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The following is a transcript from a recorded video, so if it sounds a little more conversational than you're used to from me, that's why. :-)
A couple of weeks ago I put a post up on my stories and Instagram and asked you guys to submit some questions so that I could answer them for you and I got a ton of questions. so I'm going to answer probably about 15 of them here today and if you have any questions you would like me to answer in a future Q&A video please comment down below with what you want to know about me about my business or about what I'm going to be doing moving forward.
How do you edit your videos?
Believe it or not I do not use any special videotaping equipment. I use my phone- I have a pixel 4A, so it's not even really the best phone out there and you can probably tell! I don't produce the highest quality videos but they're pretty good and so I record everything on my phone and if it's soap making I have my phone on a clamp above my soap making station (You can check out the holder below)
After recording, I pull all of my video into an app called the YouCut -- it's available on mobile for free. You can also get an upgrade, but I just haven't seen the need for it just yet. I edit everything within you cut and then I will export it and upload it to either Instagram, TikTok or YouTube depending on what platform I'm going to be using. Now, that's just the broad strokes obviously there's a whole lot more to editing than just bring it into an app, and edit it, and then upload it… but I'm going to put a video together for you guys so that you can see how I work my process of creating a real on Instagram. Stay tuned!
Is your chest tattoo a cupcake with angel wings?
Sort of! I have a cupcake tattooed onto my chest because when I was in art school, I decided to go to pastry school afterwards and become a pastry chef, and I also wanted to do something to celebrate my grandmother who had passed away in 2002. She was very, very Catholic so there were sacred hearts all over the place growing up.
So, when I was about to leave for pastry school I went to my tattoo artist, whose name is Matt Lukesh, and I was like “alright man, I need a I need a cupcake but I need to be bad***. How are we going to do this?” and he designed this tattoo of a cupcake with a lemon peels instead of a crown of thorns and in instead of a flame it's got frosting. And of course wings, right? But they're not Angel wings-- they're bat wings because that wings are way cooler.
How do you manage to avoid soda ash?
I do this in a couple of ways—first, I use a pretty severe water discount (which was actually another question that was asked.) When I'm mixing my lye solution I always use a ratio of 1 to 1.5, so one part lye & 1.5 parts water and that can do a lot to help prevent soda ash. Secondly, after I've made my soaps, as long as it's a flat top, I like to put a cover on top of them. My molds come with wooden lids and they’re perfect for reducing the headspace. The headspace is the space between the top of the soap and the top of the container. In reducing this space, we prevent air from getting to the top of the soap as much and this can prevent soda ash.
I also spritz the top of my soaps with alcohol before saponification and before I cover them – this is another great insurance policy to reduce ash. However, it’s important to remember that there are still some times where I will get soda ash and if that happens I can either steam the top or plane the ash off. It's just completely unavoidable sometimes and you just need to embrace it handmade soap is made by hand, it's going to look like it.
Why do you use canola oil?
I feel like canola oil has a stigma attached to it, like “that's like cheap oil!” and it is. It's really really, really affordable. The reason I chose to use canola oil, though, is because it gives you a really fluid batter and I like to work with my batter being very fluid. With a fluid batter, I can have complex designs and ample time to work with it. The only problem with it is that when I'm doing a design where I have to thicken up my soap, or it has to be at least at a light or a medium trace before I can start pouring, I have to blend that sucker like crazy. If you have my standard soap recipe (linked HERE) and you're having troubles with it thickening up, just blend it like mad. It can take it like a couple of minutes of blending sometimes to bring it to the right trace.
Which scents do you avoid using?
I can tell you with 100% certainty that I avoid floral scents like the plague. Within the soap making realm, floral scents are notorious for seizing up batter, like soap on a stick situations. I'm not about that life, so I avoid floral scents. The other reason I don't really like floral soaps is that they can be very strong and can give me a headache pretty easily. As the soapmaker, I'm going to be sitting around with this soap on my curing rack for quite awhile, so I wanna not hate the soap that I made.
I do use some fragrances that have floral notes in them, it's just not as often not as often as using another kind of fragrance-- one that behaves well within soap.
How have your goals changed as your soap has gotten more traction?
It's a really good question. It's something that I've been thinking about for several months now, actually. If you follow me on Instagram you know I have almost 20,000 followers and that's nothing to sneeze at right--- that's pretty good amount of followers. But what I have noticed is probably 90% of my followers are also soapmakers and having a ton of followers does not equal a ton of sales.
I'm just going to be real with you guys- physical products have not sold well for my shop and I don't think it's because my soap is bad, I think it's because most of my followers are soapmakers. I do have repeat customers who have been ordering from me for the last year and don't plan on stopping anytime soon, but as a business owner when you're selling a product when somebody doesn't buy your product it really has nothing to do with the fact that your product is good or bad it really just means that they are not compelled to buy your product.
