I thought...how hard can it be? Just follow the recipe, and everything will be fine. This works, but it also requires the added ingredient of patience, and maybe pure luck. I have yet to make a completely failed batch of soap (*knock on wood*). For me, the definition of "failed" implies "non-functional" - Where I just throw my hands in the air, toss everything in the garbage, and start new.
I came very close to doing that for the first time this week. I started out making what I thought would be a nice coconut, vanilla, and honey soap (hot process). I formulated a recipe and had everything carefully calculated. I had this vision of producing a luxurious two layered bar, with a chocolate-y bottom layer (mixture of red and bentonite clay), and a contrasting smooth cream top layer with some poppyseeds. I decided to try a bigger batch, using a simple shoebox mold. Everything was going very well - fantastic actually. There was beautiful bubbling soap in the crockpot. I planned to split the batch to make the darker bottom layer after I added the honey and essential oils. However, once I added in the vanilla, that's when things went awry. First off, the vanilla turned the entire concoction dark brown (so much for my nice light cream layer). Fine, I could handle that... but then... THEN everything turned into a soupy mess. My smooth soap transformed into a curdled mountain of poo. Water and/or oil started to separate out, no matter how much I cooked or stirred.
At this point, I was about to just let it all cool down and throw it out. But I pressed on (that's a lot of time and materials invested). I added the clay to see if it would thicken up the soupy mess. Nothing. Desperately grasping for straws, while staring at this now dark dark brown mixture, a light bulb suddenly went off. I reached for the instant coffee...I put two tablespoons in, stirred. Nothing. Two more - nope. After ten tablespoons (!) I seem to have finally salvaged some of this disaster by absorbing all the liquid and smoothing it out again.. I quickly poured the concoction into my shoebox, sprinkled with a little bit more instant coffee on top, and popped in the freezer, lest it try to separate again.
Voila! Beautiful handcrafted artisan luxurious vanilla latte soap! (Or something like that...)
I read all the warnings about using vanilla products in soap - they may cause discoloration or separation. I only see this as a challenge - One I may step away from for now until I gain a bit more experience. I'm going back to the basics again to try to perfect the first recipes I've attempted. I think this will give me the confidence in the future to tackle the vanilla dilemma - and I have learned now to always listen to the advice of those who have already been there and done that! You know why? Cause ain't noboby got time for that.
My interest to make soap started around January. I purchased materials through Amazon, and made my first bar of Au Naturel soap in February. Why did I start this? I don't know! I don't have a story - should I? I enjoy being crafty and making homemade products - then once I focus on a hobby, I become obsessed. Ask my husband - he'll tell you the stories. The endless nights of knitting sweaters, scarves, and socks. That time I made a few candles. When I felt the instinctive impulse to purchase a sewing machine with no idea what I was going to make with it.
The point is... I really enjoy creating things. The bar soaps at the store can be a bit rough on my skin, and cause it to dry out. I used to purchase natural bar soap, and found it's much more gentle on my skin. I guess I initially thought I could save a little money if I just made it myself. Once I realized my first Au Naturel soap worked flawlessly (minus the overdose of chia seeds) - the obsession hit. Now I've got 50 sample bottles of essential oil, tons of jars of coconut and olive oils, a brand new immersion blender. I wanted to make EVERYTHING. I started becoming a soap making fool, trying out various recipes and learning the ropes for myself. I would run home from work and just get started on the next batch (dinner? who needs to eat dinner?). The next thing I knew, I had like 50 bars of soap, and it didn't look like I was stopping anytime soon.
When I posted pictures of some of the final soaps on Facebook or Instagram, I was surprised at the comments and interest. There are those out there like me who enjoy using homemade natural soaps! So I thought I'd give it a shot trying to sell them and at least to cover the cost of the materials - then I could also continue making more. Things quickly snowballed - it's not as easy developing a business plan as I thought. Perhaps I'll bore you at a later time with the details.
So anyway, I am aiming for June 1 to officially "open" - given my hoops and hurdles with business and product development, I'm hoping this is still an achievable goal. My biggest fear is not that this whole business will fail - the business is just a formality to be able to officially sell the soaps. My biggest fear is giving up...becoming lazy...quitting before I even get started. I'm a perfectionist - If I don't make a perfect bar of soap the first time, I get annoyed like I've wasted time and ruined everything. I've become passionate about this so quickly - I'm wondering if I'm getting ahead of myself. I don't even know if anyone will LIKE my soap! But here I am with a website, a soon-to-be Facebook store, Instagram, and a BLOG. But that's all part of the game and just throwing your arms up in the air and running ahead full steam. Is that how every business starts?
Just a few disclaimers before I officially open:
1) Hang in there: These initial bars of soap won't look perfect - please don't judge me on these! They are all fully functioning, but I'm learning a lot in the process. I think they can only get better from here and I hope you stick this out with me. I encourage feedback and suggestions - if you purchase from me, and think your soap can be better or different, please email me and tell me!
2) Allergies; While the soap I make is made of natural, food-grade ingredients, and I sincerely hope everyone will love each and every single one, there is that pesky business of allergies. I don't want to ever cause harm to anyone from a product I've made. I just caution you to fully read the ingredient list every time you go to purchase a bar of soap to ensure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients. Please never hesitate to reach out to me if you're not quite sure what the product contains. Better safe than sorry! In this product development stage, I may switch up ingredients from batch to batch - so don't assume the first bar of soap you bought may contain the same items if you go to buy it the second time. Just double check the ingredients each time - I am very conscientious of ensuring I accurately represent the product you are buying.
3)Not mass-produced: I work full time and make soap in my spare time. In this product development stage, I may make only 6 bars of each soap until I perfect the recipe so as not to ruin a whole large batch of soap. I may even slice these 6 bars into smaller sample bars. There will be limited initial product, and limited products rolled out in the future. If you happen to like something, and it's not listed in my store, don't hesitate to reach out and request it! I will try to accommodate if I can - it may take some time depending on the process (it can take up to a MONTH for a soap to cure and be ready).
Thanks again and I really do look forward to getting started on this adventure.