Good Things Come in Threes

Threes

I’m not sure whether to call it a birthday or an anniversary, either way, this week it has been three years since I published Bubbles to Bucks … How to Make Money Selling Soap.

My first book, Creative Soap Making, was published in 2010, Bubbles to Bucks in 2013. Both were self-published, but using two very different methods. Creative Soap Making was published in what I refer to as the old-fashioned manner of self-publishing. Meaning, after the book was complete, I sought out a local book printer to print a quantity of books which I then proceeded to sell. For Bubbles to Bucks, I published using a print on demand printer (P.O.D.). The latter is the better way to go, in my opinion.

It’s kinda funny because I have had many people look at me in awe, that I’m a published author. It’s work folks, yes, much hard work. But I’m was just stubborn enough to become a published author, and the thing is, you can be one too!

Two books really helped me on my road to publishing. The first was The Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter. In his lifetime, Dan wrote more than 130 books and more than 800 magazine articles, most of them on the subject of self-publishing. The Self-Publishing Manual was first published in 1979 and was one of his most popular books.

Poynter would ask the question; do you have a book inside of you? Then seek to encourage you with ways to make it happen. I am one of who knows how many, who benefited from his advice.

The second book which proved so very helpful, was Kayla Fioravanti’s How to Self-Publish: A Guide for Author-Preneurs. Now Kayla does a great job of taking you step by step through the process of self-publishing using a P.O.D. She takes the guesswork out of it and provides you with a roadmap. Kayla was the one who proved as a great example that self-publishing using a P.O.D. such as Create Space really works!

So three years passed between my first to my second book. Now it has been three years again. Although I have contemplated different ideas, there are no future books on the near horizon at this point. But know this, writing books is kinda like eating potato chips. I think it very often holds true that you can’t write just one.

Do you have a book in you?

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3 Ways to Prune Your Business

Mexican Heather

I am no master gardener, but as anyone knows who has read my recent blogs, this year I have become more interested in plants.

Recently I bought a Mexican heather plant. It was beautiful. The photo above is not my plant. Why? Doofus here, had it for a while, then forgot to water it for a couple of days. It was a bad move resulting in most of the plant dying.

However, I didn’t give up. I took the challenge to see if maybe, just maybe if I started watering it consistently again, maybe it would live. But the dead stuff had to go, so I carefully cut it out, then replanted it in a larger pot. So far so good.

This got me to thinking about this whole concept of pruning.

Gardeners already know this, that a good pruning is essential for growth. But have you ever thought about how this can apply to business?

As a way to offer you some food for thought toward the goal of healthy business growth, I would like to share the following tips.

3 Ways to Prune Your Business

  • Prune the Dead Stuff.

Here’s the best way I can think of to explain this. You have a product idea that you think is super duper. You make said product. You begin to sell said product.  Results? It only sells okeydokey. Not a steller seller. Nothing to write home about. To you I say, let it go!  It’s dead, Jim! (remember, Trekkies?). Its dead weight and it is only holding you back. Cut it off at the root and move on. Next!

  • Prune the Time-Suckers.

We live in the information age, isn’t it wonderful? Yes, I admit. I think it is so cool that I can be connected with so many… family, friends, like-minded business people and soap makers across the country and globe. The internet is a wonderful thing. But like anything, we need to be careful how much of our time it takes up.

Take social media, for example. It’s a great, but can suck the time right out of your day if you don’t watch it. So what is a small business person to do? Oh my! The pressure comes to be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. and etc. Is all that really needful? Will having a presence on all those platforms really help your business? This is something you just have to find out for yourself. Test it out. Go with what works and forget the rest. Make sure you are not giving away too much of your precious time that could be spent doing other productive things.

  • Learn to say NO!

When we first start our soap businesses and begin acquiring wholesale accounts (or even retail customers), there is this temptation to try to do everything requested of us. If you are new to the business, please heed my words loud and clear … proceed carefully! You need to understand that you absolutely do not have to try to make each and everything that someone asks you to make. Period.

