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Cat&Oak

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I'm finding myself feeling blah about my business right now. @AliOop got me really thinking about what I am doing. I filed dissolution paperwork with my state today for my LLC. I use a company called Zen Business to take care of all my paperwork but it costs $600 a year to keep it going and I'm not selling anything at all besides what friends and family bought from my website initially.

I really felt like I did everything correctly preparing making sure I had insurance, LLC, business account etc. The one thing I didn't have was something that differentiated me from other soap makers. I felt that I could hit the ground running having prepared so well and having good soap.

Having videos and Instagram made zero difference. Having a gorgeous website and beautiful soap made no difference. Adding products made no difference. Being on Shopify having safe and secure purchasing was no help either. I would get views but no purchases. I went up on my prices and down to $6.50 a bar and nothing. Shopify does have a feature that let's you put your store on pause for $9 a month and I did that for now until I figure this all out.. I didn't buy Google or Facebook ads because I couldn't justify the expense.

I can still have a sole proprietorship and do markets around here and that is probably what I will do. But the real issue is I don't enjoy the business aspects of running a soap company...at all. All the ins and outs are tedious to me. I love creating but the constant worry and stress are getting to me. It's hard when you put so much heart and money into something and the public is not interested no matter how hard you try.

I know I will probably get a big "I told you so." from some people. I don't have a lot of self esteem and I'm sure that doesn't help either.

I just don't know if selling is for me. It's all been very disappointing so far. I have been browsing the big name hand made soapers and a lot of them have lowered their prices and are not constantly sold out like they used to be. They are making more things for their stores, mostly candles. Perhaps it was a bad time to start a soap making company.

Am I the only one struggling right now? I am going to take a step back from this and reevaluate whether this is something I really want to do or not.

Thanks for listening 😔
 
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Bless you - no "told you so" (as I didn't tell you) but I think it illustrates a reason why many of us recommend not turning a hobby in to a business too quickly - there is a massive difference between a hobby and a business, or even a hobby and a side hussle.

I am pretty good with a camera, and LOVED taking pictures. So I did a course and started shooting weddings. I was doing well as a side hussle and enjoyed the work, but I also lost the love of just taking pictures for me. I would only use my camera for work. Even when I stopped doing weddings (I still do it for friends and family sometimes) it took a long time before I would be able to pick up my camera for fun, and I think the big catalyst for that was having children!

And with soaping, it is that business side of things which makes the difference, and is pretty much a make or break aspect of it all. Back to photography, a friend of mine took better pictures, but wasn't as good with people or at the business side of things, which resulted in me actually being a better wedding photographer even though he was a better photographer.

I feel for you, but I am also impressed that you made the decision to step back a bit and could be so honest about it.
 
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What a challenge. I feel for you without any judgment. I think you show strength in character to step back and give such an honest evaluation of your situation. Perhaps too much too fast. It takes time to build a business. Perhaps take a job in something you are passionate about and do soap as a side hussle for a time until you build up enough happy clientele to go to business. There are always things about anything we undertake to do that we don't like. We can't love it all! All the best going forward!
 

SoapDaddy70

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I commend you for your honesty. I started making soap as a way to tame my anxiety and find a hobby that had a creative outlet for someone with not a creative bone in their body, As I started giving my soap away I got the usual "Oh why don't you sell your soap...." I dipped my toes into research for what it would take and right away I knew it wasn't going to happen. Granted, I am a pessimist and do not have the type of personality to throw caution to the wind so I knew in my heart that this was going to be a hobby and nothing more. Sometimes I think being successful in such an oversaturated market as soapmaking is just dumb luck. The part of your post that struck me was "The one thing I didn't have was something that differentiated me from other soap makers" To be honest, with so many soapmakers out there what could you possibly do that sets you apart from someone else. Vegan? Goats Milk? Honey? Beeswax? Expensive luxury oils? Look up any of these niche markets and you could probably find 10-15 soapmakers doing the same exact thing. What happens in saturated markets like this is people will start undercutting everybody else and lowering prices to the point that you can't even turn a profit.
 

dibbles

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I think what you are doing by stepping away for awhile to reassess is a good decision. You now know what having a soap business entails, and in a month or two you can be in a better position to decide if this is something you want to continue to do. If you decide you don't want to continue, don't think of it as a failure. You tried something - it wasn't for you. There is nothing wrong with that.

