites. These are simply a piece of cardstock, tissue paper or another material wrapped around the bar horizontally. This allows a place for potential customers to pick up the bar without necessarily having to touch the actual product.
This type of packaging lends itself to our senses of touch, sight and smell. With a majority of the product exposed, we can see what it looks like in its bare form, how it smells, how the texture feels. You can even have the cigar brands printed to only have your name and ingredients on the band – this way, moving forward the only variable that would need to be changed is the scent or style of the soap.
Thinking Outside the Box… Literally
One example of unique packaging that comes to mind for me would be an item offered at my local gemstone and crystal shop. The owner sells plastic Easter eggs that encapsulate an assortment of six or so tumbled & polished gemstones. These are sold at a discounted price: they are $0.75 for each Easter egg, or you can go for the larger mystery assortment that comes in a stapled brown paper bag for $2.00. Whenever I go into the shop with the intent to buy a specific item, I always end up leaving with one or more of both. I am an adult and the element of surprise created by the ominous packaging still piques my curiosity. Do I need to really spend that $2.75? No. Do I spend it anyway? You bet.
Are you able to think of a time that you may have bought a product and then realized the only major appeal of said product was its packaging? Sometimes the packaging may be more memorable than the product itself and it’s no surprise that unique packaging helps drive sales.
Now that you’ve got an idea of some of the different types of packaging out there, let’s take a peek at four more steps I think are imperative to the packaging process.
Some of my favorite online resources to get inspired are Pinterest and Etsy. If you’ve ever been on either site, I’m sure you are familiar with how one click leads to another and you look up only to find two hours have passed by. Containing user-created content, these two websites are very powerful in terms of researching the handmade market. Google Images is another great place to go for insight as to how other products similar to yours are being packaged.
Deciding upon packaging for your product is a process that should not be rushed. Next time you head into the store, find a moment to observe displays, aisles and how each product is lined up on the shelves. The shampoo aisle is great for this. Choose a brand and look at each variation of their shampoo or conditioner. Based off of the imagery, style, and logo, are you able to tell that the curly hair shampoo is in the same lineup as the shampoo for damaged hair? Successful brands are able to easily do this because of the uniformity of their packaging and appearance. By knowing what everyone else is doing, it is easier to determine which direction you should go.
Does your packaging fit your product? Would you put a powder or liquid in a jar or a solid substance in a bottle? I didn’t think so.
Of course this entails a bit of common sense – it’s a no-brainer that some products simply will not work in certain types of packaging. Make sure your packaging is practical especially in the sense of sturdiness and safety. It would be an awful shame if your beautiful item didn’t make it flawlessly through transit and didn’t have the durability to protect your product
Does it Complement Your Brand?
Your packaging is essential to maintaining a concise brand image. Consistent packaging within your product lineup will without a doubt increase your brand recognition. Think of those golden arches. You already know I’m talking about McDonald’s, right? That’s because their consistency and color scheme has lasted for decades and by now, we automatically associate that symbolism with a specific business.
Perhaps you sell all natural soap and you want matching packaging. You could use recycled brown paper as a cigar band which adds minimal waste, yet still offers your customers a specific look to go along with the necessary information required on a label or packaging. How about soaps for kids? Those should probably be packaged with a little more protection, don’t you think? Maybe something brightly colored and sturdy would be best for that specific demographic.
Consider your budget and don’t forget to create a long-term plan. Some variables that need to be worked into the budget are printing fees, paying a graphic designer for your brand’s artwork (this is usually a one-time cost unless you continue to add new products to your lineup), cost of materials, cost of your time or whomever may be packaging the product and the cost of different types of materials. Shipping costs should also be taken into account.
You may want lavish packaging for your soap, but it may just not be realistic at this time. Packaging costs should always be kept minimal, so maybe it is not realistic to be offering that silver foil embellished package with ribbon on your soap bars.
Putting Your Plan in Motion
Take enough time to do your research on these key takeaways. It’s never too soon to start looking – start by looking at the contents of your linen closet or pantry to find some examples right in your home.
Join us next week as we take a closer look at appearance – if you’re setting up your small business, it’s wise to conjure up a logo early on. What is your vision and how do you intend to make it come to life?
Introduction to Cold Process Soap
If you are reading this blog post, chances are you have already heard of or have used cold process soap. It surpasses melt and pour as my favorite method of soapmaking for a number of reasons. So, what exactly is it and why is it known as “cold process” soap? Simply put:
Oils + Lye = Soap & Glycerin
The alkali (sodium hydroxide) and the fatty molecules (oils) combine to make a soap molecule. The glycerol separates, becoming glycerin (the moisturizing part of soap) and the water evaporates over time, which is known as the curing time. I always think of cold process soap as being “old fashioned” and believe it or not, there is actually nothing “cold” about the process. The alternative method, hot process soap, follows the same guidelines except the recipe continues to fully cook (cure) the soap in a heated crock pot.
