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Monthly Archives: July 2013

How It’s Made – Zen Garden

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How It’s Made – Zen Garden


I’m one of those people who can smell a fragrance or essential oil and see colors and design almost instantly. When I stumbled upon Bramble Berry’s Bonsai Fragrance, I was not only instantly in love with this fragrance but I saw a calm, serene Zen Sand Garden.  Bramble Berry describes this fragrance as:  a Floral Fresh fragrance with Citrus and Pine accords, having some Tropical Fruits and Wood tones on background.

The first obstacle for constructing this batch of soap was figuring out how to make the soap rocks. Thankfully I stumbled across a wonderful soap rock tutorial put together by Amanda Griffin of Lovin Soap.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pics of me making the soap rock batch. Essentially it consists of making about a 2 pound batch of “rock colored” soap with several mica pencil lines. I used Activated Charcoal for my dark grey rock color with Sky Blue Mica and Magic Yellow Mica from the Conservatorie for the pencil lines.


Once the soap rock batch has saponified, it’s time to make some rocks! I set up my work space with the rock soap loaf, a towel for my newly made soap rocks to relax, a bench knife/ scraper to cut my soap (really any knife will do) and a bowl of water to “polish” my rocks with.  Feel free to wear gloves to form the rocks.  My batch was very mild so I opted not to wear them this time.


Then I start cutting off various sized slices to make my rocks.


To shape the rocks, pick up one of the pieces and start mashing and rolling them into rock shaped pieces. Since I’m making a Zen Sand Garden I wanted mostly flatter rocks but threw in some round ones too.

While your mashing and rolling your soap rocks, you’ll notice that the rocks get a bit sticky and semi-jagged looking. Smooth them out by dunking them in water. Then set them on a towel to dry.


Check out the mica veins!! Pretty snazzy!

Ok step one complete time to make the batch! Using my palm free recipe, I set up my work space. I’ve pre-mixed some Titanium Dioxide, Aqua Pearl Mica and Peak Green Mica. I want to add a pop of color to the base of each bar so I’m going to create a quick swirl in the base of the mold before I pour in my “sand” soap.


Now it’s time to make the swirl. I pour about a quarter cup of lightly traced soap into the green and aqua colors. I add about a cup of lightly traced soap into the white. I’ll be using the extra white soap to lighten my “sand” batch. Time to swirl!!


Next I prepare my “sand” batch. I add about a half cup of the white swirl soap to my main sand batch and add a half cup of Ground Apricot Kernel Seed for the sandy texture that I want to create.  Incorporate well with a spatula.


At this point my batch has started to thicken. I gently spoon the sand batch on top of the swirled base.


Once all of the sand soap has been added, I give the mold a couple of good whacks on the countertop to even it all out.
Now it’s time to “Rake” my Zen Sand garden. I find that my son’s smaller, lighter plastic fork works best for this task. A regular fork was just a little too heavy and my lines were too deep.
Using light pressure, I rake the soap towards myself in straight lines.
Once the entire surface has been raked, I add a bit more interest by randomly raking in figure 8’s and circles.
At this point, I add in my dividers and randomly add my rocks onto the surface of each bar. This way I don’t have to worry about cutting through any of the soap rocks.
Voila!! Zen Garden Soap.


New Batches

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This past week has been a busy and productive one on the soap making front.  I see some future tutorials that will need to be made…the slab mold mantra swirl is one for sure.  But for now, just kick back and check out some soap porn!


Summer Breeze in the mold


Summer Breeze Cut


5 more pounds of Oatmeal, Goat’s Milk and Honey…I can never make it fast enough!


More LoveSpell…not super happy with the end result but they can’t all be winners


New batch of Cherry Blossom…YUM


Cool Citrus Basil in the mold…


Cool Citrus Basil cut


Honey Wheat Ale Beer Soap…LOVE this one!


Black Raspberry Vanilla…expect a tutorial on this one!


Black Raspberry Vanilla cut…Drool Worthy!

You’ll be able to find all of these in a few weeks at:


Starting a Soap Business, Bubble by Bubble – Setting up the Business Side of things

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Starting a Soap Business, Bubble by Bubble – Setting up the Business Side of things

As creative types, we all have grand aspirations and dreams when it comes to starting our own soap business. We imagine either a cute, kitschey brick & mortar shop or a  kick ass e-commerce site with hundreds of sales on a weekly basis.  No more day job or douchey bosses…YAY!  Only…it’s not as easy or it doesn’t happen as quickly as we’d like to think.

Obviously, I’m assuming you’re already an amazing Soap Maker and you’re ready to take that next big business-ey step.  This is a general road map I used to start my own online business.  I’ve yet to open a brick & mortar shop so no advice on that unfortunately.  This is not the end all be all and I don’t claim to have all of the answers, just some.  Here goes:

Step 1

After you’ve chosen your business name, obtain your business’s Employer ID number.  It’s like your business’s social security number. Best part…it’s free!!  You can get it here.

