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Becoming a Full Time Soapmaker

Blogtober 2021 – Day 23

Another question that came up when I asked for blog post ideas in our FaceBook group was this one:

I actually thought that I’d written about this aaaaages ago, and thought it would be a nice quick and easy to update and repost… But no. If I did write it, I can’t find it 😀

So, this is the story of how I came to be a full-time soap maker.

Sometime back in (I think!) 2009/2010 a friend came to visit and showed me a piece of soap she’d made. I was amazed. Not only did I have ABSOLUTELY no idea how soap was made, I couldn’t believe that it was possible to make it at home. This was something completely new to me and I REALLY wanted to know more.

I started scouring the internet for ‘how to’ articles, I bought loads of books, and started watching soap making videos on Youtube, until eventually I was ready to make my very first batch of soap. My first attempt was made using a kit bought online. It provided pre-measured oils, butters and lye, and with hindsight was massively overpriced for what it contained, but never mind that – I made soap!

It doesn’t look like much but I was SO proud of that soap! It was supposed to be fragranced but there wasn’t much smell to it, but it worked like soap should work, so I was happy.

After that there was no stopping me. I made lots and lots and lots of soap, in lots of different colours and fragrances, and pretty soon I had way more than we, friends or family could possibly use in one lifetime. All this experimentation took quite a while, during which time I’d had our first child and given up work to look after him. Needless to say the prospect of making a bit of extra cash by selling soap was very appealing and I hit upon the idea of starting up a little business that I could potter away at, while still being a full-time mum. But it wasn’t going to be that easy.

One thing I’d realised from my research was this: Selling soap involves a lot more than just making it and then finding a market. Every single product that is designed to be used on the skin, whether a leave-on product (like lotion) or a rinse-off product (like soap), needs to be assessed and approved by an appropriately qualified chemist and needs to be covered by a Cosmetic Product Safety Report (CPSR).

Once the CPSR had been obtained I made sure I was properly insured and also had my soaps recorded on the European Cosmetic Product Notification Portal (CPNP)* Then I had to ensure that my labelling and ingredients list etc were compliant, and that batch numbers were recorded for all products. But eventually, I was ready to give it a go.

We were living in Manchester at the time, and I signed up for a few artisan craft fairs at the weekends, but it really wasn’t the earner that I’d hoped it might be. Sometimes I’d do well and go home buzzing, but often I’d sell a few bars and earn just enough to cover the fees that I’d paid to be there. I generally made enough to keep buying more supplies to keep making, but to be honest for a long time I wasn’t doing much more than covering my costs.

By 2014 we’d had our second child and decided to move the family back home to north Wales, where I was brought up, and it was here that the business really took off – mainly with the support of a few local businesses who agreed to stock my soaps. Over the years I managed to get my products in more and more shops, and then in February 2020 I launched the website, and thank goodness I did. Covid hit, and craft fairs and retail outlets all closed their doors.

Fast forward to today and althought the craft fairs are starting up again, I’ve decided not to participate any longer. I now have a long list of stockists and the website is doing well; doing craft fairs as well would mean stretching myself too thinly. I think anyone who runs their own business alone with know that it’s quite hard work, and I work at least 50 hours per week as it is – that’s quite enough thank you! Besides, starting the business was orginally a way for me to stay at home with the children rather than have to work outside of the home, and being at craft fairs all day at the weekend would mean missing out on a lot of family time.

*Since Brexit we in the UK no longer have access to the CPNP and instead have to submit a cosmetic product notification to the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) for every different product and variety of product

Well, that turned into a bit of a long-winded waffle, but hopefully it answers the original question. If there’s anything you’re still wondering about please just ask away in the comments below!

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

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