My favorite thing about making cold process soap is that I get to control each and every ingredient that goes into the bar. I chose the oils in this recipe because they are affordable and have some wonderful skin-loving properties. Rice Bran oil is especially gentle for sensitive skin, which makes this a lovely soap for just about anyone. This recipe produces a nice, creamy lather with plenty of bubbles, thanks to the Coconut oil. A variety of oils are typically used because all oils have different types of fatty acids which contribute different properties to the final bar of soap such as lather, cleansing and moisturizing qualities.
This is where a soap calculator comes in handy. Since each oil is comprised of different fatty acids, they each react with the sodium hydroxide differently. The soap calculator takes these different factors into account and provides the proper ratio of water and lye to complete the chemical reaction necessary. I rely on SoapCalc.net but there are several great calculators online. Make sure you follow their instructions as each one works a little differently.
Before going any further, please refer back to our post on lye safety. It is EXTREMELY important you understand how to handle sodium hydroxide with caution. Mishandling of lye leads to injuries such as chemical burns and we do not want that! This is why it is detrimental to wear personal protective equipment (often referred to as PPE) such as long pants, long sleeves, gloves and protective eyewear.
It’s completely normal to be nervous the first time you work with lye, but try not to let it terrify you. Keep in mind there are already many household products we use on a daily basis that are dangerous if not handled properly. Take the necessary precautions and you’re good to go.
Here’s What You’ll Need:
Let’s Get Started
The first step you need to take is to clear yourself a work area with a generous amount of space. This type of soapmaking requires a lot of moving around, pouring of containers and use of different tools, so you don’t want any extra clutter around.
You will need a digital kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients properly. Remember, when we are working with soap, we are measuring in weight, not volume or fluid ounces – even with a recipe, failure to accurately measure ingredients will negatively effect your end result. I like to view cold process soapmaking as basically just chemistry made fun. Ensuring a complete chemical reaction when mixing oils and lye will secure you a successful batch of cold process soap.
At this point, I like to begin by weighing my water and fragrance. I have found that weighing everything in the beginning (except the lye, which you definitely do not want sitting out in an open container) helps me keep a good pace and doesn’t distract me by having to interrupt my flow to measure more ingredients. With that said, measure 1 oz. of Lavender essential oil and 12.16 oz. of distilled water in separate containers and set aside.
In another container, measure your liquid oils. It is best to weigh each oil individually and then combine, as this will avoid any over-pouring. If you choose to add all of your oils to one container, do not forget to tare your scale in between ingredients. I prefer to measure my solid oils/butters separately as I find it helps with accuracy and minimizing mess.
Once the oils are combined, it’s time to put them on the double boiler on medium-low heat. Wait until all oils are completely melted and transparent. Once the oils are completely melted or have reached 130 degrees, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Measuring the Lye
Safety first! If you aren’t already wearing your personal protective equipment, now is the time to suit up. DO NOT PROCEED WITHOUT SAFETY GEAR!
Carefully open the 2 lb. container and gently measure 4.79 oz. of lye by sprinkling it into a heat-resistant plastic or glass container. Take care not to pour the lye from too high above – you don’t want to get it anywhere except the container. Recap the lye and store in a cool, dry environment. If left in unfit conditions, it will attract moisture from humidity in the air and begin to cake and clump.
There’s a common misconception that soap contains lye. This is not true. While lye is used to make soap, once a complete chemical reaction has occurred – known as saponification – there is no remaining lye in the bar of soap. This is why it is so important to accurately measure your ingredients. Overuse of lye will produce a bar of soap that zaps and is irritating to the skin. Using too little will result in a soft, squishy bar that contains too much oil.
Measure 12.16 oz. of distilled water in a separate container. ALWAYS ADD LYE TO THE WATER! Do not add the water to lye. Doing so can cause splatter, lye caking at the bottom of your container and overheating. Slowly incorporate lye into the water by again gently sprinkling it in while slowly stirring the water. Continue to gently stir until all the lye has dissolved. As you can see, the lye water heads up relatively quick, reaching temperatures of up to 200° F in some cases.
There will be fumes at first! For this reason, It is important to mix the lye in a well-ventilated area.
Combining Oils and Lye Water
Allow the lye water and oils to reach 110° F or below. Temperature plays a key role in cold process soapmaking so you’ll want your lye water and oils to be within 10° of each other. If you soap at too high of a temperature, your soap will be prone to overheating which can cause the soap to crack down the middle and expand out of the mold.
Carefully pour the lye water down the shaft of the stick blender. Doing this will prevent any caustic water from splashing out. Once the lye water is completely poured, gently pulse the blender a few times until you begin to see trace.
