what I learned from my first soap market experience (picts)

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green soap

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DSC01369 by rosetalleo, on Flickr


soap and jam gift basketsdec112011 by rosetalleo, on Flickr

This was in southern California, a very diverse clientele. Folks that like markets, support local business people and appreciate home made soap.

The top figure shows baskets marked un scented, scented with essential oils and infusions, and scented. Scented means using fragrance oils.

Interestingly enough, the soaps sold in the same proportion as how many soaps were in those baskets. Essential oil scents were the most popular, followed by fragrance oil scents and lastly unscented. Some folks wanted un scented and asked for the most moisturizing soap I had.

As far as what scents sold best in order, grouped in sale numbers:

lavender

mint eucalyptus

spice ylang
rose (ran out so maybe i could have sold more?)
autumn spice
sandalwood

minty lemon
triple rosemary
minty mix
pumpkin pie
unscented mix
lavender mix

cocoa (ran out, all i had)
happy sea breeze
rosemary marjoram

honey oatmeal (only had one)
bay laurel

Folks asked me about certain scents: patchouli (I do use a little patch mixed in some blends), almond, geranium, lilac.

One customer was happy about us not using palm oil, as she had traveled to some of the areas devastated by over-harvesting.

Not sure if anyone cared that the soaps were vegan, but....some seemed impressed the colors were all natural derived from plants.

The display drew people in, they liked the variety, the different colors and scents. However, what made a sale was the scent. They cared way more about scent than about color, but some folks also appreciated the colors.

Several people asked for the base oil composition of the soaps, which i found surprising. I will have to work on a label that allows a bit more writing.

I did not sell as many of the happy soaps (inserts) or soap balls as I figured. I was asking $1.25/oz for those instead of $1/oz, some are larger and the price difference makes a difference.

Also, my customers seemed to prefer the basic deck of card shape. I did not sell as many of the squarish soaps, even though some were really pretty.

My customers preferred 3 oz soaps for around $3 dollars, also they liked that I had so many scents, several people bought multiple assorted soaps for gifts. The choice and variety was appreciated.

One thing I figured is to try to cut them to be the same weight instead of selling them by the ounce. The arithmetic became time consuming, so next time I will have $3, $3.5 and $4 baskets.

On the next market I hope to have more professional looking signs too.

Any ideas? suggestions?
 

ladydiana

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Your soaps are beautiful and I enjoyed reading about your sales and what the customers are buying. Thank you so much for sharing. I could read this kind of post all day. :D
 

IrishLass

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Very pretty soaps! :)

Several people asked for the base oil composition of the soaps, which i found surprising. I will have to work on a label that allows a bit more writing.
I would list the entirety of the ingredients that you used in decending order on your labels. Too many people are allergic to a variety of certain substances and have needed to become prolific label readers in order to avoid troublesome ingredients. And others avoid certain ingredients for religious and/or philisophical reasons. Full disclosure is good business and the best policy regarding customer safety and trust.

However, what made a sale was the scent. They cared way more about scent than about color,
Scent is what initially draws me in, too. Once drawn in, I'll then have a look at the ingredients to see if they are agreeable with me. Pretty colors and shape are a drawing point for me, too, but in the end it's the scent and ingredients that make it or break it for me. And if it came down to where I had to choose between scent or ingredients, as hard as it would be for a scent sucker like me, I'd choose based on ingredients.

IrishLass :)
 

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Very pretty soaps and I like how you displayed them in baskets. It's reminiscent of an old fashioned general store but stylish at the same time (if that makes sense). Thanks for taking the time to share your experience and I hope you did really well at the market.

Do you have a logo? Perhaps you could print your signs on cream or ivory colored cardstock with your logo. I've always liked the Papyrus font because I think it's visually interesting but still easy to read. Also, you could cover the cardstock with a clear matte contact paper to make them last longer. I wouldn't recommend a shiny contact paper because I think it would detract from your natural looking display and the shininess would be too reflective.
 

green soap

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ladydiana said:
Your soaps are beautiful and I enjoyed reading about your sales and what the customers are buying. Thank you so much for sharing. I could read this kind of post all day. :D
I am glad you found it useful!
 

green soap

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IrishLass said:
Very pretty soaps! :)

Several people asked for the base oil composition of the soaps, which i found surprising. I will have to work on a label that allows a bit more writing.
I would list the entirety of the ingredients that you used in decending order on your labels. Too many people are allergic to a variety of certain substances and have needed to become prolific label readers in order to avoid troublesome ingredients. And others avoid certain ingredients for religious and/or philisophical reasons. Full disclosure is good business and the best policy regarding customer safety and trust.

IrishLass :)
I agree on listing the base oils, and the other ingredients (teas, goat milk, oatmeal, honey, etc) but not so much for the scents. Some of my essential oil blends I consider proprietary. My lavender is not just lavender, there are two other EO in there, and it has taken me many months and lots of soap batches to figure out how to make some of these scents stick by blending EOs. So I say for example: "lavender and other essential oils", just like for FO I just say 'fragrance oils'.

As all of you know, fragrance oils are really black boxes to us. We cannot promise the customer they are vegan for example. I specify when any essential oil is used, fragrance, or blends. If the customer has a sensitivity I also offer several unscented soaps.

