Want to Build Your Own Successful soap Biz?

10 Things You Need to Know Before You Start a Soap Business

I’ve been asked a lot for advice about how to start a soap business. (Duh, that’s why I’m here!) So I decided to round up the most common bits and pieces of advice I’ve given over the years into one gigantic resource. I’ve listed up ten things I think everyone should know before they start a soap company. Ready to rock?

10 Things You Need to Know Before Starting a Soap Business

Here’s what you should know before you start a soap business of your very own:

1. You don’t get to make soap all the time when you own a soap business.

Most soapmakers start a soap business because they have become soapmaking addicts, churning out batch after batch of lovely handmade soap. That’s fine, you do need to make the product to sell it (unless you outsource manufacturing). However, when you run a soap business, you HAVE TO spend as little of your time as possible making your products. This is even more important if you are a one-woman (or man) show. Because if you don’t have time to put into selling your products,  you will end up with a very expensive business hobby.

Once you start a soap business, less than 20% of your time as a sole business owner should be dedicated to soapmaking/production. (Yes, that includes time spent ordering supplies, dealing with GMP paperwork, and packaging product.)

This frees up the rest of your time to manage your business and sell the handmade soap you are making. This is why production efficiency is of the utmost importance! Time and time again, I work with soapmakers who are spending far too much time making products and creating new products. And then they wonder why their business isn’t doing as well as they would like.

Takeaway: You have to spend more time selling soap than making it to be profitable.

I’m a huge productivity nut, so here are a couple of other posts on productivity:

Side Note: If you are starting a soap business with a partner, it’s super important to define roles ahead of time. Usually, one person steps into the role of Production Manager and the other picks up as the Operations Manager. That doesn’t mean the Production Manager gets to turn a blind eye to the business aspects of running a company!

2. You don’t get to make what you like when you start a soap business.

One of the most common mistakes soapmakers make when they start a soap business is creating a product line around the products they like the most. Newsflash: you aren’t your target market. If your target market was exactly like you, they would make their own products and start soap business, too.

If your target market would die for a patchouli-scented soap, and you don’t make it because you hate the smell (blasphemy!), guess where your customers are going to go? Yup, that’s right – they’re going to hand their cashola to a soap company that makes the products they want.

If you start a soap business making laundry soap, beard oil, glittery eyeshadow, and baby soap (because those are the products you like to make), then who the heck are you going to market to? Do you really know of any male infants who miraculously already have a beard the size of their body, do their own laundry, and wear make-up? Right. Start your soap business with a small product line (usually a maximum of 10 products). Have a consistent purpose and focus on a single market.

3. Branding is your soap business’s backbone.

If you think branding is as simple as picking a few colors, a pretty graphic you like, and slapping it all together, I have news for you. Branding is so, so much more than that. And without strong branding, you will struggle when starting a soap company.

Your brand should guide every action and decision you make in business. Is it right for your business to develop this new product? Is it right for your business to do that craft show? Is it right for your business to be on that shiny new social media network? When you have a solid brand and target market, these questions become a cakewalk.

4. If you compete on price alone, you will never own a sustainable and profitable business.

The biggest mistake I see with soapmakers that I’ve worked with is either pricing their products in such a way that they feel is affordable or in line with an imaginary market. The problem with this is that many, many, MANY soap companies operating through their own websites, on Etsy/Artfire, or other venues, are creating their pricing on what someone else is doing. This means the “market price” continues to nose dive – to the point that no soap company who tries to compete on price will ever make a profit.

A few years ago, I set up my soap company at a local indie craft market and found that I was sitting in any maker’s nightmare: they had assigned booths so that all similar products were next to each other. I was surrounded by four other soapmakers. Each soapmaker around me checked out each other’s pricing and then set show specials to compete on price – except for me. I stuck to my guns on my pricing, selling my 3-ounce bars of soap for $7 and up. At the end of the day, every other soapmaker I spoke to reported barely breaking even on the show and walked away disappointed. Since I didn’t lower my pricing (thereby avoiding diminishing the perceived value and quality of my products), I walked away with a healthy profit and a sunny disposition.

If you want to run a successful soap company, you absolutely must turn a healthy profit, or you will not be able to afford to stay in business. So why not plan for profit from the moment you start a soap business?

5. There is a market for everything.

The biggest argument I get in regards to charging decent prices that net a profit is that the market can’t bear it. And that is a big ol’ fat lie. The only time the market won’t bear a price that is fair to you and your business is when you aren’t going after the right market or a specific market at all.

If you are throwing your soap out in the wild, hoping and praying that some bloke will plunk down $10 for your soap, you are betting on a chance. You have to nail down a specific market that is right for your products. For most businesses a niche market is identified and a product is created to serve that niche. For most soapmakers, however, they start off by throwing caution to the wind and hoping someone somewhere will buy their products because they are AMAZEBALLS.

Companies who charge $12, $28, $120, or even $1400 for a bar of soap (yes, they exist) do not set up at a farmers market because that’s what everyone else does. They find the consumers that are right for their products, and they start serving those fabulous people. It’s the only way to grow a sustainable business that constantly snags a profit.

