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I just signed up for my first craft fairs this fall, and I am comparing liability insurance policies as that is required for all craft fair vendors. Here is what I learned:

Hiscox no longer covers soapmaking; their chat agent said that any soapmakers who believe they are still covered by Hiscox are advised to call in immediately to confirm that their coverage is still valid (strongly implying that it was not).

HSCG (soapguild.org) offers an annual policy for $275 + $175 for annual membership, which is required to qualify for their insurance.

IndieBusinessInsurance.com is $275 and also requires membership at $247/yr.

HandmadeInsurance.com is $285 for one year, no membership required, and they cover everything but candles (which I don't make or sell).

Obviously there are additional benefits to being a member of the Guild or the Indie Business Network. Some of those benefits might be helpful for certain folks, but right now, none of them are worth the extra cost to me. With vendor fees, insurance, labels, packaging, payment processor, banners/tablecloths, etc., I will be almost $1000 out of pocket before selling anything, and that doesn't include the cost of materials for my products, either. :eek: It's good to write all that out before submitting your vendor application so you are sure it is worth the investment.
 
Obviously there are additional benefits to being a member of the Guild or the Indie Business Network. Some of those benefits might be helpful for certain folks, but right now, none of them are worth the extra cost to me. With vendor fees, insurance, labels, packaging, payment processor, banners/tablecloths, etc., I will be almost $1000 out of pocket before selling anything, and that doesn't include the cost of materials for my products, either. :eek: It's good to write all that out before submitting your vendor application so you are sure it is worth the investment.

Kind of why too I have been taking my time...it costs a lot of money to try and do everything at once. Fortunately, soap doesn't go 'bad'.
 
With vendor fees, insurance, labels, packaging, payment processor, banners/tablecloths, etc., I will be almost $1000 out of pocket before selling anything,
Try thinking outside the box. Sell soap to raise the $1,000 you need. For example, i started selling soap at my garage sales - - made $350 - $500 each time. Vendor sales at office buildings (if they still do that). At one of those I made $400 from Noon to 4 PM.

I know soapers who had good results thinking of places to put their soaps to raise money just to buy supplies before doing markets and holiday events. Look around. Check with spas, B & B's, nurseries (gardeners soap), car shops (mechanic soaps), whatever. If you work in an office and have a lunch room, take in a batch of soap once a week with an info card, price and a jar to drop the money in.

The most successful soapers I know started that way. They just hustled!!! I wish I had time to share stories. It's really amazing what some people come up with when they put their mind to it. ;) :thumbs:
 
Thanks, @Zany_in_CO those are some good ideas. I mostly work from a home office, and have a pretty good base of friends and family who do custom orders from me. However, for selling in any retail establishment, or at craft fairs, the insurance is now a contractual requirement - at least where I live, it is. Things sure have changed from the days when we could be more carefree about these things.

EDIT: Thankfully I am good on actual supplies for making products. It's all the extras that are adding up so fast: market fees, insurance, labels, containers, banner, table, tent, card reader .... whew!
 
It's all about attitude.

When I started out, I was determined that my hobby would pay for itself. I borrowed $500 from our joint account and paid it back at the end of the 12-month period that comprised my first year of selling and I had enough in my account to pay for supplies for the next year. And so the vicious cycle began. LOL

One thing is for sure, I didn't spend money on buying a lot of additives like the poor Newbies on SMF that think they need to be trying fancy "artisan" soaps and buying a lot of extra stuff at the get-go because that's the example being set. :(

It's all the extras that are adding up so fast: market fees, insurance, labels, containers, banner, table, tent, card reader .... whew!

Do you have a business plan? How are you going to pay that back? You should be able to re-coop your start-up expenses with each successive market until you are operating in the black. If not, then it's not a business; it's a very expensive hobby!

