frustration ahead sign

Can You Just Give Me Your Soap Recipe?

starting a soap business

Or even better yet, where do you buy your ingredients? What's your blend of essential oils in this soap?

Sound familiar? You've gotten these questions before, right? Emails that go a little something like this:

I love your soap, but after watching a YouTube video, I realized it's easier and cheaper for me to just make it myself. Since I really like your soap, I was wondering if I could get your recipe?

Or how about:

I really love how this soap smells, but I can't figure out how you made it. I know it's gotta be a great seller and I would love to offer it to my customers. Can you tell me what fragrance you used?

Is your blood boiling yet? It's okay, I promise.

What you feel comfortable sharing and with whom is your business, to protect... well, your business.

Industry competition can make even the most composed entrepreneur lose their cool.

While most of us, myself included, love helping out a fellow soapmaker, sometimes questions feel like a suckerpunch right to the throat.

Especially when it's an email from Susie Soapmaker whom you've never spoken to.

Let's step back for a minute...

FIRST, keep in mind that the email or phone call is likely NOT coming from a deep dark place of wanting to destroy your business. Chances are they don't even realize that the information they are asking for is important to you nor have they considered whether it's appropriate to ask. Most of the time, the questions are sincerely innocent without any malicious intent. I swear, Scout's Honor.

SECOND, what are they really asking for? Are they asking for proprietary information? Or did they leave clues to what they really want? Most of the time, these questions come from a place of trusting your expertise - they see you as an authority and are asking for guidance. That's pretty damn awesome, if you think about it.

Are we breathing normally again?

Here's the deal:

There's no reason to feel ashamed about not wanting to share information you've worked hard to establish in your business. Deciding to keep certain information to yourself is not secretive, stingy, or super competitive.

And if you've decided to keep it close to the vest, what's the easiest way to handle this nonsense?

Yup, I've got your back, keep reading.

Answer the Email Before You Get It

Chances are you have a handy dandy website (oh yes, I'm channeling Blue's Clues here), so take the opportunity to identify and embrace those questions before you get the emails.

Is your formula proprietary? Are your fragrances hand blended in-house? Do you even teach soapmaking? What camera do you use? Where do you buy your oils?

Pop that information on your website to lay down a little information flow valve. If your website says that your soap formula was the result of blood, sweat, and tears over five years of development, chances are someone isn't going to email and ask for it.

If you don't mind sharing what kind of molds you use or where you got your packaging, and don't want to answer that email eighty times, write a blog post or whip up an FAQ page for other soapmakers. You can even get a little cheeky and add a note on the bottom that says the rest of the information is part of your secret awesomesauce that sets you apart. ;)

Give It Your Best Shot

If you receive a question you don't want to answer, shoot back a quick response that shuts it down in a polite way. Here's a couple I've personally crafted (and used before!), feel free to snag and use them however you like:

If you just want to say no:

Thanks for the email! My XYZ has taken me a long time and lot of resources to perfect, and is not something that I readily share. I'm sure you understand! I'm so happy to hear you are loving XYZ, I can't wait to ship out another order for you to enjoy! Thanks!

Why this rocks? It shows your expertise, and invites your customer back to keep on enjoying that product of yours. No hard feelings and no sour lemons!

Or maybe you want to be a little helpful:

I'm so glad you enjoy my XYZ! I've been making soap for several years and spent thousands of dollars on ingredients and equipment as a hobbyist - I wish it were as easy and cheap as it's made out to be! If you really are interested in learning how to make soap, I highly recommend Kathy Miller's website (www.millersoap.com) or the Soap Queen blog (www.soapqueen.com) which have many recipes and other information. Good luck!

Why this rocks? It answers their real question (is DIY going to be cheaper/easier!?), and gives them two outstanding resources to get lost in without any sweat off your back. If they decide not to take the leap across the line of soap lover and soapmaker, they'll remember YOU were gracious enough to answer politely. And if they do jump the border, they'll probably still look up to you as an expert and make future referrals for niche products.

Or if you have that information on your website:

That's a great question and it just so happens that I've answered it before! You can find it right here on my website: WEBSITE URL If you have any further questions, please feel free to leave a comment on my blog. If it helps you out, please consider sharing it with others! Thanks!

Why this rocks? It redirects them to explore your website, which is your personal marketing playground, as well as inviting them to interact with the content and possibly share it. Bonus points.

Or if you teach, turn it into a lead:

I appreciate the email! My XYZ has taken a lot of time and resources to perfect, so I don't share the specifics freely - but if you want to set up a one-on-one session, my fees start at X per hour and I can help you out with ABC. I'm available on DAYS. Drop me an email when you have a time in mind, and we'll get it scheduled! (Or stop by my website here: URL to schedule your session!)

Why this rocks? It establishes clear boundaries as to what information you share freely and what value you provide by offering your services. Plus, they might not have known you teach or consult and now they do. ;)

Easy Peasy and No Scummy Feelings

See, it's not so bad after all! Just keep your cool, remember not to take it personally, and then politely turn the exchange into a benefit for your business!

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