Yes, as you can imagine, I speak from personal experience. Many years back, a gal asked me to make a certain kind of gel that she uses in her business. After three test batches, I told her I would not be making anymore. I simply could not please her.

Lesson learned? There is a reason why someone came up with that old phrase, You can’t please all the people, all the time!  So don’t try!

Now if you do choose to take on making a custom product, fine; but set limits for yourself in case you end up with a super picky customer. Such experiments can potentially take up much unnecessary time.

Focus on What You Really Need to Do

These tips are just three ways of pruning your business. There are definitely more, but hopefully this has given you some good food for thought. Implement these practices so you can spend more time focusing on what you really need to be doing in your business.

How will you start pruning?

 

 

Soap Making of Yesteryear

Lye Cover

Have you ever wondered what soap making was like in the past?

Just how did great grandma make soap anyway?

We can gather some clues by looking at old lye booklets.

Lewis Lye – The Truth About a Lye

The picture above is the front cover of the booklet, The Truth About a Lye. This particular edition was published in 1933 by the Lewis Lye company. Note that this is the New 21st Revised Edition! For many decades it was common practice for informational booklets such as this, to be included with every purchase of lye, which could easily be found in local grocery stores.

Back in the day, soap making was a common household chore. Yes, chore. The idea of soap making being anything close to the art form it is today, was way off in the distant future.

Making soap was just one of those things that you did and it served a very practical purpose. Every family needed soap; and that soap was used for everything… hand washing, bathing, for shampoo, dish washing, etc.

A full 20% of this booklet is dedicated to soap making. The rest of the booklet covers the following categories: Farms, Food Product Uses and Household Uses. As you can see, lye had a wide variety of different uses.

Preparation of the Fats

At the beginning of the soap making section it states, The First Step in Soap Making is to Properly Prepare the Fat. Then it gives instructions on how to do just that. Tallow (beef fat) or Lard (pig fat) were the common, readily accessible fats of the day that was used to make soap, but fat needs to be rendered in order to obtain the tallow or lard. The rendering is simply a process of gradually boiling the fat down, then the tallow or lard rises to the top. Similar to when you boil chicken, then set the pot of broth aside, how a layer forms on the top.

Basic Recipe and Variations

Here is the recipe that is included in the booklet.

 

1 can Lewis Lye (each container held 13 oz.)

2 1/2 pts. cold water

6 lbs. fat (tallow, lard or combinations of tallow and lard)

 

Along with this basic recipe, over a dozen recipe variations are included.

Here’s the list: All Tallow Soap, Castor Oil Soap, Cocoanut Oil Soap (no typo, that’s how they spelled it), Cottonseed Oil Soap, Fish Oil Soap, Glycerine Soap, Imitation Castile Soap, Linseed Oil Soap, Olive Oil Soap, Sulphur Soap, Tar Soap, Lewis’ Abrasive Soap, Lewis’ Abrasive Soap Paste, Soft Soap, Liquid Soap, Soap Flakes or Chips and Soap Powder or Washing Powder.

Interesting, yes? It makes me wonder how many people experimented with the different variations!

Back during this time period, more people lived in the rural areas than in the cities. Each family naturally did many things in order to survive. People kept their own livestock for meat, grew vegetables, made their clothes. Today we call that being do-it-yourselfers, back then it was simply the way it was.

Many people in the country kept hogs and the annual hog butchering would happen each fall. The annual soap making would happen soon thereafter. The idea was to make soap once and make enough to last the whole year. The soap was made outside in a big kettle over an open fire.

In the 1940’s more and more people began leaving the family farms to find work in the cities. The farm women carried their tradition of soap making with them. Instead of obtaining lard after the annual hog butchering, now bacon grease was saved until enough was had to make soap. This is something I saw firsthand. Everytime my mom made bacon, she would pour the grease into the tin coffee can that lived by the side of the stove.

Soap making has indeed come a long way. Personally I am glad that it is a craft that has endured.