So, exactly what is trace? Trace is what occurs when raw soap begins to thicken. There are 4 stages to watch for:
- The first stage is emulsification – this is when all evidence of oils are gone, but the mixture is thin and liquid-like. The lye water and oils are just beginning to combine.
- The second stage is thin trace – the mixture is opaque and when you lift your mixing tool out and let a drip fall back in, it will rest on top before sinking back in. This is when I typically add my fragrance or essential oil.
- Medium trace – you can lift a spatula out and drips will rest on top without mixing back in, you can “trace” trails into the top of the mixture and they will stay. The mixture will still be pourable and this is a good time to get it into the mold as it will be less likely to have air bubbles.
- Thick trace – a custard-like consistency. You will feel resistance when trying to stir. At this point you are better off trying to scoop your soap into the mold than pour it.
For this recipe, I will be mixing in the Lavender essential oil at thin trace. I pre-measured 1 oz. of essential oil so I didn’t have to interrupt my work flow to do a new measurement. This Lavender 40/42 essential oil is standardized to ensure consistency from batch to batch and it is perfect for soapmaking and other bath & body products. If you want to get fancy, you can even sprinkle some lavender buds on top of the soap when finished. I recommend using the Super variety of Lavender buds which are known for their vibrant purple color.
By the time the soap is in the mold, it will have thickened up a bit more. I use this block of time to give the top of my soap some texture. I used a wooden skewer to make swirls for this batch. You can smooth it out with a spatula, add texture with a fork, spoon, almost any utensil you’ve got will work. This step is completely optional but it’s fun to jazz it up a bit. When you are finished texturizing, give the soap a few sprays of rubbing alcohol. This helps prevent soda ash which can be unsightly. Soda ash occurs when unsaponified lye is exposed to carbon dioxide in the air and is purely cosmetic.
Store the soap in a safe place that is out of reach of children and pets. Now the waiting game begins.
Unmolding the Soap
It is important to allow the soap to set in the mold for at least three days. Since this recipe is composed of liquid and soft oils, it takes a little while longer to solidify.
I highly recommend placing the soap loaf in the freezer a few hours prior to unmolding. Since the soap is still soft at this point, the freezer helps make unmolding a breeze. Pull away at each side of the mold, flip over and push down on the bottom and wait for the vacuum seal to release.
Cutting the soap while it’s still cold is a good idea. Having it in a more rigid state will allow for easier slicing. You can use a soap cutter or a kitchen knife. This recipe yields approximately 10 x 1″ bars of soap.
Allow the soap to cure for at least 4 to 6 weeks. Remember how we mixed lye into over 12 oz. of water? Well, that water is still in the loaf of soap and needs to evaporate. This is exactly what happens during the curing process. The excess moisture is able to leave the bar when exposed to air, which results in a harder, longer-lasting bar of soap.
Cold process soapmaking is such a valuable skill to have. It gives me a sense of self-sufficiency and self worth. I too was hesitant at first, but I didn’t know I could do it until I did it! Now I’m constantly brainstorming for new ideas and new recipes. I’ve got a lifetime supply of soapy gifts for my family and friends!
Soapmaking allows you to craft something practical that is definitely not going out of style any time soon. There will always be a need for soap! You can even formulate recipes for laundry soap or shampoo bars with this method. You can tend to your hygiene with the peace of mind because you know exactly what is in that bar of soap. Cold process has so many different techniques to learn and we look forward to sharing these with you in the coming months.
Have you started cold process soapmaking yet? If you are an experienced soapmaker, what piece of advice would you offer to a beginner? Let us know in the comments below!
Over the last few weeks, we’ve explored the first steps of turning a hobby into a business. With products developed and numbers crunched it’s time to define your brand identity. Get your notebooks out because there is plenty of research and pondering to be done before you offer your product. How you brand your company will play a key role in determining your success as a small business. It’s time to think about what makes your product special and why someone should buy it. Your brand is the best way to show the world why they need what you have. We’ll walk you through the key aspects of developing a brand.
Define Your Target Market
The word “targeting” tends to have a negative connotation, but when it comes to business, it’s imperative to really dive into exactly who you want your customer base to be. By learning the needs and desires of your potential market, you will be able to cater your business to a specific demographic. This will help you concentrate your efforts to customers who actually want what you are selling. The following are just some of the factors to take into consideration about your target demographic: age, gender, spending habits, location, special interests. This is just a short list of different ways to define your customer but taking the time to understand who will be buying your product will help you make the best-informed decisions about where and how to sell your product.
