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soap

WineYards

wineyards2015-eblast2 I am super excited to announce that Old Town Suds is participating in the City Paper's WineYards at Nats Park. Over 20 wineries will be providing wines for festival attendees to sample (and purchase) plus your favorite wine soap store will be there too!

Ticket includes: unlimited wine samplings and souvenir glass. Best part? If you use our coupon code: OTSWY10 you'll get $10 off of your already super affordable ticket.

Wineries & vineyards include: Opici Wines, Red Ink Imports, Senator Wines, Folio Fine Wine Partners, Vina Bujanda, Joao Portugal Ramos, Franco Espanoles, Vini Inc, Tradewinds Specialty, and more to be announced soon!

Hope to see you at WineYards!

Top 3 Tips For Having The Best Trade Show Experience For Your Creative Business

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I've been attending and working at trade shows for years. Between my parents dragging me along to expos to shop for their businesses to my nearly 10 years in the association industry, I'm constantly working on or attending something. All of this experience helped, and at times, hindered my trade show prep. This was my first time representing my own brand and products. That makes this first Suds trade show unique for me. It was also my first time working on a micro budget. I've designed booths that were triple the size of the my Suds booth that had 1,000 times the budget. Working with a few hundred dollars versus tens of thousands was challenging - to say the least.

Here are my top 3 tips for having the best trade show experience for your creative business.

Invest in good flooring.

When we put in our soap kitchen, our contractor saved the carpet and padding he pulled up. It was a lifesaver for the budget because I didn't have to pay for flooring (it's mandatory to put down some sort of flooring). Standing for days on concrete floors kills your back, knees, feet and well, your entire body. I thought the padding and carpet would help alleviate some of that pain and it did to a certain extent. When I looked at everyone else's flooring choices I saw this foam tile flooring. I didn't know this existed until I saw it in the expo hall. All of the trade show booths I've built have always used carpet because it is more professional in that setting. But for the craft/handmade businesses this foam tile is the best invention ever. I'm upgrading our flooring for our next show. I'll be getting a ton of tiles to use. Plus, I can use them during our craft shows to make standing for hours, days, and weeks easier on my body.

Take this Creative Live Class

I love Megan Auman. Her classes on Creative Live are thoughtful and super helpful. I can't recommend her wholesale class enough. She covers every aspect of the wholesale trade show. I felt super prepared for our event because I had watched her class and was able to implement several of her strategies. I was able to present a level of confidence at the trade show because I knew what the buyers were expecting. I even saved several of the sessions to my MacBook so I could watch them in the evenings after the show had closed. This way I was constantly in the selling mindset and learning how to improve.

Get a Lead Scanner

I was dumbfounded at the sheer lack of people scanning badges. I found out from the show organizers that I was one of TWO people to use the scanner. Yes, it costs money. Yes, it isn't cheap. Yes it gave me nearly 100 stores to EASILY add to my marketing campaigns. I didn't have to try to look up people, remember details or anything of that nature. When I had 10 buyers in my booth all I had to do saw scan their badge, add a few notes in the app if I wanted to, and move to the next buyer. The lead scanner is ALWAYS worth the money. Always. I have a spreadsheet of names, email addresses, physical locations and store names all because I spent a few more dollars and go the scanner. If you are of the mindset that buyers will have business cards and you can just collect them, think again. Buyers never bring enough cards. What are you going to do then? What you do is scan their badge and you have everything you need.

Designing a New Soap Booth

The past few years of attending weekly markets has fought us a few things about our booth space. I know to always plan for more traffic than I expect at 6am on a Saturday morning (why are so many people in DC up at this time?) and that I need pieces that I am able to carry (strict 20 pound limit on what I can carry). That means most mornings I'm waiting on the husband to unload the car while I wait looking rather pathetic. So, I've decided to redesign our booth space before the market season starts and allow for more items that I can carry. We'll still have the same wine tasting feel but it's going to be more jazzed up. For our longer events, we'll take it up another notch with a bar counter like feel, but that is for another post. If my father in law thought I was a pain in the ass with our trade show booth...wait until he sees this plan. I'm sure you will all hear him scream.

A majority of spaces we occupy are 10'x10' which is also the size of our canopy. That means everything has to fit in nice and cozy in to 100 square feet. Thankfully, very tiny apartment living has taught me well. Last year, we used the front of the tent as a walkup bar and the rest was storage for us. This year, will be different.