In any case, I will try some square/rectangular labels to be able to fit more information in there. Sometimes I have several infusions in a soap for example, like both anatto and paprika for color, then infused cinnamon for scent, plus whatever essential oils I want to mix in there, sometimes a little rosemary infused oil for scent and as a preservative, the list can get pretty long. Not sure if I should list all of them in each soap, or use something generic like: "herbal oil infusions for color and scent".
 

green soap

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Hazel said:
Very pretty soaps and I like how you displayed them in baskets. It's reminiscent of an old fashioned general store but stylish at the same time (if that makes sense). Thanks for taking the time to share your experience and I hope you did really well at the market.

Do you have a logo? Perhaps you could print your signs on cream or ivory colored cardstock with your logo. I've always liked the Papyrus font because I think it's visually interesting but still easy to read. Also, you could cover the cardstock with a clear matte contact paper to make them last longer. I wouldn't recommend a shiny contact paper because I think it would detract from your natural looking display and the shininess would be too reflective.
Thanks for the ideas Hazel! I made the stamps for the soap and I consider this sort of a logo. Next time I will do as you say, and print the type of soaps and the prices in each different basket.
 

IrishLass

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green soap said:
I agree on listing the base oils, and the other ingredients (teas, goat milk, oatmeal, honey, etc) but not so much for the scents.
I maybe should have worded my post better, but what you just wrote in the above quote is actually what I meant.

For scents, I just put the word, 'Fragrance", on my labels.

IrishLass :)
 

green soap

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IrishLass said:
green soap said:
I agree on listing the base oils, and the other ingredients (teas, goat milk, oatmeal, honey, etc) but not so much for the scents.
I maybe should have worded my post better, but what you just wrote in the above quote is actually what I meant.

For scents, I just put the word, 'Fragrance", on my labels.

IrishLass :)
Oh good, we agree then. I do specify if I use EO, or FO or a mix of both, but I have been just saying 'essential oils' and 'fragrance oils', without specifying which one. If I am asked for vegan soap I direct the customer to the EO and unscented non- goat milk ones, since I am sure those are vegan. I think a lot of FO use some extract from whale glands, don't they?
 

judymoody

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I list every essential oil I use. Some people have allergies or sensitivities and some are probably best avoided by pregnant women or people with certain medical conditions. I say probably because given that soap washes off, the risk is probably negligible. But why take the risk? It's best to disclose fully and to inform the consumer.

Edited to add that your display is very attractive.
 

semplice

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Great post and I love your display! I like the handwritten cards - very authentic!
 

DiCroz

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Your soaps look lovely. I wouldn't however buy any product that I didnt know exactly what was in it. My grandson ia allergic to all nut products and they keep appearing in the oddest places when you dont even think a product is associated with nuts. Two examples recently were a spray at the hairdressers when cutting his hair and face paint at a children's fair. We carry 2 epi pens at all times for him and we won't risk buying any product unless we know what is in it. I had this conversation at work recently with a couple of the staff that also have allergies and they feel exactly the same. While I respect what you say about your own blends that have taken time to work out, it's just not worth somebody's life.
 

dcornett

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Your display looks great. I've found that the soaps that smells the best sells the best, and that the appearance helps but it does take second place to fragrance.
 

rszuba

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beautful soap n setup i do mine set up similiar, with baskets.

awesome post with feedback about your exper.
thanks
 

Lindy

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judymoody said:
I list every essential oil I use. Some people have allergies or sensitivities and some are probably best avoided by pregnant women or people with certain medical conditions. I say probably because given that soap washes off, the risk is probably negligible. But why take the risk? It's best to disclose fully and to inform the consumer.

Edited to add that your display is very attractive.
I agree with proper labels. You need to realize that essential oils are over the counter drugs and weren't designed to be fragrances but have become them. By listing the essential oils used you are not giving up proprietary information since you are not listing the percentages. It is more likely for someone to be allergic to a natural ingredient than a manufactured one as we are exposed to more of nature than you may realize. For instance, someone with hayfever is likely to be allergic to chamomile essential oil. Citrus essential oils are photosensitizers and for people who are already sensitive to the sun are going to made more sensitive by using a citrus essential oil.

Most people know what they are allergic to and know what to avoid but if it's not listed they can't avoid it.

Your display is quite nice and I wish you the best of luck.
 

green soap

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I appreciate all the compliments, encouragement, and the advice on ingredient labeling. It is a little sad that I have not had another local market opportunity. Fortunately I do have some local and long distance customers. Markets are so much more fun than standing in the Post Office line with a box though!

I now have the square labels that give me more room, so I have changed to those. I am listing my base saponified oils.

Your comments and anecdotes have convinced me to also list all the essential oils I use, so I will start doing that on the new soap batch to be labelled.

If nothing else, the customer should be impressed with the pretty fancy EO blends I am doing lately. In between scents contributed from EO and scents from oil infusions, it is not that easy to reproduce. As some pointed out, the information on % is left out of the label as well.

On the infusions, I say: "herbal oil infusions for color and scent" because in one soap, I might use infused rosemary (for scent and antioxidant properties), then a little infused paprika with infused alkanet (for color), three essential oils and a FO (will list the EOs and list the FO as FO). So the label might not be big enough for all these after all. Where to draw the line?
 

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