To sell, or not to sell...

Discussion in 'Lye-Based Soap Forum' started by Sarah Seaton, Mar 7, 2019.

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  1. Mar 14, 2019 #41

    Dahila

    Dahila

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    it took me like 4 years to build customers base, soap is a small part of what i make, I have like over 50 products with cosmetic numbers. I sell on busy market but even with being busy it is not that profitable. As a major source of income? it took some people like 10 years (I am in Canada) to make decent profit on it, In States the market is saturated with soap. Everyone makes soap. In the other words, I think US is easier to sell. Whatever you decide; good luck :)
    Shows; in 2018/2019 I made 8 shows which only one was profitable, maybe this a case in Canada, but shows are getting more expensive and do not bring a lot of money..... I am sticking from now on with my market
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
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  2. Mar 14, 2019 #42

    Candybee

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    I do this full time after I retired. Personally I love doing markets and craft fairs and work year round most every weekend. I tend to do 2-3 markets a week during market season (May through October) and craft shows during the fall and holiday season (September through December). It keeps me busy and I do well. One of my markets is open year round so when I don't have another market or craft show on my schedule I attend my 'base' market so this is why I work year round.

    I'm not getting rich at this but I make more money than my social security pays me or a part time job. Its a great supplement to my income, keeps my bills paid, pays for my soapmaking and B&B and candle making supplies paid for, and my car serviced and running.

    Like others have mentioned there is a lot of bookkeeping, marketing, and good salesmanship needed to make it as a business. You also need to have a great product not only to outdo the competition but to reach new customers and retain your hard earned customer base.

    The reason why I am doing so well.... I love what I do, making soap, love bookkeeping, and worked hard at developing a great product. I also discovered I have crazy good selling skills. I could sell ice to an Eskimo. How did I get this way? A lot of it is the pure joy of what I do and knowing my product inside and out. It shows when I talk about my soap to customers.

    I tend to do better than other soapers at my markets and shows because of this and because I engage my customers and they see first hand how knowledgeable and caring I am about my soap.

    I have just two wholesale customers. I used to have many more and absolutely hated it. I discovered wholesaling is not for me so I quit doing it. The are several reasons I continue to keep my last two wholesale customers. We also go back a long ways too so I will continue until the time comes either they move on or I do. But I don't want to wholesale or do fundraisers.

    Interesting that when I was first doing wholesale I went door to door to shops all up and down the valley area I live in. Most customers liked me and my product and bought from me. I usually did about $2K in wholesale per month just starting out. But soon discovered I really didn't like following up and got tired real quick doing wholesale. I could have done really well but just didn't care for it and didn't want it to burn me out doing something I really didn't enjoy.

    Okay I see I am rambling so I will stop. But I say if you have a dream of making soap and one day selling go with your dream. If its meant to be you will find your way through your own devices. At least I am a firm believer that what makes you happy is worth pursuing.
     
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  3. Mar 14, 2019 #43

    Marilyn Norgart

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    I still say we need a "love this" button
     
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  4. Mar 14, 2019 #44

    cmzaha

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    Sounds just like me!! It is great extra money and fortunately my hubby helps with setup. Although he is facing elbow and shoulder surgery so will probably have to take a long break in the next year or so. I have a customer base at a couple of my holiday shows that show up every year and stock up for the next year.
     
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  5. Mar 15, 2019 #45

    Lin19687

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    i I suggest reading in the Craft & Biz sections. you can't post there yet but there is a TON of info in there.
     
