It takes time to master making soaps and homemade products. You enjoy using your products, and you’ve gifted them to family and friends. How do you know when your products are ready for market?
It can be tricky to know for sure because, unlike many other professions in the U.S., there is no mandated testing, governing body or federal certification for selling most soaps and homemade items.
Education comes first
Think back to the days when you learned to ride a two-wheeled bicycle. It wasn't as easy as the other kids made it look. There were so many elements involved that you never considered; balance, technique, skinned knees and elbows and coordination. It did not happen overnight, but with much perseverance, you succeeded. Making soaps and similar products are a lot like learning to ride a bike.
First you watch the experts. There are a plethora of soapmaking and crafting tutorials available on the internet; some are fantastic while others are incomplete. The trouble with learning online is that you must know how to separate the good practices from the bad. Does the maker employ safe and proper practices: gloves, ventilation mask, eye protection, sterile equipment and skin safe ingredients? If the answer is no, consider moving on. Look for instructional videos that are complete, precise and thorough.
While videos are a great way to get your feet wet, they do not take the place of hands-on learning. Maybe there is an advanced soapmaker or artisan in your area that will take you on as an apprentice? Or perhaps there are classes in your area? Many supply stores offer classes and workshops. Other venues include adult continuing education classes at your local schools or art councils. These structured courses are designed to not only teach you the basics but also give you hands-on, supervised experience under a seasoned soapmaker or crafter. Making handmade products is not a competition sport; there are many experienced soapmakers in online groups that are ready and willing to help.
Sourcing, production and testing
Take the proper time to research, study and formulate the ingredients for the products you’re producing. For example, when it comes to soapmaking, knowing the attributes of fatty acids is one of the most important aspects of the process and is what makes up the bulk of your homemade soap recipe. Using the right combination of oils is what separates a mild, lathering and bubbly bar from a harsh and crumbly mess. It may take a bit of recollection from your high school chemistry days and a whole lot of trial and error, but perfecting your formulation will happen.
Testing your soap or bath and body product recipe is one step that should not be taken lightly. Once you’ve derived a soap that you feel is perfect, test it and retest it. You can ask for volunteers from your family and friends. Chances are these are your most willing participants but may not be the ones that will give you the best critique. They may want to please you, so be sure to ask them for honesty.
Use any negative feedback as an opportunity to improve. Consider offering a product of the month club for your testers. Each month, send a product sample (varying the recipe and additives) to your panel and wait for their responses. After a year-long experiment, you will know not only which blends or combinations are preferred but also how to streamline your processes and packaging.
Making it official
During your testing phase, search out ways to set up your business legally. Decide if you will be a sole proprietor, a limited liability company (LLC) or another business structure
. Register your business with your state and seek out business insurance
. Product liability insurance not only protects your customers but also you and your assets. Many homeowner insurance brokers can point you in the right direction for adequate coverage.
After the learning, testing, researching and legalizing, are you finally ready to start selling your soaps or homemade products? Maybe. There is no finite length of time that tells you when the market will buy what you’re selling. This is simply the nature of your niche customer base. Just like learning to ride a bike, it takes time to build up speed and momentum. With soapmaking and crafting, take time to test, study and research the market. Never stop learning and improving.