Think about "profit margin". What other B & B products can you offer that have a better profit margin than soap does? Lip balms? Inexpensive and less time consuming to make and, @ $6.50 each (which I believe is the going rate) can make up for any loss incurred from lack of soap sales. Lotion, which is 75-80% water is also a good money-maker.

Personally, I wouldn't offer "artisan" soaps that customers tend to buy one time for "gifting" but rather soaps that people would love, use, and come back for more! I've never made bath bombs but they are popular with the younger set. Once again, they attract repeat business.

Being savvy about spending, focusing on known "winners" and building a customer base are the keys to success.

For inspiration, @Christine Beale, Goat Milk Soap Lady, a Canadian, joined SMF in May of 2018, the same year you did. She has come a long way since then... just wait until you see what 2,187 bars of soap looks like!!!
 
@Zany_in_CO I apologize if my post sounded like I was asking for help with a business plan, or figuring out how to make a profit. I am pretty experienced in running businesses, and I've made soap and body care products for over a decade. Until now, that has always been a fun hobby for me, and I've strongly resisted making it a business. Why? Because I am painfully aware of how that can take all of the fun out of it - not to mention the expenses involved. I'm so fortunate to have a spouse who encourages that and doesn't complain about the cost.

However, over the past several years, I've built up a significant clientele on the side who love my soap and a few other products that I make. For that reason only, I'm willing to TRY a few markets and see if I even like doing them. If I do, and if they at least make a little money, I'll continue.

But if I don't enjoy markets, I won't continue no matter how profitable they are. I already have a busy job that pays well. When I'm not working at that job, I want to enjoy my life. If that includes selling soap and bodycare products on a larger scale than my current little side sales, great! If not, then making those things most definitely will remain a hobby.

And that's one of the reasons that I won't sell lip balms, despite the wonderful cost margins. I hate making them! I'm won't force myself do something I don't enjoy during my precious time off, just to make money that isn’t essential for paying my bills.

I hope that clarifies where I'm coming from. I really do appreciate your desire to help! Your post will be a gold mine for business newbies who don't have your years of experience with not only making but also successfully selling products.
 
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I am painfully aware of how that can take all of the fun out of it
You sound just like me! My thoughts exactly! 😁

Thanks for the clarification. You obviously know what you're doing. I had no idea. :shakinghead:

Just to be clear, when I offer advice I tend to think of all those rookies who might be reading along and may benefit from my experience. 😁
 
For inspiration, @Christine Beale, Goat Milk Soap Lady, a Canadian, joined SMF in May of 2018, the same year you did. She has come a long way since then... just wait until you see what 2,187 bars of soap looks like!!!

@Zany_in_CO - some good points there and @Christine Beale 's photo is an inspiration (and a lot of work!) but you can't compare the date someone joined SMF to where I or anyone else is in their soaping journey. Maybe @AliOop just recently decided to start selling but Christine started a year ago. Who knows and who cares? The point is, a photo doesn't provide an individual's backstory and it's surely not healthy to compare people based on a date and photo.
 
@Zany_in_CO I apologize if my post sounded like I was asking for help with a business plan, or figuring out how to make a profit. I am pretty experienced in running businesses, and I've made soap and body care products for over a decade. Until now, that has always been a fun hobby for me, and I've strongly resisted making it a business. Why? Because I am painfully aware of how that can take all of the fun out of it - not to mention the expenses involved. I'm so fortunate to have a spouse who encourages that and doesn't complain about the cost.

However, over the past several years, I've built up a significant clientele on the side who love my soap and a few other products that I make. For that reason only, I'm willing to TRY a few markets and see if I even like doing them. If I do, and if they at least make a little money, I'll continue.

But if I don't enjoy markets, I won't continue no matter how profitable they are. I already have a busy job that pays well. When I'm not working at that job, I want to enjoy my life. If that includes selling soap and bodycare products on a larger scale than my current little side sales, great! If not, then making those things most definitely will remain a hobby.

