How to Start a Soap Making Business

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How I started Lovely Greens Handmade and tips to help you take your soap making hobby to the next level. Includes my five main tips for starting a soap making business.

How I started Lovely Greens Handmade and tips to help you take your soap making hobby to the next level. Includes my five main tips for starting a soap making business #soapmaking #sidehustle

There are two questions that I get asked more than any others – how did you end up on the Isle of Man, and how did you become a soap maker? Funnily enough, the two are related, but before we get to that, let’s talk about you. I’m guessing that you’re either interested in learning to make soap or starting a soap-making business. You’re curious about what it takes and how to begin.

I’m going to tell you about how I started, and some things that I’ve learned along the way. Every person who wants to start a soap making business will come from a different background, life stage, financial position, and goal. Some broad points will help everyone, though, and I’m going to run through five of the most important:

• Be passionate about your product
• Know and reach your real market
• Tick the boxes of legality and safety
• Never stop learning
• Watch your business cents

How I started Lovely Greens Handmade and tips to help you take your soap making hobby to the next level. Includes my five main tips for starting a soap making business #soapmaking #sidehustle
Lovely Greens Handmade offers soap and skincare but I also teach soap making workshops

How I started my soap making business

Lovely Greens began as a hobby, a dinky little blog site, and a mountain of soap that I didn’t know what to do with. When I moved to the Isle of Man, I had time to immerse myself in my interests: green beauty, herbal medicine, beekeeping, and gardening. I started a blog to share ideas, but mostly to meet others who enjoyed the same interests. I was a stay-at-home wife with no kids and no local friends. This is no sob story, though!

My little blog started to do its job of connecting me to others —but it was helping people too. As I was learning and teaching myself how to do things like making handmade soap, I’d share it online. The way I share how to make soap comes from knowing what it feels like to be a novice. I try to remember that when I write anything it’s simple and clear and feel that it helps.

I don’t know how much money I spent on soap making ingredients back then (A LOT), but it wasn’t long before I had dozens of batches of soap lying around the house. Stacks of bars that represented a lot of indulgently spent money, because we all know how much you can rack up on a ‘few ingredients.’ That’s when I researched selling at the local farmers market and began to recoup my losses.

How I started Lovely Greens Handmade and tips to help you take your soap making hobby to the next level. Includes my five main tips for starting a soap making business #soapmaking #sidehustle
Circa 2012 and getting ready to sell soap at a local farmers market

Starting a Soap Making Business

Selling soap in Britain has become more stringent since then, but even in 2011, you needed cosmetic safety insurance and safety assessments for your products. My first step was buying a comprehensive soap safety assessment that would cost a fortune to get now. I then got my crafter’s insurance and applied for a stall at an upcoming Christmas market. I sold about £40 worth of soap that first day and couldn’t have been more pleased.

Over the next few years, I started ramping up the business and offering soap for sale on Etsy, my shop website, and local shops. I worked from my kitchen, and every penny of profit stayed with the business. Eventually, I was making a little money off ad revenue from my blog too. It started with about eight dollars a month, woo-hoo! Honestly, though, the only way that I was able to sustain my business at this point was through savings and my husband’s savings. We’d moved to the Island to start a new life and his new business, but time was beginning to run out. Our marriage was about to fizzle out too.

How I started Lovely Greens Handmade and tips to help you take your soap making hobby to the next level. Includes my five main tips for starting a soap making business #soapmaking #sidehustle
I bought my camper, Daisy Blue, to help me transport and set up stalls at local events

Time to make it happen

In late 2013, I was separated, alone on the Island, and left with no money other than the ten thousand in profits I’d made from Lovely Greens over the past two years. I couldn’t easily apply for a local job since I’d not been a resident for five years, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I knew that I couldn’t give up on Lovely Greens, though. It was time to get serious or have to move away.

