I first met Jennifer from Skyline Soapworks on YouTube world. I started a Facebook group (Bath and Body Youtubers) and after she joined us there, she would share her videos with the group. I always looked forward to her videos as she makes some awesome looking soaps. I recently found out that we have something in common…we each have two sons who play or have played Minecraft. We not only bonded over soap making, but also our virtual talk of slaying dragons and riding pigs. Okay, now that you all think I am totally bonkers, let’s get to know Jennifer a little better.
How did you get started in soap making? I actually started making soap about 13 years ago. My then-husband and I were living in the Finger Lake region of NY. We didn’t have children at that point and didn’t know very many people in the area, so I was in need of a hobby! I have a degree in Molecular Biology (I learned how to play with DNA) and before getting into teaching I worked in a research lab as a technician, so the scientific aspect of soap making appealed to me. Combining oils, butters, and lye in order to make a fabulous bar of soap was right up my alley! That and I’ve always been creative, so again, soap making just seemed like the perfect combination of science and art! At that point I was hot process soaping with my crockpot.
A couple of years later we moved to Virginia, and I did continue making soap, but only for about another year. At that point I was working earning my teaching credentials, which was taking up a lot of my time, and soon after we started our family, so unfortunately, soaping kind of fell by the wayside. I missed it terribly though. Seeing soap makers at craft fairs just brought it all back, and I always would wish I was still doing it.
About 18 months ago I noticed my oldest son developing eczema. He has unfortunately gotten his problem skin from his mommy. That gave me the motivation to start digging through all my equipment to see what was salvageable, and I jumped right back in! I knew anything I made would be better for his skin that anything bought at the store. There was an immediate improvement in his skin! Since then, there has been no turning back for me! I absolutely LOVE creating soap!!!
How long have you had your business? Even though I’ve been making soap off and on for SEVERAL years, I’ve only been selling soaps as Skyline Soapworks for about 9-10 months now. I have a VERY entrepreneurial spirit, so having a business was an obvious step for me.
What products do you offer your customers? Bar Soaps of course, as well as liquid soap, lip butters, butter bombs, and a body cream that I call my Cocoa Butter Body Mousse. J Once awhile I try and sit down a make some of my crocheted Scrubbie Soap Sacks.
I’m satisfied with my current variety of products, although once I start thinking I might want another product I won’t rest until I make it happen! Haha
What is your best selling product? Scent? My bar soaps are by far my best selling products. I use lots of goodies in them such as tussah silk, shea butter, avocado oil, colloidal oatmeal, kaolin clay, and a blend of four milks. They are YUMMY!
Scent-wise, my top sellers are a split. Pumpkin Pie Soap, which has pureed pumpkin, has such a delicious scent! It’s a year-round top seller because not only does it smell wonderful, but the pumpkin gives it an extra kick for your skin. Pumpkin contains vitamins and antioxidants that have some amazing skin benefits.
Another top seller is Camo Gal Soap. The fragrance, which I use in several other products, is a little bit fruity and a little bit floral; just a fresh and fun scent. Plus the pink camo design is so darn cute!
Do you have specific goals? In one year? In two years? I’ve signed up for a farmers market this year. I only signed up for 8 Saturday’s for the season, as I wasn’t sure if I could keep up considering the cure time for soap, working full time, and now being a single mom. So I guess my first goal would be to increase my soap production enough that I can do even more markets next season, as well as participate in some of the bigger events that my area has in the fall/holiday time.
I would also love to get a couple of wholesale accounts. I currently have one with a local pottery gal who makes some fabulous pieces including shaving bowls. I make shaving soaps for her to market along with her bowls and I anticipate that to be a fun account for me. But I would also love to see my products in a cute gift shop or spa. Or work with one of the many vineyards and/or brewery’s in my area to create soaps made from their vintages and brews. Using beer and/or wine in soap makes for a fabulous bar!