Another important factor you should consider is the spending habits of your potential customers. Do you intend to sell your product (let’s say it’s soap, of course) as an aesthetically pleasing high-end luxury soap at a higher price? How about selling your colorless, unscented soap at a more affordable cost with minimal packaging? These two bars of soap will likely be purchased by customers for different reasons .and different expectations about how much it should cost.
In your mind’s eye, picture yourself at your craft fair booth, at the counter of your storefront, or watching sales pour in from your online shop. Ideally, who is patronizing your business? What is important to them? How is your product improving their daily life? How will your overall image as a business attract people to you and your products? Another practical angle to take is this: who do I want out to be out there purchasing and advocating for my product?
Define Your Mission
Having a well-defined mission will help you in branding your small business because it will help you remain focused on why you started your business in the first place. A mission gives your business purpose. What makes your brand unique and what is the “why” behind your business? What kind of values do you want to share with your customer base? What do you stand for? Why should they buy from you?
Do you sell soaps made with only the finest oils, such as argan oil, perhaps infused with silk for that extra luxurious touch? Is your lineup vegan and free of synthetic ingredients? Are your melt and pour soaps shaped like animals and geared toward children with their bubblegum and fruity fragrances?
Shared values are the most important part of having a solid mission. People will always gravitate towards what they identify with. Maybe I want that silk and Argan luxury soap because I just turned 30 and I’m freaking out about how my skin will look in the next ten years. Someone who purchases this product probably values the importance of skincare. Maybe they’re like me and want to improve their skin routine before it’s too late, or another person could have a medical condition like eczema and needs those skin-nourishing oils. Either way, the consistent value here is skincare. For a company like this, do you think they would attract more customers with a colorful display or perhaps a more subtle, simplistic layout?
There are a lot of people that would be interested in vegan and synthetic-free soap! This is especially true with more people moving towards more plant-based living. With the knowledge and research attainable at the tips of our fingers these days, it’s not hard for us to learn how commercially produced soap really isn’t the greatest stuff to be putting on our skin. Maybe your mission is to educate those who are unaware and introduce them to the world of all-natural skin care with no animal-derived ingredients.
Kids love fun soap! Perhaps your children or grandchildren inspired you to launch your business. You could build value into your company by showcasing a cool soap that makes bathtime fun. After all, you were inspired by those little ones, so obviously family is important to you and probably to your customers, as well!
Define Your Business Identity
By defining your mission and values, you can make informed choices about how your business will be perceived. We all have a favorite brand we rely on whether it’s a store you always buy jeans from or a restaurant your go to regularly. Take a moment to think about why you like them and consider how you feel when you think about them. I buy my jeans from the same store not just because I like how they fit but I know they are good quality. I am happy to spend my money with that brand because I trust their products. Once you find a brand you like and trust choosing them when you need something new becomes automatic. Your business identity is what attracts people to your products. A great product without a brand is like a black and white photo of a rainbow. How will anyone know there is something special there?
This is your small business; your vision coming to life. You are the voice behind your brand. What key messages do you want to communicate about your brand? Who are you? What do you have to offer? More importantly, why should people buy it?
Consistency in your aesthetics, mission and values will provide an opportunity for you to connect with your customer beyond a simple transaction. You are responsible for being your brand’s biggest advocate.
Research Your Competition
One of your goals should always be to differentiate yourself from your competition. Back to our example of soap. Take a look at what makes other brands in your industry stand out. Is it their consistent packaging? Perhaps their labels are all uniformly black and white but the soap bars themselves are bright, neon colors. Something like this would make their brand particularly easy to spot among the competition.
Are they offering something that you do not? Let’s say your line consists of cold process soap and lotion bars fragranced with only essential oils. Your brightly-colored competitor sells bath bombs to accompany their radiant soap.
If you are making cold process soap and lotion bars, I am going to predict that your customers may like a similar product to go with your line, such as a bath tea or soak since that lends itself to your all-natural values. Perhaps you could sell a kit containing a variety of your products to appeal to a different niche of the market you share with your competition.
It’s always a smart move to check out your competition. However, I personally feel it is important to not look at them as competition. I’m a firm believer that we all have a lot to learn and by opening ourselves to seeing what others have to offer. This can give you insight into what’s selling vs. what’s not, as well as the different price points and range of products other businesses offer.
Making Your Brand Come to Life
Your branding should always have a cohesive look and feel with your product lineup, company mission and business identity. Make your brand recognizable! You want to have consistency in your image with the same color scheme, font, and logo placement.
If you are going to take your business seriously, you have to be willing to invest time and money into the branding process, especially as far as your visual representation is concerned. Creating a logo is fun and exciting but can pose as a difficult task, simply because there can only be one logo for your business. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. This will be your constant visual identity and should remain consistent on all your products, advertisements and content.