If you are interested in obtaining old copies of lye booklets, check out online sale sites like eBay.

For a modern take on the craft, feel free to check out my website or to buy Creative Soap Making, my how-to on this very unique craft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Challenge Success!

Runner

Today is Day #30 of the Indie Business Blog Your Brand Challenge.

For thirty days I have faithfully blogged each and every day. I made it. I crossed the finish line. Feels good!

So obviously by the picture included above, I got to thinking about how completing a challenge is kinda like running a race.

Running a race reminds me of a not so pleasant memory, years ago, from elementary school. It was fifth grade P.E. class and we were all involved in a track meet.

If memory serves, the race I was to run was the 200 yard dash.What do I remember most about this race? The fact that my dash wasn’t too good. There was four of us running the race. As we neared the finish line and it was obvious I wasn’t going to win, I slowed down. Boy, did I catch it from the teacher! You should have run harder! You should NOT have slowed down! 

Now I was never much of a outdoorsy, athletic type of gal and receiving these kind of comments didn’t make me want to sign up for the next race, but there were still lessons to be learned of course.

Some races we win, some we lose, but we got to keep on trying. We have to keep on running.

I find that I like challenges. In the past, I have acquired several wholesale soap accounts through conducting cold calls. Not always the recommended way to do it, but I enjoyed that too! With my newfound love of plants, I am enjoying the challenge of keeping things alive!  Ha!  O.K., I am experimenting with trying to grow different cuttings, so there’s the real challenge on that subject.

But I like a challenge.

Through this challenge I have proven to myself, once again, how much I like to write. But I have also seen that I have a deep desire to encourage others through my writing.

So stay tuned and check out www.ElinCriswell.com where I will start writing next week.

So what’s your next challenge?

 

 

The Joy of Teaching Soap Making

Class 1

I have the honor as serving as the director of Lone Star Soap & Toiletries, a Texas-based soap makers group. Every first weekend in June, we hold our premiere event, the Soapmakers Seminar, at the Williamson Conference Center/Wingate Hotel in Round Rock, Texas.

Class 2

Since our first seminar in 2010, we have always had a basic soap making class as part of line up of sessions. This year, we did it different. We had a hands-on class that was separate from the rest of the seminar.

Class 3

I always have a great time teaching soap classes at my home and teaching here at the seminar was no different. We met in a separate room upstairs at the conference center, with a total of six students in attendence.

Class 4

We do not have a hard and fast age limit on those who attend the seminar. I basically take it case by case. I mean, when one knows that Anne-Marie Faiola of Bramble Berry learned to make soap at age 16, who I am to turn someone away?  No, I talk with the folks who want to come, and if they can assure me they are serious about learning the craft, I let them come. But the safety precautions are very much enforced.

Class 5

For this particular class, my dear friend Pat Tyson joined me to teach. This worked out great because at one point I had to run downstairs for the start of the regular seminar sessions. We called it the tag-team approach to teaching.

Class 6

Pat is a humble gal. But don’t let that fool ya. She knows her stuff!

Class 7

We told the class we were taking the assembly line approach. We had two long tables on which everyone’s mold and supplies were placed. One by one they came up and made their batch of soap. The particular silicone molds used are great for test batches and travel bars.

As you can see, we had alot of fun!

Class 8

But sometimes things go wrong.

As mentioned above, at one point, I had to leave the room. When I came back, the next student was ready to go. We were making cold temperature cold process soap. I had her put the stick blender in the container of oils and not long after that told her to be looking for trace. My brain was kinda on overload with seminar details,  and she kept asking me when to add the lye solution! The photo above shows the moment it finally dawned on me what was going on and we all had a good laugh about it.

Class 9

Yes, sometimes things go wrong or don’t go exactly as planned. Instead of getting all upside about it, relax and have a good laugh.

Class 9a

I always enjoy teaching others to make soap. It is so fun to see the look on people’s faces when they see their soap come to trace for the first time!