There is a market for anything and everything under the sun, you just have to find the right market and niche for your products. If you haven’t started a product line yet, then find your market FIRST and then create your products for that niche.

6. There are more ducks to have in a row besides creating fab products.

Surprise, surprise, it’s not as easy to set up a soap company as a lot of people think.

Before you sell a single bar of soap, you should know how stable the product will be over time. Ideally, you should know how your soap will handle being stored in the most ridiculous of places (like in someone’s car in the middle of the summer in Arizona), how long the scent will last, and how long the product integrity will remain intact. Believe it or not, most soap does go bad over time and the last thing you want is to find out your soap goes bad quickly in the hands of customers AFTER you’ve taken their money.

Next up, you need to be in compliance with both local, state, and federal laws.

Within the United States, if you live in Florida or California, you would need to comply with a special set of cosmetics regulations. If you make cosmetic claims such as your soap is moisturizing, you will need to comply with FDA regulations. And even if you don’t sell cosmetics, you still need to comply to other regulations governed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.

In Canada, you’ll need to complete your Cosmetic Notification Forms. You’ll also have to comply with the Canadian Food and Drug Act and other guidelines for cosmetics (including soap) on the Health Canada website. 

And this is not a full list of applicable regulations, either! Don’t forget any permits, inspections, or licenses you may need to obtain from your local or state government. Marie Gale is always a fabulous resource for finding applicable regulations (USA) you may need to comply with, but you also don’t want to forget things like sales tax or DBA registrations, etc.

Don't forget insurance!
Don’t forget insurance!

And finally, the one word soap companies dread hearing: insurance. Yes, you need business and product liability insurance before you sell your soapy creations. Fortunately, we’ve done a lot of the legwork for you and are happy to dish on what type of insurance policies you need and where to buy insurance for your soap business.

7. Photography is a huge pain point for most soapmakers who start a business.

Most soap companies want to sell their products online to reach the largest portion of their audience possible, which means your customers will rely on your ability to take stellar product photographs. And not everyone is a photography master.

If you’re making any of these major product photography faux pas, you will be hard-pressed to gain an interested audience. It’s important that your images accurately reflect your products and brand. That means product photos that are clear and well-lit. If you take a peek at Etsy or Artfire or other handmade product venues, you’ll notice that the products getting featured on the front page or in collections is due to awesome product photography.

If you aren’t fab with a camera, you will want to invest in professional product photography or learn how to DIY your own product photos. You’ll also want to get familiar with the best sites for downloading stock photos.

8. Starting a soap business is an investment.

Your soap business will only be as strong as you are. You need to keep learning, growing, and stretching your limits to build a successful soap company.

Experienced soapmakers became experienced soapmakers because they knew they needed to keep learning. To this day, I still learn new things about soapmaking, even though I’ve spent over a decade making my own handmade soap. If you ever become stagnant in learning, you will become stagnant in growth, too. This doesn’t just apply to soapmaking, but to business as well.

The old adage that you need to spend money to make money is just as true now as it has ever been. When you first start out, focus on your strengths. And put your money where it matters: invest in educating yourself to strengthen your weaknesses and outsource to tasks you are crap at or hate doing.

I always advise business owners to find accountability and support, whether that’s through a business coach (and not just because I am one – I have one, too!) or through mastermind groups, trade organizations, or local support groups. Doing so will help you continue to invest in yourself and your business, whether it’s mentally, physically, or financially.

Side note: Tread lightly when building your support system. Many students I’ve helped start a soap company have the issue of too many cooks in the kitchen, all drinking the same Kool-Aid. And that makes it difficult to focus on your business, plan for your own version of success, and stand out from the crowd. When starting a soap business, set a budget and set limits for paid *and* free resources. Don’t take every course under the sun that seems like it will help you. And don’t join every Facebook group you find.

9. You need to build your soap business for tomorrow.

If you are getting ready to start a soap company, it’s always a top of the list priority to have an end game in mind. Do you want to grow your soap business into an empire? Do you want to stay in your kitchen forever? Do you want a retail store or a manufacturing space or employees to manage? Think about where you want your business to take you, and build your soap company to meet your needs.

If you want to sell to nationwide retailers, it’s probably not smart to start a soap business with a product line that requires intensive labor (like time-consuming, intricately designed soaps or made-to-order products). So, you will want to start focusing on production efficiency and growth hacking as soon as possible. If you want to stay small forever, (there is nothing wrong with that if that’s what you want), you’ll have more leeway in how you design your products, how you price them, and even how you market them.

Don’t forget, smart planning also means having an exit plan, from the start. If you plan to sell your business, pass it on to a family member, close up shop, or liquidate inventory and equipment, each of those routes to retirement requires preparations that need to be put in place early on. Building a business for your kids to take over looks very different from creating a company that you plan to offer for sale.

And even though you start with Plan A, you may end up with Plan D – planning is not set in stone. It will be important that you regularly fine-tune your plans for where you are and where you want to go. We’re human, we change our minds, and that’s okay.

10. Fear will be your biggest enemy when you start a soap business.

This really should be number one, I tell you.

I would venture to say that 99% of the soapmakers I work with allow fear of some kind to hold them back in business – whether that is a fear of cold calling, a fear of public speaking, a fear of failure, or any other multitude of fears.

