So You Want to Sell Your Soap? (Part One)

This is the first of a three part series on selling soap.  Part One will discuss general topics like packaging and labeling, where to sell, licenses, taxes, etc.  Part Two will discuss issues specific to cold process soap and Part Three will discuss issues specific to melt and pour soap.

You’re excited!  You love soap and you want to sell yours. You love your product, you love making it, your friends love it!  Now what?

There are several considerations:

  • How will you package it?
  • Where will you sell it?
  • What does the government want from you or require of you?
  • Where can you get insurance?

We’ll take one at a time.

Packaging: If you’re selling your soap, people will be picking it up, smelling it, passing it to friends and family, dropping it and so forth.  If you’re doing markets and fairs, you’ll be packing and packing, transporting and displaying your product.  In a nutshell:  It’s going to get battered.  When you package your soap, you should think about how you can best protect it and how you can best get information to the buyers on your package.   One of the cheapest ways to wrap your soap is with what’s called a cigar band.  It’s just a strip of paper that goes around the bar.  You can use plain or fancy paper, you can print them yourself or have them printed.  In the photo below, you can see my soap with cigar band wrapping.  The logo and soap scent are listed on the front; ingredients, etc., are on the back.

Cigar band-style labels indicate brand and scent

You can wrap vertically or horizontally.  The bands on my soap are quite narrow, but most people still place their fingers on the paper when they pick up the bar.

Obviously, you can go beyond the cigar band.  You can use paper or fabric to wrap the whole bar, you can shrink wrap the bars, use boxes, fabric bags….  The list goes on.  Bottom line: Protect the bars.

Labeling: Labeling is important.  It may be the only chance you have to communicate with your buyer.  In addition, it may be a legal requirement. There is a great book called Soap and Cosmetic Labeling that will help you make sense of all of the rules.  For true soap, it’s simple.  True soap does not require ingredient labeling.  Your soap is true soap if it is made of fats and an alkali (lye). However, it’s never that simple so you should get the book mentioned above or read this page on the FDA site.  If you decide that your soap is true soap, your customers will appreciate you listing the ingredients even if it’s not required.

What goes on the label:

  • Product name and scent
  • Starting ingredients listed in order by percentage, starting with the highest percentage.
  • Weight
  • Contact information including your full address

Selling: Once you get packaging and labeling sorted out, you need to find a place to sell your soap.  First, tell ALL of your friends and family that you’re in business.   You can do that through the various social media outlets. Anne-Marie wrote a great article about social media.  Do you want to sell your soap on the Web?  You can get a Web site of your own or use a service like Etsy or Artfire.  Or, do both. If you want to sell in stores, you should create a wholesale price list before you start talking to shop owners. Do you want to sell at craft fairs and markets?  To find fairs and markets, talk to other crafty people in your area, do Web searches, check the Craigslist events section, etc.  You can also keep your eye out for fairs and markets then stop in to see if they look like a good fit for your product.  Ask organizers how to apply and when the next show is.

Sales tax: Finally, if you sell your soap, you’ll probably have to collect sales tax unless you’re selling in Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana, Oregon or Alaska. And, you have to know the sales tax rate for the place you’re selling.  It can vary by city even within the same county.  Your state’s Department of Revenue Web site will have all of the information you need.

Licenses: You may also need a business license from the state you live in and any city you sell in. Again, a Web search is your best friend.

Insurance: Anything else?  Yes! Insurance!  You want to protect yourself from losses related to being in business.  The Handcrafted Soap Makers Guild and the Indie Beauty Network both offer insurance for members. The company you use for homeowners or renters insurance may also offer coverage.

Good preparation before you start selling will pay off in the long run.  Stay tuned for Part Two and Part Three, coming soon!

Kim Wilton of Pepo Park.

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  1. Graciela says

    Your website it’s very helpful. I’m new in this but I’am interested in to learn more about soap business. Thank you. Graciela

    • says

      Good morning, Graciela!

