How to (Politely) Speak to Mislabeling Handcrafters

Making handcrafted soap and cosmetics is a great way to let your creativity shine, but let’s face it-it’s a very time consuming, labor intensive process!

One of the most crucial and sometimes difficult parts of selling your finished product to the public is labeling it accurately. Making sure to include all of the proper information, but before that, putting in the time to find out what the proper information is can take a lot of dedication. Double-checking your product labels for illegal claims and accuracy one of the most important steps in your handcrafting process.

We know you’ve put in the legwork and are familiar with labeling guidelines, but we hear you: what happens when you come across a handcrafter who is mislabeling their products and in clear violation of the law? Mislabeling can mean many things, including technical errors like missing weights which are very common. It can also mean misrepresenting a product by making erroneous claims like curing a skin ailment or treating a condition.

Let’s discuss a few ways to handle this possibly awkward situation, including some things we really don’t recommend.

Don’t be accusatory. It is simply human nature to become defensive if you feel someone is attacking you or something you’ve worked so diligently on. It is because of this instinct for self-preservation that you should approach your fellow handcrafter respectfully and professionally. Don’t saunter over to their booth, pointer finger ready and immediately start off with “YOU! You’re mislabeling your products!” Not only will you embarrass the handcrafter in question, but you’ll embarrass yourself-calling someone out in public view is never a good way to get your point across, and especially not professionally.

Be helpful and express concern-but don’t dive right into that either. Take a few moments and learn about your fellow handcrafter. Find out if they are a seasoned pro or a new to the industry. After you’ve chatted for a few minutes, ask if they’ve heard about the federal labeling regulation. If they haven’t heard of them or were not aware that they exist…

Offer resources such as the FDA website and the HSCG. Of course, we dream of a world where every handcrafter is well-versed in regulations and guidelines and creates spotless labels to match, but we are also realists. Handcrafters often start businesses without guidance from fellow entrepreneurs in the industry, and because of this, have no idea that there are rules in place that govern labeling. If the handcrafter you’re confronting is unaware of the guidelines, refer them to us here at the HSCG. We are happy to act as a resource or provide contact suggestions for anyone with regulatory questions and provide other forms of education, too!

But…what if the handcrafter is familiar with the guidelines, but refuses to comply or becomes defensive?

Walk away. If the handcrafter you are trying to help becomes defensive or claims that they do not need to label their products properly for whatever reason, this is the time to step off of your soap box and back away. Unfortunately, there are those who are too focused on making money and disregard the guidelines in place to keep consumers safe.

Rest assured that if someone is marketing their products as some sort of miracle cure or saying that the final product contains something it doesn’t or weighs more than it really does, their consumers will not stay loyal for long. Not only that, but once their consumers become unhappy, they will be reported to the FDA and will likely be investigated.

Final Thoughts 

Labeling accuracy is very important. Dedicating time to creating a compliant label not only protects you as a small business, but also helps to protect the industry as a whole. The reputation of the industry as a group depends on everyone’s efforts to sell trustworthy products that are honest and fair. Help others to understand the guidelines, and remember that we here at the HSCG have access to resources to help you if you have questions!

How to Handle Toxic Personalities in Business

As we all go through life and it’s many twists and turns, there is one thing that we will all encounter from time to time, and that is toxic personalities.

A few caveats as we dive into this discussion-first, for the purposes of this article I will stick to dealing with these types of people in business.  We all know, however, that we also deal with them in our personal lives, in our friends (frenemies) and family.  I’m sorry to say that I cannot address your Aunt Edna that comes to Thanksgiving Dinner every year with her passive aggressive “helpful” comments:

  • You’re so pretty (handsome), I wish you would lose those extra pounds.
  • You’re so smart, why can’t you get a better job?
  • You were such a good child, why can’t you get your children to behave better?
  • You have such potential, why can’t be more like your cousin – sister – brother – etc.?

Second, these tactics are reserved for the truly awful, thus my use of the word toxic.  The word “toxic” means:  poisonous, virulent, noxious, deadly, dangerous, harmful, injurious, pernicious.  Therefore, these tips are reserved for those people in your business life that meet one or all of these defining words.

