I was interviewed for Entrepreneur.com recently on how to create measurable impact and expand your online presence. You can read the article here.
I was interviewed for Entrepreneur.com recently on how to create measurable impact and expand your online presence. You can read the article here.
Kristy: I would say it would be the floral musk that will be coming up on Etsy soon. It looks like a birthday cake, lol.
Anne-Marie: What type of things do you outsource? Or is it a one woman operation?
Kristy: I’m a one woman show.
Anne-Marie: What is the best advice you can give to someone who dreams about starting their own business?
Kristy: Test, test, test. People can get hurt if you don’t test your soaps long enough or do enough research on it before selling. Also, don’t expect people to handout everything to you, you learn more by doing things yourself. I made a lot of soap before I got it right. I had a lot of wonderful people on the forums help me with questions, but I had to learn things on my own too. Start out slow, not gung ho. You can go overboard and buy too many things you will end up selling later because you didn’t use it. Then you lose money.
Anne-Marie: What’s your favorite Bramble Berry product?
Kristy: I would say my favorite product is the Lavender Chamomile Huggies Fragrance Oil, which I wish were in smaller batches. I also love the Oatmeal, Milk and Honey and Cherry Almond fragrance oils. They are the best! Omg, and the Chocolate Espresso! I love making tarts with this.
Anne-Marie: Anything we missed? Is there anything else you want Soap Queen reader’s to know about you?
Kristy: I always like to try to make something once. It might take me a while to get it right but once I do, I’m happy. I like to make liquid soap for our personal use and family members. I like to make transparent soap too. I have a tutorial on Miller’s Soap website for transparent soap if anyone wants to try it. It’s very rewarding to make soap you can actually see through. Don’t’ let the alcohol scare you. I also make lotion, lotion bars, and lip balms.
Anne-Marie: Thanks for chatting with us, Kristy!
Kristy: It started out as a hobby then turned into a part time job. I had so many requests for my soap; I had to make it to sell. I still love it even though it’s a part time job.
Anne-Marie: What’s the best part about being self-employed? The worst part?
Kristy: The best part is being able to stay home and do what you want and have fun doing it. The worst part is the marketing. I’m not good at it. I leave that up to my husband. He is always the one to open his mouth and say “Hey my wife makes handmade soaps, do you think you would like to carry them in your shop?” LOL.
Anne-Marie: Do you have any other outlets? Farmer’s market? Craft shows?
Kristy: No, I haven’t had the time to venture out and do that yet. I would love to though.
Anne-Marie: What’s your soapy inspiration?
Kristy: Actually, I get my inspiration from colors of nature or items I see in stores. I was in church one Sunday in the front row and there sat a bouquet of flowers under the pulpit. It had bright yellow lilies and plum colored carnations. I sat there the whole time thinking of a soap to make with those colors. I know I am so bad!
I also lay in bed for hours thinking up different soaps to make after buying new fragrance oil. I start with the name first, for instance Mandarin Bamboo. I think of green and orange, and then I go from there. Instead of sugar plums dancing in my head, I have soap bars dancing in my head! It drives me so crazy sometimes that I can’t sleep until I make the soap the next day. Then I can rest. LOL.
Anne-Marie: How long did it take to perfect the Love Note Soaps? We adore them!
Kristy: LOL, I tried this the first time and it worked perfectly, I haven’t been able to make them the same way since.
Anne-Marie: Tell us a little bit about yourselves on a personal level. What do you like to do when you are not working? Do you have any hobbies outside of soap? Do tell! =)
Kristy: I have a hobby greenhouse and like to start my own flower seeds indoors in the winter then move them in the greenhouse after transplanting. I have a garden going at the moment that is producing tons of corn, melons, tomatoes and cucumbers. I love bird watching also. I tried making candles and I’m not good at it. It’s just too difficult. I love making tarts.I also enjoy sitting on my deck every morning, eating my breakfast and watching the deer in my backyard. I currently have a mother and two fawns with spots that hop around and play in the backyard.
I’m a huge fan of Jessie at CakeSpy (see my fawning posts here, here and here) and have been following Kathy from CraftyChica‘s crafting journey for years. This week was a trifecta for Soap Queen press as Jessie and Kathy both interviewed me for their blogs and Mas Kes Ke Fee listed The Soap Queen blogas one of her Top Ten Foreign blogs. Why foreign? Because Ka Fairy is in France! Yippee – world renown is one stop closer to world domination through soap.