And that's one of the reasons that I won't sell lip balms, despite the wonderful cost margins. I hate making them! I'm won't force myself do something I don't enjoy during my precious time off, just to make money that I don't really need.

I hope that clarifies where I'm coming from. I really do appreciate your desire to help! Your post will be a gold mine for business newbies who don't have your years of experience with not only making but also successfully selling products.
LOL about the lip balms! I can't live without mine, so I HAVE to make them; so I may as well make enough to sell! But I really don't mind it - it's bath bombs for me that I hate making. I finally tweaked a recipe that behaves well but I hate making them so much that I just quit despite the great profit margin and easy sales. I have a FT job that pays my bills and life is far too short to do things that you hate.
Of course insurance is a must (as I'm sure YOU know :)) even if you're just selling at a garage sale or in your office. Honestly, even if you're just giving your soap/products away, you really should have insurance IMHO.
Markets are a lot of fun, but from a sales aspect, festivals are better. I like setting my tent and display up for a 2-3 day festival instead of a single market day. Less work and more sales. But with weekly/monthly markets you do grow your business and get your brand out there for repeat customers.
I did learn how to streamline my setup with my tent / table coverings / banners / etc. for weekly markets. I'll be more that happy to share the things I've found helpful if you'd like :)
 
Thanks, @Zany_in_CO those are some good ideas. I mostly work from a home office, and have a pretty good base of friends and family who do custom orders from me. However, for selling in any retail establishment, or at craft fairs, the insurance is now a contractual requirement - at least where I live, it is. Things sure have changed from the days when we could be more carefree about these things.

EDIT: Thankfully I am good on actual supplies for making products. It's all the extras that are adding up so fast: market fees, insurance, labels, containers, banner, table, tent, card reader .... whew!
the square reader is free, but you pay a fee for each swipe. It was super valuable at the market I did. Very easy to use.
 
I will mention that I am very sure Alison is not going to risk selling without insurance as I did not. When you start any business you have a cost to start up that business it is just what it is. I started using the Guild for insurance for personal reasons and kept them all the years I sold soap, because at one time I sold massage candles, their underwriter was the only insurer that would insure them. I also was used to paying a membership to acquire malpractice when we had our beauty shop we had to be a member of the hairdressers association to buy malpractice insurance.

Card Readers, well-stocked booths are important and multi levels help.
 
Thanks @cmzaha you are on the mark. Just like I won’t drive without insurance, I also won’t sell publically without insurance. The legal fees to defend one’s self - those alone will bankrupt most people faster than anything.

@Catscankim I do love Square; soooo much nicer and easier than PayPal! Because my other businesses are online only, I never needed a reader before. I didn’t find a free reader online, but they were only $10 each with free shipping. I got two in case one got lost or stopped working.🙂
 
I'm trying to understand just what the $285 policy from HandmadeInsurance.com covers. I assume the "medical expense limit" might be if someone gets a lye burn or rash from a soap? $1000 wouldn't go far for any medical bill. Can anyone tell me what's all the other stuff they cover at higher limits? I'm just a small hobbyist selling to friends and only a few small local markets.
  • Each Occurence Limit - $1,000,000
  • General Aggregate Limit (Other than Products-Completed Operations) - $2,000,000
  • Products-Completed Operations Aggregate Limit - $2,000,000
  • Personal and Advertising Injury Limit - $1,000,000
  • Damage to Premises Rented to You Limit - $300,000 Any One Premises
  • Medical Expense Limit - $1,000 Any One Person
 
My understanding of the Medical Expense benefit is that it covers medical care for someone who is injured on your business' actual property, and then if a customer sued you for injury arising from your products it would fall under one of the other categories, which is why the other limits are so much higher!