Here we are now many years since, and in that time, Lovely Greens has grown. This website reaches thousands of people every day, and my YouTube channel does too. I offer soap making workshops, products, ebooks, an upcoming course, have been featured on television, and have just written a physical book that will be published internationally. I’m not bragging, though. The reason that I’m sharing this with you is that I want you to know where it started and how you could do it too.

How I started Lovely Greens Handmade and tips to help you take your soap making hobby to the next level. Includes my five main tips for starting a soap making business #soapmaking #sidehustle
I don’t do as many events these days, but in the early days I was selling soap in person most weeks

Be passionate about your product

When people are first starting off making soap, I always recommend beginning with tried and tested recipes. The reason? So that you succeed and make safe soap. Soap making is chemistry, and in a soap recipe, there’s a reason for every type of oil, gram of lye, and exact measurement of essential oil. As a beginner, you cannot throw a dash of this in or leave an ingredient out – making soap is not like baking a cake, and customizing a recipe can be complicated. If you’re just starting out, check out my four-part soap making for beginners series:

  1. Natural Soap Ingredients
  2. Soap Making Equipment & Safety
  3. Easy Soap Recipes
  4. Step-by-Step Cold Process Soap Making

After making many batches of soap, you start to understand the uses, ethics, and benefits of ingredients. That’s when you take it up a notch and can begin thinking about creating your own formulas. Some people are passionate just about the process of making soap, but to make it into a business, you also need to be passionate about the soap you’re making too. So passionate that you can get other people excited about it too. One of my passions is teaching others, so aside from physical products, I also run popular soap making workshops.

How I started Lovely Greens Handmade and tips to help you take your soap making hobby to the next level. Includes my five main tips for starting a soap making business #soapmaking #sidehustle
Create a product line that you’re passionate about but that gets others excited too

Know and reach your real market

Many of my customers are women who choose eco-friendly options, care about health, and love beautiful, natural products. I sell soap packaging-free to cut down on waste, avoid using palm oil because of its environmental impact, and naturally color soap with soft plant-based tones to look pleasing. I love the products I make, but I can sell them because other people want them too. The soap I make is for others, not for myself.

Soap making as a business is tough work, but unless there’s a group of people who want to buy your soap, your efforts could be a waste of time. Do your market research and look at what other soap makers are doing. Not to copy them, but to understand their business model. There are soap makers who market to manly men, to girly girls, to crunchy people, and to the luxury market. Know what you’re passionate about and identify your tribe. Then find ways to get your soap in front of them.

How I started Lovely Greens Handmade and tips to help you take your soap making hobby to the next level. Includes my five main tips for starting a soap making business #soapmaking #sidehustle
Making hygiene products like soap comes with a lot of responsibility for customer safety. It’s important to have insurance and to adhere to local regulations.

Tick the boxes of legality and safety

Soap making is a fascinating art, but there’s an element of danger in making it – handling and safely using essential oils, fragrances, and, most importantly, lye. I share soap recipes online mainly for those who want to make small batches for personal use. Screw up a small batch, and it’s no problem. Get a large batch wrong, and you could waste money or make unsafe soap.

That’s the reason why most western countries are strict about the legality and paperwork side of making soap for retail. You, first of all, need cosmetic safety insurance, to protect yourself and others if anything goes wrong. To get coverage in Britain, Europe, and potentially other places, you will also need a cosmetic safety assessment for every recipe that you intend to sell to the public. My soap safety assessments are through a certified EU chemist, but others offer the service too.

You need to keep precise records of batches you’ve made, ingredients you’ve used to make them, and create correct labeling and PIF files for recipes. To sell soap or hygiene items in the UK or European Union, you also need to submit all of your products to either region’s notification portals. To do so, you must have a responsible person living in those regions who can be a person of contact for your business.

Your country or region may have stringent guidelines regarding the legality of selling soap to the public. If you sell soap in another country, you have to comply with their laws too. Ensure that you tick all of the boxes to ensure you keep yourself and others safe.

