Archive for the ‘Business Related Questions’ Category

handcrafted goat milk soap www.anniesgoathill.com

As a small business we are very conscious of our budget.  Every penny counts.  Every minute counts.

I love soap, however, I am a business owner who makes soap and skin care products when production time is blocked off on the Google Calendar (far from daily).  My day is systematic.  Automatic.  8 hours a day.

From time to time we stop and look at our base soaps.  Our base soaps are those that sell well, favorites, speciality soaps from Annie’s Goat Hill.  We evaluate how well they sell, how many people purchase the soaps, and then we decide which soaps will remain on the base list, and we decide which soaps will be bumped off.

Hypothetically, instead of purchasing 15 gallons of fragrance or essential oils in a given period of time, if the soap line is not kept in-check, the business-owner stretches themselves out with 100’s of smaller bottles (that are much more expensive per ounce) that they may only use once, or never again.  Tracking all of the soap-making supplies becomes a nightmare.  I need not say more.

There’s the inside scoop to our decision-making process.

By the way, if you do want a particular type of soap that we no longer carry, just drop me an email.  I’ll quote you a price for a custom loaf of soap.

Email:  anniesgoathill@gmail.com

Annie’s Goat Hill Handcrafted Soaps – Smell and Feel the Goodness

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A thin white film on soap can occur for many different reasons.  Complete a Google search, you will a bucket-load of (legitimate) causes:  goat milk, ash (lye), air, fragrance PH not geared towards the soap type.

What you do not want to see in a bar of soap:  large white blotches, white crumbly patches, large seeping holes, or a dry and delicate soap that crumbles easily.  All of these things usually indicate a problem with sodium hydroxide (lye) either not mixed properly in a formula of soap, or included at too high of a percentage.  Throw the soap away! Do not use it!

A thin white film on the outer surface of soap is not harmful.   Covering a freshly poured batch of soap with plastic wrap for 24-48 hours normally prevents the white film.  There are fragrances, essential oils, and soap formulas that are more reactive to air, and despite the soap maker’s best handling procedures, a thin white film can develop on the hardened soap (even after it hits the consumer’s soap dish).

When working with natural base ingredients, soap can be tricky, especially when goat milk is a part of the formula.  Milk that is produced from a herd of goats fed on grass, hay, and grain differs in both fat and sugar content from season to season.  For this reason, many of us treasure the subtle differences in our soaps.  It simply reflects handmade-from-scratch!

Annie’s Goat Hill Handcrafted Soaps – Smell and Feel the Goodness!

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Our soapy journey in life has lead us through a myriad of paths, all good, all fun! Some of the paths have been challenging, with much learning and wisdom absorbed along the way (with more to come, no doubt).  Some of the paths have more closely resembled a roller coaster track with ups, downs, and even loops that have tried to throw us off.  The passion for handcrafting soap has stuck like good glue, never leaving our side.

My personal interest in soap is a life-long one, shared via a September 2009 blog post, how my interest in soap began.

8 years ago we began our hands-on handcrafted soap experience.

We started with an idea for a soap mold, and a simple soap recipe, that included 3 main ingredients, palm, coconut and olive oils, evenly fractioned into thirds.  Distilled water was our liquid (no goat milk at that point).

There we stood, in our newly created soap-making space in our formerly empty basement, concocting our first batch of soap.  I was nervous, he admittedly was not.

The next day we had soap! Our glorious soap stuck to the mold badly and it was “ashy” around the corners.  Onwards we went, experimenting and seeking results.

We went through many soap mold designs, my husband created each one on his own, and we dived into several changes to our basic soap recipe, to eventually include shea butter, before we presented our soap to customers for resale.

Through the 8 year journey we began raising goats, and eventually dairy goats, with the reality finally hitting us that we should include our own milk in our soap.  It was a major turning point! By the way, farming is not easy.  It can be a dirty job, one that is completed 7 days a week, on a set schedule, 365 days a year.  Our love for animals has kept us stead-fast in that arena.

What have we learned through our soapy journey?

