Thursday, February 9, 2012

Changes A-Brewin'

Hi Folks!  Changes are a brewin' at The Imaginative Arts of Carol Ochs...more specifically, with Simply Soap...our first, and cornerstone business!
Gosh, when I look back, it's hard to believe I've been making and selling soap for 19 years, officially hanging out an online shingle in 1994!  The crazy part is, it's flown by because I have so much fun doing it; I LOVE springing out of bed every morning to hit the soap workshop!  And I must say, I've met some of the nicest people in the (literally) world, as a result!  I never want to pass up a chance to say a big "THANKS!" for that!  And I will likely continue making soap till I die!  (Perhaps that is how I'll be found one day.....head first in a big soap pot,..."she died doing what she loves!" -lol!- I can think of worse ways to go!)

In the last couple of months, I've  had a chance to sort of look-around and and re-assess my lil' place in the soapin' world, something every business needs to do.  I likely needed to do it sooner....but was just too busy making soap to do so!  But I'm doing it now.  The landscape of the craft of handmade soapmaking has changed...a LOT.  Most noticeably in that there is so much more of it available now, which is a real & wonderful boon for the soapmaking tribe!  The public at-large have been re-introduced to this beautiful craft which had previously been nearly replaced by modern-day commercially-manufactured detergent bars.  I feel fortunate that I was at-the-right-place-at-the-right-time when the internet was born, and was one of the first dozen or so soapmakers on the 'net selling soap. Back then, ANY handmade soap was a novelty and eagerly scarfed up by customers!  Once they tried it, they were hooked! Building a business happened so quickly and effortlessly, it almost seemed crazy-easy!

Fast forward a few years, the internet grew, choices became many, and suddenly this once-previously dying craft was fully resurrected and wildly growing in popularity, not only as a skincare product, but as a business opportunity for soapmakers that afforded what so many seek---a home-based business, which is how most of us start out.  Nowadays when you do an online search for "handmade soap" you will find literally hundreds (if not thousands) of soapmakers to choose from!  Actually, I just searched it on Google and they claim to have  10,400,000 results for "handmade soap"!!! Talk about WOW! I feel very proud and pleased that this craft that I love so much has taken on a new identity so quickly (in the grand scheme) and surely so permanently.  It's difficult to walk any mall, or craft fair, or farmers market these days and NOT come across some beautiful handmade soap available!  How many crafts can boast such a resurgence and/or popularity??? 

But back to my change-in-direction point.  When most of us start our soap businesses, I think we tend to offer certain old stand-bys and universal favorites (especially in scent) many customers seem to gravitate toward.  Up-and-coming soapmakers noticeably pattern themselves after existing soap businesses, no doubt thinking  "If it sells well for them, then it will sell well for me, too."  It's not long before you see that every soapmaker seems to be offering the same fare, over & over.  In fact some soapmaking sites start to seem cut from the same mold, same verbage, same marketing keywords even,, a sometimes uncomfortably same way.  This can be a testament to certain scents and soap types enduring the test of time!  If it works, why not make that available?  But as an innovative soapmaker, it can also make you not want to be just another soapmaker, offering the same old stuff.

Early in my business I recognized this trend and and began branching off with themed soaps.  Our themed specialty soap lines have become the cornerstone of our business.  So much so, it is those lines that dominate sales and growth.  That, as well as the many retailers we work with designing custom soaps specifically for their retail establishments.  But with that shift, it has become more difficult to continually offer the wide range of what used to our old stand-bys.

So in the next few weeks, we will be paring down some of our offerings that many of you may have come to know.  Some of these soaps have waned in sales, in favor of our themed soaps, so not sure they will even be really missed much!  We'll be selling off exisiting quantities and when they are gone, they will be gone.  Some may make re-appearances on our Limited Edition Treasure Chest Soaps page on occasion.  And don't worry, I plan to retain a section called "Classics" which will be a handful of "the old stand-bys". 
Even *I* cannot live without a bar of lavender to turn to! ;)

But I'm happy to receive feedback and if there is anything you really, really do not want to see go....I'm all ears.  I've built this business based on customer feedback, is no different!  

