A Soapy Success Story...with Pics!

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AlchemyandAshes

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Just thought I'd share some craft show success pictures...and maybe a few bits o' advice/opinion/information from a craft show this weekend. :thumbup:

I haven't done shows in a while...I started out years ago doing soaps and metaphysical products (handmade Runes, altar cloths, incense, etc)...then I forayed into sterling and gemstone jewelry for a long while, and though I love jewelry...it's a big investment and a lot of setup/breakdown for a show. Besides the fact that I have a tendency to go a little "beadzerk" and think I have to own every gemstone bead known to man (at my wallets expense). :shock: Then I decided to return to my soapish roots...and to afford my addiction, I decided to do a few shows. In Florida, it's so hot and HUMID most of the year that I have zero interest in sitting in a big white sauna (aka EZUP tent) watching my products melt all over the place (did I mention the HUMIDITY?)...but I digress. The point being, I only like to do outdoor shows between October/November and March/April. So, long story short (or long) this weekend I participated in the Lutz-Lake Park Arts & Crafts Festival here in Florida. There were 250 booths - 4 soapers. I made 10x my booth fee (no joke) and completely sold out of 20 of my 26 scents. I have about 20 bars left to my name right now, and luckily I don't have another show until January 26th so I have time to recoup. I'm not complaining. These are the kind of problems I like to have! :wink:

It was 81 degrees this weekend. 81 degrees. In December. But sunny and beautiful! (If you're not selling body butters...)

First things first...I'll tease you with a little Soap Porn...the pictures are a bit oversized (even though I shrank them!), so it may involve scrolling:
[attachment=4:3foe8u4b]Front_Set_Up.jpg[/attachment:3foe8u4b]
[attachment=3:3foe8u4b]Soaps_1.jpg[/attachment:3foe8u4b]
[attachment=2:3foe8u4b]Soaps_2.jpg[/attachment:3foe8u4b]
[attachment=1:3foe8u4b]Soaps_3.jpg[/attachment:3foe8u4b]
[attachment=0:3foe8u4b]Body_Products_Side_View.jpg[/attachment:3foe8u4b]
I have more pictures on my Facebook profile (in my signature line) if my teasing wasn't enough for you gluttonous lovers of all things soapy... :lolno:

Here's some things that I think you guys will find useful in your own businesses:

1. People love Lavender soap. I probably had 50 people ask for only Lavender (not a blend). I do not currently make a "only Lavender" soap at the moment...but I shall! I love Lavender...but everyone does Lavender. All of my scents are EO blends, so I don't carry "one trick ponies"...I may have underestimated the power of The Lavender. I will not make that mistake again.

2. People either LOVE or HATE Anise and/or Patchouli. I sold out of any and all that were scented with either or both. One guy said Anise smells like vomit to him, handed the soap to his wife and she said she wanted to eat it. I don't see a 50th wedding anniversary for that couple. JUST KIDDING! :lolno: The predominant smell from my booth was my Mutiny Salt Bar (Blood Orange/Clove/Anise) and Tavern Wench (Almond/Anise/Lavender)...you could smell it a mile away and so many people said they "followed their noses" because it smelled so good. People that told me they hated licorice loved the Anise. People that told me they loved licorice hated the Anise. People that hated Patchouli and Anise loved my Dark Alchemy (Patchouli/Anise/Lavender). Who knows what's up with people's smellers, but I figured this may be useful info to you.

3. You already know this, but: Have an attractive and organized display. The scent of soap alone brings people to you, but the display is what makes them stop and stay a while. I have a little basket made of twigs that I set my brochures in and an owl made of twigs and pine cones next to it. If I had 1, I had 100 people ask about the basket and owl: if it was for sale, did I make it, they took pictures, etc. I got it at JoAnn's for $7.50 on sale. Best investment I ever made. I couldn't add the image (limit of 5, please, says the forum), but you can also see it on my FB. And as an aside, if you're crafty enough to make these, they would sell 1:1 with the soap. No lie.