  6. Mar 15, 2019 #46

    kasilofchrisn

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    I'm just a hobbyist at this point and do not sell so take this for what it's worth.
    But I have to agree with the above comment.
    I think you have to pick a business model and work to that.
    your business model maybe that you have a full-time job and just do a couple craft shows a year. If you make a little money doing that and you're happy with it then I think that's good.
    I think that's also a great way to get started to see if you would want to do this as a full-time business or if you are able to do this as a full-time business.
    I don't think a person necessarily needs to jump in with both feet and try to make a living pay your mortgage and all your bills doing this.
    Doing a couple of craft fairs/farmers markets/ shows here and there to get your feet wet to see if people like your product and if you can actually make a little profit doing it is likely a good way to start.
    Doing a website, Etsy store, etcetera all require that you keep a certain amount of product on hand continue to make product and the cost associated with it.
    But when you do a craft fair your only selling what you have already made and packaged up.
    And if it doesn't work out and you lose a little money at least you're not paying a monthly fee for a website and all that goes with it.
    I know a lot of people say the market for soap is saturated.
    But do all of those people live in the area you live in?
    Are all those people making the same kinds of soap as you?
    I know some of the soaps I'll be making this summer will not be the same soap everybody else makes. Mainly because I like to use oils infused with wild local herbal products.
    So I think it depends on a lot of different factors on whether you'll make money but I think testing the waters with a couple of craft fairs or shows will give you an idea whether you really want to do it and whether you can make a profit at it.
    This is just my two cents take it for what it's worth.
     
  7. Mar 15, 2019 #47

    Dahila

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    there is not so many variation in soaps as above poster think, I also use a lot of herbs in my products, some wild some grown in my garden for this purpose.. almost all soaps are similar if you do not go above 20% with Coconut oil. Soap is the easiest thing to make, really it is not rocket science
     
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  8. Mar 15, 2019 #48

    kasilofchrisn

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    The population of my community will easily double and often triple during the peak of the tourist season.
    And while my soap may or may not be all that different or any better than yours,
    Do you think someone flies/drives 2,000-4,000 miles to Alaska to get the same soap you make and sell at their local craft fair back home?
    Or does the label appeal of a product using some local ingredients and made locally mean something special to those customers?
    That's what I'm getting at.
    There are potentially areas that have available market share for niche products.
    Many of the herbal and medicinal plants in my area are certainly different than those in yours.
    Yes there are a couple of people who sell soap in my area and I'm sure they take advantage of our tourist market.
    But from what I've seen of their stuff mine is quite different.
    Like I said I do not currently sell my bath and body products anyway just give my excess away as gifts.
    Again just my 2 cents.
     
  9. Mar 15, 2019 #49

    LilyJo

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    I think we all have an opinion or can offer advice based on our own experience and that will vary from area to area and from country to country. What works in Canada or Alaska wouldnt necessarily work in England or Spain and vice versa. So, its all very well saying find a niche idea, or stick to your ideas or something but its important to be realistic too and understand that soap making is a tough business to make any long term money right now without putting the effort and the hours in, to the business and the marketing as well as the soap making. And that level of commitment may not be appropriate for someone who has bills to pay and for whom soap making needs to be a job and not a hobby.

    TBH its part of the reason we have decided reluctantly to move away from selling bath and body (including soap) for now, as the market is just so saturated here and unfortunately both soap and candles are products that have a very low barrier to entry - making both the online and physical market one that has a great deal of low cost, low quality competition.

    I know what works for us and whilst I love making soap and the creativity that goes with it, I am fed up with competing with newcomers who dont follow the law, cut corners and sell cheap because they dont have the setup costs that legally compliant businesses do.

    I wouldnt want to put anyone off trying but just remember it IS a tough market, customers can buy from anywhere in the world at a click of a button and find any number of niche products that fit what they need. There will always be a market for face to face selling but understanding who your customer is, what they want and WHY they would buy from you has to be the first step.
     
  10. Mar 16, 2019 at 3:18 AM #50

    kasilofchrisn

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    I suppose I should have been more clear in my first post in this thread.
    But just because one is selling soap doesn't mean one has to sell enough to pay all of one's bills.
    I think a person has to start with reasonable goals, taylor a business plan to reach those goals, and then decide where the business will take them after they have tried it for a while.
    For instance I have a friend Alicia who makes handmade crochet items.
    Mostly hats but also scarfs and other things.
    She knows her market and she knows they don't sell well at all in the summertime even though there are a lot of opportunities to sell at local craft markets during the tourist season.
    she also knows that there are other people in our area selling the same things, though there's are usually not as well made.
    Anyway her yearly goal is to sell enough of her handmade goods to buy Christmas presents for her four kids.
    And for the last several years she has met that goal.
    She knows she cannot make enough money making her crocheted items and selling them to pay all of her bills for the year.
    So instead she set a goal of paying for her kids Christmas presents which she finds with a little bit of hard work she can obtain every year.
    She has a day job that pays her bills and uses her off time to crochet.
    So good question for the OP here is what would be your initial goal if you decided to sell?
    A hobby that (mostly) pays for itself?
    Making a little extra spending money for Christmas?
    Paying all of your bills as a professional soap maker?
    All of those are vastly different and would certainly determine you're selling venue whether that's an Etsy store, website, craft shows Etc.
     