Before you dive in headfirst starting your soap business, get crystal clear on your fears and start conquering each fear you have now. And as you continue to roll with your business, you will find new fears that crop up and it’s important to keep taking steps to bust them out of your way.

When you decide to start a soap business, you are the only one who is responsible for your success. And you can’t allow fear to dictate the path you take. Even if you consider yourself pretty fearless now, I promise you will find a fear down the road that holds you back. That’s the life of an entrepreneur, and it’s totally normal! Stay honest with yourself, and keep the ball rolling in the right direction.

Bonus advice from other soapmakers…

We checked in with other soap business owners from around the globe to find out what they wished they’d done differently when starting their soap businesses. Read their advice: If You Could Start Your Soap Business Over, What Would You Do Differently?

If you are already in business, what are some of the things you wish you had considered or known before you decided to start a soap company? Throw it down in the comments and let’s help each other out.

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113 Responses

  1. I think the biggest thing I’d pass on to people who want to start any retail business is that the business you say “no” to is as important as the business you say “yes” to. If a company (or press person, or whatever) wants you to do something that isn’t in your business plan, you don’t have to do it. You can say “no”.

    Until recently, I thought if a big retailer asked me to do something, they were only asking because they expected that from me as a retailer, and I was obligated to comply. But what I’ve found is that our business can’t support sending endless amounts of free samples, discounting wholesale products, making custom products, or providing free displays. We’re just too small and our margins are just too tight. And that’s ok. It’s just where we are.

    1. I allllmooosssttt included that as a bonus. I think it’s deathly important for an entrepreneur to learn to say “yes” to opportunities that are right for them (even if they are scared), but feel empowered enough to say a big fat “NO” when they need to.

      I think another huge issue is FOMO – fear of missing out. 😉 Thanks for weighing in Danielle!

      1. Hey Kenna, how are you I would like to start a home base organic soap making business as I currently unemployed
        And need a income, you help would be more than appreciated. .
        Thank you n God bless..

          1. As noted in the article, Zainab, that depends on your local government’s requirements. If you need help to get your business started, make sure you are on our mailing list, our next session of our Soapmaker to Moneymaker class will be available soon.

    2. Greetings, first of all am really encouraged reading this article and I know for sure that I didn’t just bump into it by chance cos am gearing up towards starting my own soap biz.Dear Kenna,I could not find you on Facebook ,or what is your id on Instagram please?i would like to ask you some questions if that is fine with you or better still which is the most convenient by you to communicate?i look forward to read from you.

    3. Hi,

      I am in a poor country where the soap-makers are not many. Soapmaking idea came to my mind and search in the net and found your excellent post. Can you please help me to establish my a small company for making soap; I love to learn the recipe and equipment required.

      By the way, I am a chemical engineer and I can read more about it but I need you to guide me.

      Thank you so much.

      Regards,
      Galal

  2. 1) My last calculation was that I spend about 10% of my work time actually making.
    3) I live and breathe branding, right down to the socks I wear to a show. Rejecting what doesn’t fit is more important than choosing what does.
    4) I priced a product at $25 that the average for was about $6. I believed in it, and eventually others did too. The market has actually almost come up to meet me, but I got some UGLY comments along the way.
    5) Even when you test like crazy, you are still going to have things go wrong. You will probably have a recall at some point. Have a plan in place.
    10) Fear. Yup. Fight it everyday

    1. Oh, let me add my own little wisdom here. Other people aren’t going to follow the rules, and are going to look vastly successful while following that path. Don’t let it make you stray from what is right.

    2. From the get-go, I was cheering you on, lady, and I hope you know I still am. The addendum you added is exactly why – you are smart biz cookie. 🙂

      Your added advice about staying on the straight and narrow is fab. If you are constantly comparing the actions of others and/or their perceived success, it can pull you down from where you KNOW you should be. Someone who looks like they have their stuff together could very well be thousands of dollars in debt and have a super small customer base.

      1. Not sure what you are asking here, Stephanie. I handled (and still handle) production on my own. But outsourcing is an option. Do what you are great at and hire someone else to do the rest.

  3. THANK YOU! for this awesome pep talk. I just moved here and basically have to start my business from scratch and grow a local customer base. I make bath and body products, and have been considering soap… but maybe after reading this I wont. I don’t know that I could dedicate my time to both aspects. I love my products my customers do too, but everything needs an overhaul and re-branded, rather cleaned up and a proper webpage. I need to focus on the products I have, adding complimentary ones and what my special offerings will be for Fall. This has been so hard for me, with no friends here and really no support system or sales, I need to refocus. Thanks for the guidance.

    1. You are welcome, Darla! 🙂 Stick to your focus, and work on what you need to now. Too many small biz owners in the handcrafted cottage industry look to new products as the right answer, when usually, there are other factors that should be massaged better first. Like in your case, your awareness to know that you need to pull your brand tighter and improve your website, that’s a huge asset and smart biz decision. Keep it up!

