Hello, firstly tell us a bit about yourself…
Hi! I’m Angela. I am originally from Spain but I have been living in England for nearly ten years. I live in Surrey with my husband and our two year old son and, although my main job is in education, I make soap part-time for my small business.
When & why did you start making soap?
It all began in the summer of 2018. I was feeling very worried about the amount of plastic that we had in the bathroom and around the house in general. That got me thinking about what action I could take to reduce the use of plastic as much as possible. One day, I was reading about it online and I came across an article talking about the benefits of using bars of soap not only for the environment but also for the skin. Just like that, the idea was planted in my head and I decided to go for it. I spent the following days, weeks and months reading about how to make soap, ingredients, essential oils, natural colours, etc. I watched videos online, bought some books, did a lot of research, wrote down ideas, I basically became obsessed with it!
One day I decided that it was about time to make my first batch of soap, so I ordered everything I needed and made soap following a recipe from a book. I was so excited and instantly hooked! The rest is history…
What was the turning point from hobbyist to business owner?
After I made my first batches of soap, we started to use them at home to replace all the shower gel bottles. It felt so good on our skins that we started to share them with family and friends. They were so happy with the soap and kept asking for more. So, it was then when I decided to create a small business and start selling my products.
What processes did you go through setting up your company?
The process I went through to create my company was long but totally worth it! The first few months were devoted to a lot of experimentation, making mistakes and learning from them, gathering ideas… In the end, after a lot of trial and error, I formulated the base for my recipe together with eight different variants.
Deciding on a business name was exciting, however, it can be a little bit daunting. My son is called Blake and one of the first words he learnt how to say was bubble because he absolutely adores them. So, I thought the name ‘Bubble&Blake’ fitted with the product I was going to sell and sounded good.
The next step was to get the recipes assessed and certified. I sent all the required documentation to a cosmetic assessor and my cosmetic safety report was sent to me about 6 weeks later. I thought: ‘This is it! I’m a business now!’ Since that moment, what started as a hobby grew into a mini production line in my kitchen, I opened an online shop and I sell my products at craft fairs around Surrey and London.
What was the hardest part?
The hardest thing for me was to formulate my recipes. It took me a long time to put together the recipe that was going to be the base for all my soaps. I wanted to create something that would leave the skin nourished, smooth and moisturised. I also wanted to include ingredients and essential oils with benefits for different types of skin. I know what scents I like and I what I would buy but trying to think of what other people would buy or would find interesting is a different story.
What part did you most enjoy?
Making soap! I absolutely adore it. I love the feeling of preparing all my ingredients, getting all the utensils ready, lining my moulds. The whole process fascinates me and always keeps me in my toes, even though I have been making soap for quite a while now. Each batch is unique and one of a kind. One of my favourite parts is to pour the liquid soap into the moulds and checking it the following morning.
Another thing that I have really enjoyed is to learn about how herbs and plants can provide natural colours and benefits for the skin such as calendula, nettle or chamomile to name a few. I make the majority of my soaps with plant infusions, not only to extract the colour, but also the goodness these plants contain in them.
What is your favourite product/ fragrance/ technique/ ingredient?
The nettle with rosemary and lavender soap is one of my favourites. I have a deep love for nettle and all the benefits this plant offers for skin and hair and also, I find the smell of this soap deeply relaxing. I use it from head to toe and I am very happy with it.
I mostly prefer herbaceous and citrus smells, although I am currently in love with the aroma of ylang ylang oil.
What sources have you found useful in the soap making community?
When I started to educate myself about soap making, I found it very useful to read other people’s experiences. I came across a lot of blogs where people explained how they went through the process (as it can be a bit daunting if you have never made soap before). I watched videos on YouTube, read a few books that I bought or borrowed from my local library. I discovered various online tutorials that were very useful as well as the videos and recipes ideas from the Soap Kitchen website.
What advice would you give a fellow soap maker whose thinking of taking the leap into turning a hobby into a business?
Start small and enjoy the ride of becoming big slowly. Don’t rush things or become impatient. In the majority of cases, it takes some time to get your name out there, to generate interest in your product. However, it is feasible. Also, know your numbers and account for your time. Making soap as a hobby is completely different from running a business as everything multiplies: the batches become bigger, the stock you need to buy increases… That’s why it is very important to have a plan in your head, understand the cost of everything, take into consideration your labour, inventory control, marketing, customer service, laws and regulations, etc.
I believe that having a solid plan and understanding of the business will help you to stay focused, strong and eventually profitable.
If you are a fellow soap maker and would like to share your story with us please get in touch and email email@example.com to discuss your ideas further.