I think a customer injury like that would fall under the Completed Operations category but that's after a very very quick scan of my insurance documents, so I'd take that with a grain or ten of salt. :)
I believe you are on the right track. I would encourage anyone buying insurance to chat with the provider and get a clear explanation - in non-legalese - of the different coverages. :)
 
My display consists of three 6ft tables in a U-shape with the open part of the U on the inside. I prefer it this way because it gives maximum product space for customer browsing and I can move freely inside the U to talk to my customers without getting in their way. This setup fits well (albeit snugly) inside my 10x10 ft commercial tent. The only issue I’ve had is if it’s raining and I have to put the sides up, but even then there’s just enough room for customers to squeeze in to see the side tables. I also made a shade barrier out of pretty cloth that I bought in bulk on sale. Super easy to do - just add some velcro in the same size and measurements as the velcro on your tent sides. This way you can just put it up for shade where you need it. I like to use this as a background for my banner at the back of my tent in the evening when I’m doing festivals that run into the night. I got my banner from Vistaprint and it’s still great after several years!
The #1 thing that made my market/festival life easier - these table coverings:
https://www.amazon.com/ABCCANOPY-Sp...&qid=1651550039&sprefix=abccan,aps,961&sr=8-5
These things are soooo easy to use and look really professional! Mine have gotten muddy/had all kinds of things spilled on them (hello kids with ice cream!) and they look good as new after throwing in the washer! Regular wash and dry and they are still perfect. You can jazz them up with runners or whatever you choose to make your display fit your niche. I love that they don’t blow in the wind and show all of your supplies and such that you store under your tables!

The #2 thing I’ve learned is to pack my display stuff efficiently. This seems like common sense, but it took me a while to figure this out for myself, lol! What should be on the top of my totes when I open them? My table coverings. Because that’s the first thing I need to set up for my display. What should be on the bottom? My actual display pieces like bowls/shelves/etc. I pack my shopping bags in totes to keep them safe and dry and only take out a stack at a time to have within easy reach. I pack another small tote with things like paper towels, scissors, clamps, markers, baby wipes,etc. For me a cooler is a must for water and soft drinks! All of these totes (along with my product totes) fit neatly under my tables, so the appearance of my area is tidy and clean. I also have clear shower curtains from the dollar store to cover my tables/products in the event of rain. It really helped me with my weekly market once I figured out how to organize my totes efficiently and not have to go digging for what I needed!!

#3 - Have samples. When I first started doing a weekly market, the market already had a well-known soapmaker who specialized in goat-milk soap from the goats on her farm. Her style was very rustic and natural, while my style was much more ‘frou-frou’. People would come to my tent and admire my soap and displays, but rarely bought anything until I started offering free samples (no purchase necessary). My tagline became “I know I make great soap, but you don’t until you try it!” I made a batch every month solely for small free sample bars and asked people to give me feedback. This worked like a dream and I soon had my own following. Plus it was a great way to try out fragrances before buying in bulk! BTW - while this initially caused some issues with the other soapmaker, we eventually became great friends and still are today :)

#4 - Have cash. For small markets I have $100 cash at the beginning of the day and for festivals I have $300. It just makes life easier.

#5 - I have the free Square reader and the Square chip reader. Check your wi-fi availability when you set up as a lot of markets and festivals don’t have great coverage. I generally have the best results with making my phone a hotspot and using my Ipad for actual sales.

#6 - Another thing about display pieces and product/price signs. Choose things that won’t easily get knocked over by customers or blown over in a gust of wind. No matter how cute the display piece, if you are constantly having to put it back into place you’ll get sick of it in a hurry! After using all kinds of things for product pricing, the best things I’ve found are metal place card stands. I used a Cricut for the general product name and price, like “Soap” with the price below. Mine are heavy enough that they don’t fall over easily and they look both unique and professional. I bought a bunch of them from Michaels when they were on clearance but they look similar to these - just shorter and wider, but you get the general idea. https://www.hobbylobby.com/Party-Ba...Galvanized-Metal-Place-Card-Stands/p/80943319



Hope this helps and have fun! Markets and festivals ARE hard work but they are so much fun! I LOVE meeting my customers and seeing what people like and dislike.
 
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