Take your time with the process of physically branding your business and your product! The process can take weeks, months, even years. Don’t rush it! You deserve the best for yourself – after all, you’ve come this far and beautiful physical materials like labels, displays and advertisements should be used to compliment your product lineup. Don’t think you have to do this alone. You may know established business owners who have already been through this process. Even if they are in a completely different industry the principles of creating a brand are the same.
Sure, you may be in a hurry to get your product out there and available for purchase, but the work you do now will set the tone for how your business will launch. Do you really want those patrons to remember you by some good-smelling soap with a sloppy label that doesn’t even have your company name on it for the customer to order more? Scientific studies have shown that visual information is processed through the brain almost instantly – you want to make sure you leave your customers with a good first impression of your business and your product. Your overall image and product will be what earns you repeat customers in the future.
Establishing your brand entails so much more than coming up with a cool logo and neatly packaged product. Successful branding encompasses a variety of areas including your website, packaging, business cards, social media presence, and online advertising.
So, who would want to buy your product? I can’t answer that for you but I hope this week’s article has helped you develop a clearer vision of how your brand will look to the rest of the world. Once you develop your brand the decisions about how to package and label your product, where to sell and how to market will become much more clear.
Are you new to the world of diffusing oils? Bulk Apothecary offers a wide variety of diffusers to enjoy in your home or work space. If you have never used a diffuser in your home, you’re missing out! I’ve always been a big fan of testing out the waters before I make a financial investment, so I would like to share with you some of my budget-friendly favorites.
AromaSphere Diffuser – $11.25
Available in six different colors, the GreenAir AromaSphere diffuser is the ideal diffuser for an enclosed work space such as a cubicle. It may be powered by two AA batteries or by utilizing the included USB cord. This diffuser is powered by a small fan and does not require water. There are three replacement pads included and refills are also available. Simply drop your essential or fragrance oils onto the pad, push the button and enjoy your favorite scents. Buy it here!
Compact Travel ScentTrekker Diffuser – $22.50
Perfect for on-the-go aromatherapy, this diffuser fits nicely into most vehicle cup holders. USB-powered, this diffuser has a maximum 6-hour run time and will auto power off. If these features weren’t enough, this product also has a beautiful ring of color-changing lights that can be turned on or off to your desire. I love using it in my car and office. This is one of our favorites here at Bulk. You just can’t beat the portability. Buy one here!
Cloud Mist Mini Diffuser – $22.50
With a water capacity of 100mL, this diffuser boasts 8 hours of run time with your choice of white light, color-changing light or no light at all. This is a great product for those looking for a diffuser that will cover a little larger area such as a bedroom or bathroom. It has one, two and three hour timer settings so you can leave it running without worry. I especially like the timer when I am diffusing Lavender to help me relax and fall asleep at night. The changing colors are another one of my favorite elements of this because it’s just so relaxing to watch. It’s also got a high and low function. Buy one now!
These are beautiful and fit in quite nicely with home decor or you can use one to add some chic to your work environment. The intricate beauty of these hand-blown glass diffusers make fantastic gifts for friends and family as no two are the same! (Don’t be afraid to treat yourself, either) The MarbleMist has a traditional AC plug. With solid and rotating light functions and automatic shut off, these eye-catching diffusers are one of our customer favorites. Buy one now!
Ultrasonic Dual Mist Oil Diffuser – $39.99
Not only does this one look cool, it is cool! This diffuser has a more modern look and has two rotating mist nozzles that you can adjust in whichever direction you desire. You can diffuse oil in this for up to 16 hours at a time on the intermittent mist setting as it has over an 8oz. water capacity. It’s also got the same lovely optional colored lights, timer settings as the above diffusers, but the double misters make another one of my favorites. Buy one now!
Once you decide on a diffuser that fits your desires, give this Autumn day diffuser blend a try. It’s October and the temperatures here in Ohio have been lingering around 80° but that isn’t stopping us from enjoying a little bit of Autumn here in the office! Combine 5 drops of Orange essential oil, 2 drops of Clove essential oil and 3 drops of Cinnamon essential oil in your diffuser for a magnificent, spicy, rustic citrus blend to fill your space. This could be seen as the “easy” version of doing a crockpot air freshener, most often done by simmering orange peel and cinnamon sticks in water.
What are some of your favorite Autumn scents or blends? Drop us a comment about any further diffuser questions – we are here to help!
With craft show season rapidly approaching, I wanted to share how to take a closer look at your production costs so you can effectively price your product and see some return on investment.
While there are many other associated costs, for the sake of this blog post we are just going to take a look at the very basics: cost of ingredients, cost of packaging and cost of your time. These simple calculations will help you determine which ingredients to use and will give you a visual and accurate financial plan. Since we’re just turning our hobby into a business, we don’t necessarily need to worry about wholesaling and overhead costs like storefront electricity, employee wages, etc… yet. I am going to use cold process soap for this exercise.