  • Nothing is constant, expect change.
  • A good idea can be a great one, but there is always room for change.  Always know when to let go, and always know when (and what) to pick up.
  • Good soap does not occur without challenges.  I remember the day I called several suppliers to “ask the expert” about sloppy soaping results that we were experiencing.  The answer ended up being a simple one.  But, guess what? We were 7 years into our journey and still needed to ask! We always will, at some point or another!
  • I am careful with the soap advise that I dispense.  Why? the learning curve makes your own product unique.  When you dig for ideas when creating your own special product for 8 months (or a year…), and then experience the end result, it is yours, and yours alone! You’ve paid well for it, with your own time, while learning as you go.  It is worth the effort!
  • Select mentors, more than one.  Follow.  Watch.  Listen.  Listen well!
  • Do not make numerous business or product changes that will lead to an inventory that you may be stuck with.  Creative is one thing – but it needs to be kept under a seat belt.  Baby steps, one product at a time, leads to success.
  • Never say never.  If a well-versed business leader in your industry says, “This is what works…this is what does not work,” do not write their advice off.  What they say may not exactly fit into your business scheme, but I will guarantee you it will eventually fit in, even at a small level.
  • Follow your own path.  Write your own words.  If you are not creative today, it will come later when you are feeling passionate about your work.  I remember thinking our soaps were ugly, plain, and not so colorful.  So! There is our brand, farm-fresh, simple, yet one luxurious item in the bath!

We like it.

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The question, “Do you offer free samples?,” is a frequent inquiry.

In the past, we did send free samples with each order, until we realized how expensive it was for our company.

In this economy, with supply prices increasing frequently, our best bet is to only offer free samples when a purchase is made.

This is the reply we gave to our most recent inquiry (today):

Due to the cost of packaging, shipping, and product manufacturing – to keep prices as low as possible for our customers, we do not offer free samples.  Upon request, we do offer samples with purchases.

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Occasionally someone asks us if we prefer refined shea butter over “raw” shea butter in our soaps and lotions.   Hands down, we feel it is a personal choice. 

Refined shea butter generally is white in color with no odor.  When desiring a product that has no hint of shea butter odor at all, refined shea butter is a good choice.  With our formulas, however, refined shea butter has a tendency to leave “grains” in the products.  Shea butter grains are not a bad thing, they do melt upon contact with skin.   To prevent shea butter grains in a product, when the shea butter is heated or melted, we suggest holding the shea butter at a temperature of 160-170 degrees before it is added to a product formula. 

Some raw shea butters have a stronger natural aroma than others.  Shea butter that has a very strong odor can indicate a lack of freshness.  A good shea butter, when packaged in an air tight container, in a cool environment, can remain fresh for nearly 2 years.  Shea butter exposed to extreme heat, and stored improperly, can develop a very strong odor and can discolor.

Poor quality ingredients, especially shea butter, can make a significant difference in the outcome of a product.   My advice:  shop around, find the shea butter that works for your products (refined or raw), and then stick with it!

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Troubleshooting Handcrafted Soap

You might be asking yourself what a soap doctor is.

Can you visualize a soap doctor? She/he would be wearing a white lab coat while checking the soap for thickness, hardness, lastability (is that a word?), or mildness.

Humor aside, soapmakers do become soap doctors.

What happens when a batch of soap doesn’t turn out as expected? The soap doctor steps in to diagnose the cause. 

In this case, a soap bar with a circular pattern (or “ring”)  inside, tells me that the room temperature when the newly made soap was poured into the mold was very cool and that the soap was not well insulated.

Sometimes the soap inside the ring is less solid, it can be crumbly.  The appearance of a ringed pattern in soap does not mean it cannot be used for bathing.  Rings can be a cosmetic type of thing, not affecting the stability or use of the soap at all.  As I prefer to do, usable (slightly flawed) soap can even be sold at a discount – with explanation, as it isn’t grade A+ soap.   Botched soap can also be donated to the Clean The World foundation, www.cleantheworld.org

P.S. Additional blog posts on troubleshooting to follow! Imperfect soap happens.

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I received an outstanding question from a new customer, “Are your lotions unscented or fragrance free?”

I have always considered unscented and fragrance free to be one in the same.

This is the reason I love questions.  Questions are informative to myself and my business, and the person that asks the questions always learns.

The customer explained that many products on the market are listed as fragrance free but actually have a fragrance or chemical added to eliminate the naturally occurring odor of the ingredients themselves.

My fragrance free goat milk lotions are unscented.

I do not attempt to mask the naturally occurring scent of the ingredients in my fragrance free (no fragrance added) goat milk lotions.  For example, shea butter (unrefined and as organic as possible) has a particular natural odor that can make its way through a product.  Shea butter is so very beneficial.  I do not try to cover it up.  The statement, “It is what it is,” applies very well here.

As always, I appreciate your outstanding questions!

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