Building Your Empire: The Basics of Starting a Handcrafted Business

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We probably don’t have to tell you this, but Handcrafters are a very unique group of people! When you speak to someone who makes handcrafted soap and/or cosmetics, you are talking to a creative mind that is a blend between science, art and a desire to make products that genuinely make the consumer feel good. While some Handcrafters achieve a great level of success, it is important to remember that everyone has to start somewhere. If you are standing on the precipice of beginning your own business but aren’t sure whether you are ready to take the leap, keep reading!

The Testing Phase 

Before you begin to sell your product, it’s a good idea to make a number of test batches to use on your own or give to a small group of family members or close friends. Give yourself some time to perfect your recipe and be patient; sometimes, finding the recipe that will set you apart might be hiding behind a few recipes that weren’t quite right.

Nailing down a recipe that you love can be frustrating, and formulation can be difficult when you are first starting out. Make sure to check out the resources at the bottom of this article to help you along your way!

The Product Line 

Once you have honed in on a recipe, it’s time to set your sights on a reasonable product line. To do this, it is a good idea to do a little research about what scents are the most popular and mix in a few of your own creations. Aldreamstime_xl_19300074though making a simply lavender scented soap or lotion can seem too basic when you are trying to make ripples in the big handcrafter pond, these are products that customers love. Be creative with your colorants and additives, and those basic tried-and-true scents will fly off the shelves.

Equipment and Ingredients 

Making products to sell versus making products as a hobby means that your production capabilities will need to expand. Buying or making additional molds, investing in quality immersion blenders, bulk colorants and scents, purchasing drying racks and bulk packaging are all considerations that you should figure into your startup costs. Although there are many things that you can purchase and upgrade as you go, it is important to have the basics purchased and ready to use as needed.

The uncertainty of starting your own business might tempt you to buy lower quality equipment in the beginning, but investing in high quality supplies from the start will help you turn out the kind of high quality products that your customers will love.

Valuing Your Product 

You’ve likely gone to a farmer’s market or craft fair and seen handmade products for sale, and if you are trying to get into the same venues it can be appealing to set your prices lower so that customers will be drawn to your table. Be very careful doing this! Do not undersell your own time and investment for the sole reason of beating your competition’s pricing. This is a dangerous way to potentially sink your business before it has a chance to swim; instead of focusing on the prices of other Handcrafters, focus on making a quality product that is truly worth whatever price you choose to charge. You can do this by using reputable suppliers for your ingredients, making sure to follow good manufacturing practices, and providing education about your products; nothing beats good customer service.

Labeling Your Products 

Following proper labeling regulations, federal and state guidelines is absolutely crucial to building a reputable and legal business. The last thing you need as a hard-working entrepreneur is to run into legal issues because of improperly labeled or misrepresented products! Luckily, there are resources available to help you understand labeling guidelines. The HSCG offers an article in our How-To Library written by labeling and good manufacturing practice pro Marie Gale; Marie also has a treasure trove of useful information on her own site-make sure to check out the links at the end of this article for more information.

Branding 

Let’s touch on branding for a moment. What will make your business recognizable? What visually will set you products apart? Having complimentary packaging and a relatively easy to spell and pronounce brand name will make your products stand out before your customer ever lays a hand on them. Stick to easy to read fonts, make sure that everything is spelled correctly on your signage and labels, and use only high quality images for any artwork you’ll be displaying on both. There is immeasurable value in a cohesive label and brand!

Insurance and Membership 

There are different options for insurance, but whether you choose to be protected by the HSCG’s policy or a different company, make sure you are protected. This is so very important! Carrying insurance means the difference between losing everything to a lawsuit, or bouncing back. Peace of mind is invaluable, to both you and your customers. At the HSCG, we offer insurance coverage for every budget and business level through Veracity Insurance Solutions (U.dreamstime_xl_6168250S) or Steer Insurance (Canada). This insurance will cover you in a wide variety of circumstances. For example, say you are set up at a craft fair and the place is crowded! You’ve got a fantastic new tablecloth on your table and your setup is beautiful. Along comes a customer, peering in to take a look at your amazing products when suddenly, her shoe catches on your tablecloth and she trips right into your display. Now, she wants to sue you because your tablecloth was a tripping hazard. At this particular moment, it doesn’t matter whether she is right or wrong; all that matters is the insurance policy you bought or decided you didn’t need because your business was not big enough, or you only planned to sell at a handful of craft fairs during the year. It only takes one moment to bring down a business; do not let the size of your operation or the frequency of your sales dissuade you from purchasing a policy that could protect you from disastrous legal consequences later on.

Specifically in regards to the HSCG, insurance comes at a significant discount if you are a current member. Memberships start at $140.00 per year and have many, many benefits! Supplier discounts, shipping discounts, optional personal insurance and an annual conference that is the biggest and most vibrant of it’s kind are only a handful of the fantastic benefits at your fingertips with a membership. Joining the HSCG community gives you resources beyond discounts; the ability to network with fellow Handcrafters via our Member’s Only Facebook Discussion Group is a great way to keep up with industry trends and get real-world advice from those with the same passion as you.

