And so the Soap Club was born

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When I was a kid, the Doubleday Book of the month club was really popular. As an avid reader, I was thrilled when I grew up and was able to join the book of the month club myself. I read many books that I received through that club, and it was magical. I haven’t seen anything about the book of the month club in a while, but it still exists (I had to Google it to be sure) and I bet it’s still magical.

Now that I’m older and more busy, I don’t have as much time to read. Back when I first met Chris, I made a comment about not being able to read as much as I would like, and he told me that he listened to a lot of audio books. And that’s how we now have some 300 or so books on Audible. If you haven’t ever tried Audible, and you love reading, I suggest you try them out. It’s also magical.

These days I subscribe to the Sew Sampler box from Fat Quarter Shop. Now, this is TRULY magical for me, because I never know what’s going to be in the box. I LOVE getting this box every month – there is always some cute fabric of some sort, often a tool, always a pattern or two … it’s one of those things that just makes me happy, every single time I open it. I tried out the Quilty Box, too, and I loved it, but after losing my job last year, I had to cut back to one box, and FQS won out because it was cheaper. To be fair, Quilty Box always had fat quarters, and the box from FQS often has charm packs, but the cost of the box from FQS is half the cost of the Quilty Box, and when you are trying to start a business, that’s important. 😀

A while back, I was thinking about how much I enjoy receiving those boxes from FQS, and how much I loved the book of the month club. I started thinking that it would be super awesome to offer a soap of the month club, and the seed was planted. I thought it would be so cool to make a special soap each month for the box, and as a “featured soap” for the shows that month. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. So I started checking in to ways to set it up. My original idea was to set it up as an ongoing subscription, but my old shopping cart couldn’t do that. For reasons completely unrelated to this idea, I decided to move my website to a new host provider, and thus a new shopping cart and I put the idea aside for a while. But once the website was up and running on the new host, I started thinking about the idea of the soap of the month. Now, this host does have the ability to use plug ins for the shopping cart, but the reality is that for what I want to do, the cost for this particular type of function isn’t feasible. I mean, maybe I’m the only one who likes surprise packages in the mail each month (I doubt that, but you just never know; people can be so ODD! 😉 ). Anyway, earlier this week, I mentioned the idea and my roadblock to Chris, who came up with a surprisingly easy and yet elegant solution.

Chris suggested I set up the club for a certain number of months. So we agreed that three, six, nine and twelve month subscriptions would be good. And then he suggested that I offer the option of receiving one bar of soap or two. If the customer wants two bars of soap each month, one bar will be the soap of the month, and the other soap will be another bar of my choice (for example, In the Air Tonight, Tiny Dancer or some other bar that we have in stock on a regular basis). My plan was to offer a single bar of soap; two never crossed my mind. I thought all of this was brilliant, and so the Soap of the Month Club was born!

The great thing about the Soap of the Month club is that you get a new bar of soap every month – something that no one else has tried, and that we think you’re going to love! And you’ll get it first – the packages will ship the first week of each month. We’re already working on the soap for the first month, which will be February. We’re not going to reveal what it is just yet, but we will give you a hint – February is the month for lovers!

If you sign up for the February soap, you will also receive a free gift with your first month’s shipment!

So head on over to the website now and sign up for the Soap of the Month Club, because you definitely do NOT want to miss out on this!

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So long, 2016

It’s difficult to believe that we’re standing at the cusp of another new year. It seems like only last week that I was wondering what the new year would bring, and what I’d be doing after being laid off from the job I’d held for the previous six years. Little did I know, expect or imagine that I would be where I am today. While others may not agree with me, I think that this year has been an amazing journey and a lot of fun, and I’m glad I’ve been able to shift gears and find something new to do that I truly enjoy.

I’ve learned a lot about how to run a business, and what I’m good at (the creativity of coming up with new products) and what I need to work on (dealing with people who ask questions designed to either stump me, make me feel or look stupid, or people who have ideas about handmade soaps that are incorrect). I’m better at talking to people than I thought I was, but Chris excels at it. Both of us being somewhat anti-social, that was a big concern for me, but we’ve both handled it quite well, and Chris exceptionally well. But to be honest, that man can do ANYTHING he sets his mind to, so I shouldn’t be so surprised at how well he does with salesmanship. I’ve also learned that I cannot please everyone – a difficult concept for me when I first started out, but less difficult as time goes on.

“Do you have Sandalwood soap?” (“Not right now, but I am thinking of adding it because I get asked for it a lot.”)

“I bought this soap from  you last year, but you don’t seem to have it now.” (“It wasn’t me, but maybe we can find something else you like even better.”)