Welcome Martha Stewart Radio listeners! Thank you Regina and Shannon for phoning in questions live while I was on-air.
If you’re looking for the Eco Chic Soap concept we talked about today and how you can use simple plastic containers like yogurt and tupperware for soap molds for your easy starter melt and pour recipes, you can find it here. Other resources for you: TeachSoap.com and the TeachSoap.com Forum.
Anne-Marie: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you like to do when you’re not soaping?
Soap Wish: Over here at casa Soap Wish, you never know what we’ll be up to on any given day. The permanent residents are me, the man, the boy, and the dog, but everyone is welcome. Humor is a family value in our house, so you can expect a laugh or two if you stop by. Next in line for interests is reading- I love to read. I’ve been known to read and reread the cereal box when that’s the only thing around. I like trying new crafts and I have a storage room full of paraphernalia to prove it. We love to travel and experience different cultures. Indian food is big on the list of interests as well. My son would add that I like to spend money. He’s a bit of a smart alec for an eight year old.
Anne-Marie: What is your favorite thing about running your own business?
Soap Wish: We’re so new that my favorite thing is learning something new about the business everyday. I love the freedom to be creative, the flexibility to work when the spirit hits me, and the chance to work with my husband.
Anne-Marie: What’s the best advice you can give to someone who wants to start their own business?
Soap Wish: Try it. Start small, there are a lot of different ways to get your product out there and most of them don’t cost you much money. Use the absolute best ingredients possible and keep perfecting your product. Provide excellent customer service, there isn’t enough of that around so customers really appreciate good service.
Anne-Marie: Have you ever dabbled in other bath and body products?
Soap Wish: Does when I was 2 years old and plastered the bathroom with powder count? Seriously, I loved to mix things when I was little. I’d take my mom’s old perfume and mix lotion in it and take lotion and add color or perfume to make my own blend. All of it was atrocious, but I really loved it. I see my son doing the same thing now. He wants to be a chemist.
Anne-Marie: What is your favorite Bramble Berry product and why?
Soap Wish: When we were just starting I purchased fragrances from Bramble Berry and a few other suppliers to get a feel for what was available. Hands down, Bramble Berry has the best fragrance oils! Even with the limited knowledge we had we could tell immediately we were dealing with a superior product. The fragrance oils from the other suppliers were more like fragrance water. The fragrances were so watery and the scents had a chemical like smell so we never used them. The boy uses them for practice, and he knows not to touch the Bramble Berry ones! Getting a package of fragrances from Bramble Berry is like Christmas for your nose. One more favorite…..the micas and oxides. I love the variety and I love that they are sold by weight so you get more bang for your buck.
Anne-Marie: Final thoughts? Anything you want our readers to know about you?
Soap Wish: We love to make different things so if you have something in mind send us an email, we’ll try to make it!
Anne-Marie: You rock, Sheila! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. I cant wait to see what you come up with next. This is Anne-Marie and Sheila, signing off!
Have a question about this blog post? Come join us at Bramble Berry’s Facebook page and we can help you out with any of your soapy questions!
Soap Wish: We’d like it to grow into a full time business in the future, but for now we’re doing it part-time while we continue to learn the craft.
Anne-Marie: I love your Etsy site! Do you have any other outlets for selling? Farmers Markets, craft shows, etc?
Soap Wish: Thank you again! We’ve done a few small craft shows and we’ve also sold quite a bit through word of mouth. We love to have people come back to us or send their friends, it really makes our day.
Anne-Marie: Your soaps are so creative and detailed. How do you have the time to put so much detail into all of your soaps? What type of things do you outsource?
Soap Wish: I wrote this description of creativity in our house awhile ago and it pretty much sums it up:
Now, who do you think makes the intricate soap designs? As for outsourcing, I’m pretty much focused on exploiting my husband’s talent at this point.
Soap Wish: We tried quite a few different techniques before we hit on one that gave us the look we wanted. The next step was getting it to the point where we could count on the same result each time. Let’s just say there was some waste involved.
