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In blog/ humble beginnings

Oops, I Made a Mistake

When I hear the word “mistake” this song from childhood immediately comes to mind…do any of you remember this?

Now that I’m an adult and can reflect on my personality it’s no surprise that this song had been etched into my memory.  I really hate making mistakes and tend to beat myself up when I make them.  It’s not that I have a huge ego, I just feel good when I do a good job; and bad when I don’t.  As a former manager of mine used to say “Excellence is in the details.”  That stuck with me too and it’s how I like to go about doing things.

As many of you know I started making soap back in 2008 and officially launched Bubs and Scrubs as a business in 2010.  Throughout the years I’ve tried out lots of different products, fragrances, names, etc.  I’ve come to the realization that I just can’t do it all and that I made a mistake by doing too much so soon.   Well, at least I can’t do it all WELL (and without losing my joy), and that’s the key.  I really want to grow Bubs and Scrubs and it’s hard to do that as a (currently) one-woman show while maintaining 16+ different products – so I’m scaling back and going back to the basics.

The original concept behind Bubs and Scrubs was bubbly scrubby soaps that would help maintain healthy skin through regular exfoliation.  One of my first experimental batches, when I was still learning soapmaking, was a scrubby soap that made my skin feel soft, smooth and amazing – better than ever before.   Here it is below.  I made this one with crushed walnut shells and over-loaded it so it was kind of like washing with cement (not exactly what I was going for , but part of the learning process).

Smooth Bumpy Skin with Exfoiating Soap

Messy Side of My Almond and Coconut Oil Soap

I wanted to share the benefits of exfoliating soap with the world hence the catchy name – Bubs and Scrubs.  The name actually came to me in the shower one evening.  But… as I began to build my business I got distracted with all kinds of shiny objects like new fragrances, making shampoo, making liquid soap, making dog spray, you name it.  I really wanted to do it all (and one day I will) but not just yet.

So, with that in mind, I’m discontinuing most of my soaps and skin creams.

I’m going to offer four of my most popular varieties as skin care sets that include one smooth soap bar and one scrubby exfoliating bar.  That way, I can scale up much easier with fewer products to maintain.  I’m also going to offer these on a subscription basis so you can get these shipped to your door monthly, every other month or whatever frequency works best for you. Regarding the coconut oil skin creams, I’ve been reformulating them into all around beauty creams (with multiple uses for skin and hair) and will maintain Humility (coconut milk) and Let It Flow (lavender).

HOWEVER, I will offer limited editions scents (most likely monthly) which will keep things fresh, new and fun (for me and you 🙂 ).  So, you can still look forward to awesome seasonal scents throughout the year, I just won’t stock these year-round.  I’ll make these available as sets too with smooth and scrubby soap bars.  You know what’s really cool about the soap duo – after the first use – once they’re all wet – you can stick them together so they fuse as one bar.  So, one side is smooth and one side is scrubby – I use both sides each time I bathe.  Some body parts get the smooth, while others get the scrubby; nuff said.

I hope no one finds this overly disappointing but I had to do a reality check.  Maintaining too many items has become overwhelming and sometimes you have to go backwards before you can move forward again.

Quote About Making Mistakes

Honestly, I’m really excited about where I’m going with this and am not sure why I strayed from the original concept.  I really love what I do and I want it to be sustainable, good for the skin (not just froo froo fragrances) and a blessing to all of my customers.  I’ve learned much along the way and I’m looking forward to the next evolution of Bubs!

Hugs & Blessings!

