Growing Your Business: 6 Things to Look for When Choosing a Trade Association

When you talk to Handcrafters, you hear many positive things. Handcrafters love to help people feel beautiful, love to innovate when it comes to formulation, and especially love to educate others about their products.

One thing that the majority of Handcrafters we’ve spoken to also voice is the loneliness of the industry. Because the art of making handcrafted soap and cosmetics is still a growing industry and Handcrafters are located all over the globe, they sometimes feel disconnected or isolated.

Another common negative is the lack of insurance options, and the desire to protect their business. Handcrafters want peace of mind so that they don’t have to worry about what might happen-they want to focus on growing their business and expanding their line.

These are a few common reasons why Handcrafters seek us out, and the HSCG prides itself on being dependable, trustworthy and full of benefits for ever Handcrafter level. So today, we are going to lay out six ways you can differentiate the great trade associations from the not-so great ones so that you can get the most out of your business.

  1. What benefits does it offer? Let’s be honest; when you seek out an organization to join, you’re probably searching for something that directly benefits your business-that’s just good business sense! Take a serious look at the benefits that offered by the organization you’re considering before you join. Will you use them? Will the benefits help further your business? If one of the benefits is insurance, have you read the coverage to understand if it truly envelops your whole business? If you’ve answered no to any of these questions, keep searching. (Check out the HSCG’s benefits to get an idea of what you should be looking for)
  2. Does the organization have a good reputation? This is important. Put those Facebook stalking skills to good use and do a good ol’ fashioned search for the organization you’re considering. Do they have positive reviews, and are they recent reviews? Take a look at the content they are posting. If they post educational material on social media or on their own site, browse through it and check for obvious errors. Ultimately, you will be aligning your business with this organization, and if they are not reputable your business reputation may also take a hit.
  3. How is their customer service? This one is very important, especially if you are considering purchasing insurance through the organization. In this age of digital communication, most businesses have a Facebook page with the option to message, a listed email address and/or a chat option on their website; make sure that the organization you’re considering does too. If they have a phone listed, give them a call and ask your questions over the phone. Checking for comprehensive customer service first will help you avoid any surprises if they don’t communicate well later.
  4. How does the organization further the industry? This is a big one. Does it exist only to offer insurance, or does it provide advocacy in the changing world of legislation? Check to see if there are educational opportunities like certification programs, listed teachers and classes that you can either take advantage of, or participate in. (The HSCG’s main goal is to further the industry-check out our Legislative Advocacy and Certification Program.)
  5. Why does the organization exist? Learning the reason why the organization started in the first place will give you insight into what their goals are. If they do not exist to further the industry, keep searching.
  6. Most importantly, is the association legitimate? We want to think that when we see a company’s website or talk to a customer service representative in their office, they are honestly representing themselves-but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Are they claiming to be a non-profit? You don’t have to take that at face value! A simple search will usually tell you if the organization is actually a registered non-profit. Take a peek at the way their organization runs, too. Do they have bylaws and policies in place? This may seem like it doesn’t affect you, but it will; official bylaws and policies mean that the organization has plans in place to keep business running fairly and ethically. (The HSCG’s Bylaws are available for public view; Members may log in and access the HSCG Policies through the Member Area.)

Final Thoughts 

Choosing an organization to join when it comes to your business doesn’t have to be the most difficult decision you’ll ever make. Take into consideration what you hope to gain from your experience and membership with them. Also take into consideration their dependability; if they promise to deliver experiences, education and services but fail to do so, look elsewhere! Your organization should be as dependable, trustworthy, and downright awesome as you are…never settle for less!

Common Scents: Anise

Welcome to our series, Common Scents! Common Scents is a series of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils, and how they became popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting.

 

Like just about every other scent, anise is one of those smells that you either love or desperately hate. If you’re not familiar with anise, think licorice; although the plant is not directly related to licorice, it has a very similar taste and smell.

Anise has many uses throughout history and extends into the modern day. From its use in medicine and food to an inventive use in train building, anise has been valued by an abundance of professionals throughout time.

When you think about anise, you are likely picturing the star shaped fruit and  you’re not technically wrong. True anise actually belongs to the same family as parsley, while star anise belongs to the magnolia family. The common compound that unites them is anethole, which is responsible for that yummy (or yucky) licorice flavor we are all familiar with.

Anise’s Roots 

Anise or pimpinella anisum, is a white-flowered plant that is native to Egypt as well as Greece. True anise produces small seeds, and these are used to produce the licorice flavor. Egyptians are said to have used anise as early as 1500 B.C., and was also mentioned by famous Greek physicians Dioscorides and Pliny. In fact, it was so valued that it was also used as currency!