Anne-Marie: Your chocolate soap is so convincing that one would think you’ve actually made chocolate before. Where did you get your inspiration for your fabulous chocolate creations?
Soap Wish: There is a really great bakery not far from us that carries fabulous chocolates as well as baked goods. We (okay, I) love stopping in there to look at all the great things they come up with. One day we decided to see what we could do using soap instead of chocolate. We had never made chocolate before, but now that we’ve made chocolate soap we’d really like to try making the real thing one day. Of course, that’s the day I start on the road to weighing 1,000 pounds…not enough willpower.
Want to hear more about Soap Wish? Check back in Monday for another round of Q & A with Sheila.
I’ll be on LIVE with Mario Bosquez on Living Today on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius 112, XM 157 at 1pmET/ 10amPT, Friday February 6th. You can call and ask questions about melt and pour and bath fizzies at 1-866-675-6675.
Do you have your Vision and Values determined? Would you mind sharing?
CocoaPink is committed to the highest standards of ethics and integrity. We are responsible to our customers, employees, to the environments we inhabit, and to the societies we serve. In executing our responsibilities, we do not take professional or ethical shortcuts. Our actions must reflect the high standards we affirm.
You have a great site! I love the graphics on the site. Do you feel like having great graphic design has helped your business?
I love my illustrator. I do all the label design and most of the concept art and my illustrator does all the graphics. We have a great synergy, as she is able to take my vision and realize better than I could have imagined it myself. That’s the true talent of an illustrator, to honor the clients vision and surpass expectation.
I think packaging is very important. I like to pay attention to details. Yes, product quality is the most important element, however people still judge the bottle, label, packaging. I get it with the higher end retailers, as my packaging is not “exclusive” enough to be in the higher end retail shops, even if the product is superior to the “nicely wrapped” ones.
If you only had $1000 to start out your business, what would you spend the money on, knowing what you know now?
2. Legal Fees
3. Start Up Supplies
Insurance – I am a stickler for doing things by the book. I’ve learned that to maintain a well run business you need to have a secure foundation. If someone is interested in selling cosmetics to the public, they need to be aware of the liability they are placing themselves in with each sale. There are great affordable insurance options available to the small business owner. I would recommend looking at the Handcrafted Soaper’s Guild as they have a plan with various coverage options that is very reasonable.
Selling to the public without insurance is financial suicide. Just one lawsuit is enough to rack up thousands in legal fees. If you sell it and it hurts someone, you are responsible. So insurance is a must.
Legal Fees – There are companies online that offer affordable legal options for things
like business licenses, corporations, state tax identifications, and any other legal requirements your state may have for running small businesses. Legal Zoom is a good place to begin researching. I would also recommend contacting your local small business association as they can help you state legislatures and laws. You don’t want to invest in a business then get slammed by fines. Make sure you know what is required of you before selling to the public.
Remember, all it takes is one hurt customer, one lawsuit, or one state law that you are unaware of to put you out of business for good. Be responsible and take it seriously. Selling to the public is not like a grade school bake sale. You need to know what you are getting into and make informed decisions.
After you have all the red tape in place, an active insurance policy, and anything else you may need to sell your goodies to the public… your wallet will feel pretty empty. Start with one product – the product you do best – your signature item. If it’s soap, start with that. If it’s fragrance do that. Start small. Get what you need to make a few small batches and focus on that. Depending if you sell online or locally, take photos yourself to save money. Start with Etsy or another low fee way to sell your product. Save money where you can – photos, website (wait on investing in a full blown online shop until you have some profits).
What’s your favorite product to make?
Soap! It’s my zen. I soap alone, in private. It’s intimate. I love it.
What’s your favorite Bramble Berry product?
Right now I’m really diggin’ the Hello Sweet Thang Fragrance oil.
Thank you Ilona for such an informative and information-rich interview!
I’ll be on Martha Stewart Radio on December 4rd at 2 p.m.EST/11 a.m. PST. The show is LIVE so if you have questions (that you think other people have), be sure to call in. It’s a beginners type show, focusing primarily on melt and pour soap and being crafty creative to save money for the holidays. If you have any questions about any of the Christmas projects I’ve posted in the last month, please call up and ask. I’m excited to be a repeat guest and share the joy that creative soapy crafting can bring to both the crafter and the receiver.
