Interview with a Soapmaker ~ Pam of Kettlepot Soap

Interviewed by Lisa Maliga, copyright 2015

I’m happy to introduce Pam, the founder of Kettlepot Soap. Pam is a very experienced soap maker from Ledyard, Connecticut, who makes Kettlepot bar soaps from scratch in a 220 year old New England farmhouse. All handcrafted soaps contain top-quality plant oils, essential and fragrance oils, natural pigment colors, herbs, flower petals, exfoliants and other goodies. Her numerous other handmade products include: bath bombs, lip lotions, hand and body lotions, sugared body polish and body butters, massage bars and more! [Click images to enlarge].

What prompted you to start making soap and/or bath & body products?
PastedGraphic-3I started soaping quite a few years ago after returning from Ireland where I bought some lovely all-vegetable bar soaps. I wanted to recreate the soap and scent; that effort started my foray into Kettlepot Soap.

What types of soap do you craft? What types of bath & body products do you craft?
Since making my first bars of soap, I’ve added quite a few other handmade items to the KPS line: lip balm in an amazing number of flavors as well as custom-scented lotions, sugar scrubs, body butters, bath bombs, bubble bars, and massage bars. I find that my customers really appreciate being able to buy B&B in the scents they prefer. It’s like having your own personal line of skin care products made just for you!

When did you decide to sell your product[s]?
KPS has been in business 15 years. It seems like I have always been making and selling crafts made from a variety of mediums. Once I was confident in my recipes and skills, it seemed natural to move into selling soap.

Do you sell your products at crafts fairs/markets, bed & breakfasts, stores, etc.?
I mainly sell online and at crafts shows. Shows are a great way to introduce new products. I bring testers for nearly every product so people can try before they buy. Also, I really enjoy meeting my local online customers in person. Over the years, I’ve made quite a few new friends. Online selling does have the drawback that customers can’t try items before buying. Online does have at least one advantage though; I don’t have to worry about rainy weather!

What is your favorite fragrance or essential oil? What are your most popular scents?
Scent is a very personal choice; this is why KPS features a wide variety of soap scents at any given time as well as custom-scented goodies. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite scent as some days I like light, clean scents and other days I like deep, earthy scents. I don’t even have a favorite flavor of ice cream!

Where do you get your packaging ideas?
PastedGraphic-5I’ve been sewing since I was in grade school so it was natural for me to use fabric in my packaging. Like many new soapers, I tried wrapping my soaps with fabric and tying them with raffia. I soon grew tired of all that knotting and switched to boxes. I still use fabric, coordinating the colors and patterns of the fabric with the colors, scents and patterns of the soaps. My customers rave about my soap packaging; they reuse the fabric-wrapped boxes as bookmarks, drawer sachets and gift boxes.

What advice would you give to newbies?
Research, test and experiment with every product you make. Understand your ingredients. Use a preservative. Get insurance. You don’t need every FO/EO or every ingredient under the sun. Don’t rely too much on trends; you need to establish your niche and signature and provide your customers with reliable products. Read and apply the FDA rules and guidelines for labeling and product descriptions.

Do you have any funny anecdotes about unusual customers?
Well, I know there is a raccoon out there that figured out that chocolate chip scented soap is not very tasty! A friend of mine’s son took a bar camping. He was pretty surprised to find teeth marks in his soap one morning.

How did you come up with your company’s name?
As boring as it may sound, the name just popped into my head. Kettlepot. It just stuck. But after about 10 years as KPS I thought about changing the name to something more ethereal or evoking nature: Dragonfly something, Blue Moon something, Fair Maiden something (you get the idea). After searching a number of names, I realized that there are just too many soap companies with too many names in those categories. Rather than change, I decided to stay with Kettlepot ~ it’s established and unique. PastedGraphic-4
Website: http://kettlepotsoap.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kettlepot.soap

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KettlepotSoap

It’s Crafting Season ~ Consumer Beware!

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2013-2016

tapioca shampoo bar melt and pour soap handmade shampoo bar ebookAlthough Hobby Lobby has been displaying Christmas items since August, signs of the upcoming holiday selling season are  evident online. This is also the season when the newbies emerge. Beginning soapmakers, and other handmade bath and body products makers [lotions, lip balms, body butters, sugar and salt scrubs, etc.] are getting that “I wanna sell my handmade products” fever. People who don’t know the difference between melt and pour glycerin soap base from cold process soap from hand milled soap. Novice soapers who dump fresh fruit and veggies in melt and pour glycerin soap base [hello mold!]. People downloading free eBooks and making their first batch of lotion or a sugar scrub, minus preservatives. Others with little or no experience clamor to join the selling festivities on and offline at various crafty venues. Consumer, beware! 

I’ve included a section on premature selling in my latest eBook on marketing. I’ve also written an article about Melt and Pour Soap Basics. It took me six years before I began selling my soap and other products. During that time, I tested and retested recipes. I made many mistakes. I also invested lots of time and money, and gave away lots of soap to my testers before accepting a single dollar.

“No matter what method they use to sell their newfound wares, there are several problems with premature selling. One doesn’t bake a cake and decide to open a bakery. That may be their goal, but first they have to make dozens or hundreds of cakes in order to be a confident and skillful baker.” The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing

For the Consumer

If you want to buy handmade bath and body products online, make sure you check out the website very carefully. Any soaper worth his or her lye mixture will be able to convey their expertise. They know what type of soap they make, they know all the benefits of each ingredient, they usually mention how long they’ve been creating their handmade products. They may have photos or videos of their work area. There should be lots of testimonials from satisfied customers or peer reviews from other soapers. They might be a member of the Better Business Bureau, the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild, or the Indie Business Network.

When purchasing from a soaper offline you can tell by talking with them how much they know about their product[s]. How long have they been in business? Ask them what they use to color their soaps. Don’t ask for recipes or act like you want to make soap, unless they also teach soaping classes. Another way to test the soaper or salesperson is to inquire about the fragrance – is it an aromatherapy pure essential oil/blend of essential oils or a skin safe cosmetic fragrance? Soaps and/or other products with essential oils will generally cost a little more. Soapmakers usually are pleased to discuss their labors of love. Those who employ others to sell for them should also be well versed in what goes into these handcrafted products.

Beware and be aware of what you’re buying and we’ll all have a healthier and safer holiday season!