Star anise is native to the warmer areas of south China as well as Indochina. Used commonly in Asian cuisine, it is one of the most important ingredients in the popular Chinese 5-Spice.

Uses 

Anise is widely used as a flavoring and can be found in many liquors (including the infamous absinthe), baked goods, tea, black jelly beans, and many more commonly consumed items. Although true anise and star anise are not the same spice by any means, they can be used interchangeably-just make sure to account for the potency of star anise in comparison.

Besides being used as a flavoring, anise has also been used throughout history for medicinal purposes. A few of the ailments said to be eased by anise include:

insomnia

-bug repellent

-stomach ache

-hiccups/hiccoughs

-menstrual cramps 

Anise was also used for/as an:

antiseptic

-pest bait

-lure for fish

-lure for dogs 

Remember: this information is being provided strictly for educational purposes. The FDA has not approved anise or star anise for medical use. The HSCG does not give medical advice and does not advise using or advertising anise or star anise for medicinal purposes.

Steam locomotive builders in Britain also used aniseed oil in bearings so that the smell would alert the engineer in the case of overheating.

Whew! There are lots of different historical uses for this common oil; but how is it made?

Production 

Anise essential oil can be produced using either supercritical carbon dioxide extraction methods or steam distillation. The oil is obtained from the fruit of the plant, and the oil is primarily produced in Europe and China.

But, should you choose true oil of anise, or star anise essential oil? That’s a matter of preference. Currently star anise is more widely produced and may cost marginally less then oil of anise (also called aniseed oil).

Final Thoughts 

Love it or hate it, the historical uses and benefits of anise give it an interesting past. There are those who even believed anise had the power to repel the “evil eye”-while we aren’t sure this is the case, anise and star anise can make a great addition to your product line. Try using it with floral or citrus scents to add a new depth to your favorite fragrances!

All About Melt & Pour: What it is and How it Works

When we talk about soap, there are a few different types that we could be talking about. There is cold process, which is a method that involves melting and combing oils and lye water and allowing the soap to go through the saponification process over a certain time period. There is hot process, which is when a soapmaker combines melted oils and lye water in a heat safe container and cooks the batter through the saponification process, allowing for a vastly reduced cure time. Then, there is melt & pour, and this is the process we’ll be discussing today!

What is it? 

Melt & pour is a soapmaking method where a soapmaker takes an already saponified base, melts it, and combines it with fragrances, colorants, exfoliants and more of their choosing and then pours it in a mold. This is a great option for the beginner soapmaker, and has the potential for advanced artistry, too.

Is it Soap? 

Simply put, yes. A common misconception about melt & pour is that it is lye-free. In solid bars of soap, lye is also called sodium hydroxide, and it is an essential and mandatory part of the saponification process. No lye, no soap! While someone utilizing the melt & pour method may not physically come into contact with lye, it was still used to make the meltable base they used.

Bases 

Melt & pour is very versatile; bases are available in many different “flavors”! A melt & pour base is soap that is ready to use as is; you could simply cut it and sell it, if you wanted to (but what’s the fun in that?). Bases typically come in transparent, white, or ivory, depending on the base you’ve purchased. A few examples of popular additives in bases are goat’s milk, aloe and shea butter.

Colorants 

One of the biggest benefits of melt & pour is the ability to use glittery, shiny micas to color it! If you choose a transparent melt & pour base, these colors will retain their shimmer for a truly striking product. Just make sure that you are using skin and soap safe colorants so that your customer’s skin stays as beautiful as your soap!

The Drawbacks of Melt & Pour

There are drawbacks to using melt & pour, although they are very few! One major drawback is the durability of the product. If you are showing outdoors, you will need to take care to keep your soap out of direct sunlight to prevent melting and fading. Along the same vein, melt & pour will not last quite as long as cold or hot process bars in the shower; the same additive that helps the base to melt easily can also contribute to a quick fading bar. Design-wise, it is also more difficult to attain a swirl in melt & pour.

Benefits of Melt & Pour 

Melt & pour can be every bit as beneficial as cold or hot process bars. The time saved by not having to melt oils and combine them with lye water is a big benefit in itself. The ability to use shimmering colors also expands your design potential exponentially! Also, if you are looking for a great project to do with older kids, melt & pour is the safest of the three methods to use. And, let’s not forget that once the bar hardens, it’s ready to go-no curing, no waiting!

Final Thoughts 

Melt & pour is a great way for beginners to get into soapmaking, especially if there is a concern about handling a caustic chemical like sodium hydroxide. There is a lot of potential for beautiful designs and additives; grab a base and try your hand at this fool proof method!