On the other hand, I have a friend who worked very hard by doing multiple markets. Every weekend she attended at least one. She also started her web store at about the same time. It took five years of this before her web store gave enough business that she was able to start dropping the number of markets she was doing. Now, at ten years, she will be done with the one market she still attends. Her web store keeps her busy enough. Her business was built by being out there - if she hadn't been out there meeting people and talking to them and was only relying on customers finding her online I doubt that she would have the success she is now enjoying. But it took a lot of hard work over a long period of time.

Good luck, Cat. You have to make the decision that is right for you.
 
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I think what you are doing by stepping away for awhile to reassess is a good decision. You now know what having a soap business entails, and in a month or two you can be in a better position to decide if this is something you want to continue to do. If you decide you don't want to continue, don't think of it as a failure. You tried something - it wasn't for you. There is nothing wrong with that.

On the other hand, I have a friend who worked very hard by doing multiple markets. Every weekend she attended at least one. She also started her web store at about the same time. It took five years of this before her web store gave enough business that she was able to start dropping the number of markets she was doing. Now, at ten years, she will be done with the one market she still attends. Her web store keeps her busy enough. Her business was built by being out there - if she hadn't been out there meeting people and talking to them and was only relying on customers finding her online I doubt that she would have the success she is now enjoying. But it took a lot of hard work over a long period of time.

Good luck, Cat. You have to make the decision that is right for you.
Oh so true. I found that being "out there" at markets and such is when you really move product and build your repeat customers.
 
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No one should be telling you, "I told you so." Building a soap business is very very hard and I can only imagine it is extremely hard today. When my daughter and I started I told her we were a few years too late but she worked hard and made her m&p business work well enough to support her family for the years she stayed in business. I did the cp end and the outdoor business while she handled the online end of the business. It was hard hard work. She was on her computer daily promoting the business while my husband and I attended up to 5 markets per week for almost 10 yrs. FYI I never went the LLC route as I am very against corps, yes I have been involved in business corporations. We started during the time sample box companies were popular which my daughter sent a lot of samples too. I would gain us a few customers but was extremely hard work. My daughter stayed in business and supported her family for approx 5yrs until too many DIY sites became popular for Bath and Body products.

I made the decision right after covid hit to shut down my business, which was easy with no corp to worry about, due to losing my last good market. My decision was more due to health and age. But if you really want to succeed it takes years and lots of exposure both online and attending markets or footwork to gain wholesale accounts, which I never did. I refused to make and sell my products at wholesale prices plus we loved meeting and talking to customers at markets. Two years later I still get calls and send out deodorants and soaps to a few old customers. I miss attending markets even today, but I could not expect my husband to continue carrying heavy soap and product crates with his cervical issues.

I wish you good luck with whatever final decision you come up with. Maybe we can meet up sometime when I get moved to Winnemucca. I am considering making soap again when I relocate since I will have a huge reptile/craft room.
 
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I've noticed the same thing that dibbles did. I'm in year 4 of doing my one market - just one. I'm finally seeing a following, people seeking me out. My last market was my best one to date. I have people from out of town asking about buying online but I'm completely unapologetic about not having one. I do let them know that they can contact me directly if they want something; I'm happy to do it that way.

I made the decision not to set up a business web page, other than FB and Instagram. I have a website but it has been sorely neglected. As well, I still have a full time job so I just don't have the time to commit to a web store or multiple markets. For me, this is just enough for now.

I commend you for giving it a go. Knowing when to step back is just as important as knowing when to step up. Good on you for recognizing that it was time. (((hugs)))
 
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I'm sorry you are having such a rough time, but good for you to take a step back to see if it is really something you want to do. I make soap because I love doing it, I like having my own handmade products to use, and I enjoy giving my soap away as gifts to friends and family. I do sell a little here and there, mainly just to help cover some of the costs of making it, and because people have requested it. It's never going to be a big business for me, so I don't treat it as such. I do have a website, but I mostly just sell to friends and family (and it was fun for me to make the website.) I may do a market at some point, but I'm not even sure about that. It's not something that I want to stress at all about--it's all just for fun, and if it ever becomes stressful, I will stop selling.