For demonstrative purposes, let’s say I am going to my first event and I need to know how much profit I can make. The recipe I will be using for this example is one of my more gentle formulations. Even though it’s got a higher Coconut oil percentage, it produces a stable, creamy lather and is great for sensitive skin. (I am excited to walk you through this making recipe in next week’s blog tutorial!)
I normally only make small batches, so to product 10 approximately 4.8-5 oz. bars of soap, the recipe calls for the following:
- 0.9 lb. Coconut Oil (76 Degrees)
- 0.6 lb. Sweet Almond Oil
- 0.5 lb. Rice Bran Oil
- 0.76 lb. Distilled Water
- 0.3 lb. Sodium Hydroxide
I want to scale my recipe up to make a 100-bar batch for the show. Since my original recipe yields 10 bars of soap, I am going to multiply the ingredients by 10 so I can determine how much material I need to purchase.
Just take a look at the savings when buying in larger quantities. Here at Bulk we make it easy to determine your price per pound of product. On each product page, the selection menu will indicate the total price as well as how much you pay per pound. To the left you will see pricing for our Coconut 76 oil. For this endeavor, I’m buying 35 lbs. because I am going to be using a lot in my recipe. One of the advantages of scaling up your business is the ability to buy in bulk, thus saving drastic amounts of money. In today’s economy, it just makes sense.
Review your personal budget and decide if you will save money in the future by purchasing in bulk.
The chart below shows each ingredient broken down in weight and cost per pound and batch. One of my favorite resources for creating spreadsheets and documents is Google Drive due to its ease of sharing and intuitive, user-friendly nature.
Scaling the recipe up to 100 bars will require over 30 lbs. of raw material. This will be over a $100 investment so it is important we calculate our profit margin. Each bar of soap weighs approximately 4.8 oz. which is actually about industry average.
Now it’s time to calculate how much each unscented bar costs. This is the first step to setting your price. A batch of unscented soap will cost me $52.77 in materials, but I need to make sure I pay myself for this, too! This is built into the cost of each bar by deciding how much I want to pay myself per hour, multiplied by how many hours I put into a batch from beginning to end. I’ve found that on average, a batch takes me roughly a collective three hours. I’ve decided I am worth $20/hr for this venture. This will add $60.00 worth of labor into the cost of my soap. When I divide that by my yield of 100 bars, my cost works out to be $1.12 per bar. Since I bought my ingredients in larger quantities, I was able to save more more money, therefore increasing my profit margin.
On Fragrances & Variety
I want to have a variety to offer my customers so I need to factor in the cost of the fragrances I’d like to offer. This works pretty much like my base oils, and I like to figure this pricing by utilizing the price per pound displayed on the Bulk Apothecary website. I multiply the weight of the fragrance oil in pounds by cost per pound so I am able to determine that I need 1.22 lbs. of Lavender fragrance oil, which costs $11.81/lb. In this example, you can see I also did some pricing for Grapefruit Rhubarb and Cedarwood Patchouli fragrance as well. Having the price per pound displayed on the website helps me calculate whether or not a particular fragrance oil would be cost effective.
It might seem like I am at my final cost per bar but we’ve got one more factor to consider – packaging. Presentation is important, but I don’t want to lose any potential profit by using expensive packaging just because it’s pretty, especially for my first event. So, I decided on simple shrink wrap sleeves for $0.11 each and well-designed professional looking labels for $0.13 each.
So, back to the Lavender example – I set my spreadsheet up to add my total packaging cost of $0.24 ($0.11 + $0.13 = $0.24) to my individual bar cost giving me a final Lavender bar cost of $1.36.
A common price I’ve seen at local craft shows is between $5 and $8, but that may vary depending on your location. It is important to also take into consideration the varying markets and sales trends of your area.
I decided to set the Lavender bar at $6 for the purposes of this exercise. If I charge $6 and it costs $1.50 to make the bar, packaging included, I could potentially make a profit of over $450.
Once I have done this for all of my fragrances, I can begin to anticipate my potential profit at the craft event. I did this by adding my potential profit for all 4 varieties and then subtracting the costs to participate in the event – booth fee, time at the event, display materials etc. I calculated this to be about $305. Now that I am able to factor in these costs, let’s take a look at my potential event profit:
I can now see that my potential event profit is over $1,500.00 – wow!
Let’s face it – this definitely isn’t the fun part of starting your own business, but what is fun is seeing what potential your financial future holds. Once you have a spreadsheet established, you can begin to adapt this model to any products you may be selling, or even to keep track of your own personal budget. Often as Artisans we get caught up in all the making that we forget that numbers, too, are very important.