    2. Hi Daria, I just found this site about soaps, where can I buy your products I read your blog and the commitment you put in your research about the ingredients is what I like… where can I purchase your products I am into organic please… Madeleine

  4. My business is limited to markets – for a year I’ve made enough money to continue making my product, but no more. I dither over packaging and haven’t changed my pricing. Recently I was asked by an upmarket store to wholesale my soaps to them and I’m stuck on price. They sell high-end stuff and charge accordingly. Is it appropriate to charge a retailer more as a wholesale price than I charge my market customers, knowing they will add an outrageous amount on to that, and get it? Should I care how they price my products? Help? My fear, hands down, is cold calling.

    1. I don’t believe it’s a good start to a stockist relationship to charge them more at wholesale than you do to market customers. Most stockists expect keystone. If you aren’t able to do that, I strongly recommend re-evaluating your pricing strategy. As Melissa said, I have written a handful of articles on wholesale. You can find them here: http://www.modernsoapmaking.com/tag/wholesale/

  5. WHOA, I so needed to have this article last year! FEAR IS DEFINITELY YOUR WORST ENEMY!
    I am one that had to get over this. My fear was introducing my products to others. I made so many products, did more researching on packaging (after I already having nice packaging), spent more time on Facebook groups, YouTube and My tube (ha-ha…if there was one) and didn’t sell ONE BUTTER, SOAP, BATH BOMB or anything. I had a fear of selling my products; fear of hearing the word NO. My concept was, if I build a website, they will come…NOT! I have to put in the time of building my brand and introducing my products to others and drive them to my site. Now the worse part is, I’ve been laid off for a year and wasted time because of fear. I believe I would have been much further in my business if I would have kicked fear in the butt, believed in my product and JUST DO THE DARN THING!

    1. Hi Arlisha! I’m sorry to hear that fear held you back! It’s common, I promise. Don’t kick yourself over should-haves and get to work, lady! You can do it! 🙂

      1. I am organizing and researching on starting up my soap business in the Caribbean. I’ve been making handmade soaps for a year now and I’m in love with the process. I appreciate your article and the suggestions you’ve made. It has got me thinking deeper.

  6. Hey Kenna!!!
    Great advise,as always! I find myself being intimidated at times by all of the beautiful soaps on soaping groups,ALTHOUGH,I am quite capable of making the same soaps and DO… I just do not feel the need to ” put mine out there”. I was always taught to be humble and not ” show off constantly”.
    I normally am very confident,I just let this get under my skin. I need to just pay attention to MY beautiful soaps and move on.

    1. Hey Lana! Yesssss. I’m a huge subscriber of the “keep your eyes on your own paper” philosophy in business. Market research is great, but most of us are too tied personally to our products that we start to invest our future into others by being consumed as to what THEY are doing. Focus on your awesome products, and keep moving!

  7. After attending the June 2015 Masterbatching class in Richmond, CA with Kenna, I came home totally inspired. I had this idea on the drive up there to make soap with a few natural ingredients that customers are familiar with and can actually pronounce. When I stopped at a large roadside stand, I told the cashier about my idea. Boom! She handed me her card and said she was the company buyer and wanted whatever I made, by the dozen. Thank God, Kenna instructed us on wholesale pricing! The buyer went for it later without any argument.
    So now I’m running batch after batch and having a great time. I’m still afraid every batch will turn out wrong (they rarely are THAT bad, really) and loving it. Fear is my friend. The day I get comfortable, I’ll probably be at a spa, I hope.
    Putting my ideas out to others, logging every batch with comments, and following your advice is what is going to keep my business profitable. Thank you so very much Kenna. You rock!

    1. Thank you so much, Janene! What a fabulous comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the Business of Soapmaking class at the Nova Studio. I’m teaching that class for the last time in 2015 here in Phoenix at the end of the month, and I always hope to hear this kind of change in people’s businesses. Keep rocking it out!!

    2. Hi, I will be starting a soap business and am working on all the start up costs and supplies. I could use some guidance with doing such. If I could save a few dollars using a wholesale that would be great.

  8. Thank you Kenna for reinforcing the rules to those of us who tend to be “bushwhackers” and get off the beaten path! I’ve been rethinking many things about my soaping venture, and you’ve addressed a few of them here. I’ve established a small customer base, but am contemplating new options other than a full farmer’s market season. I’m planning on building my online presence and catering to my current customer base. Maybe once a month market days next summer would be time better spent. I’ve found that when browsers know you’re there every week, they hold off buying something that catches their eye. I think a monthly presence will increase sales “in the moment”, but I can still keep my regulars happy with custom orders, too. I’ve also learned that consignment sales in a store is not beneficial at all to a soapmaker. ! Thank you Miss Kenna for doing what you do for us!

    1. Sounds like a fabulous plan, Angie! I find a lot of soapmakers go the route of farmer’s markets or regular craft markets because that’s what everyonnnneee else does. Surprisingly, a farmer’s market is not the right place for most of us to be selling regularly! It’s a nice infusion of cash flow, but focus on where you believe you want to sell and your customers are. xo Keep it up!

  9. Hello! I make bath & body products. Branding is my issue… Where can I go to get a better understanding of how to nail this down?