4. People loved my bigger bars. Most of my soaps weigh 6.5 oz after cure and are 3.5"x2.5"x1.5", plus their peaked swirly tops (if applicable). Many shoppers commented that they loved the "bumpy" tops, and thought they were unique. They also felt they were getting a better value with the larger soaps. And they were! I decided to do $5 each or $5 for $20. More often than not, they bought 5, even if they started out only wanting one. Business-sense-wise, I should charge more. If I had an accountant, they would tell me to increase my profit margin. I say "Humbug"! I'm still selling about 3x my cost. I don't take into consideration in my prices the electricity and water bill, my mortgage payment, my "hourly wage", etc. I soap in my kitchen. My guest room is my cure room/supply room (and smells fantastic!). I'm "playing" when I make soap, not "working". I do consider product ingredient cost and labeling, and a portion of my molds/tools/displays and show fees. I'm not a business major or a money hustler. Soap doesn't pay my bills (maybe one day!). I just want to do what I love and share it with other people at a reasonable and fair price. Is that so wrong? :roll:

5. Design a soap around the time of year or festival you are participating in. This obviously is a show before Christmas, so people are a little more eager to throw money your way, but the first 2 soaps I sold out of were my "Limited Edition" Yuletide and Winter Solstice. I made a "limited batch" of 24. I should have made double that. My next festival is centered around the Kumquat (a small citrus fruit). You better believe I will have some kind of "kumquat" something or other. There is no Kumquat EO (I'm EO only), but I have a blend in mind that may work (fingers crossed).

6. People LOVED anything Lemongrass or May Chang. The next two soaps that sold out completely were both one or the other blends. I like the scent personally, but didn't think it would be that overwhelming to others. Another mistake I won't make.

7. Accept credit/debit cards. I use PayPal PayHere. It was so convenient and I highly recommend it. I used my iPad and it seemed very "professional" to shoppers. If you already have a PayPal account (I don't know if it has to be business verified. Mine is.), the swiper is free, and the fee is a flat 2.57%, no transaction fee!

8. Here's the sucky part. Yes, sucky. Not a whole lot of interest in the body butter category. I sold over 300 soaps, a few salves, a few herbal folk charms, quite a few lip balms, a couple of gift baskets...and 5 body butters. People like pump bottles of lotion...but since I am preservative free, I don't make any body products utilizing water...so lotion (except lotion bars) is out. With the heat and humidity in FL, I think body butters may be too heavy to most people.
But here's the worst part...one of my balms and some of my body butters were beginning to melt in the 81 degree weather! ARGH! I freaked out for a minute, composed myself, and simply removed them from the shelf and put fresh ones out of the cooler (no ice) back on the shelves. Now that I'm home in the A/C, they are resolidified, but a little deflated. I was bummed. This is why I don't do outdoor shows unless the weather is cooler, as in under 80 degrees. Also, some of my labels on my jars were getting all wonky from the humidity. I was not pleased. I really don't want to resort to "plastic-ish" labels, but if I plan to continue body butters and the like, I may have to (my soap cigar bands were fine).
Oh, and no one wanted shaving soaps, except for 3 people. Really? I think people are to used to shaving foams in a can. Convenience wins, I guess.
I only had 1 request for liquid soap, by the way. No one asked for shampoo bars. Now, this could be that they didn't ask because they didn't see any out on the table.

9. Not one person asked me if my Palm Oil was sustainable. It is (supposedly). I had a few Vegans ask if my products were Vegan friendly - I said yes with the exception of a few soaps with honey and/or beeswax. They said they didn't care, that "honey" didn't count as an animal product. :Kitten Love:
I'm no Vegan, but I was under the assumption that for most Vegans, honey is out (as is Goat's Milk, right?). I'm just sticking with full disclosure. They can decide for themselves. No one asked where my EOs were from, or whether my Rosewood was part of the deterioration of any forest, or if I ran a child slavery soap operation. Maybe folks here (at this show) aren't that enviromentally conscious? Who knows.