Do you see why buying in bulk can help save you money? What has helped you scale up your production or track your sales? Please let us know in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you!
Our Favorite Halloween Recipes
With Halloween approaching next month, we wanted to share with you a quick roundup of some of our favorite Halloween recipes!
Halloween Bath Bombs
Get into the spirit with this fun, kid-friendly activity. This recipe is a spooky take on the classic bath bomb and uses fun shaped cavity molds instead of the classic bath bomb sphere. You will learn how to use rubbing alcohol and pigment powder to paint on bath bombs. How cool is that?!
Create a classic Halloween themed soap from our melt and pour base. This spooky tray mold is perfect for those who want to practice the technique of dispersing colors with a pipette dropper. We enjoyed making this and we know you will, too!
Bewitching Bath Salts
Bath salts are probably one of the easiest homemade products you can make, and one of the most relaxing! With busy lives, everyone can appreciate a nice, detoxing soak. But just because they’re easy to make doesn’t mean they have to be boring!
Pumpkin Sugar Whipped Soap
This tutorial will show you how easy it is to make your own luxurious sugar scrub. Stephenson’s OPC makes for a wonderful foaming bath butter ready for additives such as fragrance, colorant, sugar and salt.
Beginner Spooky Soap
We kept it simple with these fun, colorful Halloween themed soaps. Perfect for the beginner, this recipe includes melt and pour soap, easy-to-use color blocks and fun molds that will make this a great project for even the little ones.
“Imitation is sincerest form of flattery.” – Charles Caleb Colton
I was grateful to recently have had the opportunity to connect with a few of our small business owners on the touchy topic surrounding product development. Yes, the question. The one that when asked, will make you get a pang in your stomach. The one that may make you feel out of character, maybe even wishing to lash out at a perfect stranger. The one that when asked, you hear nails on a chalkboard even though there’s not a chalkboard in sight.
So, what is the question that’s so taboo, you ask?
“What’s your recipe?”
What’s So Offensive?
There is a lot of time and hard work that goes into product development. There is so much experimenting, testing and formulation to be done that we sometimes exhaust ourselves as Artisans. One investment we’ve all made is time. Time is difficult to quantify. We invest in dedicating our precious time to research, creating, marketing and advertising. We stay up late at night after the kids go to bed so we can tend to our craft without interruption. We have books on our craft, we have notebooks full of ideas, spreadsheets for product inventory, websites bookmarked. We take the time to figure out the wants, needs and desires of our customers. Many of us even make specially formulated products for certain customers who seek something unique.
The fact of the matter is that we are Artisans and have spent a lot of time, even though happily dedicated to our craft, and we can never really be fully compensated for that. Yes, we see the fruits of our labor in the smiles on our customers faces or the high sales volume this quarter.
You can exchange time for money, but not time for time.
Facebook friend Jody T said it best when she told us about a former customer of her asking for the muscle salve recipe that took her over a year to formulate.
“I spent so much money and time researching, I get frustrated when people want to just “make it at home” with the measurements and ingredients I use. I tell them where they can get things because I love your products. But I just tell them it’s a proprietary blend that took me a long time to perfect and give them a general idea what’s in it for allergen purposes. It’s also an income generator for me so why would I shoot myself in the foot by giving it away?”
Kathlaina S. added, “I think there’s a fine line between customers asking what ingredients are in your product to know what benefits will come from it, and asking what ingredients you use and where you get them from because they’re trying to replicate it. Customers don’t realize this is our livelihood and we’re not about to give away our secrets we’ve worked years to perfect.”
My Latest Product Development
I recently decided to formulate some lip balm. I have a tendency to stick to soap, so this was a little out of my comfort zone but I know my customers have interest. For this venture, I decided to start with our lip balm base with flavor at a 1% IFRA rate. It’s always best to start small – this way, minimal product is wasted or lost. By starting off with a low flavor ratio, I was able to get a baseline for how each flavor performed in the lip balm.
I am a huge fan of sample groups because this practice provides such valuable feedback, especially when you are developing a product you’ve never made before. (I highly recommend this to anyone developing a product in order to gain insight on your product!) I made 25 tubes of lip balm in each flavor so I could distribute them to an unbiased focus group. Each person got one of each flavor.
I included small cards for feedback and asked each person to rate each lip balm on a scale of “too weak,” “too strong” or “just right”. The results gave me black and white evidence as to what needed to be done to improve the product – in this case, the solution was to make a few of the flavors a tad bit stronger.
Due to the nature of the feedback, I increased the IFRA ratio of lip balm flavor to base and then repeated the focus group. While some improvement was noted, there were still two flavors that were not getting positive results. It is important to take the positive with the negative. Again, this was another indication that these two particular flavors still needed some work, even after round two of testing.
Developing a product takes time and patience.