Retailers:   What does this mean to you?  Any discontinued scent oils will not be stocked "all the time" like they have been.  But you can still custom-order any block of soap (as per usual) and it may just take us a bit more time (so allow for that) to order the scent oil needed to make your soap batch.   

We have a couple of new soap lines in-production/testing phase right now.  Look for those to be introduced in the not-too-distant future!  

EDITED TO ADD: RE: discontinued soap, as per multi-requests thus far, I'll be compiling a list very soon and will post!

Other News:

I also wanted to mention something else  I recently have noticed in the soapmaking world to a significant extent.  Sometimes, in an apparent effort for soapmakers to distinguish themselves favorably from others, some will talk about or focus on public or world issues like sustainably-harvested soapmaking ingredients, and suggest that others are not partaking in this pursuit conscientiously, or taking a higher moral ground as devoutly as they purportedly are.  Some of these issues have become unduly blown-out-of-proportion with inflammatory accusations, untruthful "facts" attributed, and the inference can be that some soapmakers aren't as conscientious as they should be. It becomes certain companies' marketing schtick & *tool*.  Be careful of distractions like this. Most responsible & quality soapmakers have long-ago researched their ingredient sources before choosing them, continually verify sources, and can assure you whether or not their ingredients were responsibly harvested, or can quickly find that out for you. Most just don't make a point to announce this every time they do so, it's just part of their job as a good soapmaker.  So just because some soapmaking companies don't talk about this all the time, or try to suggest it's a "we do but others don't" issue as far as obtaining sustainably-harvested ingredients...doesn't mean that is the case.  

Here at Simply Soap, we only choose and use ingredients that we know to be sustainably harvested (my suppliers are participants of the Sustainabilty Round Table, and including the RSPO - Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil).  We do not use substitute oils that will inferiorize the quality we've built our name upon, nor adversely affect YOU, the environment, or wildlife.  As any of you have likely found, not all handmade soaps are the same.  Ingredients make or break the end product, it's durability, use, and overall experience on your skin.  We will never sacrifice quality....even if we have to charge more for it, but how our ingredinets are obtained is equally important to us, as are our manufacturing practices.  Always has been that way, always will be.

A change we have made that you may or may not have noticed being announced on our site, is that with our "fragranced" soaps we offer as part of our lines, we only choose fragrance oils that are phthalate-free now. 

Streamlining the soap biz a bit as described above, will also allow me to devote a bit more time to my growing *other business*, fantasy art!   

This is a (scary/funny/time warp/OMG!) peek at one of my earliest webpages "back when".  But what the heck, it was all hand-coded (a major feat for ME back then) and there weren't any of the WYSIWYG website design programs available then, that there are today.  The WayBack Machine didn't begin archiving web sites till 1996.  Too bad.  
Always "trying to stand-out from the ever-growing crowd, I recall when I did a photo-shoot for new site pics and had one taken of me outside in a beautiful natural setting, discreetly wrapped in a bath towel, peeking out from behind a tree, holding my trusty bar of Simply Soap, ready to jump into the nearby (very truthful) schpiel for the shot was "so natural you can bathe in a lake or stream with it and not kill fish or water vegetation".  That photo created quite a stir among other soapmakers (within minutes of going up!) one whom reportedly thought that towel-shot was "pornographic".  LOL!  No such thing......believe me!  But it cemented in my consciousness how closely soapmakers watch other soapmakers' every move!  I still chuckle to myself  when I recall that incident.  I left the photo up for quite some time.  Sales were great, as usual!  And the soapmaker who started the controversy calling my photo "pornographic" later went out of business...last I heard. is one of my earliest archived homepages.....  ::gulp::

We've come a long way to our current site! 

Be sure to let me know if you have any feedback!  ALWAYS welcome!  


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