Today I met a sweet, kind arborist. I was back at the Blue Spruce that I wrote about earlier last week. I needed to collect some of its branches for an exciting collaboration that I will announce within a day or two that Blue Spruce initiated.
"Gather my needles, my resin, my branches, my sawdust..."
I heard a truck engine. I really didn’t want to be bothered. A gentleman drove by and then pulled over to the side of the road, then slowly started backing up.
I looked his way and he jumped out of his truck. “Need a hand?” he said.
All I had was a pair of small shears and I was trying to gather a trunk full of spruce boughs. I must have looked like I needed help.
As an intuitive, I've always been able to connect to trees. Anyone can do this. It begins with what is known as esthesis, a connection between you and any living organism.
“Oh thank you, that would be great,” I replied. A year ago I probably would have shrugged him off and said no. It was a bit foreign to me to allow someone to help me when I probably could have managed it, and I noticed that about myself as he smiled kindly. It can feel vulnerable to allow someone to help. So I let myself feel vulnerable.
He walked up and I noticed he had a curved pruning saw and was ready to jump in the snowbank to retrieve these branches that are worth gold to me.
“How many do you need?” he asked. I paused because I really wanted to say the entire tree. “A couple of pounds would be plenty for now,” I answered. He carefully selected the best branches. I mean he treated this tree friend of mine like it were his friend too.
“Were you the one to cut it down?” I inquired.
“Who me? Nah,” he said, wielding the saw like a piano player mastering black and white keys. “I’m an arborist and do work around here. You know,” he said thoughtfully, “this is a Blue Spruce.”
“I know,” I said, astounded that not only did someone appear out of nowhere, but he seemed as equally excited to talk about trees.
“You can’t just go by the needles because you can mistake these for Engelmann Spruce. You really need to take a look at the cones.”
Are you open to allowing nature to lead you into deep spiritual connection and teachings?
This was the conversation I have literally been wanting to have with someone. This guy was speaking my language. If he only knew, I spent hours on the internet identifying the bark, comparing needles, cones and considering the riverbed forest location in which it grew. I had been wanting an expert to validate my research and here he was on this less-traveled road right in front of me. This was no coincidence. I wanted to burst out laughing because it was ridiculously perfect!
Behind the scenes, Blue Spruce was less impressed with me and asking if I actually didn’t think it was capable of creating scenarios like this one. No, no, I know you can, I told it, having an aloud conversation with the man and an energetic conversation with the tree.
We loaded the boughs into my car before he asked what I was going to do with it. Can you imagine? Like it was normal to him that I was out here spending time with a fallen tree.
When I told him that I’m an alchemist and that I am turning the tree into incense and essences his face lit up.
“Well after Blue Spruce you have to try Subalpine Fir. It’s my favorite. You’ll have to go up to a higher elevation to get to it. But its aroma...” he faded into an aromatic memory. “The sap comes out of the bark in the spring like bubbles and it’s just incredible.”
His pure joy about the sap made me laugh out loud. I nodded in agreement and told him I would seek out one of his firs.
I thanked him again and we shook hands, sharing names. He drove away and I looked back at my tree friend.
“You are quite magical, aren’t you?”, I asked aloud. The energy swirled in the air. Raven flew overhead and its call echoed in the forest. A nearby cottonwood leaned in the breeze and gave a loud, slow creak.
If you're seeking custom essential oil blends for personal use, your practice or for your company and products, you'll love working with Marla Bosworth. She is known in the indie beauty industry for her professional essential oil blending and custom cosmetic formulation services. With 20 years of indie beauty business experience and 30 years as a market research and retail sales expert, she is at your service for contract blending. For an additional fee, Marla may travel to your location (please inquire for details).
This is perfect for entrepreneurs developing their own line of products as well as beauty businesses who desire specialized blends.
Together you will custom-tailor the project to fit your needs and application (perfume, soap, skincare products, haircare, candles and more). Marla has consulted with students from around the globe - from Ghana, South Africa, to Germany, Chile, Guatemala, Ireland, Venezuela, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, Israel, Columbia, Ireland, Spain & from around the United States just to name a few. Marla is well-known in the indie beauty industry and has spoken numerous times at the Handcrafted Soapmakers and Cosmetics Guild Conference.