Step 2

You’re going to want to separate your personal assets from your business assets.  The best way to do this is to set your business up as an LLC or a Corporation. There are plenty of other options…however, these two seem to be the best choices in my opinion. These two are your best options for separation of liability and pass through taxation.  The simplest way to distinguish between the two…an LLC does not require any additional annual paperwork BUT an S-Corp does.  I would choose the cheapest option.  I chose an S-Corp for this reason.  In my state, an LLC costs $300/year but an S-Corp costs $100/year.  I’d rather buy more fragrances with the extra money.

I’m going to over simplify a bit here… setting your business up as either one of these entities makes your business stand alone.  For example, if your business were to go bankrupt, only the business would suffer a bankruptcy…not you or your personal assets, just the business’s assets.  Please, feel free to do any additional research on these.  I’m really just summing it all up.

To file your business as an LLC or Corporation, there is NO need to spend a ton of extra money to do so.  Although, if you have the funds, by all means…hire someone to help you out.  As far as I know, each state has their own .gov sites where you can file all of the necessary paperwork online.  There are certain online legal companies that will charge you hundreds of dollars for this simple task.  For an example, check Tennessee’s online business filings here on their .gov site. As you can see, you can register your business online, submit annual reports for your s-corp and pay your sales tax… all online.

Just Google: register my business as an LLC or Corporation for your state.  Follow the link to your state’s .gov site.  The site will walk you through each step to register your business.  Be sure to print out everything and keep a paper trail of all applicable business documents.


It was getting boring…here’s a quick laugh for ya!


Obtain your business license and register your business to collect your state’s sales tax.  This can all be done online as well through your state’s .gov site.  I know…your brain is probably ready to explode.  It’s a lot of initial work that we creative types really don’t want to have to do…but if you wanna become a bona-fide business…you gotta do the hard, boring stuff.  To help simplify things a bit…here’s a wonderful  alternative reference for permitting and business licenses through the SBA. Click me!

You can apply for your Sales and Use tax online. Again, this can be done through your State’s .gov site.  You can also pay your tax online.  Currently, this tax is only applicable for your specific state. A law was just recently passed requiring businesses with revenues exceeding a million in annual sales to charge sales tax for every state.  We’re the little guys, we don’t have to worry about that nonsense yet! Sales Tax that needs to be collected includes all of your internet sales made within your own state and local sales (like at a Craft Show or Farmers Market).  You can pay your sales tax quarterly or annually.  Quarterly tends to be a more affordable way to pay.  Simple math to pay your Sales Tax…Let’s say your Sales Tax is 10% and your in-state revenue for the current quarter was $300:

$300 (in-state revenue) x  .10 (10% sales tax) = $30 owed in State Sales Tax

Step 4

Open a business bank account to keep your personal and business finances separate.  Not only will this help you keep a solid grasp on monies coming in and out, but it will protect you if you ever get audited.

Step 5

GET INSURANCE!!!!! Before you sell anything.  We live in a sue happy society…don’t get caught with your pants down.  You have multiple solutions for insurance.  If this is your first year selling soap, you may not come close to $5,000 in revenue for your first year after all of your start up costs have been factored in.  For a cheaper alternative for insurance, check out RLI.  The policy will only be about $200-$250 per year but your revenues must be under $5,000 annually.  Once you break the $5,000 annual revenue mark,  get your insurance through the Handcrafted Soap & Cosemetic Guild OR the Indie Beauty Network.  With membership, they’ll both run you about $500 annually.  This will most likely be amongst your largest investments, but you HAVE to protect yourself and your business.  Insurance is a non-negotiable necessity.

Step 6

Have a good accounting system and inventory system in place.  If you decide to hire someone for this and can afford it….DO IT!  If not and you’re broke like me, I recommend Outright or QuickBooks for your accounting needs.  You have to get into the habit of tracking all monies going out and coming in.  Trust me this will save you so much time and energy in the long run! Keep all of your receipts and again, be sure to keep your business and personal finances separate.

For inventory, try out the SoapMaker 3 Software.  Or go old school with Excel…whatever works best for you and your budget…just be sure to track your supplies and product!

Step 7

Build a budget for your first year (then every year after that).  You’ll need some sort of guideline to keep your spending in check and something that will give you a physical example of your projections vs. your actual revenue and expenses.  I know this is difficult for a lot of people so you can hire out for this if you just can’t wrap your brain around it (seek out a local account) or you can Google the hell out of creating your own budget.  Here’s a decent article I found explaining how to set one up. Budget help, Click Me!!

Step 8

Kick back and have a margarita or a pint of ice cream! That was hard work and you haven’t even made any soap yet!

I think I’ve covered all of the start-up business topics without delving into branding, marketing, wholesaling and setting up shop.  Those posts will come later! Hopefully this was helpful and I know, it was sorely lacking in pictures so here’s one of my son riding my dog like a pony: