Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Give it time...

This week someone told me I was rude when I asked her if she felt she was ready to sell a lotion she had made for what sounded like the first time. I don't think I was rude, but even if I was, I think it is a question that should he addressed by anyone running a business.

Time is the essence when creating products. I made a beautiful turquoise body wash that became a mossy sea turtle green over six weeks thanks to the fragrance I chose. I've made fluffy sugar scrubs and thinnish lotions that become too thick to get out of the bottle after a few days. I've made lovely vanilla smelling lotions using cetyl esters that turned chemically smelling and green tea lotions that turned browny green. And don't get me started on my cupcake bath bombs made with vanilla fragrances that turned brown brown brown! In every case, if I hadn't waited to see how the product stood up over time, I'd have given a really ugly product to someone I liked and/or loved!

Ugly products aren't as concerning as unpreserved or underpreserved products, those with short lived oils, or those that separate. And this is why we need to give our products time. Lotions and products with butters can take a few days to reach final viscosity as the various fatty acids solidify. You need time to see how the products stand up in different temperatures and humidities. There are so many factors to consider and you can't do that in one or two days or even one or two weeks!

Maybe I was rude by asking the writer of a comment to think seriously about whether she was ready to sell the product, but if I prevented her from selling a product that was ill conceived, underpreserved or unpreserved, or just plain bad, then I guess I've done my job.

I'll finish off this post with a picture if a very fat hedgehog I met a few weeks ago. Is there anything as cute as a chubby hedgehog?


allaboutlavender said...

I totally agree! I have had many of the same experiences you have when trying a new recipe, even one that was supposed to be "great". There are so many variables even when using "the best" ingredients.

Bess said...

Given the legal liabilities inherent in selling any product, but especially bath and body products, it baffles me that anyone would venture into selling without extremely thorough research into EVERYTHING to do with their product. That certainly includes waiting around to see if anything untoward happens after time! As well as challenge testing, etc. Does the poster in question have business insurance? I certainly hope so, because getting a lawsuit without it would be financially disastrous.

Bess said...

PS That hedgehog looks exactly like my dearly beloved (and now sadly deceased) Jorgy. I miss her and her snuffly ways.

Lisa said...

Spot on. Test and then test and then test. Cold,warm, sunlight, dark, upside down etc. Great post!

Aljonor said...

I have been making my hair products for about a year and people have asked me to sell, sell, sell. I tell them the exact thing Susan. They just have to wait. It is not about the money; I want to have confidence in my product. Thus I spend a lot of spent time working on it. It took me a year to formulate the perfect conditioner for me and--just now--I discovered I like something better. I don't want to confuse customers and don't want to reformulate because I rushed. I only have confidence in products that pass the tests. I put them under a fungus test that I purchased from making cosmetics. I do, however, offer samples with a month expiration dates to friends for tips, but I would not run to sell any product I just made. If I decided to sell I will make sure the products have a short shelf life until I can afford proper testing.

Evik said...

I just wanted to thank you Susan for being here for us with all your knowledge. I have learnt a lot from you and still am.
As to my experience, I totally agree with all your points. Patience is SO IMPORTANT!
Please, keep writing your great posts!

Anonymous said...

All I can say is "amen sister"! You're so right Susan. I've also learnt from experience that it pays to be cautious, rather than assume a product is automatically stable etc. just because it seems so on the day of making.
A quick question about preservatives if I may. Do you know the trade name of pentane-1,5-dial/glutaraldehyde, which is being touted as a "natural" preservative? Once again, thanks for the always stunning info.

Organa said...

I totally agree with you Susan, why you're the best.
Many products are on the market that have these problems you said, some more rapids degrade others take longer, but one thing I say none of them last forever, I've seen commercial creams that change color, texture, appearance easily, perhaps because oxidation, contamination, improper packaging, but as the consumer is deceived by propaganda about a certain product and leaves such things go unnoticed due to clever marketing of the companies involved.
I would like to report a fact occurred, a person X bought a hair smoothing applied the product on the market and know what occurred was hairless, the company's claim was that the product was applied improperly.
I'd like your opinion about it.

Julie said...

I'm commenting in the off chance the commentor might see this.

To whoever you are, don't be dissuaded if you really want to sell. Like Susan says, it just takes time. I was just as excited as you are when I first started, and thought I could sell right away too. And let me tell you, I am so glad I didn't. I've made products that seemed amazing and then turned brown and gross later. You must know what your product will be like after several weeks. If I would've sold right away, I would've ruined my company name and possibly any future of doing business.
I know it feels like you were being yelled at, and trust me, I know how it feels to be hurt by something someone with a lot of experience says, but it really is just to help you. I've cried myself to sleep before thinking what am I doing? But yes, please give it time. We're all sensitive about our dreams when someone tells you you're wrong, but just try to take it as friendly advice. This is a wonderful place to learn. If you really want to make B&B products, don't give up! You will have haters, and mean people along the way, but Susan is not one of them. She is just honest and wants to see that you do this the right way.
So toughen up your skin and keep reading and researching. Give samples to friends to test, get feedback, and ALWAYS take notes and set aside some of your product to leave in a container to see how it looks after time. You want it to still be amazing when the customer goes to use it, even if its 2 months later!