What to Expect When You’re Entrepreneuring 

First and foremost, do not expect that you will turn a profit immediately. Starting a business with the expectation of immediately making money will lead you to disappointment. Start your business because you truly love your craft and as cliché as it may sound, the money will follow. Passion and genuine creativity are like the frosting on a quality cake; it is the first thing people will see when they look at and use your products, and it will be the first thing they remember when they decide to buy your products again.

Final Thoughts 

Starting a handmade business is a challenge, but there are many resources available to help you through each step. It is normal to feel overwhelmed, but stay the course. Hard work and determination will help you make a standout product and build your entrepreneurial empire.

For helpful tips and information regarding regulations, check out the links below:

HSCG Radio: https://www.soapguild.org/how-to/radio.php (for podcasts you can listen to on the go!)

HSCG How-To Library: https://www.soapguild.org/how-to/ (an ever-growing resource for the beginner and experienced handcrafter)

State Regulations: http://www.mariegale.com/state-agencies/ (a comprehensive listing of available online resources state-to-state)

HSCG Insurance FAQ: https://www.soapguild.org/insurance/insurance-faq.php

HSCG Insurance Comparison Chart: https://www.soapguild.org/insurance/compare.php

HSCG Membership Overview: https://www.soapguild.org/membership/

How To Represent Your Brand: Naming Your Products

There are so many moving parts when it comes to launching a business, it’s difficult to know where to start! One of the considerations you will have to face is the naming of your products. Whether you choose elaborate or simple terms, naming your product line gives you great creative influence over how your customer perceives what you have to offer. Representing your product properly is imperative!

There are a few different ways that you could go about naming your products, which we will discuss in this article. Of course, it is very important to do a detailed search for your product name first to be sure that another company does not already have it trademarked, thus avoiding potential financial hardship down the road.

So, join us and dive into the creative and exciting world of product names!

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Methods of Naming Your Precious Products 

Themed Names 

Does your company have a location based name, or a creative name based on an experience? Your product names are a great way to emphasize that. For example, if your company name is the “Saratoga Soap Co.”, some interesting product names might be “Thoroughbred”, “Track Season”, or “Congress Park”. These kinds of names will help customers make and keep the connection between your company and your product. Maybe you’ve named your company “Carnival Cosmetics”; be creative with names like “Show Pony”, “Funnel Cake” or “Carousel”. These are stand out names that are fun, light hearted and make a great connection between your product and company all while bringing to mind something positive and fun.

Descriptive Names 

If you are looking for simplicity, a descriptive name is the route for you! Descriptive product names tell the buyer exactly what they have in their hand. For example; you are selling a rose-scented lotion. You might name it, “Rose Lotion” or “Rose Garden”. A simple, descriptive name is a great way to market your product; just be sure to prominently display your company name on the packaging so that your customer makes the connection between your product and your business.

Creating Words 

Creating words is a lot of fun, especially if you’re looking for a descriptive name with a pop! For example, you could create a word like “SheaRiffic” to describe a product with shea in it. Creating a standout word will make a quick product to business connection for your buyer, but beware; creating a difficult to say or spell word may backfire if a customer attempts to search for your product by name instead of by your company’s name.

Modern and Minimalist Names 

Modern and minimal; two very trendy things right now. Naming your product something like “Formula 3” or “No. 9” is simple to remember and easy to associate with a specific company, since it is a very unique way of naming a product.

Now that we’ve touched on a few ideas for naming your product, let’s go over some helpful ground rules.

Building Your Product Name

There are a few things that go into making a memorable and positive product name. Literary tools like alliteration (the repetition of the initial consonant sounds in neighboring words, like “Super Soap Scent”), rhyming, and visualization are all ways to boost the likability of your product through clever and creative branding; something your consumers will likely be judging you on.

Think about some products that you use or that you’ve seen. What stands out about the name productnamingof the product to you? What do you love about it, and what do you hate about it? Is it because they are memorable, or because they are clever (or both)? What does the name look like on the packaging; does it enhance the packaging, or does it take away from the product? If you can answer these questions, you’ll have a better idea of what to look for in your own product’s name.

Now, let’s talk a bit about how your consumer will search for your product. If you are selling at a craft fair or a farmer’s market, there’s a good chance that whoever buys your product initially will have met you and will have recognition through that experience. Let’s say that this customer then gives your product to a friend, or maybe they tell their friend about it; how will the product name affect your potential customer’s ability to search for it? Perhaps you have a soap named “Rose Garden”. It’s a beautiful name, but there is a very good chance that typing it into a search engine will yield many, many results. Consider naming it “Sally’s Rose Garden Soap” instead; this gives a more defined search term that will easily point consumers in your direction!

The Legal Side of Naming

Handcrafted soap and cosmetic businesses are popping up quite frequently now, and in this ever-growing market, it can be very difficult to find a unique product name. Although doing your legal due diligence is time consuming, it is always worthwhile; it is better to know in advance if there is a conflict, rather than having legal action taken against you down the road.

