While browsing Pinterest one night, I stumbled upon these adorable Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream Frosting on the blog, Poor & Pretty. It was clear they were created by someone with serious DIY skills and a creative eye. Following the blog led me to Sami Jo’s Etsy shop, Poor & Pretty Apothecary, where Sami creates gorgeous collections of salts, scrubs, masks and more. Sami’s products are beautifully packaged and photographed. One of her niches is that her products are 100% vegan. Find out how blogging has helped Sami’s beauty business, along with her tips for starting a blog in the interview below! If you’re looking for even more blogging tips, check out 5 Things to Know Before Starting a Blog post. -A.M.
How long have you been making bath and beauty products for and how did you get started?
I was 13 when I made my first foray into soapmaking. I’ve been a crafter my whole life, and constantly on the lookout for new things to make. I discovered melt and pour soap supplies at my local craft store and couldn’t wait to start my own lab in the kitchen. I melted down the clear, unscented soap base in our microwave, burned it, added fragrance and color anyway, poured this mixture into a few star and moon-shaped molds and anxiously waited for them to harden. Our kitchen stunk, but I was hooked (to my family’s dismay). I continued making soap on and off since then, mostly for myself, family, and friends, and my skills improved tremendously.
After launching the Poor & Pretty blog in 2009, I created more beauty products. I began testing and sharing cosmetic concoctions made easily with supplies from the kitchen — sugar scrub, sea salt hair spray, an avocado hair and face mask, green tea mask… you get the idea. 🙂 In 2010, I combined my love for cupcakes and non-toxic beauty and launched a line of handmade cupcake soaps, which I sold on Etsy and in a few local boutiques. Last year, I discontinued my soaps and started a new line: Poor & Pretty Apothecary, 100% natural handmade bath & body products. I use only the highest quality natural, organic, and fair trade certified ingredients in my expertly crafted sugar and salt scrubs, bathing salts, lip and body balms, whipped body butters and more. My products contain absolutely no artificial colorants, fragrances, parabens, preservatives, or other toxic chemicals, and they’re vegan-friendly! My motto? You’re a natural beauty; keep your beauty natural.
What sort of advice would you give to those soapers just starting their businesses?
Don’t rush. I did a lot of research before launching the cosmetics arm of Poor & Pretty, and I’m still learning, defining, and redefining my brand and product line. It’s important to understand your competition and how your products differ from theirs. It’s equally important to network with your peers, whether it’s other soapers or other small business owners. Find ways to learn from and help each other. Bounce new product ideas off of them, cross-promote each other… you just never know what networking and can lead to!
What is your favorite type of product to make?
Definitely my whipped body butter. It makes a complete mess out of my kitchen, but it smells incredible and is so moisturizing! I get oils all over myself while I’m making it, so my skin is always super soft afterwards. It’s my favorite, so I’m not at all surprise that it’s a customer favorite as well.
What inspires you to create?
Everything! If I’m not creating, I’m not happy. My Dad and his father were both tinkerers and my family is full of creative, crafty people. My product creation is born out of a need for non-toxic cosmetics. The shelves of grocery stores and makeup retailers are stocked with beauty products filled with parabens, sulfates, aluminum, phthalates, and all kids of unpronounceable toxins. I blog to inform others of these dangers and I create products so we have a healthy alternative.
How did you come up with the name for your business?
After defining what I wanted my blog to be about, I created a long list of names and words I liked that described my blog. In the end, Poor & Pretty won out because it was short and sweet, catchy, funny, the domain name was available, and it used alliteration and an ampersand (I’m a big fan of both).
What is your favorite Bramble Berry product and why?
I love your kits! As both a business owner and a hobbyist, I understand the frustration of hunting down obscure ingredients and trying to figure out how much you need for a project. Your kits make it super easy for me to get everything I need with as little button clicks as possible. I’m especially fond of the Mineral Makeup Foundation Kit, which I’m featuring on Poor & Pretty today. My boyfriend and I have had our eyes on your Beginner’s Cold Process Soap Kit for a while because we really want to learn how to make soap from scratch. Maybe this summer!
UPDATE: The Mineral Makeup Foundation kit has been discontinued. Click here to shop more kits.