(keep in mind, this is our draft stage right now)

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What we are going to create is a U shaped table setup. A 6' table will be at the base of the U with two 4' tables flanking the sides. The tables will be used for displaying items, signage and whatnot. The 4 feet of space behind the tables will give us a place to stand, additional storage and give us room to maneuver.

I also plan on building shelving between two wooden creates to add height to the display. (That's one thing we are currently lacking with our setup from last year.) Additionally, our tables are going to grow a few inches in height. They have been eating their veggies during the winter and have gotten a bit taller with the use of PVC pipes on their legs. These extensions will help bring everything up to a more comfortable shopping height. Plus, it also means the stray toddler will have a bit more difficultly eat the new "fudge" they just found at the farmers' market. (yeah, that has happened)

Our first outdoor market of the season starts in 3 weeks so we must have everything done by then! I see some late nights of painting in our future.

Behind the Scenes - Soap Kitchen Tour

soap kitchen This is it! This is the main area of our soap kitchen. It was designed with the help of our contractor who did an excellent job building everything for me. (if you need a recommendation in Northern VA, I'll send you his info!)

I still need a few more shelves to help control all of the oils I use. You see those brown bottles on the shelves and the far right counter? Those are our fragrances and essential oils. Once you start collecting them....it is very hard to stop!

We've almost had this new kitchen a year now. I'm learning what works and what needs a bit more improving. You can never have enough lights and I'm in desperate need of a paper towel dispenser. Details, right? I'd also like some of those shock absorbing mats they use in professional kitchens. A few hours of standing on tile and you feel it in your back!

Next time I'll show you our soon-to-be-built shelves in the drying room. My husband is supposed to be making them for me as my birthday present. My birthday was in September...Maybe I'll get them by December? I hope. I really don't want to learn how to build shelves.

3 Myths About Handmade Soap

3 Myths about Handmade SoapThere are many myths floating about when it comes to handmade soap. I’ve already debunked the myths about how one can make soap without lye and that lye soap is harsh and here are 3 additional myths that need to be set straight.

Myth #1: Antibacterial soap is better than regular soap.

Soap is a surfactant – it helps water to disperse on the skin and then propels dirt, oil and grime away from the skin. Antibacterial soaps are marketed as germ-killing, and therefore are touted as being better than regular soap. The reality (which is backed by scientific studies) is that regular soap is equally effective as antibacterial soap at removing bacteria and preventing illnesses.

Furthermore, long-term exposure to triclosan and triclocarbon, which are the active ingredients in most of these antibacterial soaps is considered to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria and even lead to hormonal imbalances. This has lead to the recent (December, 2013) rule proposal by the FDA for the makers of these antibacterial soaps to prove that their soaps are safe for daily, long term use and that they are more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections. If the proposal is accepted and companies cannot prove these points, then the products would need to be reformulated or be relabeled in order to remain on the market.

Myth #2: Handmade soap doesn’t create as many bubbles as mass-produced bars, so it can’t clean my skin as well.

We’ve already established in the myths above that mass produced bars are actually detergents, with synthetic chemicals that can, among other things, boost lather. There is a big misconception that lather = clean, and there is no scientific proof to support this idea.

It is true that some handmade soap does not bubble as much as other handmade soap, and that is a result of the ingredients used. For instance, soap made with mostly olive oil will not be extremely bubbly – it’s more of a gentle, creamy lather.  Compare that to a soap made with castor oil, which creates an abundance of large bubbles, and the resulting lathers will be quite different. The ‘bubbliness’ of handmade soap will depend on the ingredients used, but either way, bubbly or not, soap will clean your skin.

Myth #3: Handmade soaps are expensive and overpriced.

Compared to a synthetic, mass-produced detergent bar found in the store, yes, handmade soap will often cost more (and should!) But when you stop to think about what goes into the production and the end result, the price is well worth it. For instance:

  • High quality oils and butters are selected to create a gentle, soothing bar of soap
  • The glycerin that comes from saponification is kept in the soap (not removed as it is with commercially produced bars) to make it even more moisturizing
  •  Premium essential oils and fragrance oils add scent
  •  Natural herbs and botanicals add color, soothing properties and even exfoliation
  •  The labor for an artisan to handcraft their soap, versus a machine cranking out thousands of uniform detergent-based bars

Also, most whom use handmade soap do not have to use lotion after bathing with natural soap, whereas those who use commercially made soap often have to slather lotion on at least once, if not more often during the day. So consider the cost of lotion when you’re comparing that bar on a grocery store shelf to a natural bar of soap from a handmade artisan and you’ll see that it’s a much better investment to go with the handmade soap.