Brenda Foster

In blog/ humble beginnings

New Kraft Paper Packaging

Does anything really say handmade or eco-friendly better than kraft paper packaging?  I think not.  I love, love, love kraft paper for pretty much anything.  There’s something about the neutral tones visible fibers and the earthiness of kraft.  I’ve been reworking my soap labels for actually months now.  I kid you not, it really has taken me months as I experimented with lots and lots of iterations.  I was getting really frustrated at times but kept at it and I think I’ve landed on something I can stick with (famous last words.)  Anyway – there were a number of elements I wanted to incorporate into my updated packaging:

  • kraft paper since I love it so
  • white ink – ’cause what’s even better than kraft paper?  white ink on kraft paper!!!
  • handstamp
  • scripture and inspiring words
  • a little watercolor
  • some nice typography
  • each piece should feel like a gift; not a grocery store item
  • the soap needed to peak through some how

I wasn’t able incorporate everything but feel like I hit most of my design requirements.  Here’s my most recent mock-up below.  ( BTW, for the time being my photos aren’t gonna be the best, I dropped my camera so have to use my iPhone.  When I get the money I’m gonna buy a really nice DSLR but this will have to do for now. )

kraft paper packaging

new kraft paper packaging for our soap bars

Now that the design is for the most part good to go – I can order the supplies I need and produce these in bulk.   I hope you like it and please use this as a little encouragement to keep going when you get stuck.  Getting stuck is normal, what will set you apart is not staying stuck.   Now, to move onto the next thing!

Hugs and Blessings!

Brenda Foster

 

In blog/ humble beginnings/ soap making

Why did you start making soap?

Here’s my thinking on the matter and I still haven’t found a succinct way to explain.  (Gotta work on that.)  I really believe it was divine inspiration but that doesn’t make much sense to folks who don’t really hold the same belief system.  In God’s word it says:

Romans 8 28

Typically folks lean on this verse during hard times that don’t make sense.  Maintaining faith includes knowing and expecting that God will use every circumstance, decision, event – good, bad or otherwise – for our good.  Our lives are like intricately woven tapestries that may appear like a jumbled mess when viewing just one section up-close but…when we step back we see what looks like randomness is actually a beautiful piece of art.

So all of that being said, I believe God gave me some talents, experiences and interests that led me to the idea of making soap.  These include:

– I’ve always been creative but in a practical sort of way; not art for art’s sake.  (For example, when I was at Princeton I majored in Civil Engineering but took some art classes like oil painting and ceramics.   In ceramics I got yelled at by the instructor for creating a box – she chided me saying this was not an arts and crafts class.  Whoops – my bad! Decades later I learned she yelled at everyone and told them how their work sucked too. )

– I like making things by hand (e.g., for a season knitting became my “passion” as I spent many hours attending my daughters’ various activities: piano lessons, tennis lessons, soccer practice, drawing class, volleyball, etc.)

– A trip to Vermont introduced me to the notion of being a soapmaker and having my own shop. I stopped in a store named “Thistle” in Woodstock, VT which became a huge inspiration to me but it sat dormant in my subconscious.  I remember thinking, “Now THIS is the good life!” and then quickly dismissed it as not being in the cards for me and moved on.

– I wanted to be a pastry chef and own a special occasion bakery called Baby Cakes.  Before going to business school I considered going to culinary school.  I chose b-school.  For my dream bakery,  I was going to specialize in mini-cakes.  When I was living in the NY area after b-school I took classes and almost enrolled in one of the top pasty chef programs.  Life took over and I ended up moving out of the area.

– I always wanted to have my own business.  I just never really knew what to do.

– Somehow or another I believe I stumbled on the Soap Queen’s blog.  That was the clincher.  I watched this video below with much interest.

After making my first batch that pretty much sealed the deal – I found something I’m passionate about, I’m good at and can ultimately provide the lifestyle I dream of.

So, in the end – I believe God has been putting it all together for some time now. It’s so amazing and humbling to look back and see how He’s been fitting the pieces together on my behalf; of course unbeknownst to me.  Can’t wait to see what else He’s working up! 🙂

In blog/ humble beginnings

Introducing a New Look for our Items

I’m not one to keep things the same for too long.  I don’t know what it is, I get bored too easily, I like change, I like to make things better….who knows.  So I’ve changes things and have a new look for our items.  I just know it’s one of my idiosyncrasies.