  10. Kenna, I wish I’d found you in the beginning when I was wearing the rose colored glasses! I would have done things differently in some areas, especially with promotions and branding. I thought since I had a website, sales would POUR in and I could bask in the glory of my success. Its hilariously ridiculous when I think about it now. This gem is really going to help others with their dreams!!

    1. Hi Stacy! This is a common misconception with new soapmakers in biz, so if that helps, know you aren’t alone in that mistake! All you can do now is do your best to sidestep the mistakes and continue rollin’ and learning to a better path. Which I know you are! 😉 Thank you!

  11. This is a really good article and had a lot of helpful info! I am aware that branding is important, it just seems kind of confusing to me. Everything has to be consistent in your brand?

  12. I’m new to this blog, but I’m finding it REALLY helpful! I am a relatively new business owner and can take all the advice and information I can get. I read this information and it was really helpful! Such great tips!

  13. Hi Kenna,
    Great piece you have here.
    I’ve always believed in owning a production line, but what to produce? It certainly made me worry cos I knew I wasn’t cut out for lavishing energy on other people’s jobs. I’ve always been a successful enterpreneur but I just sort of burn out when things hit low. Recently, however, I caught my passion eyeing me passionately. I love great skin care and want to know what goes into everything I use on my skin, and even though I never completely understood what each and every ingredient mean or does, I think I did fairly well and for this, people think I know more than I let on.
    I’m currently trying to start a skin care range but I’ve found fear holding me down severally cos I’m always thinking who would buy soaps that wouldn’t be particularly cheap. I live in an environment where people are barely keen whether a product is organic or not, but you see this piece of yours, it brought out every energy I’ve been suppressing.
    Thanks for sharing all of these wonderful inspiration.
    Toyin, Nigeria

  14. This is great information. I am new to the soap making and enjoy making it (both m& p and cold pressed). I would like to eventually start my own soap business and reading this information is a great way of learning the business side of soap making before starting one. Thank you 🙂

  15. I am a new soaper and I’ve been caught up with the issue of trying out several recipes and making such eatable and adorable designs , but thanks a million for your insight into discovering a line and focusing on it. I will foxy on the recipes that my very small but consistent buyers love , and work hard on developing my brand and building a market base . I just discovered your website at 6:00am today and I’ve been reading all articles and comments since then . Great job well done. How do I participate online in son of your training modules? You are a blessing .

  16. OMG, as in OOOOOOO MMMMMMMMMM GGGGG i read this article and it hit my like a ton of bricks… I cannot thank you enough for writing this! because if this was a check list, i was doing all the possible mistakes you mentioned in this article! Definitely i will put my act together and snag one for your sessions, time get real and roll up the sleeves (not doing soap as much unfortunately) to make a real profit out this! thank you!

  17. Kenna, you are incredible! Unlike most of the others, I have never made a single bar of soap. However, I have over the last 6 months been enjoying the benefits of homemade soap because of several skin conditions that I have. The doctor gave me several scripts and said “you may or may not want to use this as there is a black box warning!” Well needless to say, I don’t borrow from Peter to pay Paul. I didn’t want to soothe one issue just to create another. So I got on the web & a discovered homemade soap & haven’t used anything else since! I have read everything I could find on the subject of handmade soaps & have decided that since I am now “a lifer” I should try my hand at this. Reading all of your “tell it like it is” style blogs have educated me while at the same time excited me! I obviously want to do this for myself & if all works out I would hope to soap for others too! Thanks for all you do…you are an inspiration!!

  18. Trying ever so gingerly to stick my toes into the soapmaking business waters…my biggest fear is twofold: one, somebody will actually want to buy my stuff and i won’t have enough…stuff, time, etc… And two, nobody will want to buy my stuff and i’ll be a miserable failure…
    And of course the rules and regs…

  19. Thanks for this great article! I’m just starting a business, part-time, with a launch in September at a huge local annual event, building up inventory, trimming down products, writing a business plan, registered the business name, working on marketing, planning a focus group, etc., etc.

    One thing in particular struck me and that was making soaps that people want, not what you, the soap maker wants. The local market wants no fragrance and no color and I like bright colors and bold patterns and subtle scents. This could be my downfall since I have found soap to be an outlet for creative expression. We’ll see! Have been aiming at the gift market but I think people buy gifts for people based on what they think the recipients should have rather than what the recipient would like. That’s Berkeley for you!

    I also appreciate all the responders for their tips. I love the fact that soap makers share so much and I hope to be able to give back.

    1. Start finding natural wats to and a color. Like clays, coffee, paprika, coco powder, tumeric, dandelion leaves, there are alot of ways just google and you will find them.

      good luck

  20. Hi,
    It was really inspiring article or ideas.
    I am going to start my own bath soap business .

    Right now i need your help is please give me suggestion for ” bath Soap name ”

    Thank you.

    1. Am also willing to start the same business of soap making ,can you help me with the information on how to making proper soap which can be accepted in market

  21. I have been making and selling soap for 10 years . I raise goats on a small farm for the milk for my soaps. I have seen and heard of so many people starting soap companies in the last 4 years . The market is flooded with soap 🙁 I was hoping to out last the newbies .. Because it’s alot of work not just the fun of making soaps .
    I am a single lady working a soap business and farm, hopefully I will be able to out last the crazy soap making boom …

    1. I know this post is old, but I feel the same way! Even more now 2017. I’m discouraged to even start making my soaps etc again, every store I go into has literally 20 handmade soaps! Even the little shops are all filled. Just not sure if it’s worth the effort, even thou I love making soap it’s stressful when you realize their are 1000’s and 1000’s of us flooding everywhere.