How I started Lovely Greens Handmade and tips to help you take your soap making hobby to the next level. Includes my five main tips for starting a soap making business #soapmaking #sidehustle
One fun thing that you can keep learning is how to improve soap recipes and discovering new ingredients

Never Stop Learning about Soap Making

Making actual soap and products is just a tiny fraction of what I do. I also market it, maintain trade customers, run websites, do the accounting, take inventory, design labels, run social media, and so many other things. If I’m not on top of it all, then the business will suffer.

You can, of course, outsource many things but it will cost you. Designers are expensive, as are accountants, office managers, and every other person that you bring in. The more you can do yourself, the more financially viable your business will be at the beginning. And to keep on top of that, you need to keep learning.

Learning includes looking at trends in the market, keeping skillsets updated, and learning new ones that will help your business. Become a Jack or Jill of all trades, even if you don’t like wearing some of the hats. I’m personally not a fan of accounting, but learning Excel and having online accounting software saves a big chunk of change. When your business grows to the point where you can afford it, hire others to help.

How I started Lovely Greens Handmade and tips to help you take your soap making hobby to the next level. Includes my five main tips for starting a soap making business #soapmaking #sidehustle
Make sure you know how much it costs to make each of your products and to price them so that you make a profit.

Watch your business cents

When Lovely Greens was a hobby, I didn’t watch the money I spent, but that changed when I had to pay the bills. Being able to don many hats and do things myself has helped me to make Lovely Greens a business. Not just a side hustle either, but my main job.

One of the ways I manage that is that I am conservative with spending, and always look for the highest impact or quality for every cent I spend. In small soap-making businesses, your highest costs will be ingredients, brick-and-mortar, and staff. If you can initially work from home and do things yourself, then you will save a lot.

With ingredients, work out exactly how much you’re spending on making each bar and ensure that you’re making a worthwhile profit from each. Not just profit on top of material cost, but an amount that will compensate you for your time. If you’re using expensive luxury butters in your soap but your customers are moms on a budget, you may need to rethink your recipes, packaging, target audience, and prices.

Having business cents also means knowing when to say no. I’ve said no to shops for wanting to stock my products because they weren’t the right fit. I’ve said no to business proposals because they would take too much of my time or wouldn’t be financially beneficial. Being open to a yes is important when opportunities arise. But evaluating your situation and being able to say no can save your cookie.

Final thoughts on starting a soap making business

There’s a lot to starting any business, and it’s no different when you start a soap-making business. You have to be thoughtful, creative, on-target, always learning, financially adept, and, most of all, relentless. Lovely Greens is more than just a website or line of products to me – it’s become my life. Ask any successful business owner, and they’ll say the same.

I hope that my experience and tips answer any questions you might have about starting your soap-making business. If you have any others, though, please leave me a comment below. Oh, and to answer that first question on how I ended up on the Isle of Man, it was pure chance. You can learn more about that here.

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  1. Maheshika Rathnayake says:

    Dear Tanya, thank you for all the tips and advice on how to make soap. I loved reading on how you came to be a soap maker. I am from Colombo, Sri Lanka and I am planning on starting a small soap making business. I am very passionate about learning new things and thought why not turn it into a small business? I am reading and learning as much as possible so that I have a fair amount of knowledge before I start my first ever batch of soaps. Can you please advise on a simple beginner friendly soap recipe to try?

    We have an abundance of coconut oil in Sri Lanka and it’s very affordable.

    Also, can you please advise on what type of containers to use for mixing the water and lye solution and the final soap mixture? Plastic, metal containers etc

  2. I’m a new mom and have the opportunity to stay home. Long story short, I’d like to turn my breast milk into soap. I’ve seen some recipes but they are all with melt and pour soap bases and I’d like to make my own. Is there any information you have on this?

    1. Hi Sam, you can use breast milk as the ‘milk’ ingredient quantity in any soap recipe. I specialize in cold-process soap making and you’re welcome to use this goat milk soap recipe if you’d like to try making breast milk soap. Melt and pour soap is not suitable for adding milk to though. I’ve seen some tutorials online but they don’t tell you that the milk will turn the soap brown and moldy over time. Not a good idea at all.