Humility Coconut Milk Skin Cream

So with that in mind I’ve renamed all of our products and am in the process of updating all of the packaging and labels too; not a small undertaking for a one woman operation.  I decided to move away from ingredient-centric product descriptions and instead come up with names that reflect my personal values and thus the values of Bubs and Scrubs. Names that reflect Godly character, provide some inspiration and better connect with folks on a more emotional level.  No raunchiness.  No gimmicks.  Rather, building a brand that I hope will have staying power and ultimately promotes what I’d like to accomplish in this life.

So for example, our former Virgin Coconut soap and skin cream has been renamed Humility.  Here’s an image of the updated soap label.

I personally love the direction I’m heading and give credit to God for the creative inspiration (and so much more.)  Ever evolving, I’ll most likely tweak the products a bit to up the creative/handmadeness elements while keep it somewhat efficient to produce in large quantities.

Eventually when I open my soap factory, I’ll have posters of quotes like you see below. Gotta have a vision!

Humility Scripture

 

With kindest regards  – Brenda

In blog/ humble beginnings/ soap making

Our First Video Review!

Just a quick post sharing a video review made by one of our newest customers.  Thank you sooo much – I so enjoyed this.  Better still, I’m happy they’re really enjoying my soap!!!  I don’t make the oatmeal soap anymore but if anyone still wants something unscented then my Virgin Coconut coconut milk soap is for you.  Watch and enjoy!

 

 

If you’d like to do a video review too we’d be delighted to post it. 🙂

In blog/ humble beginnings/ thoughts

Don’t Call It A Comeback…

Don't Quit

 

As my kids know, I have a lyric for everything. 🙂  Even this past weekend, I said something (maybe with a little emphasis) and my 12-year old asked me, “Mommy, is that from a song?”.  I had to laugh, it was – they just ought to know me by now.  Anyway….the idea behind this post is actually two ideas:
1) I’ve had some downtime recently but am getting back on my grind.
2) I’m going back to basics

For the last few months I really backed off my precious Bubs and Scrubs.  I lost focus and I was losing my passion for what I had tirelessly and diligently worked against for the last three years.  I know it’s natural to experience doubt, question your ability and wonder if you’re really just wasting your time.  I’ve been having those thoughts recently and the truth of that matter is all of those negative thoughts are a lie.  The difference between those that succeed and fail is persistence.  I’ve decided to keep picking myself up, dusting off whatever nonsense is going on in my mind, around me or elsewhere and keep at it.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Not to sound arrogant BUT… I’ve been given both the talent and the discipline to do the hard work when it comes to this so I’m sticking with it.

Never Give Up Albert Einstein

I’m also getting back to the basics and pruning my offerings again.  The original concept of Bubs and Scrubs was exfoliating soaps.  I’m going to offer some new scrubby soaps and will eliminate sugar scrubs, massage oils and some other items.  I’m keeping the creams and will add a lighter lotion.  Most likely, I’ll also reduce the variety of soaps scents and focus on creating a number of unique/proprietary scents – something not easily replicated.  My business continues to evolve as I do personally – with the ultimate goal (on both fronts) being growth.   I wish you the same in any of your pursuits – don’t quit.  Take a rest if you need to, but don’t quit.

And so because I’m such a fan of old school hip hop – since I’m increasingly old school…here’s the song from the title of this post for your viewing pleasure. Turn up the volume to fully enjoy:

 

3 In blog/ humble beginnings

Soap Storage Room: Floor

Just an update on the progress I’m making on my new soap storage room.  So in the last post I talked about prepping the floor.   Since then I painted the edges a nice green.  This took about two coats and I also had to cut in around the edges to get in under that white curtain of insulation.   Each coat needed 24 hours to dry before putting on another coat – so all in it took 3 days.  Here’s the floor after I finished with the painting.