Searching for a trademark can be confusing, but the United States Patent and Trademark Office offers a valuable tool called the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) that allows you to search for registered trademarks, both active and inactive. It is also important to do a standard search engine search once you have a few product names picked out. As frustrating as it can be, if either one of your searches yields a result, use a different product name. It is better to change your name now rather than going through an extensive and expensive rebrand in the future! We have a great article on our blog, Cut to the Trace, about the trademark process; take a look at http://www.cuttothetrace.com/2016/11/protecting-your-business-all-about-trademarks/ to check it out!

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Final Thoughts 

Naming your products should be a fun experience that showcases your creativity as well as your product’s quality and purpose. It is in a customer’s nature to judge your product’s name, quality and price; but this feedback does not always have to be considered a complaint. If you come up with a name that seems amazing, consider testing it out on a small focus group before releasing it to the public. Consult your friends, family, even current customers; there is no better feedback than real-world feedback, so if their comments seem constructive and genuine, switch things up a bit.

We want to hear about your creative product names! Leave us a comment here, or on our Facebook page on the post for this article; let’s see your creativity in action!

How-To: Lip Balm

Lip balms are a quick and easy to make beauty product that can be the perfect stocking stuffer or addition to your product line.  Besides knowing you made this simple yet silky masterpiece, the best part is how completely inexpensive it actually is to make lip balm.

The first two things you will need to do are: choose your ingredients and choose your containers.

Let’s start with choosing your container.  Depending on what you plan to do with the finished product, you can really use almost anything to hold your lip balm.  If you plan to add lip balm to your product line or give as a gift to friends family or potential customers, you will want to purchase tubes (they come in white, clear or a variety of colors) or tins or glass/plastic jars.  Most of these containers can be found at your favorite handcrafted supplier or by doing a simple Internet search.  If you are a self proclaimed lip balm addict (like myself) and you will be keeping your goods, you can easily use small containers purchased at local craft stores, kitchen goods stores or even the nearest dollar store.  Whatever you decide on, you’ll want to be sure it securely seals closed and is not too big to grab on the go and stash in your pocket.

Moving on to choosing the ingredients.  Like any handcrafted beauty/body product, making lip balm is a creative work of art that you can make with as few as two or three ingredients, or you can get very creative and add several ingredients to increase conditioning or to add flavor or color to your masterpiece.  Let’s take a look at some of the potential ingredients you could choose from and what they would add to the perfect lip balm.

Tried and true, coconut oil is a perfect base oil to use for your lip balm.  Coconut oil has many great qualities, first being its firmness. In addition, coconut oil naturally contains Vitamin E, and has a superior moisture retaining capacity, which adds to coconut oil’s ability to prevent cracking of the skin.

Next, let’s try some beeswax.  Much like coconut oil, beeswax is naturally a protectant. Bee’s produce wax naturally to line their honeycombs to protect where baby bees grow and honey is stored.  When used in lip balm, beeswax protects the lips from environmental damages (such as drying and cracking) and helps hold in moisture all while not clogging pores. Beeswax also contains Vitamin A and is also a humectant – or is a water attractor aiding with keeping your lips hydrated.  Most importantly; you will want to use beeswax for its hardening quality to pull it all together.

You will definitely want to use at least one of the above ingredients to help your lip balm solidify.  In addition, the following ingredients are also popular choices:

Body Butter:  Not a necessity, but if you have some on hand, you can’t go wrong adding a dash of cocoa butter, mango butter or shea butter. Any of the three will provide ultra moisture to your lip balm.

Various oils: Using Jojoba oil or Sweet Almond oil, which are are two very popular oils to use in lip balm because they are super nourishing.

Vitamin E:  A couple drops of Vitamin E added to your lip balm can go a long way. Vitamin E is an antioxidant and also a nutrient for your skin that can potential limit the environmental damage to your skin.  You can purchase Vitamin E in capsule form at the pharmacy and simply puncture a couple capsules to use in your recipe.

Essential oils: These are completely optional, but adding essential oils in your lip balm will add a pleasant smell and give you the opportunity to personalize your product.

Now that we have hit upon some of the more crowd-pleasing ingredients, let’s get on to the mixing!

For this simple homemade lip balm you will need the following…

2 TBSP Beeswax

2 TBSP Coconut oil

3 capsules of Vitamin E

Essential oil

A double boiler OR

Glass measuring cup and microwave

Because of the hardness, you will want to melt the beeswax on its own to start. You can do this by double boiler on the stove, which will provide an even, consistent heat, or by using the microwave in small timed intervals, checking and mixing both frequently.

Once the beeswax is mostly melted, add the coconut oil to melt and blend with the beeswax.

If you are using butters or additional nourishing oils, you can now add them, including adding the contents of 3 vitamin e capsules (discard the empty casing), and finally add your essential oil (optional).

After all the oils are melted and mixed together, you will need to work quickly to pour the mixture into your prepared tubes or jars.  The lip balm will set up relatively quickly and be ready for use in a few hours.

See – wasn’t that easy?  Once you have the process down and are comfortable with it, you can experiment with different oils and completely customize a recipe of your own.  Be creative; be inspired!