Blending service packages start at $498. We would love to work with you! Please inquire and determine whether we are a good fit with your project, please visit this our site here.
Join me in New York City to learn how to formulate natural and organic skincare products. Our event takes place March 19-25, 2016. Choose individual workshops or the entire week of Bath and Body University. We have students join us from all over the world to learn how to create products for personal use and business. Most of our students have no formal training in skincare formulation.
Join cosmetic formulator Marla Bosworth for classes ranging from essential oil blending, herbal infusions, body butters, soap making, emulsified body scrubs to a skincare formulator's business seminar. Our courses range from intermediate to advanced, but Marla's teaching style and comprehensive materials makes it easy for the novice to feel comfortable in class as well.
These workshops fill up quickly. We post number of spots left in each workshop on our website. Workshops are held on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with easy access from all parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Can't make this series of workshops? Join our Facebook page for upcoming announcements and be sure to sign up for our email newsletter.
Marla Bosworth is an award-winning entrepreneur, author of many ebooks and articles for the indie beauty industry. She is a world-renowned teacher of natural skincare formulation. Marla has been using social media and the internet to grow her online presence for 20 years (yes, back in the days of America Online). She teaches workshops throughout the U.S. and has had the pleasure of consulting and working with students from all over the world.
Soapmakers generally end up with soda ash forming on their bars at least once in their soap making endeavors. Let's take a look at soda ash, what it is, way to prevent it from happening, how to get rid of it when it occurs, and an example of how it can enhance your soap.
What is Soda Ash? Soda ash is the common name for sodium carbonate. It's a harmless, white powder that can naturally occur on bar soaps as a mineral deposit. It forms when sodium hydroxide (lye) and air (oxygen) come in contact with each other (see below on how to prevent this from happening).
Sodium Carbonate Na-= sodium hydroxide O = oxygen
Here is an example of a soap with soda ash (left) and one without (right). Thanks to my friend and colleague, Angela Carillo of Alegna Soap for sharing this example. The bar on the left had been exposed to air during the first 24 hours of saponification, while the bar on the right was not exposed.
Heavy soda ash on the surface of the left bar. Photo credit: Angela Carillo of Alegna Soap
When Does Soda Ash Occur? As in the example that Angela provided, this soap set up with soda ash during the period of 24 hours after pouring the soap into the mold. During saponification, or the first 24-48 hours and occasionally a few days into the curing process.
How to Prevent Soda Ash The easiest, most proactive way to prevent soda ash is by reducing the water content in your soap. I haven't gotten soda ash for 15 years, and I soap at a 38% lye concentration (do not confuse this as water as percentage of oils). This is convenient if you are making soap that you want to set up quickly.
However, if you want your soap to set up slowly such as in the case of swirling or creating intricate color designs, then you won't want to reduce your water content as the soap batter will thicken too quickly on you.
Some people say that spraying isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) on the soap right after pouring into the mold will prevent soda ash. I've never found this to be true. The theory is that the alcohol helps remove the extra water on the surface layer of the soap. Give it a try and experiment for yourself.
The second best way to prevent soda ash is by simply covering your freshly poured soap AS WELL AS your freshly cut bars with a loose layer of plastic. You can use plastic wrap, a clean trash bag or a plastic table cover. Keep the plastic over the surface of the soap in the mold. After you have unfolded and cut into bars, cover again for 48 hours. If you are using full water content (lye concentration of 28%), then you may want to keep the plastic over the bars loosely for a week.
How to Remove Soda Ash Here are some ideas to removing existing soda ash from your soap bars:
Wipe a damp paper towel over the bar.
Use a steamer to remove the soda ash (yes, some people actually do this).
Run the bar under water and let dry (wear gloves as this tends to leave fingerprints).
Embrace Your Soda Ash
Soda ash on the top of activated charcoal soap. Photo credit: Angela Carillo of Alegna Soap
Soda ash can create interesting contrasts in intricate soap designs, as in the one pictured above. Again, a perfect example by Angela on how soda ash can naturally appear simply by the lye in her soap "meeting" the oxygen in the air around it.