basement painted edges for soap storage area

 

So now it’s time to finally start laying down those vinyl planks.  It really was easy and I’m far from an expert.  It really was just a matter of laying them down and trying to keep them aligned.  At the start I had to cut the first planks so they look a bit staggered but that was it.  With just the one box I wasn’t able to get too far.   Here’s the floor with almost 4 rows.

vinyl planks for soap storage area

So it’s not 100% perfect but good enough.  I had to leave the sticky edges covered with paper on the last row so the sticky strip doesn’t get dusty in the interim.   Initially I wanted to use FLOR titles but they didn’t have anything waterproof so I ended up with this option.  I think this will look really nice.  Once I start adding the racks, bookcases, tables and some room dividers – this should come together nicely.  Will also add some better lighting.  The table is another DIY project – better get more coffee!

3 In blog/ humble beginnings/ soap making/ thoughts

What Handmade Means To Me

100% Coconut Oil Soap by Bubs and Scrubs

Hand-Milled All Natural Coconut Oil Soap for Laundry & Hands by Bubs and Scrubs

I came across an article (that I share below) that inspired me to share “What Handmade Means To Me”.  I think I’ve stated this elsewhere; I’m a DIY’er to a fault.  I admittedly try to do too much myself.  From home repairs, to landscaping, and even light carpentry.  However,   There’s a few reasons for this:

#1 The Challenge:
I love learning and that’s a gift.  It’s a gift I hope to give to my children.  I read a lot.  I take classes.  I research.  It wouldn’t be satisfying to buy a cosmetic base, add a fragrance and call it my own.   It’s critical to be able to understand each ingredient, it’s properties, how it behaves, and how it benefits the skin and the quality of the product.

#2 The Enjoyment of Creating
I’ve always enjoyed making things with my hands.  Oil painting and sculpture in college.  Baking and decorating cakes.  Arts and craft with the kids. Knitting and crochet.  I like to be productive with my hands and it gives me a sense of satisfaction I just can’t get anywhere else.  I didn’t realize until recently the joy of creation; I hope it’s always a part of my life.

#3 Integrity
This is an easy one, how can I sell a handmade product I didn’t make – by hand?  That I didn’t have a hand in (sometimes literally although with gloves and according to safe manufacturing practices).  From the idea, to the design, to the triumphs and the failures.   Even beyond handmade – how can I buy a cosmetic base, repackage it, and pretend it’s my own?  I don’t mean to sound haughty but this phrase summed up this sentiment for me “Would you start a bakery using a Duncan Hines recipe?”  This was the title of a post within a blog I read regularly to understand ingredients.

So, I wanted to make it clear in case there was any doubt – my items aren’t from bases, aren’t copycat recipes from other makers – they are my own.  I understand what they are made of and how they are put together – and so you can count on the quality and authenticity of every Bubs and Scrubs item.  So, if you ask me about any ingredient you see in my items – I can tell you more than you’ll ever want to know about it.   Don’t expect anything less from a handmade artisan.

Keeping it real.

In blog/ humble beginnings

News @ Our Natural Body Care

 

Bubs and Scrubs Natural Body Care

 

So what’s changing with our natural body care items?

Some Not So Good News

Well….I have to raise prices.   As my soaps and body care items have evolved over time I’ve moved towards more organic, fair trade, and pure essential oils to formulate my soaps.  In the beginning, I used primarily fragrance oils and aimed to create creative, funky, pretty soaps.  I still care very much about the aesthetic but I’m moving towards a more natural and therapeutic design both in terms of form and function.  I also thought about reducing the size of each bar but I think that’s sneaky and I actually LOVE the chunkiness of our current bar size.  It’s not too small, not too big, and last a long time (at least a month) when properly cared for.

What does this mean…our most simple soaps will remain affordable.  Items infused with herbs, using organic oils and scented with pure essential oils will be priced higher.  I’m finding I won’t be able to sustain and grow this business at our current pricing while upgrading to higher quality ingredients (particularly as we increase our number of wholesale partners.)