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  11. Mar 16, 2019 at 8:30 AM #51

    The Efficacious Gentleman

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    But whatever your goal, make sure that you price correctly. Some people may well pay their bills with the soap income, and if someone comes along who only wants to offset the cost of their hobby by selling soap at what is in business terms a huge loss, they might well struggle to do that.
     
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  12. Mar 16, 2019 at 12:55 PM #52

    ilovebathing

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    After reading this, and sorry I am under the weather so I may not be as polished as i would hope to be. It must of been a coincidence that I read this post and a video of Humble Bee and Me’s “why i stopped selling” it may be something in a concious level that I may find it that I am not the only one who feels this way every now and then. Here’s my confession, the one thing I hated was wrapping my soaps and listing them on Etsy. It was the most tedious thing. Being a one woman show here, I felt that why on earth did I listen to my friends or family in selling it? I realized I am the type of person who competes even if the craft was not soap making, my cousin had her etsy shop and she did quite well, so I thought maybe I should pursue it as well. Sometimes, I have my regrets here and there. But I had to try it and see for myself. Now, I want to he honest here, I sold more soaps to coworkers, family, and family friends for the first year. I barely sold off my Etsy store. And honestly, I am not very good at selling. I had realized that it is not because I don't love it or passionate about what I make, perhaps I am not hungry enough to keep going at it. I even decided to rename my shop because I it didn't sound like a good label name. There are so may things that goes on when deciding to “sell.” And you certainly can’t keep all the bars at home? How can I store it? Do I donate all my products and unused shipping items? I am at a point where I dont want to lose the creativity and the joy of making soap, candles or make up. So if anybody here understands this or perhaps not, I am not discouraging anyone, but I had to write this so if a few months from now , I can look back and say... wow I am glad I decided .... (well Its not the future,yet so here goes another day). Feed our obsession or sell every now and then or just give it all up and do this as a hobby.
     
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  13. Mar 18, 2019 at 12:43 PM #53

    MickeyRat

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    I keep toying with the idea of selling. Everyone that gets my soap loves it and says I should. Here's my situation. I'm retired and I can afford to make all the soap I want and give it away. I won't turn it down but, money's not my goal. What I'm missing is interaction with other people.

    I'm thinking that I could build up some stock and sell at local flea markets. Make how and when I please and sell it when I have it. Don't sell it when I don't. I realize that this is not the way to build a business but, again I'm not in it for the money. It's a different business model.

    Here's what I think I need to look into:

    Costs for ingredients which right now are a wild guess.
    Costs for booth space.
    Labeling requirements.
    I can afford HSCG insurance but, I need to make sure it's enough.
    Look into whether I need to register as a small business.
    I only make true soap so I don't think the FDA is much of an issue but, need to do more research.

    Anything I'm missing?
     
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  14. Mar 18, 2019 at 3:17 PM #54

    shunt2011

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    Yes, you are missing something. Once you sell you are a business....then you need to file as a business for taxes etc.......Also have to pay sales tax.
     