May I ask what paperwork the Zen Business takes care of that they charge $600 for?
 

Cat&Oak

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Having an LLC in Nevada with a registered agent is $450 a year and I was on the premium plan which included business email and website which is not e-commerce ready btw. So that was an additional $250 a year for them to keep me in compliance. You would think I was rich but far from it I just didn't know how to do it myself.

 
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Having an LLC in Nevada with a registered agent is $450 a year and I was on the premium plan which included business email and website which is not e-commerce ready btw. So that was an additional $250 a year for them to keep me in compliance. You would think I was rich but far from it I just didn't know how to do it myself.

Wow! It's $10 a year in Colorado to register your LLC! I work for an attorney who serves as a registered agent for LLCs and in addition to the $10, we charge about $8 more to file the periodic report. $450 is insane!
 

TheGecko

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No...it's not, it's a lot of freaking work and it can take several years (and thousands of dollars) before you can see any black ink.

A little reality check...all those 'big name hand made soapers'...they weren't always 'big name hand made soapers'. Tiggy, Katie, Holly, Ariane, Teri, Karen, Keeley, Lisa, Julie, Clyde, Patrick, Holly, Ellen, etc...all these folks have been making soap for a decade or more. And if one were to judge them based on YT, Katie is the only one who is truly "big name" with almost 900k subscribers. On the whole, Katie's soap recipe is nothing special...it's BB's basic recipe with a little (5%) Sweet Almond Oil added in, but she is where she is for two reasons...huge family support and marketing. She's the Duchess of Suds, her followers are the Royal Court, small town girl makes good, she makes 'high tops' that are over the top, she rarely repeats her design, soap releases, soap collections. But as you noted, she's not selling out like she used to. She did a video last month in which she noted that viewership had slowed down and so she is trying new things.

Here's the thing...some hobbies aren't meant to be businesses. Back in my twenties I used to sew...made my husbands shirts, made all my clothes, my kids' clothes. I loved sewing and I was very good at it. After our second child, it was decided I would be a SAHM and I turned my hobby into a business. I loved doing the "Baby Stuff" (my label)...sheet sets for cradles, nightgowns, bibs...very exclusive stuff for a high end shop at my convenience. It was the rest that I got to hate. The whole 'sewing on demand' thing, fittings, changes, trying to alter a size 8 design for a size 22 woman. I haven't touched a sewing machine in over thirty years.

On the other hand...there are sometimes opportunities that come our way. I didn't set out to start a LDP (legal document preparation) business...I was just helping out a friend with his paperwork. Then I helped out a friend of the friend and that friend gave me some money for my time and recommended someone else. Word of mouth and a year later, I quit my full-time job. Finally reached a point where I was going to have to hire someone when the world stopped turning...9/11. I was starting to recover when local attorneys finally discovered how much money was to be made in Pro-Se litigation and started offering the same services, but with a hook I couldn't complete with because I wasn't an attorney.

I didn't plan on selling soap, I just wanted to learn how to make Goat Milk Soap for myself and my family. I enjoy making soap, but I'm not 'passionate' about it. I'm not overly creative either... I don't do 'color theory', I don't do 'vegan' or 'all natural', I don't like crap on my soap or a bunch of it in my soap, I don't do 'embeds' or soap dough or piping or sculpting. I have zero interest in making candles or bath bombs or shampoo or linen sprays. I think that that is what has been so frustrating for me and why it was taken me so long to move forward. My original idea was to make a good quality that everyone could enjoy and would become a staple in their home. But then I got caught up in all the colorants and scents and designs and techniques and molds and...down the rabbit hole I went and getting further and further away from my original idea.

I think you are absolutely doing the right thing. And even better...you can have your cake and eat it too; it's called a "hobby business" and it's very simple. No complicated accounting, just track your sales and report it it on Line 8 of the 1040. You'll want a business name for your label and that is simple too...Assumed Name or DBA (doing business as) or Fictitious Name are filed on the county level; fill out the form, have it notarized (your bank should do it for free) and pay the fee. It should be noted that this is not the same as a Trade Name, which gives you the sole right to the same. And your insurance. That's it. You can now go back to enjoying making soap and going to markets as you want, when you want.
 