My most loyal customers, you’ve seen many iterations on products, product categories, and how I’ve organized our collections.  At one point it was around ingredient combinations.  At another, around scent collections.  I’ve decided now to organize around skin needs and benefits.  That seems to be what matters most to customers interested in handmade all natural body care.  I’m not competing with Victoria’s Secret or Bath and Body so I’m giving up the pinks, purples, and berry scents.  They certainly have their place (and my daughters will still prefer these – much to my chagrin) but I’m steering Bubs and Scrubs in another direction.

The Good News About Our Natural Body Care Items

Our soaps will be even better for you and your family!  Each item will specify in more detail featured ingredients and how they benefit your skin.  We’ll use all natural colorants only which will come from herbal infusions, clays  or mineral pigments.   We’ll use essential oils or all natural fragrances to scent our soaps.   We’ve always avoided phthalates, sulfates, parabens, petroleum derivatives and the like so that’s not new.  Just simplifying our approach while improving the quality of each ingredient.  I’m pretty excited about the refined direction and am somewhat relieved.  I felt a bit scattered before and feel much better about where we’re headed.

Concerned about price?  I understand.  With that in mind we’ll offer discounts to our Facebook Friends, our blog subscribers, and to our newsletter subscribers (from the Bubs and Scrubs online store).    I’m going to increase the frequency of offers so you can still enjoy our products without having to pay too much extra.  So be sure to like us on Facebook if you haven’t already, subscribe to our newsletter and you’ll still be able to get great natural soap at a reasonable price.

 

2 In blog/ humble beginnings

New Item Checklist for Soapmakers

 

Hi.  My name is Brenda.  And I’m a list person.

Yes,  I write lists for most every endeavor big and small.  Mostly ’cause my short-term memory is non-existent so I write lists for (of course) groceries, daily to do’s,  chores, household things that need to be fixed, ideas, wish lists…it goes on and on.  So given the many steps involved in creating a new item and bringing it to market – I decided I wanted a tidy checklist to keep some focus.  This list is NOT all inclusive.   It’s oversimplified but sufficient for me (and probably most other soapamakers.)  There are implicit steps within each so please understand this was not meant to be the authoritative source for what to do, when to do it, and how.  It’s a simple tool I hope you find useful.   Please feel free to share and link to this post.  🙂  I will most likely update/improve over time.   If you click on the image the .pdf will open.

 

New Item Checklist for Soapmakers

 

Shout-out to Stephanie Ackerman at www.homegrownhospitality.typepad.com/  who created the cute little quote graphic included within the list.  I discovered her graphic on Pinterest – just love that new social bookmarking site.  Speaking of which…feel free to Pin this post too! 🙂

In blog/ humble beginnings

Time to Invest in…Barcodes!

Being a sinvest in small business doylestown pamall (teeny tiny itty bitty micro) biz means the size of what may seem like a miniscule investment to some is quite large to us.  My next big investment is in buying barcodes.  Yup, that’s right – simple barcodes.   Just to register and get an initial set of bar codes you can call your own, you have to put out approx. $1,000.  That’s not a small number for most folks and it’s not a small number for me either.   I’ve been blessed with a decent (and totally legitimate) tax refund this year that I can use towards this and the timing is just right.

See this is the deal,  you really can’t get into the wholesale game without authentic (not from a reseller) barcodes.  You can sell to small mom and pops which is still awesome, but you can’t go into big retail without it.  I have to give credit to one of the business organizations I joined for providing lots of good advice in this area:  The Indie Beauty Network.  It’s a tremendous resource for indie business’ and one I turn to frequently.

So, it’s time to make that move as I have a new wholesale opportunity I’m really excited about! 🙂  One of my goals this year is to sell via more distribution channels apart from our main site.   It’s one small step but it’s still progress…