  22. I know this article is from several months ago, but Ive run into a major issue. I started my little company about 2 months ago (just an online store). The vast majority of my products are of my own creation, but to bulk up my inventory a bit, I “copied” a few products from another store that I stumbled onto (the look and a few different scent combinations that I thought were lovely ideas). Honestly, the idea that it would bother anyone didn’t even cross my mind at the time, not to mention the fact that I changed the products enough to feel comfortable calling them my own. Also, I realized immediately that she had borrowed several ideas from Lush, so who cares, right? Apparently I was dead wrong because about 2 weeks ago all hell broke loose with the owner of the shop who’s ideas I borriwed from. So much so that she has slandered my name ALL OVER the Internet, and sent an impressive number of harassing emails from bogus accounts. I laughed it off at first, but then it took a scary turn. I’ve been getting death threats. I kid you not. Death threats over the color and design of my soaps. Several of the ones she’s barking about didn’t even come from her (I’ll admit, however, that we have similar styles). I’m absolutely amazed at how far this has gone. I understand trademark laws very well, and technically, I have done absolutely nothing wrong. At best, I’m guilty of air realizing how protective people are of their soaps. I have NO CLUE what to do. It has become an extremely aggressive situation, and maybe its my stubbornness getting the best of me, but I don’t feel like it would be wise to cave to this type of harassment. Bullying is a real thing. Has anyone ever heard of this type of thing happening? Many I’m just super naive, but the whole thing seems crazy to me. Any words of advice?

    1. Really that is crazy. I mean if you didn’t steal the exact recipe it’s not theirs. Just like making beer and wine no two are ever going to be the same. Death threats seem like someone has some major insecurities. Soap on and may people calm down. (Maybe they should use some lavender.)

    2. I know this is very old but I thought I’d reach out anyway. I’m a soap maker but definitely a newbie at that however I have a great knowledge of the law from my previous career in law enforcement. So on saying that I had a heap of thoughts go through my head reading your comment – laws broken, what you could do and who to call.
      Plus it made me so so angry that someone is doing that to you!
      Anyway, it’s probably no longer a problem for you but if it’s still causing you grief please let me know. I’d be happy to help.

  23. Do you have recommendations on what insurance companies or agents are good for product liability insurance? I’m new to this business and am having trouble getting bigger insurance companies to give me quotes on policies. Thank you for any recommendations!

    1. Hi Sara,
      Try http://www.handmadeinsurance.com; I haven’t purchased insurance from them yet but am getting ready to, upon recommendation. Also, I’ve heard something about getting it through the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetics Guild (www.soapguild.org), if you become a member, though the 1st option I mentioned is cheaper.
      My biggest fear as a new soaper/business owner is legalities; not having all of my paperwork in place. It seems to be impossible to find a specific checklist for one’s state to make sure that all bases have been covered. I have asked other local small handcrafted business owners, and gotten the name of a local small business advisor- I think I’ll see if I can buy an hour of her time. It really freaks me out that I could be in big trouble because, example from my imagination, let’s say I got a business license from my city, but not the county, or something like that. (Bureaucracy. Sigh.)
      THANK YOU Kenna and Crew for being supportive, energetic, creative, and REAL!

  24. I must say…you are wise beyond your years. I really appreciate your sharing nature and the very valid points you put forth.
    I do believe I will be following you for quite some time.
    Such a smart and giving lady you are.
    Thanks so much.

  25. Greetings, I am interested in starting my own soap business,can I get information on how I can learn about it proper online or how I can purchase materials to learn?please I nid guide,thank u

  26. 1. I wish I knew how to stand by myself and explain to people how my prices can’t go down any further. People I know like my soaps so much but they tend to haggle so much as well.

    2. I am more of an introvert and i dont have much friends, just a handful of real ones. I wish i knew how to approach people about my products and had a lot of contacts/acquaintances before going into this business. Having a wider network of acquaintances do help you take off with the business somehow.

    Thank you so much for sharing. At least now I know the other things I need to look out for in this soap making business.

    1. I fear rejections as well as an ineffective product. Though Im still able to go on making soaps and sell some, its like I’ll have sleepless nights and in constant worrying until my customers come back and leave a good review on the items theyve bought.

  27. Thank you soooo much for this informative article! I am a newbie blogger and aspiring all natural soap buisness owner. These were great tips to get me going in the right direction.