“Are all of your soaps vegan?” (“No, I like the fluffy lather I get from using lard, but let me show you which soaps are vegan.”)

“I’m looking for all natural soap; is your soap all natural?” (“There is no such thing as ‘all natural’ soap, but here are some that don’t have fragrance oils in them.”)

And so forth and so on.

The single biggest issue I’ve had is running out of stock and not having some of my most popular fragrances all the time. In our defense, I’ve made about 50 or so different soaps over the last nine months, and I didn’t know starting out what was going to be a big seller and what wouldn’t be. We took half of July and the whole month of August off from shows, and set about making soaps for the fall. We had NO idea that we’d run out of all of that soap in September! I mean, we just did not expect that sort of response. I’ve tried cutting back the number of soaps we have in our “core line up” but the reality is, every time I take a soap off the table, we either get requests for it, or our sales slip. We never do as well when we’re out of our best selling soap, Pride & Joy, for example, as when we have it. But we see almost an equal slip when we’re out of Born to be Wild and In the Air Tonight. I am currently working on building up stock for all of our soaps, and it’s going to take a while. The plan is to make four batches of each soap, and when we start selling the third batch, to make another two to four batches, depending on how quickly it seems to be selling. I also think that a big reason why we do so well at most shows is because we do offer a large variety of soaps, so we’ve decided to have at least 20 different types of “core” soap at each show, as well as a few seasonal soaps. Start looking for some Valentine’s fragrances coming in the next couple of weeks, along with some St. Patrick’s and Easter soaps to follow very shortly. I am also expanding our regular line of lotions and creams, and I will be making them in larger batches so they’re always available.

But what about the embroidery side of the business, you may be wondering.

Well, I’ve learned a lot there, too. I need to get more items done and photographed well to put them on the website. In addition, I will be adding some new things like place mat sets, table runners, small quilts and the like (it is, after all FABRIC arts). It will take time to get all this stuff done, but as it’s completed, I’ll take photos and post them on the website. And don’t forget – this side of the business is completely customizable, so you can contact me at any time to request something and I can make it for you.

I’m learning about website design. Earlier this month, I transferred my hosting from eHost to Shopify. There are a couple of reasons for this, but most importantly was that I wanted the shopping experience to be fun and pleasant for my customers. I’m still working on it – I have photos that need to be taken and I’m not completely thrilled with the way the site looks right now. But I’m no webmaster, so I’m having to learn a little at a time, while trying to run the business, and do the books for both my business and Chris’s business. I could work 20 hours a day and still not get everything done I need to do, but I’m trying. If you know anyone who can do a killer website who might want to barter for soap or custom embroidery, let me know. 😉

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank every one of you who has purchased soap and/or embroidery from me over the last nine months. To be perfectly honest, I’ve put a LOT of applications/resumes out there to go back to work, and no one is beating down my door to hire me. This business HAS to be successful, and 2017 is the year it needs to be successful. So every time someone buys something from me, and every time they come back, or they tell me just how much they love something I made, it is just the most incredible feeling in the world. I never want that to change, because I enjoy it so much. So, head on over to the website and make me feel good by placing an order. 😉 If you do, I’ll give you a 15% discount off your $20 order; just use coupon code EOY15 at the checkout. At $50, you get free shipping, too! This offer is only good until Saturday, January 7, 2017, so don’t wait. Order now and make sure you get the items you really want.

Our first show for 2017 will be the Second Saturday show at Parkgate Community Church in Pasadena, so make plans to stop by and pick up some fabulous handmade soap!

Happy New Year, everyone. May 2017 be everything you want it to be!

Something Different

Different for me, at least. I’ve never made a purse, though I’ve made some bags. But I just put the finishing touches on a hobo bag for myself, and I’m pretty happy with it. There are, of course, some changes I will make next time, but over all, it works for me. What do you think?

I wasn’t really happy with the button, but I didn’t have a lot of choice. My local JoAnn’s store’s button selection sucks – I was really just looking for a black and gold button, but they had nothing that fit the bill – so I settled for this. It doesn’t match exactly but I guess it works. The fabric came from my stash, and I used a really great blue by Kona for the lining. There is a pocket inside that is made from the same butterfly fabric as the outer shell (I would have posted a photo of the inside, but I couldn’t get a good one). I can’t think of a better way to use my favorite fabrics from my stash!

I used Simplicity 0387, but next time I think I will make some changes to it – like a pocket on the outside for a cell phone. And I will trim back the interfacing, because it makes the seams a little too bulky and they don’t lay flat. The next purse I make will actually be somewhat easier … but I’ll save the info on it for another post. 🙂