Although soda ash can show up unexpectedly and present aesthetically-challenged soap bars, it can also lend itself to complementing colors and designs. There are easy ways to prevent it once you understand that water plays a large part. Most soapmakerss are busy and don't want to be presented with the task of removing soda ash on every batch made. Plastic wrap might be the easiest way to protect yourself against a surprise visit from the soda ash fairies!
What have you noticed about soda ash setting up on your soap? Do you have any tips on removing or preventing it?
Let's dive into some questions I recently received via email regarding cold process soap making. I hope that you'll find them helpful. Do you have other questions? Feel free to leave a comment and I may choose yours as my next blog post!
Q: Do carrier oils and butters lend any fragrance to the soap?
A: Not enough to notice. The only exception that I've experienced is cocoa butter added at 15-20 percent. It results in a light cocoa scent. I find that most of my clients and students want to add essential oils to create a beautifully scented soap. (I no longer use synthetic, fragrance oils. I stopped using them five years ago when I began to have breathing issues around them.)
Q: Is it true that sodium lactate will speed up the saponification process? What's the cure time when using sodium lactate? Is the cure time based on the weight of the soap?
A: Sodium lactate won't speed up saponification. However, it will result in a harder bar. I recommend that you try sodium lactate at 1% of your oil weight. If you've never seen it, it's clear and looks similar to glycerin.
To use, simply stir into cooled lye water (under 130F). However, you may not want to use sodium lactate if you are reducing the water content in your soap. It can cause overheating and cracking, which is a complete bummer.
Also, if you plan to use any liquid with a high sugar content (juices, milk, etc.), I suggest that you try a small batch first to see if the sodium lactate will behave in the batch. It can cause overheating in milk and juice soaps.
Cure time for the soap will be standard, which is around four weeks depending on your formula. For example, if you make a castille soap (100% olive oil), then your bars may take six to eight weeks to cure.
Try using ice in your lye water to keep fumes at a minimum and to help cool your lye water temperature quickly.
Q: We used ice in our water during the soap making class with you in New York City. Can you remind me of the ratio of ice to water? Does it matter how much? Should I assume the weight of the ice and water should equal the water liquids needed for that particular batch?
A: Great question! And I'm sure many soapmakers will appreciate this tip. Let me first explain that I use ice for two reasons: 1.) to help the lye water temperature drop faster and 2.) to keep the sodium fumes at a minimum, which your lungs will thank you for years down the road.
The maximum amount of ice I recommend is 70% of your required liquid. You'll just replace 70% of your liquid weight with ice, then add the rest in water. Sometimes students ask if ice weighs the same as water, and the answer is yes. And yes, you're right in the assumption that you're going for the total amount of water liquids needed for the batch. The higher the ice amount, the stronger the probability that some of your lye may not dissolve completely. So start with a 50:50 ice to water ratio and you won't run into any problems with the lye not dissolving.
Q: How do I determine how much fragrance to add to my soap batch? When do I add it?
A: You can either add your fragrance to your oils before you begin soaping or you can add them at trace (thickening of the soap batter). I recommend adding them at trace, especially if you aren't sure how they are going to behave once added. Add a small amount at a time. If you see your soap thickening quickly or turning into tiny chunks, stop and quickly pour into your mold. This can happen with floral essential oils and especially fragrance oils, since the latter is made up of different chemical components. We never know how fragrance oils are going to behave. So if you are new to soap making, stick to essential oils like lavender, lemongrass, peppermint and rosemary in the beginning and you'll have very little chance of something going wrong because of them.
The usage rate for essential oils in cold process soap is 0.5 - 1 oz. per pound of oils used in your formula. This doesn't include water. Just your oil weight (olive, shea butter, coconut, etc.) Always weigh your fragrance and rest of ingredients for accuracy as opposed to using measuring cups.
To determine the amount of essential oils/fragrance, take the weight of your formula oils in pounds and multiple by .5 ounces. For example:
3 lb. oil x .5 oz fragrance 1.5 oz.
Q: Do I have to line my molds?
A: If you are using wood or cardboard, yes. Line it with freezer paper or plastic wrap. If you are using plastic molds, I suggest you use plastic wrap inside the mold for an easy release. However, if you are using silicone molds, you can forgo the plastic wrap.