The second part of Ilona’s interview will post this Saturday. Today, I’m going to work on a fun Christmas Soap Centerpiece ornament project. I promise you, her interview is worth the wait.
I “discovered” Cocoa Pink a few years ago (along with a lot of other people!) and promised to blog my review for these products. This review is now over a year late and deserves more attention than just a mere review. Cocoa Pink (aka Ilona Timoszuk) has grown her business to employ 10 people with a retail online shop and has several large wholesale accounts. She did it the old-fashioned way – with her own cash, her own sweat equity and a vision that she convinced other people to help her with (aka friends, family and paid employees).
These are the products I bought from her back in 2007. As you read through her interview today and tomorrow, notice how her style has changed in the last year.
Where did you find financing? How in the world did you grow to 10 people and finance that growth?
The way I finance CocoaPink is influenced by my father, who started his now multi-million dollar company in a similar manner, without any credit or loans.
I do not like credit; I never have. I do believe it is necessary for home buying, student loans, and autos, but I draw the line there and refuse to finance personal indulgences. I apply this philosophy to CocoaPink and I believe shifting awareness away from credit-is-the-only-way helps empower business owners – and it feels great!
I started small. I made a couple items and sold them. Then I reinvested 100% of my profits into growth. For example, I use $100 of my own money to make a few batches of Cold Process soap and maybe some lotion. I sell those and get $150 – I reinvest all $150 in more supplies to make more products. I sell those and now I have $225 and again re-invest, make product, and sell. I did not take any personal income until I I felt the business had grown to a size I felt good about, and we had enough capital that I could afford to give myself a salary.
When you begin seeing large numbers, it’s easy to feel tempted to spend. This is where it is important to remember your vision and what you ultimate goals are. For one person this may be an intimate business with just one or two employees, while someone else’s vision may be much greater. What is important is to budget towards that vision.
A person must to feel passion for their business while respecting its growth & limitations. Don’t borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars because you suddenly decided that you want your hobby to become a multi-million dollar empire. Let the company grow itself. It will take you to the size it wants to be. If it’s meant to get there, it will. However, bigger is not better, especially when your company owes more than its worth.
Do you have a big huge goal that you want to share with us?
If you ask my ego, it will yammer on about grandiose manifestations in Manhattan skyscrapers and first class junkets to Paris. My ego is quite dangerous. (grin)
So ego aside, my real goalswould be to demonstrate my values on a wider scale. There is more than enough resources and money available to us. Greed has no place in a business, and I am sick of watching corporate scandals and people not giving a @#$%& about their staff and customers.
CEOs are modern day kings. Their power, corruption, and greed remind me of yesterday’s monarchies. We may have overthrown these governments, but the same greed and power has reincarnated within our corporations. Employees work like peasants, earning next to nothing, treated like a number, while CEOs …well we all know what they are doing.
My biggest dream – the “huge” one is to work in a position of influence and maintain my strength (or stubbornness or heart or whatever drives me) to make morally responsible choices. Choices that are not about money-money-profit-profit – and come at any expense. I’d love to follow the models of CEOs like Howard Schultz (Starbucks), who was a pioneer in ethical business practices.
I’d love to stare greed in the face and facilitate its disintegration. I’d love to empower the hard working, bring employment back to the USA, and do this while being eco-conscious.
Yes, it’s “huge” – and I do not ever see it becoming a reality. I would be just as happy if more CEO “Kings” were de-throned and corporate greed was replaced by corporate generosity.
What sort of support network do you have around you? Like a Mastermind Group or a close knit family or …
My father. We are very close (he lives 3 miles away). My family immigrated from Poland when I was 3 years old and we had nothing. Just one suitcase and a teeny apartment in a very shoddy part of Boston. My father worked as a MIT professor for over 20 years. Now seeing how far he has come (working 80 hour weeks to get there) and to witness him run a company that employs over 60 people with such honor, concern and emotional connection to each employee – it’s my inspiration. He’s my moral compass as he has often sacrificed his own salary during
rough times to make sure his staff was taken care of.
Can you imagine? A CEO giving up their own income to prevent layoffs? That’s a man worth admiring.
I also have two amazing kids and a wonderful husband who remind me that there is more to life than work.
Check back Saturday for more of Ilona’s inspiring story!