Here are my top 7 tips for dealing with toxic personalities in business…

  1. Don’t waste your valuable time trying to figure out why a toxic person behaves the way they do. It is human nature to try to understand human nature.  You will go from scratching your head in wonder to lying awake at night trying to figure it out.  Here is the secret – you can’t, so don’t try.
  2. Keep all your interactions with a toxic person professional, on point and succinct. People like this tend to have their ups and downs, sometimes they are perfectly pleasant and easy to deal with, other times they turn into your worst nightmare.  Resist the urge to engage them further when they are “behaving”, it only takes a matter of seconds for them to revert to their toxic behavior, often with no warning.  If you keep your communications professional, bland and direct you will reduce the amount of times that you actually have to deal with their less than friendly side.
  3. Don’t take it personally. Your toxic person is likely the same with most, if not all, people in their lives.  This isn’t about you and although I won’t say take a look at your behavior from time to time to see if there is something you are doing wrong, don’t overanalyze or blame yourself.  It’s not your fault.
  4. Don’t get sucked into lengthy battles over email or social media. When toxic people misrepresent us or insult us, it is our tendency to want to fight back.  Trust me when I say, you won’t win any battles with this person, you won’t change their mind and you will likely be ending up making yourself look bad if you engage them in this manner.  On social media, it places your reputation at risk and onlookers will see you as unprofessional for calling out this person publicly.  On email, you can go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth again…  You will not change their minds and will only succeed in making you anticipate the next set of crazy that will be delivered into your inbox and stress you out.  Toxic people tend to be overly dramatic and emotional, their communication style is usually lengthy, all over the place and sometime vicious.  Don’t invite that into your life by engaging in a back and forth battle.
  5. Keep a record of your dealings. These people will often misrepresent things you have said or outright lie. If you keep a record of your communications, you will be able refute erroneous facts and help them with their faulty memories.  This can include things like, you promised me a big discount, you promised me that the shipment would be expedited, etc.  Even when you do “catch them in a lie”, resist the urge to gloat.  Simply point out what actually transpired and play it off as “that is not what we agreed on”.  When possible, keep your communications in a written format so that you have an indisputable record.  Do not expect, however, your toxic person to admit that they lied or be contrite, they will play it off as they misunderstood or forgot.  In other words, catching them in their lie won’t make dealing with them any easier.
  6. Know when it’s time to say goodbye. At some point, a toxic person simply starts taking up so much of your time that you need to send them packing.  How do you know it is time?  The answer is simple, they are costing you money.  This can come in the form of wasting your valuable time, stressing you out so that you are not as productive or straight out not paying you on time or in full.  If they are costing you money, it’s time for them to go.  End the relationship quickly, directly and professionally.  Whether they are an employee, a customer, a vendor or any other business contact.  Cut them loose, you will feel much better when you do.  Then you can get back to what is important to you.
  7. Once you say goodbye, never ever under any circumstances welcome them back into your business (or life). Once you have successfully eliminated a toxic person, stay the course.  Do not let them back in no matter how much they tell you that they will change, they may for a while but they will always revert back to their former behavior, it is who they are.  If you have small interactions with them, just be professional and polite but keep them at arms-length and remember what you went through to get them out.

Unfortunately, dealing with toxic personalities is a part of life and business, it is how you handle it that will ultimately determine how much heartache, time and money it will cost you.  Remember you can’t change people and how they act, you can only change how you react to them and how you handle your own emotions.  Applying these principles should take the sting out of dealing with a toxic personality.

Need more help handling negative feedback? Check out Issue 5 of the Cut to the Trace eZine, where we discuss handling negative feedback from customers professionally.

5 Things Your Local Handcrafter Wants You to Know About Their Products

We’d like to give a little love to the customers that make the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry go round this week; without these customers, this industry would not exist, so thank you!