Check out Sami’s tutorial for creating your own mineral makeup and tinted moisturizer in this blog post on Poor & Pretty.
Tell us something unusual or unique about yourself!
I have a great sense of humor and I really enjoy practical jokes and pranking people. I love bright colors, sequins, and polka dots, and am usually wearing some combination of these every day. So on April Fool’s Day this year, I wore dark colors to work and pretended to be in a sour mood all day, which really freaked out my co-workers. It was great!
What are some of your other hobbies and interests?
Reading is my go-to relaxation technique, and I wish I did more of it. I love the tactile experience of turning pages, highlighting passages, and writing in the margins, so I refuse to read books digitally. I’m a giant Harry Potter nerd, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my all-time favorite show. I enjoy baking, especially cupcakes. I love LOVE playing games! We have game night with family or friends almost weekly, and my Dad (from whom I inherited my playful prankster genes) has a fantastic collection of bizarre games.
From top right clockwise: Sami’s adorable Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream Frosting. Sami visits the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and shows off her impeccable fashion sense in a style post.
You have a fantastic blog! When did you start blogging, and what motivated you to get started? How has it helped your crafting business?
Thank you!! The Poor & Pretty blog is the foundation of my business. When I began blogging, I knew I would have to update frequently, and knowing that has pushed me to be creative on a pretty regular basis. My readers (and I) are always looking to try new crafts or cooking techniques, be inspired and entertained, and discover local treasures, all while sticking to a budget. If I didn’t start my blog and find others who were interested in my DIY beauty posts, who knows if I would have ever had the courage to branch out into a beauty line!
You can find all these beautiful products via Sami’s Etsy shop, Poor and Pretty Apothecary.
Do you have any tips for bloggers just starting out?
Don’t rush. (I know, I say that a lot). But really: take your time with your content, and do it right. My Papa used to say “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” so if starting a blog is something you really want to do, give your posts the attention they deserve. If I rush a post just to meet an arbitrary deadline I’ve set for myself, my readers will notice because it will look like I rushed it. Organization is one of my biggest weaknesses (that’s an understatement!), but I forced myself to use a blog planner — I love this one by Regina Anaejinou — and it’s made a huge difference in my process. It gives me a bigger-picture view of Poor & Pretty, helps me schedule time for photography, and serves as a metrics record to help me understand what my readers are responding to. Also: understand your audience and yourself. Don’t follow trends for the sake of following trends. Be authentic and blog what you’re passionate about, otherwise it will just become a chore.
Some of Sami’s fun crafty tutorials on her blog. From top left, clockwise: Chocolate & Caramel Dipped Strawberries, DIY Confetti Ornaments with the Confetti Bar, Timex Weekender Dip Dye DIY, Homemade Mint & Rosemary Vapor Rub
What is your number one crafting tip?
Embrace failure and always have extra supplies — you’re bound to mess up. I just accept it at this point, because I screw up all the time! I used to get really frustrated when this happened, but I realized I was putting too much pressure on myself to get it right the first time. If I have extra supplies and take my time (and don’t pay too much attention to the TV while I’m crafting), I’ll have a good time and won’t be super pissed when I eventually mess up.
Have you ever experienced a horrible crafting fail? How did you work through it, and what did you learn?
Yes, all the time! Again, that’s why I keep extra supplies around when I’m crafting, especially if I’m creating something I’ve never made before. Here’s a great example: when I was still selling my cupcake soaps, my sister and I would get together every month and create real, edible cupcakes inspired by one of the soap ones. One of my bestsellers was called Aloe Juniper, a beautiful light spring breeze type scent. We chose not to include Aloe in the recipe (ew), but we at least wanted to include Juniper. I mean, Juniper is used to make gin, right? So it couldn’t be that terrible! It was. Juniper berries are very piney, so when we bit into our chocolate cupcakes topped with Juniper-infused buttercream frosting, it was like biting into a Christmas tree. We laughed, fed the cupcakes to her husband’s unsuspecting bandmates, and blogged about how awful they turned out. It’s very important to have a sense of humor.
What do you love most about creating bath and body products?
I love that I know exactly what goes into them. I don’t have to worry about reading ingredients labels, researching chemicals, or consulting the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to see how toxic they are. I know they’re safe because I made them safe.