  28. I am looking at opening a homemade soap business (mostly a hobby) and was hoping you could help me with a few questions. Or maybe direct me to some answers. I have read many articles that tell about if my product is a cosmetic or drug but what if I don’t want them labeled or sold as either but purely as ‘aesthetic’ soaps, for smell and or to be pretty. Any advice or suggestions you can give me would be greatly appreciated

  29. Heyo Kenna!!
    I’m so happy that you’ll be in Las Vegas for the HSCG Convention! Looking forward to your key note speech! 🙂 I have so many questions that I hope to get answered during the convention. Can’t wait to (hopefully) meet you! Ya know, it’s not so common to have a GUY making and selling soap! lol xoxo

  30. Hi!

    I really liked this article a lot! I am thinking about making soaps for sale, but just on a small scale. I have already made a small plan, after reading your article, for where to sell, marketing etc. I had something special in mind anyway about the product type, but not too specific. But I stumbled over something by accident, almost, and thought, can’t I use this in soaps? It was to my surprise 100% natural, which I really want to do. I tried to google, could not find any other soapmaker using it. But I am sure I can use it anyway. But my googling made it clear that absolutely nobody are making soaps with this particular category of scents, of natural origin or not. And it is not that this type of scents isn’t popular, they quite popular.

    But you gave me some really great tips. Now I have made a product category I have to stick to, at least in the beginning. And what to focus on in my products and what to leave out. And I have decided to leave out all sorts of expensive butters, for example, and go for a castile type of soap, but made more long lasting with some wax + made more bubbly. I’m a guy, so I think that’s why I don’t believe too much in all this skin benefit talk. I don’t think saponified shea butter is any better than saponified olive oil. Oil is oil, especially in cold process where you have no control over what you are superfatting with. But I want to focus on scents and 100% natural materials. And I want to include some exclusive natural scents, like sandalwood, oud, rose, neroli and jasmin. But natural scents is quite difficult, actually, since I’m not a perfumer. But I will try. And some scents fits everything anyway, like sandalwood. Natural materials and colors are on the other hand very easy. And I have found a target group of people, a very specific but at the same time large group. Very, very large, actually. There are commercial soaps for that group, but I have not seen any handmade yet. I have another group in mind too. That is very different from the first. But the more I think about it, I become more unsure if I should leave out the last group and only focus on 1 group. But I think the second group are willing to pay more for the products than the first.

    But first, before I do anything, I have to get more experience (I have little experience). And I have to make a basic soap that is close to perfect, so that I can use it as a base and add scents, colours etc to it. And I have to learn hot process without burning everything, as I did the one time I tried. I need hot process to make shampoo bars (to be able to adjust the PH down), if I’m going to make that at all, which I don’t know yet.

    I had originally thought about making a little bit of everything, but mostly all natural. But after reading what you say about it, I have changed my mind. Because I do understand that it is very important to cater to specific group. I just did not think about soaps as something group specific. But it is, like everything else.

    Luckily I live in Norway, so I don’t have to think about all the paperwork you americans have to do just to sell a simple soap. I’m a little shocked, actually. You’re not selling cancer drugs but the most simple of items possible, a soap! Maybe it is a form here to fill out as well, but it is not very important anyway. I have not heard anybody struggling with paperwork on such a low level as small scale sales on local fairs and Etsy-like marketplaces. The only thing is tax if you sell for more than a certain amount. If I don’t remember wrong, it is around 500 dollars per year, which is not much. And you have to register a company if you sell for more than around 6.000 dollars. Here is definately not any local regulations and forms to fill out, and definately not any insurance involved. I think it is to just sell and pay tax, nothing more. But I have to find that out for sure. But there are some complicated forms to fill out for selling in the EU, I see on an English soap supply store. And we are luckily not EU members.

    Happy soaping!

  31. I really really like a soap business
    please I need a company that I will learn from.
    am from Nigeria. to market it is not my problem
    I think God has bless me with that.
    am a good marketer. all what I need is how to produced soap, please I need a professional person to show me the way.

  32. hello I am about to embark of opening my own soap business. As one of the blogger I want to use all natural ingredient to make my soap. I have been reading articles from this site for a while now. I am so glad that I am to read all the comments and take advise & learn from all of you. I just want to say thank you this is a learning experience for me from all of you. Thank you. I start buying my ingredients months ago little at a time I can purchase more but for now I will stick to make a dozen of each kinds and add as I go along. I will start making my batch the first week of November so while my soaps are curing I will make my packaging, which I already visualize the way I want the packaging to looks like. in the meantime while all that is happening I will buy my insurance and make sure I have everything in place for my grand opening in January 2018.
    Please keep the articles coming they are a BIG help

    thanks you

  33. I’m wanting to start the handcraft of bath bombs to sell . Maybe soap later .
    Is the insurance outrageous ? I will buy the premade ingredients then assemble them at home .
    Need suggestions ! Do I need insurance?
    Thank you

  34. I very much appreciate the ten points mentioned about starting soap business. They are perfect and sound. As you know, soap business is highly competitive. Staying at low price is diminishing one’s value as you mentioned. When customers are scared of the high price because one want to stick to “value”, how can one go about adjusting prices in order to be relevant in the business. I have been making soap for sometime now but I come to realize that handmade soaps (local as it is called in Nigeria) does not appeal to customers and does not compete with mechanized soaps, so I stopped production not to waste resources, and decided to go for soap machines. However, I don’t want to get discouraged. Please advice me on a more better ways to make progress.