  3. Thank you for sharing how you started your business, I have just started soaping and looking to make a business out of it. Did you find completing the CSPR easy as I feel like it’s all a minefield of how much documentation you need to maintain before you can go to market here in the UK along with then maintaining the PIF. I enjoy making the soaps and it’s pleasing to know how they’ve been made and with all natural ingredients which is great for the body.

  4. Nicole Feveyear says:

    Hello i am looking to start up selling soap to family and friends but want to make sure I am still do this legally. Please can you let me know what I need and where to get these from please

    1. Hi Nicole, laws and regulations vary from country to country, and sometimes region to region. It’s best to check out regional resources for the most accurate information.

  5. Suganya.s says:

    Hi, lovely greens..
    I’m suganya from Chennai, India. I seen Ur blogs it’s very interesting and so helpful tips mam.. 1 month before I started my soap business selling near my neighbours and friends . Everyone said it’s too good to use.. comparing to commercial soaps Ur soap very good.. I’m happy for that.. but one disadvantage was it’s dissolution soon . Can u give advice for how to long last my soap..

    1. The older your soap is, and the drier it becomes, the longer your soap will last. Keeping it dry between uses also helps!

  6. Love how you display your soaps, it shows the care you have about your business. Thanks for sharing your personal tips, specially about the cents. I’ve spent a lot with not so essential items before, but now I’m taking extra care.

  7. Samantha West says:

    Thank you so much for this blog post Tanya. I’m just about to start out and trying to figure out where to start! It seems like a bit of a minefield and expensive set up to begin with but I’ve wanted to make soaps and shampoo bars for a while and my crochet business is very seasonal (no one needs warm hats in the summer) so I need to diversify to be able to have a steady business.

    This has been really helpful, I have lots more to research – thank you.

  8. I just LOVE your page! I’m about to try my hand at the soap making business. There is so much information online that one could easily get overwhelmed!? I find everything I need to know on your page and everything is simplified. Thank you! Can you please tell me if any of your soaps are for eczema? My 3 month old little girl just recently broke out with it on her body on the arms, legs, and scalp. I hate to see her suffering. Please offer any advice. Also, do you have any advice about labeling, packaging and selling the product online? Trying to do everything myself to save money. I need to get started asap. I have a list of items already in my cart online at Walmart and I’m already at $150 to start.

    1. Hi Latonya, the best type of soap for those with eczema will have lower cleansing action. Meaning that it doesn’t lift as much oil from the skin. Taking too much of your body’s natural sebum away is one way to make eczema worse. I’d even say with a little one like yours to stop using soap and to only bathe her in water. Also, check the laundry detergent you’re using as it might be irritating her skin.

      Labeling rules/laws will differ based on where you are in the world. Here’s some guidance on what needs to appear on labels in Britain:

  9. Krasimira Peneva says:

    Thank you, Tanya! This is really inspiring! My story is a kind of yours and really – Soaping become my life! Even when someone new says to me: “Hi, I am … somebody”, I answer: “Hi, I am K… (my soaps)
    Soaping is the only sure thing I can do and in which I am curious, in which I still spend money for learning and for everything…
    Thank you for your inspiration!
    And – the site is really beautiful!

  10. Dear Tanya, you have such a beautiful spirit—I always feel your love and energy coming through your posts. Thank you for showing leadership and inspiring living that is good for our earth, ourselves and all living things. I also really connected with your story and your strength to close a chapter and work hard on a new path. I’ve always been curious about soapmaking and was instantly hooked after trying a few batches. In many ways it has been healing for me—oh the joy of cooking it up and feeling that trace! Aside from an expensive gadget do you have any tips for how to get the bars so nicely and evenly cut? Thanks again for sharing your light and passion!