PS- I always try to read advice and comments from others to me as if I was reading someone elses conversation, because that way you'll read it how it was written and not get overly sensitive about it. Sometimes reading something written to someone else will take on a totally different tone than if it was written to you. We are biased against our own dreams and way of thinking, and sometimes take things the wrong way.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Of course, couldnt agree more with Susan! C;

And to possibly answer/help "Anonymous", trade names of some glutaraldehyde-based
products are: Cidex, Sonacide,
Sporicidin, Hospex, and Omnicide.

However, reading through the MSDS, and OSHA guidelines, it looks like that compound is primarily for sanitizing, as opposed to preserving. Just what I've found anyhow, not meant to be the 'end all.' C;

Mychelle said...

Cute little hedgehog! I agree, give it time. I've been crafting bath and body stuff since 1998 (though much better since I found you!) and I just started charging my sister for her shampoo this month. At cost, not retail at that! Like any art or business, it takes time and practice to perfect an art.

Lise M Andersen said...

well put Susan, I couldn't agree more!

catherine said...

Wow I love what Julie had to say! Back in february I was frustrated that someone...anyone wasn't making a certain kind of product. Then when I learned I could buy the ingredients and make my own!?! Oh boy it was such a rush. After a few months of research/experimenting I made it. I thought, I'm gonna get rich! :) I'm not the only one who needs this and nobody else makes it...

Flash forward to about 6 months later. The first version worked great the first 2 weeks...mild irritation the next. I tweaked it again and again. Maybe it's ready now but I'm so much more cautious 6 months in.

That commentor shouldn't have called Susan rude...but I get the irrational exuberance that happens the first time you make lotion. :)

The person who suggested insurance...that's no joke. I think anyone selling should have insurance. It's relatively affordable at $395 per year.

Honestly...I hope nobody will take this the wrong way...if you can't afford the insurance you should *really* reconsider, adjust your business plan, etc. until you can. It would be financial devastation if someone says your lotion made their skin break out then sue you for everything you've got.

Anonymous said...

A few things. Most people I have meet who are selling homemade skin products dont have much to lose. They usually are just rent payers, have car that is owned by bank, and are on part-time wages elsewhere. So I believe for that person a better path would be to test, test test, sell small lots and get FEEDBACK over time. If the business model warrants escalating the production (thru stong sales) then and only then should they be considering the entry-level blockers such as insurance, attorney, incorporations, etc that will get very expensive very quickly.

catherine said...

Hmmm...I respectfully disagree. Attorneys, incorporations can wait. But not insurance. I know someone who was sued (different industry). Didn't have insurance. His current and *future* wages are being garnished. This has sapped him of all his ambition. Being sued can ruin your life. Better to somehow come up with the $395 for insurance. If your first year in business ends up not justifying the cost that's a small price to pay to live and learn and try again later. And no I'm not a paid spokesperson for indiebeautynetwork. :)

Bess said...

I have to agree with Catherine. Insurance is not in the same category as attorneys, incorporation, etc. If you get sued by a customer, don't have insurance, and don't have enough money to pay, the BEST thing that can happen is that you are forced to declare bankruptcy, thereby preventing you from getting a loan for the next ten years. Quite often instead, current and future wages are garnished, AND you are forced to declare bankruptcy, thereby quite seriously interfering with your daily living (especially if you are only barely scraping by as it is) as well as the afforementioned problems that come from declaring bankruptcy. It's really not worth risking.

People should also be aware that homeowners/renters insurance often does not cover property, supplies, and even the area of your house that is used for business purposes. That means if you have a fire in your home and everything is destroyed, your homeowners insurance will NOT cover the destroyed supplies and equipment you use to make your products. This can go so far as, if you have a room in your home dedicated solely to your business (for example, a room you use as your office), the insurance will not cover the damage to that part of the structure or anything in it. Because of this, anyone starting a home-based business is strongly advised to check the fine print on their homeowners/renters insurance policy, and if necessary, purchase business property insurance (it's different from your business liability insurance).

Also, home-based businesses fall under certain business tax laws, not individual tax laws (as in, you have extra taxes and have to fill out different forms when you're filing your taxes, even if you're working out of your own kitchen), so it's also a good idea to check your local, regional, and country tax code before selling anything. And in the US, at least, any self-employed person (which includes those selling soaps out of their kitchen) is required to pay self-employment tax as well as normal income tax if they earn over $600 a year (gross, not net) from their self-employment. It's about an extra 15%. Any income and self-employment tax on your self-employment income is also due quarterly through the IRS's Estimated Tax filing system, or you will be slapped with a fine (something like 10% of what you owe, if I recall correctly) when filing time comes due in April.

In other words, embarking on a money-making endeavor greater than selling a few of your old knick-knacks on Ebay is not as simple as taking a few nice pictures and opening an Etsy shop. It is wise to be aware of everything involved in running a business before you start selling anything.

catherine said...

