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Preparing our Vegan Beauty products for a Craft Fair Event.

Preparing for an event can be hard work, stressful and time-consuming, ESPECIALLY if you don’t have a plan.

The reason I say this is we just signed up for out 1st major (to us) event, called Harvest Market, based in my home town in Iowa.  It’s a BIG event in my little town (pop. ~7000). ALL the crafters, hobbyists, and small businesses in the area come together to showcase all their holiday products. It is usually the Monday before Thanksgiving, so this year its November 25th. It’s hosted by Produce in the Park and the Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce.

As you can imagine, we are both excited and a bit scared, to be attending this event. First things first, what do we currently have for sale? How much do we want to have on hand for sale? Do we have enough time to make, much less package, everything we want to have?

So after a minor panic attack on my part (yeah my brain does that sometimes) and some time breathing, I started a list of what we needed to do. This included small things that we were ready to do anyway (like ordering a larger amount of business cards and stocking up on labels and packaging supplies), to thing we THOUGHT would be farther out in the future, like making a sign and having a pretty table cloth. Even bumping up the finished and packaged inventory became more of a priority.

So the list goes something like this..

  1. Know what we have on hand – not too hard since we already have a rough inventory system in place. Just double-checking for accuracy the next time we spend some time at the workshop. Or I could ask mom to do it since the workshop is at her house …hmm something to think about. Also, we have been having a few sales that I’m not sure got taken out on inventory (oops!)
  2. Decided what kind of “paperwork” we need to have at the booth. I confess I asked a few of my friends who have done events like this in the past. I got some really good advice too! (thanks to David and Aaron for the info and feedback!) 

This included such things as a price list (yeah, knew that), and about us page (hmm) in a stand-up picture frame so it’s more visible (oh!), and an ingredient list comparison for our soaps. Even things such as a basic order form (just in case we run out of specific products. Hey! A girl can dream!) and a receipt form for all our customers.

One of the main things that the guys suggested was that color draws attention. I had never really thought about this that much. So we decided to color coordinate our price list to our items (as much as we are able) as well as to our box sets. All the lip balm products are listed in orange, the body powder in reds, the basic bar soaps (and sample basic bar box sets) are listed in light green, the specialty bar soaps (and the deluxe bar sample box) listed in light blue. And just for fun, our Rose Garden soap is listed in (what else) rose red. 🙂

The ingredient list comparison was interesting, to say the least, not to mention eye-opening. What do we put in our soap vs. what is usually in most store-bought soap? Have you ever really LOOKED at what is in your soap from the store? 

  1. Decide how realistic our desires are vs. what we can actually make in time to sell. “FIND A REASONABLE NUMBER!” – my brain can be quite instant, can you tell? Timelines were a must for this part, we even built in some extra time just in case we had an off week (car troubles, bad weather, other things cropping up for family, etc.) the fun part of deciding how much to make, is we don’t really have a sales history to work off of. We know that we have sold more Oatmeal Breakfast Bar than anything else (except lip balms) but that is only 2-3 bars. 

Will people like it at a craft fair vs. my describing it to a friend and her buying 2 bars to send to a grand baby with really bad eczema? /shrug who knows. 

We DO know we don’t want to run out, so we decided to make at least 12-16 full-size bars of each flavor. This should allow us to have a lot, without running out (we hope!), and still allow us time to make enough that we can get our sample boxes set up for sales too. Otherwise, that’s what the order forms are for!

  1. Next, we had to decide what to make when, to boost our stock levels. The soap has to be done first, as it takes a while to cure. Almost everything else we do takes less than an hour to do, and most of that is time spent cooling or setting stuff up to package. So knowing we had to do soap, we made a list of our current stock from least to most, so we would know what order to make more of them in. We also have a small complication of Michelle not currently having a car. So travel time is different from what we usually do. We have less time together, but more time separate, to make soap. 

So, we decided to divide and conquer! We will do the more intricate soaps (the specialty stuff that takes a bit more effort) together, while I can do some of the basic soaps at the workshop on days when she works. Michelle is also doing a few newer scents/color combos to try to appeal for the holiday season (see the Facebook page, Sweetsistersvegan, for sneak peeks!)

So, we are well on our way (we hope!) to being prepared for our 1st event. I’m pretty sure we have missed some things, but we have time yet. We hope to see you there!