      We are so excited to hear that you are wanting to start your own soaping business and are here to support you in whatever way we can. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Happy Soaping! :)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  2. says

    I just happened to findcome across your website and this write up Soap Queen | So You Want to Sell Your Soap? (Part One). The essay you give kind of causes me think. Thanks for the info.

  3. Jessie says

    Hello all, I’ve been interested in the soap making process for quite some time but i have no clue where to start and what basic supplies to purchase. I didn’t realize how much legal stuff was invovled and i do plan to sell if i have sucess with soap making. I am terrified to try and have a unsucessful batch. Please help im new to the soaping world.

  4. says

    Thank you so much for the information. We have just opened a retail store to sell our products after doing the craft shows and markets for 10 years. We are trying to find a better way to label. How do you afix your labels to the soap? We currently use a cigar band afixed with contact paper. This is time consuming and would like to streamline but have the same look. Any help would be great.

  5. says

    Haven’t read this post yet but…..”THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH” for this topic!!!!!!! I just read the title and jumped for joy. This is what I am trying/ want to do….I just have to revamp my strategy!!! Thanks again!!! :)

  6. says

    I love this post – thanks so much for all the interesting, useful information. I am glad to be in South Africa with not too many rules/ restrictions. I am trying hard to stick to the rules though, as it is a good habit to get into as our country may change the regulations.

  7. says

    I can wait for part 2 and 3.
    Please Kim, post´em asap.
    Thank you very much for this invaluable gold information. I´m a little soap business owner and all you´ve posted is very important information to be considered.

    Claudia E
    Monterrey, Mexico

    • says

      Part 2 comes next week and part 3 the week after. There’s more fabulous info and advice from Kim to come =)

      Courtney from Bramble Berry

  8. says

    Great post. I have recently discovered that my lovely packaging is now looking a bit tatty and shabby from all the transporting too and from fairs, and so i am currently rethinking my packaging (yet again!)

  9. cocobong says be a soap seller in the US…, how I envy you guys.
    The legal business of selling your soap in Germany is as complicated as in Canada. Getting certified is expensive AND you’re required to provide a room that is used for soaping alone. This room has to be fitted out with standard requirements (no soaping in your own kitchen) and first needs to be ok-ed from official side, before you get started. That costs money as well. All a major pain in the butt and a reason why very less soapers are actually selling their soap in public. And should you overgo those rules, the next ‘official’ soaper who gets wind of it can slam you hard with legal charges. Not nice, and it actually happens more often then you’ld think from our ‘nice’ soaping community.

    • Birgit Fuchs says

      Hallo cocobong,
      so happy to finally meet a German soaper, who made the same bad experience as I did. It is so hard to find information on rules for certification, not even to mention finding an experienced soaper or company, who is willing to share info. I would be willing to pay, but noooooo. Very sad so far, but I am still willing to do this! :)
      Any – very much apreciated – tips you would like to share?
      Thank you and have a nice day,

      • says

        Good morning, Birgit!

        I am so sorry to hear that finding the information for certification can be so difficult. You might also want to try asking this at the Teach Soap Forums as there are soapmakers from around the world that share their experiences, recipes and ideas there. =)

        Teach Soap Forums:

        -Becky with Bramble Berry

  10. says

    Thanks for your comments, everyone.

    And, Karri, thanks for adding the Canadian perspective.

    – Kim

  11. says

    Here in Canada (in case there are any Canucks reading this) there is EXTENSIVE legislation for cosmetic labelling and “soap” is considered a cosmetic here. That includes using INCI names for the ingredients, filing a separate report to Health Canada for every single product you want to sell, and labelling your products in French AND English.

    Yeah, not even kidding 😉

    Funny how after I researched all this (extensively) I now look at the labels of handmade soaps for sale more closely. A lot of folks ain’t following the rules it seems. Yikes!

    Really nice to see Soap Queen posting this kind of smart business advice. As always, great content!