The hands-on basic soap making class will continue to be an option at the Soapmakers Seminar.  Our next seminar will be held June 2-3, 2017.

Our next upcoming event is the Lone Star Winter Retreat which will be held Saturday, January 28, 2017 in Marble Falls, Texas.

For more information and to learn more about Lone Star Soap & Toiletries, click here.

 

Photos by Susan Criswell

 

 

 

 

For the Love of Plants

Rose 1

This morning I went to the store. Before walking in, I told myself in no uncertain terms that I would not be buying any plants today.

The photo above shows what I walked out with.

I mean, come on, $1.99 for a variegated red mini rose?

My daughter says plants follow me home like little puppy dogs. They obviously have become my new obsession.

I really never thought I would be this way. Plants were much more of my mom’s thing, not mine. But somehow this year, I just started enjoying them more.

Now days, the early morning hours usually sees me out on the front porch, reading, writing at times, sippin’ coffee, loving the cool breeze (which ends early enough on hot Texas summer days) and enjoying the beauty of my plants.

A master gardener I will never be, but I look at it this way, God gives us things in life to enjoy.

So I would like to share some pictures of my favorites.

Coleus

The Coleus

I bought this at a local water gardens and nursery. I think it just looks so unique!

Suc 1

My Favorite Succulent

Isn’t this an interesting looking succulent?  And look, it’s having babies!

Cacti

The Cacti

I’ve been experimenting with this spineless cacti. I transferred these pods to the cinder block planter. So far, so good.

Money Tree

The Money Tree

We bought this on the way back from our recent anniversary trip. Google tells me that it is named The Money Tree because it is thought to be an age-old token of good luck and an invitation to good fortune. To which I say… whatever. I’m really not into folklore like that, I just think it’s a cool looking tree. However, I did tell my husband I wanted to buy it as a remembrance of our anniversary trip; and besides, our love is priceless.

Thank you for allowing me to share the beauty of my front porch today.

May you be enjoying beauty of your own.

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3 Reasons to Make Your Own Soap

Barn Soap sm

Since I am not David Letterman, I will not give you 10 reasons. Personally, I think three is more than enough!

Soap making is my creative passion and has been now for over sixteen years.  I don’t seem to hear this as often now, but I was asked this a lot in my early soap making days… Why make soap when you can easily buy it at the store?

Well, first of all, most of what you find at the store is not real soap, but more of a detergent bar made with synthetic ingredients. Second, why do people make anything? Simply because they find much enjoyment in doing so.

So here are my top 3 reasons for making your own soap.

Reason #1 – Soap Making is the Endless Experiment!

This very fact tickles the creative soul and it is absolutely true, there is always something new for you to try, that you’ve never tried before.

Over the years I have made

oatmeal soap

peppermint soap

lavender soap

goat’s milk soap

sheep’s milk soap

buffalo soap (using buffalo tallow)

beer soap (why not? Better than drinking the stuff!)

coffee soap (I didn’t take a sip)

Just to name just a few.

You can experiment using different oils, different additives, different colorants, different scents and you can even make your own designer scents through scent blending.

So I hope you can see that there is nothing boring about making soap. One of the reasons it is such a great craft is that it can truly can be an endless experiment!

Reason #2 – Real soap is a much better product for your skin.

As noted above, commercial bars are made with synthetic ingredients, homemade soap is made with more natural ingredients. That’s as straight forward as it gets.

Also note that many people suffer with skin sensitivities these days. There are so many different things that a person can be allergic to. So be good to yourself by being good to your skin.

Reason #3 – When you make your own soap, you get to choose exactly what goes in it.

So you want a soap made with lavender? You can make that.

You want a luxurious bar with shea butter? You can make that.

Maybe you want a fancy, pretty swirled soap? You can make that, too.

You can make whatever soap you like because you get to choose. You are no longer limited by the choices you see on a store shelf. How’s that for fun?

Now really there are a lot of different reasons to make your own soap. I just have shared what is to me, the heart of the matter. Hope I have stirred your interest. It’s a great craft!