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@Cat&Oak I have dipped into and out of selling for almost two years now, and for all the reasons you mentioned. We even seriously considered buying a local soap-making business. It was a good price for all the equipment and local wholesale accounts that were included, such as Whole Foods, Albertsons, Natural Grocers, etc.

If I didn't have a very busy day job, and another side hustle, and far-flung family to visit and church commitments (and, and), then maybe it would make more sense to get serious about a soaping business. It sure would be nice if I could get back at least the cost of my ingredients and supplies. But realistically, I would have to squeeze all the business end of soaping into my "spare" time (i.e., when I should be sleeping). This would leave me zero breathing room in my life. Plus, soaping would become a have-to instead of a get-to.

I'm not saying "never," but I am saying, "not now." Sounds like you are doing the same, and it is a good thing. I would echo those who said that there is no shame or loss in trying something and then deciding it is not for you. Or not for right now. In my book, that's not a failure, but a success. You are being true to you, and your life's priorities. Good on ya!
 
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Cat&Oak

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Wow! It's $10 a year in Colorado to register your LLC! I work for an attorney who serves as a registered agent for LLCs and in addition to the $10, we charge about $8 more to file the periodic report. $450 is insane!
Nevada is the second highest LLC in the nation which I don't understand...higher than California? Why?

The whole "be different than other soapers" I got from Soapmaker to Moneymaker and honestly it is insane how can you be? But kudos to Kenna she is savvy, she found a way to make a living teaching soapers to become businesses but even she said it wasn't for everyone.

You are right Gecko about the big name soapers and I have EVEN more admiration for all of them for all their hard work and success.

Did you know that in 2019 there were over 300,000 soap making businesses in the US?

Alioop I'm with you and thank you everyone for sharing your personal experiences with your businesses. It means a lot to me that you all took the time to respond. 😘
 
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Sorry to disappoint @Cat&Oak, but CA is higher... $800 per year minimum tax on every CA LLC, even if you sell nothing, or have a loss. They charge this same fee to every out-of-state LLC that makes any sales within CA, too.

Edit: plus, you have to file separate LLC sales tax returns in CA. That means either figuring it out yourself, or paying someone to do that for you. Total PITT.
 
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<SNIP>

I didn't plan on selling soap, I just wanted to learn how to make Goat Milk Soap for myself and my family. I enjoy making soap, but I'm not 'passionate' about it. I'm not overly creative either... I don't do 'color theory', I don't do 'vegan' or 'all natural', I don't like crap on my soap or a bunch of it in my soap, I don't do 'embeds' or soap dough or piping or sculpting. I have zero interest in making candles or bath bombs or shampoo or linen sprays. I think that that is what has been so frustrating for me and why it was taken me so long to move forward. My original idea was to make a good quality that everyone could enjoy and would become a staple in their home. But then I got caught up in all the colorants and scents and designs and techniques and molds and...down the rabbit hole I went and getting further and further away from my original idea.

I have been on a similar journey. I started with HP shaving soap and moved into CP in part because it's a natural pairing, and I really dislike how commercial syndet soaps feel on my skin. Likewise, I don't do any of the above. No colors, shapes, embeds, blah, blah, blah. I don't even do markets or shows. Despite all that, I have built a following for my CP soaps, but it has taken YEARS to get here.
 
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I am with you on not liking the business aspect of it, I especially hate the marketing part. In a free class from Kenna, she mentioned that once you have a soap business, about 80% of the time will be spent in marketing and only a small percentage of time in the actual making of soap, which she probably mentioned in the course (?) or enrollment you took. That was eye opening for me.

I recently made the decision to remove my soap listings from my square website, since it was too much work to add them only to later remove them because I gave away the soap. I had a few online sales before COVID, but nothing lately, only in person. It felt so nice and freeing. I have a square card reader, so listing them through their store site had no additional cost, only processing fees when something sold.

