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Hello Everyone! Super new guy on the block - Aspiring towards soap business - Seeking mentor(s)

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SupMan

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New guy on the block, currently have a shopping cart w/ items to purchase. I just finished reading Smart Soapmaking by Anne L Wastson. Waiting on some other books to arrived. The goal is to start selling soap soon, but first I'll have to run through a couple of batches.

(1) Can anyone point me to someone who is located in Los Angeles or California that I can talk to about running a soap business out here?

(2) I got sidetracked reading about INCI names today, and was shocked to see a paywall of ~$1k to confirm the use of proper labeling terms. I was wondering if anyone has experience with that and if they're able to point me in the right direction with some advice.

Again, still really new to all of this, just looking ahead and trying resolve those hurdles before they slow my momentum.

Located in Los Angeles, CA
 

atiz

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I don't sell, but there is a lot of info on this forum around here. Welcome!
You will need to experiment with various recipes and see what you like. You will have to become comfortable with the process itself. Experiment with additives, and see what works, what does not. See how your soap changes during cure-time, and how long it needs to cure.
If you sell, experiment with how long your soap and its scent is going to last; how long it will be shelf-stable, etc. How to optimize the cost, without sacrificing what you like.
And this is just the beginning part; I know nothing about the *actual* selling -- how to market, what's your target audience, etc.
All in all: it is a long process. But hope it works out for you, making soap is really fun.
 

GemstonePony

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Welcome!
I would wait at least 6-8 months once you think you've gotten your recipe(s) perfect, to make sure your tools and materials aren't causing early rancidity in your final product. Soap is super fun, but going pro is a huge responsibility, both for the product you create and it's impact, and for your representation of the type of product and the profession in general.
Meanwhile, you have so much time for reading, experimenting, and finding your niche! You'll need people willing to help you test your recipes and provide feedback.
I liked the Soapmaker's companion by Susan Miller Cavitch because of the information on the oils and butters and chemistry she provides. However, in her recipes her superfat is too high and her preservative of choice only works if the oil itself has a preservative in it, so I can't recommend it for recipes. Besides, there are quite a few recipes in the database on this forum, so you don't need her recipes anyways. But I do recommend knowing how everything works.
 

shunt2011

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Hello and welcome!!! I agree with the others. You're putting the cart before the horse. Its not as easy as many seem to think. You need to try different recipes and then test them out. Everyone is different and what I like you may not. Selling is a whole other subject. The market is over run with fly by night soapmakers. I've been selling for 10 years and see them come and go at the shows I do. I'm pretty much the only one who's stuck around long term. It's not an easy sell. If you don't have a quality product, buyers won't come back. I know my soap will last well beyond a year as I've tested them. I have customers I see only once or twice a year so they stock up big time. And still come back year after year.

Then there is the business side of it. Insurance and the other costs involved with running a business.
 

Megan

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As others have said, a lot of work and testing goes into soap making and then you have to learn the business aspect, which is a whole other ballgame.
INCI is really easy to look up even just with a google search, so that shouldn't be a problem, and you won't need to spend 1K to figure out the INCI for your ingredients. It can also help to look at big brands to see how they list their ingredients (not saying they never make a mistake, but it's safer than looking at other smaller soapers when it comes to correct labeling).

I jumped into the business side at about 8 months...and honestly I wish I would have waited longer (you will hear this a lot...and a lot of, more experienced, people will tell you this. My advice is to listen to them).
 

AliOop

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I agree with @Megan that there is no need to spend money learning about INCI.

If you are open to spending money, however, spend it on something that will help you learn the business side of soaping. Molly Elmore is a respected business coach and knows soaping; you can find her on FB. Also, take a look at the LovinSoap website where they sell their Soap.Brand.Launch course. It was developed by experienced, ethical soap makers with a profitable business. Last I saw, the course was less than $500. It may also include basic soapmaking info, but honestly, you can get that piece of things from this forum and from watching YouTube videos by high quality soap makers like TreeMarie, Kapia Mera, Ultimate Guide to Soap, etc.

If you run into problems, this forum is a great place to post your plea for help — as long as you are willing to post your recipe and process (without that, we can’t pinpoint the problem).

Have fun learning how to soap, and be sure to post your pictures for us!
 

Misschief

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Others are saying 6-8 months. I made soap for about 2 years before I even considered turning it into a small business. And that was just the soap making part of it. You need to know how your recipes hold up after six months, a year, two years. You also need to know the rules and regs of setting up a business in your area. Insurance is mandatory. It isn't something you can just jump in to and expect it to be a viable business. I'm in year #3 of selling my soaps and it's just beginning to take off.
 

cmzaha

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You are a long way away from a viable soap business in any area let alone in the LA area I am sorry to say. Several of my soapmaking friends in the LA area gave up a few years ago after having viable businesses in the area. The market is just too flooded, so if you are trying to make it as a living business go another direction, as a hobby business it is still difficult. It takes years to build up a customer base and a good year to even know how and recognize a good soap. When you first make soap you may think it is great because you compare it with manufactured store-bought soap, but 2 yrs down the road you may realize your soap was not great. You may also wonder why you do not have a big return base of customers. Good soap will bring back customers bad soap will not. Just as an example, I received a phone call from a customer at a twice a year market which is now shut down inquiring about purchasing soap. Her comment was she can buy soap from 10 different soapmakers and maybe be able to use 3 of them, but has never had one she cannot use of mine. she just ordered 20 bars and was only sad that she cannot smell them. You do not just make soap sell it and make money, it does not work that way.

Even in you luck out and get some wholesale accounts they do not always go well as far as soap goes and most outdoor markets are closed down with many not re-opening to crafters even when Corona subsides. I have spent 10 yrs selling in markets from LA, San Diego, to San Bernardino County watching markets slowly disappear and sales diminishing as much as 50% with booth spaces increasing up to $75.00 per nite/day. Online sales became almost impossible 5-7 yrs ago. My last good market where I made money in Harbor city my biggest sales was not soap and just example for cost, it was my least expensive market to attend which was 10% of sales, costing me $0.70 per soap sold not including gas to get there plus all the other expenses making the soap. So now when a customer calls me for soap they get a nicely reduced price and I still make more money.
 

artemis

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I'm sure a lot of this sounds very discouraging to you. If you haven't even made soap yet, I would encourage you to hold off on the full shopping cart. Pick up a handful of oils from the grocery store and a container of lye from Lowe's. Just make a small simple batch of soap. If you haven't made any yet, you don't even know if you will like doing it. If you do, great! Gradually invest in more and better supplies/tools as you develop your recipe. By the time you have the recipe(s) nailed down, you should have a good idea of whether you really want to do it as a full-time job.

That's my two cents as a person who likes to soap but has decided not to sell.
 

cmzaha

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I agree with @Megan that there is no need to spend money learning about INCI.
In the US you can use common names in place of inci. You can also list ingredients by what goes in the pot or what comes out of the pot but cannot use both in the list of ingredients.
 
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