    1. Hi Shari and thank you for the lovely message :) I’m very happy to share my story and recipes and am really pleased to be able to introduce others to soap making! As for cutting bars nicely — a simple way is to use a mitre box and a blade that will fit inside the grooves.

  11. Melanie Parkinson says:

    Thank you Tanya for a really interesting post. I am just getting ready to start selling my soap and the nearer I get the more nervous I am about it.
    I found your story so inspiring.
    Thank you x

  12. Carolyn Ross says:

    Good morning,
    Thank you Tanya for sharing your life and passions with us newbies out here in internet land. You are an inspiration and a wealth of information. I also love the earth and am trying to live as naturally as possible. I am from West Virginia in the United States and am from pioneer stock. I have learned many things from my Mom who lived to be 93 years young. She was raised in a log cabin on a small mountain and learned from her grandmother the old way of doing things. It so very fascinating and interesting to realize that if we just use our instincts and heritage how enjoyable life can be. Being from poor and undereducated ancestors who were brave, enduring and God loving has been a blessing to me. A good work ethic you must have. The photos show that you look like work in every way. Hats off to you to being a person who enjoys the earth, caring for it and caring for yourself and loved ones. Your site is such a pleasure to view. Best of luck and God Bless You!

  13. Lovely to find out the origin of your soap making Tanya and I for one am glad you turned it into a business!!

  14. Hi Tanya, i'm endlessly fascinated at how a person's passions can lead into a really good business – and yours is! I've loved using your soaps, the smell alone feels like giving myself a treat each morning, with the bonus that I feel they were made by an internet friend. One question: would you think of turning your talents to making shampoo? I always buy natural anyway and would love my hair to smell as good as my skin! Caro xx
    Ps. Love the photos in this post, your packaging is very enticing and quite beautiful!

    1. Ah, you're welcome – it's deserved praise! Thank you for the link to Faith in Nature. After a quick look, I'll be returning for an in depth read of their online store, it certainly looks very good. We have a couple of very good health food stores locally, I may find it there but online works for me. C xx

  15. An inspirational post. You have created a lovely business with a strong eithical approach. Well done Tanya, your soaps look fantastic.

  16. I really enjoyed this post, I had a similar journey. Your soaps look great, even better that you have found a way to share your knowledge.

    1. I agree Liz…blogging has been such a fabulous way to learn new skills and to share what you've learned. Technology is good! :)

  17. I am interested on hearing what legislation there is around soapmaking etc I make my own face and handcream and have wondered about selling it but am worried about red tape

    I have made soap in the past but was never happy with the results I may have another go soon…..after your inspiratiinal post

  18. Lindsey @ Bear Soap says:

    I agree – yes, yes, yes!

    I started making soap because I'm a science geek and loved the method – mixing and temperatures and additives and all that good stuff. THEN I started to see a dramatic difference in how my skin looked and felt and finally got what all the fuss was about.

    Natural is better! For us and the environment. (The science part of it is just a nice little bonus!)

    1. Soap making definitely appeals to those of us who love science, cooking, and art :) Thanks so much for dropping by Lindsey and for sharing your own experiences.

  19. Tanya – You are an inspiration!

    We all need to examine the fine print of everything we purchase in order to prevent as many chemicals as possible from entering our bodies / homes.

    1. You're too kind Dani :)

      It's a scary thing to do…examining the ingredients of everything in your house. But I agree that it's something that we all must do to ensure that we understand the risks involved in eating and using various products. The information is out there and no one can better protect your family than yourself.

  20. Your soaps are beautiful and I am going to put in an order when I get paid at the end of the month. Do you wash your face with them and if so what would you recommend for aging skin with acne please. Thank you xxxx

  21. Really lovely post Tanya! Thanks for sharing! You're making me want to make soap now but I'll never have the time!

    1. I know what you mean Claire…there's a saying that I remind myself of from time to time: You can do anything, but you can't do EVERYthing.

      But that's okay since if some of us make soap and others make jams, candles, textiles, artwork, clothing, etc we can all help each other out by trading :)