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Lynusann

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I've been dawdling for a while now on the business side of things - making soap has been more or less a hobby for some time now for me and I only really considered making it a business a few months ago in order to cover growing costs. I've put up a Facebook page and opened an Etsy account (but not done much with it), taken photos, worked on packaging, etc, but I haven't done a ton to really push it along too hardcore.

Then in the last 3 days I got hit with requests. Another local small business asked me to design a small hand soap for them with their company colors (No stinkin' clue what I'm going to do so I'll be racking my brain all week on this one!) and last night I was asked if I would like to sell my soaps in an annual quilt show.

The quilt show has a market they do just once every year and they only allow a limited number of non-quilt makers to sell in the space. To even get to sell your quilts there you have to have won at least ONE first place ribbon in any show in the prior year so it's fairly exclusive. And they get foot traffic of about 1000-1500 during this show.

I'm on the fence however about doing it for this reason - it's in another state. So I'd just be shipping them my product and they'd be handling the sale but I get 80% of all sales made (easy enough to figure that in to my price). It does make me nervous but I'd hate possible burn this bridge if I turned it down and wasn't asked next year. Thoughts/experiences?
 

Dorymae

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First, if you were approached on Facebook or etsy beware. There are all kinds of scams out there and many of us are approached via these outlets. My advice would be to thoroughly research any company or person who contacts you with business opportunities on the internet.

You should be able to find information on them easily. One quick way to weed out scam artists is to ask them outright for their business license number and the city name in which they were licensed. Any legitimate business should be able to give you this information fairly quickly. You can then verify the information.
 

newbie

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I would also be careful of the quilt show request. Out of state? Nothing against your soap but since there are many soapers out there, could they really not find someone IN their state to ask? It seems unlikely. I assume you would be sending your soap off and then waiting for 80% of sales you would not be present for nor have any method of verifying, other than their word. If you heard from them again. I would triple check the source and see what they said if you say you want to be present for the show. See how they react.
 

Lynusann

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Sorry I should have been more specific about both. The business is a local business and I know the owner. I've known her for several years now.

As for the quilt show, I didn't want it to come across as nepotism, but the reason I was invited to sell soap at the show was because my mother show cases her quilts there yearly (she's won an ungodly amount of awards for her quilts) and she had been giving my soaps to the committee members that run the quilt show for the last year+ (I send her far too many for her own use so she gifts them). I'd never asked about selling at the show because I didn't know they allowed non-quilt vendors into it until I was approached last night. The soaps would be shipped to her, she would be tagging everything and overseeing the inventory and would take the check at the end of their show, so I'm not particularly worried about not getting paid. I am however nervous about people asking questions about my soaps and me not being there to answer them.
 

Stacy

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Personally I would not be shipping my product off unless I was paid in advance. In addition to newbie's excellent points, you have no control over how it's shown or sold. I feel that an important part of the hand made soap experience for craft show types is talking to the person who made it. Also I would have issues about theft and damage. Are they going to watch your booth as well as you would? What about damage in shipping or at the show itself. What if they ship it back to you without proper packaging (disqualifying you for postal insurance). I'm a pessimist when it comes to this stuff but I just see so many ways for it to go wrong before we even get to whether or not it's an outright scam.

If you've received any solicitation emails, try popping one of the more unique phrases into Google. It's a really quick way to check if it's a scam (I would still follow up with everyone's suggestions even if you didn't find anything).

I remember when I got an email about a huge order of gift baskets. It was very obvious since the scam was badly targeted and I didn't actually sell any of the product they wanted to buy, but I can see how it would work on someone who wasn't careful about due diligence.

A word of advice about your small business request. Make sure you are on the same page about pricing (even roughly) and volume. When I was making gourmet chocolate, I had so many people coming in wanting me to make custom chocolates for them (as in they walked in talking like they were ready to buy one the spot), but once we started talking price it was clearly more expensive than they thought. I saved myself a lot of leg work simply by clarifying expectations up front.

I'm sorry i don't mean to sound overly negative, it still sounds like a very exciting time for you! Congratulations!

edit: aaand you posted while I was typing, which made most of what I said inapplicable. Ah well, I'll leave it there maybe it'll help someone else ;-)
 
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Dorymae

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Sorry I should have been more specific about both. The business is a local business and I know the owner. I've known her for several years now.