Carrie & Michelle

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Trials of Mica Colorants in Soap Making (a.k.a the creation of our Whoops! category)

Colors are supposed to be simple…

You just pour Mica colorants in the soap when mixing to get the colors you want…. Sounds simple, right? Well, most of the time it is. 

We seem to have issue getting some colors to work correctly, namely orange or anything with orange in it. /sigh

 

1st try – Our sunrise soap. 

Bright orange juice and black coffee, swirled together to make an uplifting, wake me up scent…. The color turned out milk chocolate and cream…><….. (it didn’t really turn out bad, just not what we were trying for. No worries, it got turned into a Whoops! item)

 

OK, what did we do wrong? Were we not using enough color, not enough water? Too much orange juice? And the brown was supposed to be dark chocolate brown!?!?

/throws hands in the air in frustration…..grrr

 

Since we weren’t sure what went wrong we decided to take out all the additives and focus just on the colors. We were also experimenting with fall colors for soaps as well since it was a little ways away. So we went for a brown with red and orange swirls. We even added extra mica just to be sure.

 

Yeah, that didn’t turn out well either. The brown once again lightened while the red and orange blended together, which we should have expected since they’re so close to each other on the color wheel. So now we were really at a loss.

 

Ok deep breath…. Let’s step back and think. We have just been adding mica colorant until it’s pleasing to look at after we mix our other ingredients…but that is rarely what it comes out for the final product. Maybe we need to be a little more scientific…So we went to a mica supplier’s website we plan to use (Nature soap is awesome) and read their info page. This is where we found the color blender! Oh the fun we had for a few days figuring out what colors we wanted to use vs. the colors we ended up ordering. (so much fun!)

 

Back on topic: we decided to get a mica colorant sample pack (10 – 5 oz. “choose your own colors” for $16; SUCH a sweet deal!) so we could get a lot of colors to “play” with, as the hubby would say. The website recommends using “ 1 teaspoon per pound of oils. With lighter colors like orange and yellow, a little bit more can be used to get a bright color. Darker colors like brown may need a bit less.” from their FAQ page about using mica colorants. We decided we DEFINITELY hadn’t been using enough mica for some of the lighter colors. It also explained why our darker soaps tended to turn out well. /shrug Have to get lucky sometimes right?

 

So we decided to do an experiment with said color sample pack we had bought. There are 10 colors, and we have mini silicone soap molds. Can anyone see where this is going? Anyone?

 

We decided to make “samples” to see how each of the colors match up to the color of the powders as we saw them in powder form. “Waste not, want not” We took the recipe for our 1 pound batch of soap and divided it into 10ths. This allowed us to measure out each “batch” and make it separately. The one drawback to this approach, was how we had to bring the soap to trace… we were using smaller containers to mix in, so the stick blender we usually use didn’t fit (by the time we were done, my wrists REALLY hurt from whisking). Also, our mini molds are not all the same size. We actually got 12 samples by the time we were done, all the base colors as well as 2 “swirlys”! BONUS! 

 

Downside, since the silicone molds WERE smaller, we had some trouble getting the samples out of the mold later in the week. We decided to let the samples sit a few extra days to make sure they set properly. Most of them set well, though I did have to throw the neutral gray into the freezer overnight to get it to set. 

Oh, and one little tip if your playing with soap? Don’t set it to cure on cardboard… apparently it leeches the oils and colorants out of the soap >< 

grr, mutter, curse under my breath, sigh

 

We were actually pleasantly surprised with the results. We decided that we liked the golds, needed more colorants in the reds, blues, and greens; and needed LESS is some of the darker colors, like the cider fire. 

 

So of the 2 golds we tried (Sahara and Shimmer gold) the Sahara was more of a TRUE gold compared to Shimmer gold which turned into more of a cream with gold sparkly glitter. It should be nice for the lighter accents we want to do for a “to be named later” soap design… Check out or Facebook page for batch by batch previews!

 

The blue, gray, and green turned out more of a pastel then the true color we were expecting. That’s OK, we can use them as is, or add more mica powder.

 

The red, yellow, and pink all turned out wonderfully, though they faded a bit after a few days. A bit more colorant, maybe just a pinch (dash, whatever) of activated charcoal to darken them for our fall/winter colored soaps….. 

 

So, if things go well in the next batch or two of soap our current mica problems will be cured. If that’s the case, it is probable that what we were using before was a lesser quality item, which has now been rectified. If not, then it’s back to the drawing board to see what else we can do. Either way let the experiments commence!