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  15. Mar 18, 2019 at 3:36 PM #55

    ilovebathing

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    Here's a few things I learned along the way MickeyRat, hope it helps no matter what you decide to do:
    1. Talk to your accountant (Shunt2011 points out so that's awesome)
    2. Create a business plan, this will help you understand what audience are you selling to, your goals, making a name for yourself
    3. Vendor list and a budget sheet. This keeps track of how much I spend every month and keep track of vendors that give me the best prices on my soapy materials.
    4. Be realistic, what do you like or hate? Shipping ? Making labels? wrapping the soap? Do I want to make custom batches? Also, do you have someone helping you? If you have help and this is a good thing, sometimes we can't be jack of all trades, I don't really believe in that personally. When I started selling, I realized I learned a lot about myself. Also, talking to other soap makers who sell, talk to the ones that sell their soaps. How are they selling it to you? Is anything they say helpful? I have found that even walking around the farmers market and even the mall, that I find that they give me something to think about (I also call it R&D time, Research and Development).
    5. Go to your nearest city hall or online, search for small business class and sometimes they give free classes and advice.

    The great thing is, you have time. I work a 40 hours which I love as well, so time isn't what I have right now. I just have to be patient and see where this goes...

    Good luck! and I'm sure what business route you do is going to be great!
     
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  16. Mar 18, 2019 at 8:57 PM #56

    DawninWA

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    I sell at the little local farmers market because it's fun. I then have a few months to regroup and not make soap. I make enough to pay for my supplies and time, but if I had to do it for a living, I think I'd hate it. People tell me I should sell online, but I don't want to. There are thousands of soap sellers on etsy. I like seeing people pick up my soap and smell it. Sometimes making a nice face, sometimes not (patchouli). For me, it's about interacting with people.

    There is another soap vendor at the same market, but our products are very dissimilar. They have a bit of a gimmick where they use water that is from a local mineral water lake touted as having healing properties. They have a few different scents (essential oils only) and everything is all natural, and all the same color. Mine have all sorts of fragrance oils and essential oils and many are colored with mica. I do have some all natural soaps, but people stop because they see the colors.
     
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  17. Mar 19, 2019 at 2:32 AM #57

    DWinMadison

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    Yep, and it introduces all kinds of complications to your taxes. You’ll probably want to incorporate, so you’ll have to decide on a type of corp: sole proprietorship, LLC, etc. If you use your vehicle for business and personal, there’s accounting there. Don’t mix your personal and business expenses (e.g. buying supplies from your joint checking account). Don’t forget business insurance. Owning a business can be fun, but it does take “care and feeding.”

    Interesting thread as my wife and I are considering how to make this a very real, but part-time business in retirement as supplemental income. I have confidence in my soaping skills...especially with a few years to improve consistency. I’ve run a major business as CEO for a long time, so budgeting, marketing, managing expenses, etc. are all second nature. My only apprehension is related to the will and energy to make it successful. I’m hoping this would be something the wife and I might enjoy doing together.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 19, 2019 at 5:36 AM
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  18. Mar 19, 2019 at 5:04 AM #58

    Misschief

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    OT but a hot button for my husband and me...THE wife? She's YOUR wife. (end rant...not much of a ranter, am I?)
     
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  19. Mar 19, 2019 at 8:19 PM #59

    MadTeddyBear

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    You don't necessarily need to file taxes as a business (depending on the state?), but creating a business is a lot better. If you classify it as a hobby with the IRS you pay taxes on gross income and there are strict rules on deductions for expenses. Right now I can't register as a business, so I'll probably start selling and reporting as a hobby (with insurance, because you also lose protections offered by registering as a business). If my website weren't essentially free I'd probably be losing money for a while.
     
  20. Mar 19, 2019 at 11:11 PM #60

    Amy78130

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    Definitely good to be prepared! After a few years of making, I started selling my soap and other handmade goods on Etsy and locally. It is a saturated market, but I’m not hurting for business! Do lots of research and definitely try and find your nieche before your grand opening. Take some time to design your brand. Also, never sell yourself short, do research on what others are pricing at. It’s ok to price competitively, just not too low. Visit your local farmers markets and vendor fairs and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Most importantly, perfect your craft, have lots of fun experimenting and finding recipes that work for you! Have your family and friends try them and see what they think. You’ll know when the time is right to decide to expand or keep it a hobby. It’s definitely not a cheap hobby, but it’s very rewarding! Don’t worry if business starts out slow, it takes time to build a customer base. Hope this helps!!
     
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