As for the quilt show, I didn't want it to come across as nepotism, but the reason I was invited to sell soap at the show was because my mother show cases her quilts there yearly (she's won an ungodly amount of awards for her quilts) and she had been giving my soaps to the committee members that run the quilt show for the last year+ (I send her far too many for her own use so she gifts them). I'd never asked about selling at the show because I didn't know they allowed non-quilt vendors into it until I was approached last night. The soaps would be shipped to her, she would be tagging everything and overseeing the inventory and would take the check at the end of their show, so I'm not particularly worried about not getting paid. I am however nervous about people asking questions about my soaps and me not being there to answer them.
Go for it then! You have nothing to lose. If you are nervous you can always make up a brochure about your handmade soap. In it try to answer some of the more frequently asked questions. Your mom can always let people know that her daughter makes them and give them a brochure to help answer their questions.

You never know what will happen until you try. Then next time you will have a better idea of what to expect.

Good luck!
 

Lynusann

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Personally I would not be shipping my product off unless I was paid in advance. In addition to newbie's excellent points, you have no control over how it's shown or sold. I feel that an important part of the hand made soap experience for craft show types is talking to the person who made it. Also I would have issues about theft and damage. Are they going to watch your booth as well as you would? What about damage in shipping or at the show itself. What if they ship it back to you without proper packaging (disqualifying you for postal insurance). I'm a pessimist when it comes to this stuff but I just see so many ways for it to go wrong before we even get to whether or not it's an outright scam.

If you've received any solicitation emails, try popping one of the more unique phrases into Google. It's a really quick way to check if it's a scam (I would still follow up with everyone's suggestions even if you didn't find anything).

I remember when I got an email about a huge order of gift baskets. It was very obvious since the scam was badly targeted and I didn't actually sell any of the product they wanted to buy, but I can see how it would work on someone who wasn't careful about due diligence.

A word of advice about your small business request. Make sure you are on the same page about pricing (even roughly) and volume. When I was making gourmet chocolate, I had so many people coming in wanting me to make custom chocolates for them (as in they walked in talking like they were ready to buy one the spot), but once we started talking price it was clearly more expensive than they thought. I saved myself a lot of leg work simply by clarifying expectations up front.

I'm sorry i don't mean to sound overly negative, it still sounds like a very exciting time for you! Congratulations!

edit: aaand you posted while I was typing, which made most of what I said inapplicable. Ah well, I'll leave it there maybe it'll help someone else ;-)
Stacy, I still appreciate the feedback! Funny enough I used to do custom baking (hence why my soaps are all starting to look like food now...) and I understand the fantasy/reality mindset in that respect - people wanted the sistine chapel on a paint by numbers budget when it came to artisan baked goods.

Also, the accountant in me (my dayjob) cannot help but think about all the things that could go wrong anyhow so I don't think you're negative at all! You're preachin' to the choir lady! I am trying to tell myself though that if I don't start taking some risks though I'm never going to end up successful. I want to do more than sell to friends/family/neighbors eventually.


Go for it then! You have nothing to lose. If you are nervous you can always make up a brochure about your handmade soap. In it try to answer some of the more frequently asked questions. Your mom can always let people know that her daughter makes them and give them a brochure to help answer their questions.

You never know what will happen until you try. Then next time you will have a better idea of what to expect.

Good luck!
Thank you Dorymae. I was actually thinking that I may print up a few larger posterboard type things and have them set on the booth around the product. I know people love brochures but I hate spending the money on something I *know* 95% of people are going to toss as soon as they get home. Have you found brochures to be a worthwhile investment?

I'm going to have to really put some work into what I'm going to ask to have set up with the table because I'm fairly certain my mother's quilts will be in another area of the show and not near my soaps - and she's going to be working on selling her quilts (have you ever seen the price those suckers command?!?! They're like the price of a small car!!). I have a clear I idea on the big points that need to be touched on as "FYI" to potential customers but if you have any suggestions on things that often get overlooked I'm all ears.
 

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