    1. I’ve had to educate my customers, and I continue to educate them on the value of my products. It’s an ongoing process, but I continue to grow my customer base this way. I don’t believe in lowering my prices if someone thinks the price is too high. If they think it’s too high, then they don’t understand what it is they are looking at which I explain the process of what I do within a nutshell. Then, they understand a little better why I charge what I charge. I’ve also noticed that other people around me are regularly having sales and I have always been told that regular sales and dropping prices trains your customers to look and only shop for sales which means you are taking losses regularly. Charge what you’re worth and stick to it. I’ve noticed it takes time and patience to finally get people within an area to start catching on to your products. I’ve gone to gatherings, meetings, and small seminars to talk about my products. This seems to help. I try to extend my reach as much as possible without hardly paying for advertising.

  35. I know this is an older post that I’m commenting on, but I just wanted to say that I wish I would’ve read this and done so many other things before turning my hobby into a business. I actually now hate what I do, and I’m in the process of shutting everything down before I crash and burn. So, essentially I am getting out and rethinking about this at a later time. I will say that I have learned so much valuable information, and I now have a better idea of what I actually want to do and where I want to go and how far I want to take this endeavor. I’m currently in an actual storefront with my soap business, and I will say that anyone looking to turn their soaping hobby into a business please make sure you do your research and business plan thoroughly ahead of time. Don’t jump at the first opportunity. Take your time and really talk to the people within the community you want to set up your business as well as talking with experienced business owners in your market. It’s not going to do you any good if you talk to business owners in another market, because each market is different. Also, before you sign your lease once you have everything absolutely in place, always have a lawyer go over your lease with you and make sure you are completely happy with your lease terms before signing. Things are more easily negotiated before you sign than afterwards. Also take into consideration your family life and how a startup business may affect your family. I just wanted to add my two cents in being as I’m currently going through some scenarios.

    1. Hi Kristine! Unfortunately, what you describe is really common and is why I decided to focus much more on the business side of soapmaking here! A lot of soapmakers don’t have the business head on their shoulders when they start and end up getting burned out and hating it. Not what I want to see! Thank you so much for sharing your experience – it will help others. 🙂

    2. Kristine,
      You make such good points! I’m so sorry you had to learn the hard way, but we wish you all the best. And good for you for taking control and making the changes you need to make.

  36. Ok well I’m new to the the soap making I don’t really know how to get started I know what my goals is but got my tools I need I’m just going with the flow so any advise or tipe I would be gratefully appreciated

  37. I want to know how to do better. I rented a booth at our local mall. There are 3 other people in there. I’m the only one making money on a daily basis, but I wonder if I could be doing more. More advertising. Better marketing. I have 6 products. I have gotten suggestions to add coffee scrubs (I have sugar scrubs) and lotion bars (I have body butter). I guess what I’m asking is, can I even do more or am I ok for now? I know my website needs help. Can you give me a few pointers?

  38. I’m still trying to get the facts ironed out about state and fed laws concerning small business. Some states have very few laws for small entrepreneurs and they are easy to follow. Even if I follow my states laws and then the federal laws concerning color, labeling etc. for the fed. law, how do I know what other standards I’ll be held to for my shop building?? Also, does it make a difference If I only sell in my state( intrastate) … rather than selling interstate?
    If you could help me, thanks.

    1. Gail,
      Many cities/states/counties will have some type of check list for starting a business. Poke around on your local authorities websites and start making phone calls. Check in with your Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, Small Business Administration, etc. You might be able to find someone to mentor you through the process.

  39. Geez when I got to #number 10 I thought it should have been #number 1 until I read the next line that said it should have been number 1 lol. Fear right now is my greatest enemy it has been keeping me away from moving forward.

  40. I’m a 70 yr old woman who got hooked on the idea of natural soap making and body butters. I have a Ltd income but think I can do this on a small scale for supplemental income. Your thoughts would be appreciated.
    Thank you

  41. I feel better after reading this. This is something I really want to do and was afraid to. I look forward learning even more. Thank you so much!!!

  42. hi pc to i am abera lobango from ethiopia , i am chemistry laboratory assistance in wolkite university , possiblely i want to start liquid soap for business but have the shortage of income what is your recommendation and what you can help me. thank for you help

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  45. Hi, this is my first time on this site and I have enjoyed everything that I have read, I am going to start my own soap business, but I will focus on herbal soaps and master it first. My prayers are with all of you and even myself that neither one of us faith fells us.

  46. Hi,I’m new to the soap making buisness.I’m currently just making batches for sample products, but ready to move forward with the legal side of things.Honestly I’m just very intimidated with all the regulations,license necessary,and all other aspects included.I’m from Louisiana,just not sure where to even start with anything.I haven’t registered for a license nor had a logo made because I feel I will forget something and be penalized.

    1. Hey, LaBria,
      We totally get it. When you are gearing up to start a soap business, you don’t know what you don’t know. And worrying that you have skipped steps can keep you up at night.

      That’s why we created our Soapmaking to Moneymaker course. S2M will guide you through all the legal and regulatory requirements for starting a soap biz, and that’s just Mod 01! Read more about the class here: Soapmaking to Moneymaker. Can’t wait to have you in class and turn your hobby into a profitable biz.

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