Monday, April 28, 2014

You want my trade secret recipe?

First off - the weekend was a bit of a bummer. Even though we were spared from really, really bad rain and high wind, and even the thunder and lightening, we did get enough rain - especially in the first few hours of the show - that a lot of people stayed home.

That was the bad news. The good news was that it was "mostly" dry and I didn't have to slog a whole bunch of wet tent bits and soggy bins to the car on Sunday evening, and there is no big huge dry-out spread around my living room and dining room today.

Another thing that happened this weekend at the tulip festival street fair was a request a brand new soaper (been doing it for a year or so) for my soap recipe.  She did not buy any of my soap, but just by fondling it, realized that it was way softer and smoother than her bars.  She uses mostly palm oil as the base because it makes the soap last longer.

(Just a thought, why would you want not-so-good soap to last even longer? but I digress..)

I told her that I was not willing to share my recipe - that it was a trade secret.  And I went on to explain that it took me 2 whole years of constant experimenting to really get the recipe adjusted to the way I like it.  Plus another 15 years of practicing it daily and weekly to get it as beautiful as it is now.

So yes, gentle tough love to all you newbie soap makers, getting your craft to become an art takes time and practice, diligence and commitment.  You can certainly make nice soap right away, don't get me wrong.  But there is something to be said for all the extra years of passion put into doing a thing that you love too.

I've not been asked outright for my recipe in a really long time.  So my answer was different this time than it was years ago.  And it got me thinking about all that trade secret stuff again.

I am generally a pretty "share-y" person, but I won't give out the proprietary information about my recipe, or where I got a specific super-cute packaging item, because that stuff is my trademark, my business, the very essence of what I'm selling and my livelihood.

I will tell you all kinds of suppliers to search on your own time and find what suits you best. I've seen them all, and I can shoot out a dozen soapmaking suppliers and packaging peeps and whatnot that you can browse online and see what grabs you.  If you are starting your own business, you should not only want to do it your own way, but you should expect to put in some time to build it yourself and not have it handed to you from somebody who already built it.  That's just how it is. Even when you see those amaaazing infomercials that tell you they are going to share all their super secret methods to make a million dollars in six months or lose 50 pounds in two weeks, you yourself still have to put in the work to make that happen.  Life, eh.

So this woman and I had a great conversation about all the qualities of different base oils in making soap, because I don't get to do that kind of insider talk with people very often and it's fun.  And here's what I will tell anybody else out there that is interested in making soap and looking for a good recipe . .

Buy some soap that you love.  Then read the label on the back.  Every product has to have a list of ingredients on it.  And they have to list them in order of volume (weight? ) on the back.  Just like food.  When you pick up a box of cereal and the first two ingredients are "wheat, sugar . ." then you know that the primary ingredient is wheat, secondarily sugar.  It's just like that for everything that has a label.

My soap labels say "Olive, coconut, palm oil, shea butter" (plus other stuff for scent and color) as the base oils of the soap.  So I use primarily olive oil, with a lesser amount of coconut oil, then even smaller bits of palm oil and shea butter.  If the other soaps you really enjoy are similar, then you're on to something.

There are literally thousands of soap recipes online, and in books too, and it is not too hard to find a recipe that starts with those base oils in that order.  Then try that one.  If you love how it turns out, you're there.  If you think you still need to modify, experiment more by adjusting those amounts, or researching more, or trying different recipes altogether.  There are so many resources online that it's ridiculous.  From Youtube videos, video tutorials on other sites, courses, databases, forums, etc. - you can find lye calculators to figure out how much lye to add once you monkey with recipes etc. It's an abundance of riches in this online world and everything is out there.

Maybe that's something I could dive into deeper in a future blog post, but for the point of wrapping this whole thing up - here's my point.  It's not hard.  DIY is everywhere.  Jump in.  Start with what you love and go from there.

Also, welcome to the club :)