Traveling and Dealing with TSA

My travel schedule has skyrocketed the last few months. I've been to Florida, Indiana, and shortly Nevada, Minnesota, Arizona, North Carolina and New York. I try to just pack a carry on whenever possible. My suitcase fits all dimensions of my preferred airlines requirements. But what doesn't always are my carry on products.

This is where being all-natural in your beauty products can stink.

A scrub loaded with chemicals is fine to carry on as long as it is 4oz or under. My baggie full of baking soda, a nice white powered, not so much. I try to avoid being detained by TSA and spend as little time there as possible.  I already opt out due to the images taken and radiation exposure and any extra time spent there makes my blood curdle. But being gone for a week without my facial scrub stinks. Plus, I don't want to buy a whole box of baking soda when I get to each destination. That is just a waste.

The next few days I am going to experiment with how I can make my facial scrub TSA-safe, meaning it's not a baggie or plastic container full of white powered. Join me on the journey as I figure out what this is going to look like and my experiments. I am sure this is going to be a mix of Stubborn Steffanie, a little chemistry and a pinch of good luck. I already have an idea in mind and I am really hoping it works! Only time will tell.

Behind the Scenes

This past Friday was a little different that usual. Instead of relying on my photograph skills, which are rather unique, all of our soaps, scrubs, lip balms, and a few new products made their way over to a professional photo studio! Luckily on this sleeting, icy, rainy and in vernal no good weather day, our photographers just happened to be in our neighborhood. The 30 second drive was speedy. IMG_7140

It was fantastic seeing our soaps in a totally different light. Plus, how awesome is it that this felt like a model photo shoot! Do you see how the camera is connect straight to the laptop! We were able to make adjustments as we went and tried out several different angles.

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I can't wait until we get our final photos back. Everything, from the website to promotional materials will be getting a rather needed facelift.

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If you want to see some adorable photos, check out our photographers, Matt & Erika Photography. Plus, when you decide to do a photo shoot with them, you can pop on by for a soap class!

Organizing Your Soap Business

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2014 Planning It's that time of year again. It's time to evaluate how the past year has gone. What went right and what could be improved upon. It is hard to believe how this year has soared for Old Town Suds. This time last year, we didn't expect to need a studio space or expect to move from Alexandria. It's amazing how things have changed for the better. Here are some issues that I've had to solve as I wrap up 2013.

Production

I can't say how much having the dedicated soap kitchen has helped with my production issues. Not having to have a kitchen that is BOTH a regular kitchen for Joel to cook in & a soap kitchen is magical. My production abilities per day has more than tripled. Plus, my father-in-law made me these awesome wood molds - 20 of them actually. I can now make close to 100lbs of soap JUST in those molds. (I have non-wood molds too) In 2014 I'll be able to keep up with demands, order larger quantities of supplies since I know have the storage space, and keep customers happy with stock always ready. 2014's projected growth will be much easier now that I have this under control - at least at the moment!

Time Management

Oh, the joys of working a full-time job while owning a small business. I'm not ready to pick one over the other yet, so for now it is managing my time and resources as best that I can. For instance, I know I will be in Las Vegas for a week in June for a conference. My life will be crazy around then so Old Town Suds can't have any events directly before that business trip. But, the week after the obscene-hour work work is a week of paid vacation that doesn't use my accrued time! I've planned a few days of rest and then will focus on Suds full-time those days.

In 2014 I'm trying out new ways to plan events, classes and production schedules. I've go this handy dandy dry erase calendar that Michelle recommended tacked to the back wall of the soap kitchen. I am going to plan out all my events for the year, travel, production days and whatever else I think I need to stay on top of everything.

Next to the giant calendar is my new chalkboard. It was a leftover piece from making my display earlier this year. On the board I am going to keep a running list of what I need to make each week with the amounts. This will help me focus on what I need to make to keep my supply levels where I need them and not running out of everyone's favorite soaps!

What's Next?

In 2014 the goal is to debut a few new product line that indulges in my love of spa products. Plus, we'll have a whole new guilty pleasure soap line where you can indulge calorie free. 2014 is also going to focus on getting back into my running schedule (which will be written on my calendar). I have new shoes and plenty of gear so I am going to make time for at least one 30 minute run per day. I would like to get back to where I can easily run a 5K in under 30 minutes.

What planning have you done for 2014?

Old Town Suds in the Newspaper!

Friday was an awesome day for Old Town Suds! I had just parked the car after returning from ALT Design Conference in NYC (more about that in another post) to see tweets that we were in the Washington Post's Express! OTS_Express