Note from Carrie Thornsbury: Erin is a doll! She has been guest posting for Nurture Soap for several weeks now, and I enjoy seeing her soapy creations! After seeing her soaps, I asked her if she was using TD in her colors. She said she was using TD to offset the green from the olive oil. This mutes the colors quite a bit. Want to know how to get white soap even when using green olive oil? See my note at this end of this post!
Now to carry on with Erin's awesome post!
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t begin with the finished product, but for this post, the finished product isn’t as important as the principles. During the recent holidays, I had the opportunity to talk with some young adults, just entering the workforce, about what might motivate them (and their limited budgets) to invest in artisan soap. I asked them what they liked, which of the social issues surrounding specific ingredients mattered most, and what was most important to them about luxury spending. Many handcrafters are already young entrepreneurs or hobbyists, but for those of us with a few more years behind us, I’d like to offer some perspective about what might expand your sales into this lucrative market.
Cost Is King
Though everyone loved the idea of a fragrant, creamy, bubbly handcrafted soap, their luxury budgets are very small. I asked them what they thought was reasonable for a handcrafted soap, and they all could call up the cost of their regular soaps and toiletries within a few cents. When presented with the samples on my soap shelves, they got excited, and when I showed them the costs of some higher end bars, they generally handed them back to me. (I gave them as gifts, don’t worry.) I explained the luxury oils, the time and effort put into the really beautiful bars on the market, but they were unwilling to pay four times their ordinary costs, or more, even for the work of skilled soapers. This just isn’t the crowd that will pay more for the extra luxury oils and artistry. If you want to open this market, you will need to simplify your production and ingredients, to keep your own costs low enough to make it worth it for you.
Social Issues In Soapmaking
One of the young women worked in cosmetics and was acutely aware of the social/environmental issues surrounding palm oil, tallow, lard, and the other luxury oils that are frequently used by soapers. This particular focus group mostly agreed that they wouldn’t buy regular palm oil soap, and pulled out their phones to check out the details of responsibly harvested versions. Several were vegans/vegetarians, and would not make a luxury purchase that contained animal products. The word ‘natural’ came up several times, and most of them knew how little the label means, and for non-essential products would do their research about exactly what was in it. I was surprised to discover how many of them knew that ordinary bar soap is often made with tallow.
Color And Fragrance
Though they liked the idea of ‘natural fragrance’, they didn’t care much for the essential oils I had on hand. The exception was lime, which they loved, but I had a lime soap, and the fragrance had faded, as citrus so often does. So I seated them on the floor with bottles of scent and testing pads, and let them discover what they liked. The fragrance blend they came up with is beautiful.
We disagreed on colors. I let them choose some that they liked to begin with, within the limits of the fragrance oils they chose. They seemed very fond of the high contrast you see in the photograph, with the bright pink against the blue. After it had set and I cut it, I was rather disappointed and assumed they would be as well. They weren’t. There’s nothing that everyone loves, of course, but these colors, with the subtle swirls and glitter, and high contrast were well received.
Taking their ideas into account, and calculating cost, I decided on a very simple 10% coconut oil and 90% olive oil. It’s an inexpensive blend, and when I offered them another soap with this formula, they liked the feel of it. After sitting together on the soaping room floor with fragrances, they blended Artemis Fragrance Oil and Fairy Garden Fragrance Oil. It’s a blend of sweetness and spicy earthiness, and exceptionally pleasant. Men and women in the group both liked it. I explained that Artemis discolored slightly, so we used a little Mocha Brown Mica for the base of the soap. Having experimented with it, I found the discoloration to be very light. The rest of the soap was divided into thirds. I blended three greens into one third but didn’t mix it fully, leaving the swirled effect: Celadon Green Mica, Green Vibrance Mica, and a sprinkle of Synergy Blue Green Mica for extra brightness.
Another third was colored with just Synergy Blue Green. They loved that color. Really loved it. The last third was colored with Amaranth Pink Mica. It’s bright. I divided the remaining fragrance oil between the two.
We went with a pot swirl and poured it gently over the green. Then sprinkled Gold Holographic Biodegradable Glitter and Spring Green Bio-Glitter generously on top, and swirled.
This soap took two full days to set enough to cut.
It’s intense. I like it. They really like it. I hope it will help you to expand your market into this demographic.
Note from Carrie Thornsbury: To get amazing white soap when using olive oil, you must use light or refined olive. This will make a huge difference in how colors pop in soap and will keep the base white. The whiter the base, the brighter color! Since TD will make any color more pastel, using light olive oil will make a really big difference!