Q: Can you remind me what the temperature of the lye water and oils need to be before I combine them? Does it matter about the temperature of the essential oil? Honestly, I don't even check temperatures anymore. I now teach my students to feel the sides of the lye/water and oil containers and get a feel for the temperature of under 120F or 130F. If you are new to soap making, you might want to use a thermometer in the beginning. Under 120F is ideal, but if you are at 130 or even higher your soap will be fine. My favorite temperature is room temp, which is right around 68 degrees in my house this winter. Thanks for reading. If you're in the New York City area this month, be sure to check out my upcoming workshops!
Like many soapmakers, I started my business in my home kitchen, making small batches of soap. As demand for my products grew, I found myself outgrowing a stockpot, then a 5 gallon pail. Stickblenders were no longer large enough to emulsify a batch of soap.
After much research, I invested more than $10,000 in soap making equipment: water-jacketed electric tanks to melt oils, large stainless steel mixing pot on tipping stand, 350 bar molds, drill with paddle attachment to replace stick blender, electric soap cutter, more stainless steel tables and baker's racks.
In this video I'm making a 100 lb. batch which will yield approximately 400 bars of soap. I'm mixing my oils and lye water together and getting ready to add essential oils and herbs. Let me show you how I combine 10 lbs. of lye, 73 lbs. of oils/butters and 56 oz. of essential oil!
100 lb. Batch of Rosemary & Lavender Cold Process Soap - YouTube
As a business, we need to be mindful of operating efficiently. What areas of your production would you like to improve?
Ready to get proactive about launching and running your indie beauty business? Ready to stop taking all the opportunities that come your way, even if they might not be profitable or a good match for your company? Ready to scale and grow your business?
In this information-packed, full-day masterclass, Marla Bosworth will help bring clarity to your goals and what you wish to manifest for you and your indie beauty business in 2017. Whether you have an existing booming business or just getting ready to launch, this intimate workshop will help you put goals in place to take these next steps in your business.
You'll learn from Marla, a bath and beauty expert and market research analyst, who launched Back Porch Soap Company nearly 20 years ago. She is known in the indie beauty industry for her sage personal and business coaching. In addition to teaching formulating and business workshops all over the U.S., she has successfully opened and run retail stores in both the Boston, Massachusetts area and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She brings 30 years experience as a market research analyst and retail sales expert to this workshop.
Among the topics Marla will cover in this full-day, intensive masterclass:
Beyond the Products - What Really Makes Consumers Buy
What to Expect for the Indie Beauty Business Market in 2017
Avoiding Pitfalls: Why Indie Brands Go Out of Business
How to Be an Indie Beauty Trailblazer
Creative & Profitable Business Ideas
How to Generate Excitement Around Your Brand
Social Media Hotspots - Finding the Buzz
Getting Media Attention
Pricing and Profit Margins
Protecting Your Business - The Truth About Insurance Coverage & Trademarks
The New Age of Wholesale (It's Changing and How to Adapt)
How To Master Retail Sales, Including Opening and Running a Retail Establishment
Hiring, Delegating and Outsourcing
Best Practices for Pitching Sales/Opportunities and Negotiating
Creating a Long-Term Plan to Scale Your Business
Attendees will receive a binder of valuable handouts. There will be plenty of time for Q&A's throughout the session. Link for more information visit our website.
Photo credit: Marla Bosworth These are the hands of alchemists blending their cold process soaps with wildcrafted botanicals and healing essential oil blends.
Last month in New York City I shared with students what I have been doing for a lifetime as an alchemist - blending nature with healing modalities. It began when I was a child in central Illinois when I would create infusions with botanicals found walking in the woods, forgaging in fields or in my parents' garden. Later in life when I created my botanical beauty company I began creating soaps in Massachusetts and captured the energy of the Atlantic ocean and Cape Cod in my bodycare line. Then I moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming where shIe worked with the energy of wildlife, the Rocky Mountains and the plethora of botanicals growing throughout the Grand Tetons.
Customers would come into my Jackson Hole store and tell me how her products envoked memories of hiking on trails in Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park. They would hold the soap - some knowing and others not - that the vibrational frequency in the soap brought memories and oftentimes emotional healing.