10. People love samples. When I told them they were free, I thought they would hug me. That sent little heart bubbles all the way to my little heathen heart. :twisted:

And so my fellow soapers, I conclude this diatribe with a humble bow and bid you "Adieu!"

:D :wave:
 

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Shawnee, congratulations on your success. I am in awe of your display. You have the coolest ideas for how to market. I would have been all over it. Are you going to try to do any Ren Faires? I should think you'd sell like gangbusters if you could, but it would be a massive amount of work.

Lemongrass is my biggest seller, too. I like it myself, but it's funny how some soaps I just love don't move at all, while my lemongrass is flying off the shelf. I agree with you that the first thing people do is sniff, and I can tell you when I did a craft fair at my school, people picked up the soap, smelled, and picked based on that virtue alone.

I would like to do a small farmer's market or something like that, too, but I'm certainly not ready for something like you did. Thanks for sharing all your tips and pictures.
 
Congrats! Love your display.

I'm primarily a hobbyist but when people find out I make soap or if I'm giving it as a gift, they really do love lemongrass and lavender. I get asked about them the most, I think. Mint/eucalyptus blends are popular too.
 
danahuff said:
Lemongrass is my biggest seller, too. I like it myself, but it's funny how some soaps I just love don't move at all, while my lemongrass is flying off the shelf.
Isn't it funny how that happens? I say the same thing all the time. I can appreciate an earthy or herbal EO scent, but for someone used to synthetic fragrances like Pearberry or Lovespell or Angel-something-or-other, they may find them "weird".
judymoody said:
Mint/eucalyptus blends are popular too.
Yep, I would say after Lavender and Patchouli, the next most requested was Mint or Tea Tree!
 
Shawnee that is a gorgeous display and congrats on an amazing market!

I shall slap your wrist on pricing, but since we're not in competition it's just a light tap :lol:
 
Wow.....you certainly know how to put together an awesome display...no wonder you sold so much.....very pleasing to the eye, and that is what a lot of people go for :clap: Wish I could come up with a display that is half as good :-D
 
Lindy said:
I shall slap your wrist on pricing, but since we're not in competition it's just a light tap
I know...I probably need a slight tap on my head instead of my wrist! Maybe a "hard tap" would work better
My pricing online is $6 a bar, which I think is still a great deal for a 6.5 oz soap. I always struggle with pricing...not because I don't understand the concept of the pricing breakdown, but because I want to make my prices something that most folks can afford, and not just a "luxury" purchase. I don't want to be the "WalMart of Soap" or the "Harrods of Soap" :lol: I know my product is only going to appeal to a somewhat smaller group of people because of my style/EO & herb only...it's may not appeal to the masses, and I'm okay with that. I just want it to be accessible to those they do want it.

I'm totally open to suggestions on how you guys price your soaps (and anything else you may have gleaned from your business experience). I've already planned $6 each/5 for $25 next show :wink: My hubby HIGHLY suggested it...I think he just wants to get paid for all his hard work as my "assistant" this weekend :lol: He was finally getting the hang of what scent matched up to what essential oil in which soap...that's a feat for someone who's range of scent is not very "refined" and is expressed as either "good" or "bad"... :p

danahuff said:
Are you going to try to do any Ren Faires? I should think you'd sell like gangbusters if you could, but it would be a massive amount of work
Funny you should ask! I was just speaking with another vendor (an awesome silversmith! Vulcan jewelry I think his biz was called) who does our local Bay Area RenFest and got some info from him. It is 7 weekends from end of February to beginning of April. There's no way I could be ready or this year, but I am considering next year. I inquired when I made jewelry (mostly Celtic themed...would have fit a RenFest perfectly) and it was only $600 for the entire 7 weekends. That was also at least 8 years ago...I'm sure the fee has gone up...and my prices would surely have to reflect that! If I can figure out a good way to battle the heat so that my soaps don't suffer, I may consider it or next year. I go every year as a visitor anyway... might as well try to make some money while I'm there! :wink:
 
Wow! Really beautiful display and soapies! :)

I think you could pull off 5.50 and then discount your 4 or 5 bars but I see where you are coming from on the prices. I like your way of thinking on that and I do think the same way. I'm a stay at home mom so this is all on the side for me. It's an extra little cash sort of thing for me any way.

