Today's "I Want to Be" Series features Terri Donnelly, a soap maker from Nebraska. Terri specializes in creating hand-made soaps from the milk of her own goats. All bars are made in her rural kitchen and sold directly from her website and local shops in her area.
How long have you been making soap?
I made my first soap about ten years ago, but started making goat milk soap about a year ago after I got my goats.
What led you to start the business?
I really enjoy making soap as a hobby and believe in the beneficial results it provides to your skin. I wanted to make at least enough money to finance my hobby and feed my goats.
Are you full time or part time? Do you anticipate switching to full time?
I am part time but would love to sell enough to become full time.
How much money a month do you make with your business?
I am just now establishing a customer base and keeping track of expenses and sales so I don’t have an accurate dollar amount. I sold quite a bit for Christmas but some months are slow.
How do you market your business?
I have a website, a blog, attend a few events where I can display my soap and talk to people about it, but word of mouth seems to be the most effective way at the moment. A local flower shop also carries my soap.
What is your favorite product from your store?
My lavender oatmeal goat milk soap.
What one question do you get most from people about your business?
Do you really milk your own goats?
What one myth or misconception do you want to dispel about your business?
People get freaked out when the learn that soap is made with lye. Actually, although soap is made with lye, it is changed during the “saponification” process, which is the transformation from the lye and oils used to soap and no longer exists in the soap.
What advice do you have for others who want to get into the soap-making business?
Don’t expect to make a lot of money to begin with. Be sure it’s something you actually enjoy doing. There are many homemade soap websites on line so get your soap out locally. Give samples to friends and relatives. They will tell others and word of mouth is a great way to gain customers. Package your product attractively and be sure to find the lowest price you can for your ingredients as there is a big range in prices for the same product. You can save money when you are able to buy ingredients in bulk. Start with a few products and you can branch out more as your business grows. Above all, be patient and be prepared for a lot of trial and error before you find the right formula that works for you. Don’t get discouraged. It takes time.
What is the first step?
Do lots of research. Read books, watch you tube videos, join online groups such as soap making groups on yahoo and try lots of small batch recipes until you find one you like. Start out by making soap for friends and relatives until you feel comfortable with it.
What websites or books do you recommend for tips? I learn a lot on the yahoo groups. Do a search for soap making; there are several active groups that have lots of information and will answer your questions.
Want to know more? Check out the official website for Terri's soaps at Beulahland Soaps or read her blog. Thanks, Terri!
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