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!

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!

How-To: Foot Scrubs

While we all dream of having magic slippers that we can click together to bring us to our favorite beach destination, walking the beach in bare feet to exfoliate them is just not always an option! Luckily, making your own foot and hand scrub is simple, and there are many options for customization.

Different Types of Exfoliants 

Before you begin formulating your scrub, you’ll want to decide what you’d like the texture and sensation of the finished product to be. There are a few choices when it comes to choosing your exfoliant, but sugar and salt will likely be the most readily available (who doesn’t have one or both in their cupboard as we speak?).

Sugar granules are generally smaller and more fine than salt granules, which translates to a less abrasive final product. Sugar works well for lip scrubs or scrubs meant for sensitive areas or people with sensitive skin. You’ll find that brown sugar will be the softest, and white sugar will be a bit coarser.

Salt granules are larger and more abrasive, which makes them ideal for a more intensive scrub that is meant for callouses or very rough skin. Salt is commonly used in foot and hand scrubs to help soften the skin.

To fine tune the feel and results of your scrub, you’ll start out with a small amount of your exfoliant and work your way up; the less exfoliant you add, the less abrasive the scrub will be. More exfoliant equals a coarser scrub.

Oils and Additives 

When it comes to adding oils to your scrub, you’ve got many, many choices. Olive oil, coconut oil, honey, and avocado oil are all popular in a scrub meant to leave a replenished feel.

You can also choose to make an emulsified scrub vs. a standard scrub. An emulsified scrub can be described as a lotion and a scrub combined. Because of the addition of an emulsifier such as e-wax, an emulsified scrub does not separate and creates the opportunity for different textures and moisturizers.

Lastly, you will want to consider adding a preservative to your scrub. Many customers will use these products in the shower, and since there is a chance of water being introduced to the product, that means there is also a chance of bacterial growth. Adding a preservative will not only prolong your product’s shelf life, but also help to protect it against pesky microbes.  There are currently a few different preservatives at your disposal; be sure to check the manufacturer’s suggested usage to get the exact amount needed. 

Time to Scrub In! 

Below, you’ll find a very simple starting point for your formulation; this recipe is basic and easy to build upon. Starting out simple will help you to get an idea of how the ingredients come together, and what you’d like to change to make the product your own!

You’ll Need: 

1-2 c of sugar or salt, depending on your desired coarseness 

¼ c coconut oil 

¼ c avocado oil 

10-15 drops of fragrance oil (if desired) 

A medium sized mixing bowl 

Spatula 

Measuring cups 

Pipette 

A container to put your finished product in-this recipe will yield approximately 11 oz of product. 

  • Measure your ingredients and combine them in a medium-sized mixing bowl. If you are adding a preservative, you will add it at this step.
  • Stir the ingredients to combine evenly, making sure that there are no clumps or dry salt or sugar spots.
  • Test a bit of the scrub; if it seems to soft, you can adjust the coarseness by adding more sugar or salt.
  • Package and label your finished product!

You did it! This basic scrub is a great starting place for your own customized product that your customers will love! Adding a scrub to your product line helps to diversify your products without a lot of added, complicated labor, and they make a great add-on sale during any time of the year.  Play with texture, additives and scents to enhance your business and your customer’s experience!