Great post!
 
Shawnee - I'm totally wowed by your display and by your post! I had no idea this category even existed on the forum until I saw your reference to it in the CP area. Thank you so much for all the info you shared. I wanted to learn how to make soap because, well, mostly because I want to learn how to do everything before I die :) but also because . . . well, no, really all my reasons go back to just wanting to learn everything about everything. It wasn't long, though, before I realized what a totally satisfying hobby this is turning into. I know you all can relate. I'm going to be retiring from my "real" job in a couple of years and I've been thinking lately that I should explore the possiblity of turning my soapmaking hobby into a supplemental retirement income. Your post is very inspiring to me and gives me hope. Thank you so much for sharing. :)
 
Alchemy&Ashes said:
danahuff said:
Are you going to try to do any Ren Faires? I should think you'd sell like gangbusters if you could, but it would be a massive amount of work
Funny you should ask! I was just speaking with another vendor (an awesome silversmith! Vulcan jewelry I think his biz was called) who does our local Bay Area RenFest and got some info from him. It is 7 weekends from end of February to beginning of April. There's no way I could be ready or this year, but I am considering next year. I inquired when I made jewelry (mostly Celtic themed...would have fit a RenFest perfectly) and it was only $600 for the entire 7 weekends. That was also at least 8 years ago...I'm sure the fee has gone up...and my prices would surely have to reflect that! If I can figure out a good way to battle the heat so that my soaps don't suffer, I may consider it or next year. I go every year as a visitor anyway... might as well try to make some money while I'm there! :wink:

I just immediately thought that the sort of marketing and labeling you do would have appeal for a Ren Faire crowd. You would totally sell out of soap. I agree with the others that you could get more money for your soap, too. I am charging $5.00 for a basic bar of soap that is the standard soaping size. You could easily charge at least $7 or $8 because of the size of your bars, but it might be hard to move the soap if you priced it much higher. Your soap is gorgeous, and we all just want to make sure you are fairly compensated for your hard work and talent. :D
 
Your displays, soaps, labels, everything is awesome! I'm so impressed and if I'd been there, I'd have spent all my money at your booth. I love the names of your soaps especially Tavern Wench. :D
 
Shawnee my soaps sell for $6.00 - $6.75 depending on ingredients and they are only 4.5 ounces. I have no problem getting that and we have about 5 more soapers here with a population of just under 16,000 people. So I'm thinking you could get at least $7 - $8 each. There is a soaper here in BC that sell soaps the same size as mine for $9.95..... I think you might be shooting yourself in the pocket book :wink:

I've done a renfest in Langley BC and they are a blast! I wish it was closer to home, the travel time, ferries and hotel makes it really, really expensive... But I do it every other year.....
 
Great job!! I love your display, the huge bunch of Thyme (?) is an awesome natural touch! I feel like I just went to 'craft show school'. Thanks for sharing all your experience with us. Its great to know which scents customers want. Wish I knew when I first started ordering eo's. I tend to stock up on Blood Orange, Bergamot, Tea Tree, and Peppermint. I need more variety. I do sell lots of natural deodorant in those scents and combinations to an online NE food coop. But soap is different:)

Glad to see you will be increasing your prices. It is to much work, and they will pay for it so they don't have to do it. Most people do not have time. Especially once they know the hazzards of working with lye :)
 
for some reason I am not able to see the photos :(
I think since the forum was taken over by groupbuilder, a lot of the old pictures aren't working :(
When the photos section categories are complete, I will upload them there and provide a link here. Also, all of the pics are on my FB page in my signature line.
 

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