Even if you have product liability insurance, there's an exclusion for mold/fungus (at least the one offered by indiebeautynetwork). That means if your product was not properly preserved and gets mold/fungi then you're not protected from a lawsuit even if you paid the $395 for insurance. Yikes!

If you can't afford challenge testing (I called some of the labs on this link: and I think it was around $1000) then definitely at least do a biosan test ( The biosan test kits are very affordable, $50 for 10 test slides. I bought; they're very easy to use.

Of course start out on the best foot by following the good manufacturing practices so kindly outlined in this blog. :)

I don't mean to be a drag. Heck I am splashing cold water on my own face as I type. :)

I still think lotionmaking is a great home business to start. Compared to other small businesses the initial costs are still minimal.

Anonymous said...

Susan - You were not rude, in the least? As demonstrated by all of the comments, testing, testing, testing, is extremely important! It's part of the process - we're not making chocolate chip cookies here, we're creating product that can seriously affect some one's health, if not formulated/preserved properly.
Love the hedgehog and love your blog and knowledge sharing even more!
Thank you for each and every post!

Julie said...

Thank you for the compliment, and more importantly for that link on insurance! I've been meaning to look into getting insurance and didn't know where to start, so thank you, very helpful! I just can't believe they don't cover mold/fungi, you'd think that would be the BIGGEST reason for purchasing insurance, and one the biggest liabilities of selling! That's a shame it's not covered. I will do some checking on if that's a universal rule with other insurance providers and post any info. Also, great find on the biosan kits! That one is at the top of my To Do Before Selling list.

Great info on the Homeowners insurance not covering business property. I just purchased Renter's Insurance a few weeks ago and was wondering if my supplies would be covered. I read my fine print and no, it is not. That would be financial devastation to me if I lost my supplies. I've put so much into them since I started purchasing ingredients.
I didn't even know there was such a things as Business Property Insurance. That is something I will be purchasing right away. Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing this topic up. You may have just saved me a huge loss from a future disaster!

I just love how nice and helpful everyone is on this blog. There are some places I've seen with nothing but holier-than-thou and figure-it-out-yourself attitudes. So happy I found this place. It's like a forum, help center, and chemistry class all rolled into one!

Bess said...

Julie, I'm glad I could help! I freelanced for a year and a half, and when I started, my husband and I debated turning our spare bedroom, which was the miscellaneous craft/sewing room, into a home office. Then we discovered that doing so would require us to get separate business insurance on that room, even if it only had a desk with a computer and a filing cabinet in it! We decided it wasn't worth it, and I ended up doing most of my freelancing from the recliner in the living room. (Also more comfortable.) If rooms/equipment are dual-use, they usually count under your homeowners/renters insurance (although it's probably a good idea to check anyway), but things that are exclusively for business purposes do not qualify. So you shouldn't need separate insurance for your kitchen, but you probably do need separate insurance for your supplies, and any equipment like scales or molds that you would have a hard time arguing serve a dual purpose. Honestly, I'd suggest talking to an insurance agent at your homeowners/renters insurance company as well as an insurance agent at wherever you purchase business insurance, just to make sure that you're covering all your bases. They know all the details of their policies and can be specific about what is and isn't covered if you give them examples.

I don't sell bath and body supplies myself, so I can't guarantee you that this is the best resource for your particular industry, but I've found the government website for small businesses,, to be filled with useful information. They have a lot of information on home-based businesses particularly.

Jen said...

Three years ago, I joined the Dish. For three years I have sucked up info between here, there and elsewhere like a proverbial sponge. Micelles, adsorb, lipo and hydrophilic and phobic... Disulfide bonds, oh my! All the knowledge won't make me a safe salesperson if I don't understand every step of my process and why I use the ingredients I do. and guess what? I am not there yet! I just don't understand the big push to sell. Stop and smell the rose hydrosol for a while and have fun learning the process!

Babou said...

Thanks so much to all of you! I sometimes feel like i'm an old grouch , complaining about irresponsible people.
I used to go on a french forum where there was this girl who had never made a soap or a cream in her life, but was set on selling her bath products not 6 months after joining! The worst was that she felt offended because I told her she was a danger to her future customers...

Sorry, english is not my mother tongue ;-)

Rocio said...

I'm agree with Susan, sometimes I have that problem. After several days, my creations become pink color.

My best regards

JW said...

Well, finding this site probably just saved my life, for I am one of those people that got sooo excited and was having so much fun making my sugar scrubs, that I wanted to share!..Thought our town Farmer's Market would be a good place to start...I did, however make some for my daughters for Christmas gifts and they really like them and have had no problems..did not realize that there could be a danger of contamination from water, and was looking more at the all natural factors. In all the sites I looked at for different recipes and ingredients, none said anything about adding a preservative. Well, I just started this little venture, and THANKFULLY have only sold 4 of my scrubs..Raw sugar, brown sugar, grapeseed oil and essential oils are the ingredients I used..I made single, 8 oz. batches, but made up about 5 different scents..4-6 jars of each...guess I'm gonna be dumping some products...Feeling very ignorant, embarresed and deflated, but thankful...will be taking a step back and rethinking...THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING YOUR WISDOM!!