I've taken my knowledge of combining alchemy, higher consciousness and sacred geometry and created a new class for beginning and experienced soapmakers. This workshop is also intended for healers, lightworkers, massage therapists, yoga enthusiasts, and anyone interested in wildcrafting, alchemy, energy healing, sacred earth energies and cold process soapmaking.
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I bet you’re breathing a huge sigh of relief about now. 2013 is a closed chapter and a fresh, new 2014 calendar awaits your business strategy. If you haven’t already reviewed 2013, now is the time to do it. What worked for you last year and what didn’t? Where were you most profitable? Being more selective with opportunities presented to you in 2014 will positively affect your bottom line.
I’ve already let several projects from 2013 fall to the wayside in 2014. They made sense last year, but as I continually raise my business standards and become more selective in where I put my energy there were several things that I’ve let go.
In addition to reviewing 2013, another project on the top of your list should be your annual growth strategy. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to grow their business. But let’s get specific. Do you want to grow your business 5%, 10% or more this year?
There are several ways to grow your business. One way is to reduce your bottom line. The other is to increase your sales. Let’s take a look at reducing your bottom line first. A little planning and strategizing could save you a total of 5-30% in this area. Here are some simple suggestions to save money, which in turn will put more back into your bank account:
· Negotiate lower merchant account credit card processing rates. Did your credit card sales increase this year? Do you expect more sales this year? Call the merchant processing company and tell them you are looking for lower rates. If you reduce your rate by 0.5-1% you’re doing well.
· Review your annual cost of goods spending and shop around for the best prices on ingredients. This year work on buying in bulk to lower your costs. Instead of purchasing in small quantities frequently, determine price breaks and order quarterly or twice a year instead. This can save you anywhere from 3-5% or more on your cost of goods spending.
· Re-evaluate contracts, service subscriptions (webhosting, etc.) and memberships. Which of these are worth keeping and which have little to no return on investment? Estimated potential savings here is 1-3%.
· Review shipping costs from suppliers. Would you save money buying in bulk and shipping your orders via freight versus UPS? You could save up to 10% on current shipping costs depending on your buying habits.
· Re-evaluate your marketing budget. What did you pay for marketing in 2013? Which of your marketing initiatives resulted in a high return on investment? Which did not?
Let’s look at increasing sales
Have a specific goal in increasing sales (i.e., this year we will increase sales by 20%). Here are some suggestions on how to increase sales:
· Nuture relationships with current customers. Your best customers know your brand and will have good suggestions on what products to add, how to improve customer service, new services and more. Tap into their resources and remember to reward them with discounts and paybacks.
· Upsell to customers. Did you know that more than 80 percent of sales are impulse purchases? This is a relatively easy way to increase sales by 5-10 percent annually. Ask for the sale at checkout (i.e., “Would you like to take advantage of our lip balm special?”)
· Add new products or services. Be specific. For example, how many new products will you introduce by May? How many by September?
· Increase your wholesale and private label accounts. How many annually? How many new accounts does that mean per month? Per week?
· Re-evaluate your retail sales. Which trade shows and retail shows were worth your time last year? Are there new shows you want to try this year?
· Update your website. There’s always something to improve, from product photography to product descriptions. Add quality search engine optimization and increase your social media interactions.
· How can you work more efficiently? Distractions lead to wasted time which cut into your bottom line. Schedule your time, limit access to time-wasting websites (use apps such as RescueTime to see how much time you’re spending on Facebook and other sites). If you spend less time on Facebook weekly (five to seven hours per week), what could you accomplish in that timeframe for your business?
· Disorganization is another efficiency killer. How much time do you waste looking for ingredients or packaging that you were sure was “just right there” but now you have to place a rush order to fill an order? It’s frustrating – I’ve been there! Invest in inventory software. Get your business organized into a mean, lean operating machine.
These are just a few suggestions to get your business ready for a fabulous 2014. Prioritize what makes the most sense for your business. Then begin implementing them as soon as possible. Keep good records so you can track your results. Once 2015 rolls around you’ll be ahead of the game. Happy sales (and savings).
I'd love to hear your tips on increasing profitability.
Reprinted with permission from the January 2014 Saponifier Magazine, written by Marla Bosworth
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