Tell us about a time when soaping didn’t go the way you wanted. What was your “great catastrophe”? Haha! That would probably be my recent experimentation with the shaving soap I mentioned above. When I took that account on, I decided to make a soap that would be perfect for wet shaving with dual lye, additional stearic acid, etc. Stearic can be a pain to work with, especially at higher percentages. For one thing, it needs to be HOT to melt and I work at room temp when I soap. Another thing is that is reacts with lye almost immediately. Going in I knew all this and anticipated it. I thought I was being smart and added the stearic to the lye before making sure all of my oils were combined with the lye. For some reason I thought that adding some of my oils afterwards would keep the mixture fluid enough to get into the mold without a problem. Yeah…that didn’t work out. It turned into soap on a stick almost immediately and the additional oils didn’t have a chance to react with the lye at all. The soaps were VERY rough looking and VERY soft. More than likely they have A LOT of free oil in them.
I learned from that mistake and soldiered on. I made some adjustments and the next batches went MUCH better! I’m actually considering increasing my percentage of stearic the next time around, so wish me luck!
How do you keep your customers satisfied and coming back? I try to come up with new scents and designs to keep things interesting while making sure that customer favorites are kept in stock. I love my customers and know that without them I would simply have a room with hundreds of bars of soap. I try to make sure that they know how much I appreciate them by including little thank you’s in their packages and giving them samples. I LOVE giving away samples! I always make some with every batch because I think it’s important to let them sniff, as well as be able to give them a try! I also love and encourage requests and custom orders. It’s so fun to create something because a customer has specifically asked for it!
Also, communication is key. From initial contact, through the actual sale, to ensuring that they love their purchase…I try to keep in touch as much as possible and let them know that I’m available to answer ANY questions they may have!
What advice would you give someone who wants to set up their own soap making business? Follow your dream. Yes, you have to do your research. And yes, you have to make sure that you are keeping things legal. And yes, in soap making you HAVE to make sure you are creating a SAFE product, but I’m a dreamer. I understand how it feels to just know in your heart that this is what you want to do, and how it feels to believe in it.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not think people should run to Walmart and Lowes, but some oils and lye and sell what they’ve made the next day. Like I said, there is a considerable amount of research and LOTS of practice that has to happen before you are ready to sell. BUT, follow your dream and don’t let ANYONE deter you. Anyone worth having in your life will believe right along with you.
Who would you like to thank the most for their support of your business? My parents and brother and sister. They have believed in me from day one and are not only my biggest supporters, but also my biggest cheerleaders. There have been a lot of changes in my life recently, and even though they live about 7 hours away in Western NY, they have been there for me in every possible way. They have encouraged me to dive into this business to see what I can make of it, and if they were here, they’d be at every market, every event, and probably at my house helping me wrap and label product!
And I would be totally remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to my beautiful boys, Riley and Kaden. Anyone who watches my YouTube videos has heard them in the back ground as they are ALWAYS trying to find a way to get on camera! HAHA. They think mommy’s soaps are “awesome” and “beautiful” and they think it’s SO cool that people love them enough to buy them! In fact, Riley is convinced I’m going to be “famous” someday! HAHA!!!
Where can you be found on the web along with social media? Well…where do I begin? I have my Etsy store (www.skylinesoapworks.etsy.com) along with my Facebook Business Page and Group (facebook.com/skylinesoapworks and facebook.com/groups/skylinesoapworks respectively). You can also watch me create my various soaps on my YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9DwIp6EzkChWgzw6tBnB8Q). In addition, I’m on Instagram (www.instagram.com/skylinesoapworks) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/skylinesoap).
I want to give Jennifer a great big thank you for allowing me to tell her story and to allow us all the opportunity to get to know her better. All too often we watch artists on video or talk to them through the world wide web and are clueless to HOW or WHY they started their business. I hope that Jennifer and myself are helping people understand that anything is possible if you have passion and love for the art.
If you are interested in participating in our Artist Spotlight, contact me at www.dandicreations.com and submit your email address and we will contact you.
Stay tuned for our next Artist Spotlight, where you will meet Kris from Kayorcee Creations!