By Lisa Maliga
Today is the first interview with a soap crafter. Allow me to introduce Odette Handley of Riverlea Soap. This very talented lady is from South Africa and she makes some beautiful soap–as you can see. Here is what she has to say about the joys of making soap and running her own business. [Click images to enlarge].
What prompted you to start working with melt and pour soap?
I had been making CP soap and was looking for a soap to behave in a different manner, and I wanted to make clear soaps so I thought I would try MP as it didn’t look too difficult. Boy was I wrong. After my first attempt I packed it all away and didn’t try it again for a year. In that time I did some research and realised it could not be as hard as I imagined. I was right I love it now.
What other types of soap do you craft?
I make a lot of CP bars. I think working with CP is my favourite. It is so versatile. I have been known on the odd occasion to make liquid soap and Body Butter. Do you also make bath & body products? Yes I make lotions, bath oils, liquid soaps body butters and fizz bombs and solid bubble bath.
When did you decide to sell your soap?
This was very soon after I started making soap in 2007. I saw a gap in the market for natural novelty soaps that looked like cup cakes and slices of cakes. So I changed direction slightly from the bars of soap and when straight to desserts.
Do you also sell your soap at crafts fairs/markets, stores, etc.?
Yes I do and I LOVE it. It is such a great way to meet your clients. They come back for more at every market. The least I can do I be there to sell it to them.
If selling online – what are the advantages to selling online?
I love selling on line because it is almost passive income. I have already made the soap so it is not a custom order. I already have the ingredients in boat loads so when some one buys on line there is no stress as it is already pre packed. You just fill the order, take payment and ship it. Easy peasy.
What is your favourite fragrance or essential oil?
My favourite EO is Neroli by far. I love this EO so much. The smell gets me every time. Fragrance would have to be Green Tea, uplifting and fresh. What are your most popular scents?
My most popular are Vanilla, lemon Verbena, Lavindin EO, I have some spicy ones for the guys and those always sell well.
What soap crafting books have you read?
Oh now that’s a list. I am an avid reader so I have a lot. My first book was Soap Naturally by P Garenza & Tadiello which I read from cover to cover while lying in hospital recovering from a back operation. I also have Soap handmade and pure by Tatyana hill, Soap bubbles and scrubs by Nicole Seabrook, Scientific Soapmaking by Kevin Dunn , Soap crafting by Anne Marie Faiola, Natural soapmaking by Bev Messing, Soapmaking the Natural way by Rebecca Ittner, The Handmade Soap Book by Melinda Coss, Gourmet Soaps made Easy-Melinda Coss, SoapyLove Squeaky Clean soap projects-Debbie Chialtas, Bath Bombs, Elaine Stavert, The Soapmakers Companion- Susan Cavich, The Everything Soapmaking book-Alica Grosso… And more. I love to read.
Where do you get your soap/packaging ideas?
I love Pinterest so I get quite a few ideas there but my sister is a chef so I get a lot of inspiration from food books.
Packaging is another story… I really battle with this and find myself lost on many occasions. I think I need an intervention. Ha ha.
What advice would you give to new soap crafters?
Be methodical, work tidy, have fun and grow organically. Don’t try to do it all at once. Your most important aspect of you business is cash flow. Manage like a tight fisted old lady.
How did you come up with your company’s name?
That was a tough one. We went round in circles a lot. We were moving from the city (Durban on the east coast) to our farm in the Midlands and I thought maybe if the soap is made there I would take on the name of the farm. Hence Riverlea Soap.
Do you make and sell soap? Do you have your own online shop and want to be interviewed? If so, just send me an email: email@example.com Please use “Interview with Soap Crafter” in the subject heading.