Using my new feedback, I tried upping the IFRA rates again in two of the flavors. Again, they were not met with successful feedback so I decided to switch to two similar but different flavors. Sometimes the slightest variation can make all the difference! Remember, just because you determine a product isn’t going to work for you or your market, it’s not giving up.
What’s your latest project? Do you have advice for how to answer difficult questions? Let us know in the comments below!
Determining What to Sell
I firmly believe the old saying “slow and steady wins the race” holds true. As crafters, we often forget there’s a lot more to do than just making product. After all, that’s the most enjoyable part, right? There are numbers to crunch, planning to do and networking to be done. However, doing these things can become quite a difficult task if you don’t know exactly what it is you want to offer.
So, what do you want to sell? Soap? Bath bombs? Candles? Necklaces? Determining what to sell isn’t always difficult, but isn’t always easy. Take time to jot down your own thoughts and research and even patronize your competitors. See what’s selling. See what isn’t. Ask your friends and family what type of product they would be likely to buy for themselves or as a gift for a loved one.
Here are some things to take into consideration: Is your product going to be new to the scene? Is the market already saturated with this type of product? If so, what sets your product apart? How are you going to convey this message? Is it going to be in the ingredients, packaging; perhaps even the vibe of your booth or online store?
As I was thinking about what I’ve learned throughout the course of my research, I’ve pinpointed three categories that I think are detrimental to choosing what to sell. Let’s take a closer look.
I have been tinkering with soapmaking for a couple years now and while I have learned a lot, I still have not launched my own business. You can search the internet for cold process soap recipes and end up with thousands of results, but I do not want to sell a recipe that is not mine. I have been taking this time to invest in research and product development to ensure I’m not just taking a shot in the dark.
A few months ago I made a cold process recipe that included several ounces of Argan oil and it was super successful. It lathered well, was creamy and delicious and left everyone’s hands feeling soft and moisturized. It got positive feedback from every individual that tried the soap, except there was one problem: I gave out so much soap to “try” that I had very little left to sell. As a matter of fact, I still haven’t sold any because there are two bars left and I’m just not ready to part with them yet. However, this is important in product development – honest feedback is indicative of how the masses will receive your product.
Don’t get me wrong, my employee discount is great, but Argan oil is still expensive and I’ve still got bills to pay and cats to feed! (So what, I’m that lady.) On my very small scale of production, Argan oil just isn’t a cost effective ingredient for me to use at this time. If you begin to sell a product you cannot afford to source, you will soon find yourself losing money. It’s important to start comparing prices of your raw components so you can ensure you are offering a cost-effective product for both you and your consumer.
Let’s face it – handmade products are everywhere. Your product has to stand out in some way from your competitors, be it price, packaging, quality or message.
I recently connected with a customer who reached out via social media. She lives on a farm and is able to source most all of her ingredients right at home. She makes cold process soap and incorporates her goats’ milk into her recipe. She then felts the soap with wool from their sheep. How cool is that? The more resources you have at your fingertips, the better off you are. This is the prime example of a unique product that is cost effective.
What makes your product special? Is the passion of your craft driven by your passion for something in your personal life? For an example, I’ve spoken with a customer whose family owns a bakery. She was expanding into offering candles in bakery scents for her customers. Not only does this tie into her own passion, but is also a relevant offering to her patrons. Maximize the most of every opportunity!
Another person may sell soaps geared towards children in fun shapes, scents and colors. Perhaps your product line will include a gift set that offers a variety of products in the same fragrance. Maybe you will exclusively offer bath bombs. In addition to your stock inventory, you could incorporate an seasonal line of products.
Solves a solution
There has to be a reason for someone to buy your product. Whatever that may be, you are selling a solution to your customer’s need. What is the need for soap? Easy – hygiene! Candles? They make your house smell great!
Or we can narrow it down even further to someone that needs an unscented soap due to a skin condition, or is unable to tolerate harsh chemicals due to their medical treatments. Maybe that customer happens to be buying a candle for their friend in memory of her late mother because the scent reminds her of the potpourri in her mom’s home. Perhaps the woman that just walked into your booth forgot about her cousin’s birthday party this weekend and needs to get a gift. Or, the customer bought a candle because they realized they have none in case of a power outage and thunderstorms are approaching next week.
No matter how important or casual the reason, you are still fulfilling a need for your customer, be it a heartwarming gift or just a gentle bar of soap for hand washing. Your product, branding, customer service and marketing techniques will all help you build the target audience you seek, but everyone will always have a different reason for purchasing your product. I firmly believe as long as you serve your customer properly, the rest will take care of itself.
Once you know what type of product you would like to offer, the rest of your vision will begin to fall into place. With a well-defined product, cohesive branding and marketing will follow.