If you are in the market for new and incredible bath and body products, you might have a few questions for your local Handcrafter, and we want to help clear up a few things so that you as a consumer can take the sweet-smelling leap into the world of handmade fabulousness.

 What does “handcrafted” mean?

Handcrafted can mean different things to different people. Making a handcrafted soap and/or cosmetic requires a lot of time and effort, and all of the moving parts are determined by the maker. These moving parts include formulation, packaging, production and much more. Depending on the methodology of the individual, some of these steps are done by hand using a pre-fabricated base to express a creative vision, or all of the steps might be done by hand with raw ingredients from scratch. The HSCG considers a product to be handcrafted if:

A majority of the time, energy and processes used in its creation by the handcrafter are “by hand”, and

A minimal use of mechanized equipment is employed, and

The product manufacture is overseen manually, not by an automated system.

As you can see, creating a handcrafted soap and/or cosmetic is a labor intensive process that involves a blend of science and creativity; trust that when you are picking up a handcrafted product, countless hours have been dedicated to the final, refined item you hold in your hand.

 Does handcrafted soap go bad?

We see you, recipient of gifted handcrafted soap who insists it is “too pretty to use” and uses it as a decoration instead of a fabulous bath experience. Whether a soap “goes bad” and how quickly it does so is really dependent on the ingredients used in the soap’s formulation. In the handcrafted soap and cosmetic world, you’ll hear the term “D.O.S” used to describe a soap gone bad; this stands for “Dreaded Orange Spots”. These soapy chicken pox are caused by oil rancidity, and may have an unpleasant odor. Though your soap will be a little less lovely, it is still usable-but we hope you’ll start using your soap before it gets to that point. A good rule of thumb is to ask your local Handcrafter what she or he used to make the soap, and get an idea of their timeline for use. They will be only to happy to guide you-after all, they want you to use the pretty soap!

What makes a bath bomb fizz, and is it harmful?

The only thing explosive about bath bombs are the metaphorical fireworks it creates at bath time! The fizzing reaction you see is a result of a chemical reaction between the water in your tub and the citric acid and baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda). Fizzy carbon dioxide is the result of this reaction, and a fabulous smelling bath is the end result of you + a bath bomb.

Are handmade products really safe?

As with any product, the safety of the item depends on three things: the manufacturing process, the label and the consumer. Although handcrafted soap and cosmetics are often dismissed because they are handmade, and not produced in huge factories, the vast majority of handcrafters are even more meticulous than their automated counterparts. Formulation and handling are crucial to a Handcrafter-after all, a small business owner is completely responsible if a product is poorly made, and will not risk their own personal reputation.

Safety also depends on the accurate labeling of the product. Now, those of you that regularly follow our blog are bracing yourself to be smacked with the Labeling Stick again, but it’s so important! As Handcrafters we have the responsibility to market products fairly and accurately-stick with reputable sellers and stay away from people who make fantastic claims to avoid being sold a product that isn’t up to par.

Lastly, the customer has a responsibility to know their allergies and sensitivities. If you know that you are sensitive to a certain fragrance and your Handcrafter does not list their specific fragrance on their package (as many will not, this is proprietary), don’t be afraid to ask if a specific ingredient is present in the product. Your local Handcrafter doesn’t want you to have an unpleasant, preventable experience!

I thought soap making was a Fight Club thing.

Making handmade soap is real, and business is booming. There are an estimated 300,000 Handcrafters located in the United States alone! It’s not nearly as dramatic as Hollywood makes it out to be…save for one enterprising artist who really did put his soul into his soap. Or, at least, a few pounds of unwanted fat.

What did I just read?

In 2013, performance artist Orestes De La Paz decided to put his recently removed extra pounds to good use and made 20 bars of soap that eventually went on display at Miami’s Frost Museum. At a price of $1,000 per bar, we don’t suspect you’ll be purchasing any of this particular soap at your local market any time soon!

Final Thoughts 

Handcrafted soap and cosmetics raise the bar on luxurious self care products by blending quality ingredients that you can pronounce with the care and knowledge of a member of your community. Make the switch: check out our Handcrafter Directory here: