We are lucky to have Maggie from A Wild Soap Bar for an interview on The Soap Queen. Maggie is a very successful soapmaking entrepreneur located in Austin, Texas. She’s been interviewed by Co-Op America, and also an interview with the Lifestyle CEO, Donna Maria. Check out Maggie’s impressive press page here. She is on a positive trajectory with her company.
- First things first, why soap?How did you fall so passionately in love with soap that you decided to turn it into a business?Well why not?I’ve always liked to do things with my hands so I decided to try soapmaking back in 1995.I was inspired after reading by The Soap Book by Sandy Maine so I dove right in and started making soap. I quickly became addicted, and the rest is history.
- Do you have any business background that helps you in your business?No, but oftentimes I wish I did!I ran a YMCA afterschool program for 80 kids before turning to soapmaking full time.That definitely taught me the virtues of patience!
- What’s the best part about being self-employed? The worst part?There’s something extremely satisfying about knowing that everything you’ve achieved is the direct result of your own blood, sweat, and tears. Of course if your business falls short in some areas, that’s a direct reflection on you too.I guess the worst thing is the long, and I mean really loooooonng hours.But if you’re passionate about what you do, you get totally absorbed in it and even the long hours don’t seem quite so long.
- How much time do you spend making soap versus doing other administrative tasks? About the only time I make soap these days is when I’m formulating custom test batches for wholesale customers.This is a wonderfully creative outlet, but it doesn’t take up much of my time.My son Jory has been making almost all of our soap for years now.I taught him well.
- How much time do you WISH you spent making soap?I don’t have much time to think about it really.I love what I do!On top of custom formulations, I also do all the marketing, label design, customer service, website work, bookkeeping, ordering supplies, UPS shipments, paying bills, writing newsletters . . . and a gazillion other things.Occasionally, I pitch in to help my employees get a stack of orders out, but 90% of my time is spent in the office on the computer or on the phone.For someone who has no business experience, I’ve studied hard and I think I’ve managed pretty well.
- How do you decide what fragrances/essential oils to use? Do you follow trends, listen to your customers, go with your gut, a combo? For the most part,I follow my intuition when formulating our essential oil blends and I think I have a pretty decent nose for what works.The more you play around with the oils and the more you get to know them, the better you get at blending.I think a lot of people get too wrapped up in trying to follow the textbook recommendations.I just follow my nose and don’t get too uptight about it.I also sniff soap wherever I go (don’t we all?) and I pay attention to what other soapmakers are doing too.I read trade magazines as well, but I’ve never been one to hop on every trend.
- Did your Black Friday Thanksgiving sales promotion increase sales? I sort of “borrowed” that idea from another newsletter, but yeah, every time I send out a special newsletter deal it increases sales.People LOVE to save money!
- What’s your favorite product to make? I’m kind of partial to body balms these days.I mean who can’t resist filling up each little tin to the brim with this hot, wonderfully creamy, wildly aromatic concoction?I don’t especially like burning my fingers though.
- How often do you data mine your sales reports to figure out what items you’ll be carrying again? Or, do you go by gut feel?I know when something isn’t selling well and it doesn’t hang around for long either.We still do a few larger craft shows and that’s when I get a really good feel for what sells and what doesn’t.I look at sales reports occasionally to confirm what I already know.
- Do you have any hobbies outside of soap? Do tell! =)Soap and balms pretty much consume me, but I do get to incorporate my life-long interests in native plants and botanical medicine into my business and that’s pretty sweet.
- Totally optional question: If you could have $3million in venture capital but you would have to give up 75% of your company and you’d have a boss and a board of directors to answer to, would you take the money?Now that’s a toughie.I’d like to think I’d say no . . . but I wouldn’t put it past me!
Thank you Maggie for sharing your wisdom and experience with us!
I have heard about her company and enjoyed the interview. I also saw her on MG’s site. I love a success story!
Michelle in NV
Great interview. She seems like a neat lady, and so many of us can relate to what she says. Thanks for sharing, Anne-Marie!