I also did one Christmas market last weekend (the only one all year). Sadly, my soaps are mostly bought as gifts or for display, so I only make attempts to sell them in person at Christmas time. I dread doing markets too, but once I am there, it is not so bad. Anyway, the response from the market made me think that perhaps that is all I need to do, one yearly market and the rest of the time enjoy it as a hobby.
Whichever decision you take, wait until you are in a good mood to make it, not when feeling blah about soap making/selling 😊
Perhaps find ways to do it inexpensively like @TheGecko suggested. One reason I have my own name in my “soap business“ is to avoid doing the DBA until it grows enough to justify it, same for an LLC. I discussed this with my CPA initially, and he just does a schedule (A or B?) to report my income and expenses from the different avenues I have. Personally, I find that providing a service (like photography or face painting) has usually been more profitable than making and selling a product, because I do not enjoy the latter probably, and there is a higher demand for the other.

One last thing I learned from watching Shark tank, most of the people in the show have a “cost of acquisition”, they spend money (in ads in social media usually) to acquire customers. I am too cheap to do that, but I have heard it recommended in the business boutique group (they said they ads are cheap).

Like most others have said, it does take time, usually years and then you are an “overnight success”, the current times are definitely making it more difficult for all business in general, so take that into account too.
 
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cerelife

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The one thing I didn't have was something that differentiated me from other soap makers.
Doing markets and festivals is a great way to create your 'niche' and set yourself apart from everyone else! What do you want customers to think/feel when they see your products and display? Let your imagination run wild and create your own little world in your tent.
For example: I based my branding on luxury. My soaps probably aren't that different from any other soapmaker, but my branding, packaging, and bags are based on the idea of Tiffany & Co. I want my customers to have no doubt that my products are an indulgence and my tent display is an extension of that idea. It's over the top (think a crazed baroque style) with a mini chandelier hanging from the center of my tent, but it does tend to catch people's attention!
Granted the full display isn't feasible for a single market day, but it's great for festivals and art shows.
I love doing festivals :))
I hope this helps you in even some little way and I wish you well!!
 
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I sell on Ebay right now. Tried setting up an Amazon shop and it was a total PITA! (I'm not talking about flatbreads either.)

I tried Etsy but there are over 2500 listings for shave soaps alone on Etsy. The are about 1,634 listings for shave soap on Ebay, however when doing a generic search titled "Shave Soap", my three listings appear in the first 10 listings. Not too bad I would say. I believe folks are more concerned about the Holidays right now and shave soap is a consumable that lasts quite a long time to be honest. I plan on adding my new shave soap paste in 4 oz. jars soon too. I have piddled around with that formula for a few months and I think I have finally got it to be SPOT ON! I will be adding bar soaps too early next year.

Yes, Ebay does take a chunk of change when I sell. I did really well in the beginning. These past two months it's really slowed down, like really slow.

I plan on doing a website via SQUARE, not Squarespace, but SQUARE. This is the same company that has those CC readers that plug into smartphones for selling at places like farmer's markets, etc. It's called Square For Retail. No monthly fee, a 2.9% plus 30¢ online transaction fee. Now Square for Retail offers several options, the free one is just for small Mom & Pop operations. It's other options are for bigger businesses with both brick and mortar plus online presence. For me I believe it will be a good fit.

Regarding business conditions at this present time, I think it has a lot to do with a general "malaise" affecting the entire nation right now. I won't get political because every time I do I always tick some person off in one way or another. Let's just say, to paraphrase Shakespeare... "There's something rotten in the State of Denmark".

The 60 MINUTES piece the other night about the logjams at the West Coast ports was insightful because it is not a shortage of trucks, truck drivers, workers, etc. It is because the ports are jammed full with EMPTY shipping containers and no where to put them while trying to unload the ships. Plus, as usual the ports are run by the municipalities that they're located in. Yes, point a finger at Long Beach and Los Angeles. In the Netherlands, the port facilities are run by a APM Terminals, a private company that INVESTS in upgrading their facilities on a regular basis, using modern logistics software, etc.

Gawd... I am so sorry for my soapbox minute. o_O

@Cat&Oak I think the basic difference is between selling and marketing.
Selling Green Chile pork tamales on the streets of San Antonio TX is easy, trying to sell them in Bangor ME takes some marketing.

I wish you all the best in your future endeavors going forward. I also appreciate all the behind the scenes support you showed to me during a recent kerfuffle regarding starting up a new forum sub-section. At least the powers that be were insightful enough to add a prefix modifier when creating a new thread.

Darn it... time to adjust the Warp Drive coils and get this ol' jalopy back into orbit! LOL! 🛸

For my secret advisor... :swinging:
 

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