So, to get more sales, what I really need to do is start telling a really great story for why my product is worth buying… or I go in another direction. and that's where I that's where I'm going you guys I love making soap -- I'm not going to stop making soap. I love making other products -- I'm not going to stop making other products, but my new focus is to provide soap makers with recipes, resources and cool tools. Guys, I am obsessed with spreadsheets and tracking and doing everything I can to optimize my productivity, to be the most efficient person I can be. I know that those tools will be useful for you guys, as well. I'm working on a whole host of tools that you can use to make yourselves more efficient, more productive, or just more organized. And who doesn't want to be more organized, right?
Are handmade soaps always softer than commercial soaps?
No, not always. You have to keep in mind that handmade soaps are made from raw ingredients (and I mean raw as in, not soap yet, not un-heated) and some makers may not cure for as long as other makers do. Some makers will use ingredients that will create a softer bar and some makers will use ingredients that create a harder bar. You might find that the bar made from the person at your farmers market might be made with tallow, lard and palm oil. Their bars might be hard as a rock!
But then you go over to the vegan soap maker and they're not using lard or tallow and maybe they have a palm free recipe---their soaps might be a little bit softer. It's just a matter of what you value in a bar of soap.
Do you want it to be hard but you're willing to use animal products? Do you want it to be hard and you're willing to use palm products? Or are you OK with it being a little bit softer, ok with it being used a little bit faster, and you're only using products that are plant based?
It's completely up to you and there's no wrong decision there's a there's a soap maker out there for everyone OK I make palm free, vegan soaps but not everybody likes that and that's OK!
How do you formulate? What’s the process like?
Usually for me it starts with an idea.
“Oh! I love micellar water… I buy a lot of micellar water…. maybe I can make my own micellar water??”
And then it's a scan of the ingredients that are on micellar water labels. And then I go online and I'm looking for recipes. Does anybody make micellar water? What exactly is micellar water? Is it just water?!
So it's a whole lot of like, OK-- going to go down that rabbit hole. What can I find online about micellar water? About these ingredients? Let me go ahead and put it all together in a tiny little batch. Compare it with my original micellar water. Wash the left side of my face with my new product and the right side with the original. How does it compare? Give it to my friends (after I've determined that it's not dangerous, of course) to use ask them to try it out. It's a long process to develop a new recipe and then I usually test it out for a couple of months personally before I ever release it.
It's a lot of development, a lot of research, trying to figure out why certain ingredients behave a certain way within a product and how they interact with other ingredients within a product, what the usage rates are, and how they can be used safely.
How do you price out your products?
I have a spreadsheet that I've created where I input all of the products that I purchase and exactly how much it costs at the bulk price. Then I determine how many ounces come in that full shipment and then that will give me how much it is per ounce. Next, I have a separate sheet within the same excel document where I'm able to put in all of my ingredients and choose certain ones from a dropdown menu and it automatically calculates the price per bar depending on how many bars you're making in one batch. That will give you a really good idea of what it costs for you to make each individual bar, but then you have to multiply by however many times you want to for your margin, or add your labor
In general my rule of thumb is about $2 per ounce of soap and that's generally what I'm going to stick with.
How did you grow so fast on IG?
In January of 2021 I started on Instagram and now it’s May of 2022 and I'm at 20,000 followers-- it's been a lot of growth. Not going to lie, there are many steps that go into growing your social media, but I'm going to be totally frank with you: it's a lot of work. You have to put in the time. You have to be consistent. You have to be creating content that people want to see. So, it's a matter of having good photography, posting at the right time, engaging with the right community, and having meaningful connections
If you guys are interested and how I grew so quickly on Instagram, please do subscribe to my YouTube Channel, because I'm going to be releasing a series of short videos with quick tidbits of tips that you can use for your social media, for Instagram in particular, to grow and then I'm also going to be releasing a product that you can use to track your growth your engagement and see what really works for you and your followers-- that's key.
What is your favorite design and scent?
My favorite design that I've ever used would be the nesting drop--- this is my own personal creation and I really do need to do more of it. I just I need to get back into making some soap. It's been a rough go trying to get back into the swing of things after Remy died.
As far as scent goes--- oh, you guys. Moss and black coral from Candle Science. I have said it before, I will say it again: it is the sexiest scent I have ever smelled. My husband is not allowed to use any other soap. I'm not using any other soap. It smells so good and it behaves really well in soap.
Thanks for reading! If you have any further questions, please feel free to comment below and I’ll be sure to address them!