Thursday, December 31, 2015

Some more thoughts on selling your products...

I saw a comment the other day on this post with my thoughts about selling products - which I deleted because I don't allow anonymous comments - where the person called me "conceited and grouchy". and said they wouldn't visit the blog again. If saying that I'm a good formulator  who makes good and safe products means that I'm conceited, then I guess the shoe fits! Grouchy? Yeah, I'll cop to that, too. I do get grouchy when I see people who have been making products for all of five minutes selling because it's a simply a bad idea.

If you learned how to sew today, would you put up an Etsy page next weekend offering to custom make dresses? If you learned how to make a cake, would you open a bakery in a few weeks? If you fixed your toilet, would you buy a van to promote your plumbing business? No, you wouldn't, because you recognize that it takes time to learn the skills to create an awesome business.

I honestly don't understand why it's different for bath and body products. I've taught classes to people who have never made lotions, only to see them selling them a few weeks later. I'm flattered that you like the recipe I've created so much that you want to sell it, and I'm excited that you caught the lotion making bug, but it really does take time to learn all the things that go into making a good product. You don't know how the emulsion, the preservative, the fragrance, the packaging, and everything else will stand up over time. Making mistakes is part of this process, and learning what you need to know isn't an overnight thing.

Making bath & body products is an experiential thing. Read, make, read some more, make, read, research, make, make, make. You need that bulk experience in making the products to know what can go right and wrong. And it's so much fun! Why would you miss out on all that fun? 

I've seen people say that people like me are trying to dissuade you from selling products because I'm scared of the competition. I don't sell things, so you're not competition. But let's say this was true, that I was worried about the competition, consider this - would I be handing out my recipes for free?

The answer is probably, because different hands create different products. Even if we both followed the recipe exactly, there'll always be something here or there that will create a slightly different product. 

If someone is offering you business advice, don't brush it off with "you're jealous" or "haters gonna hate". Listen, because that person could be offering you some very good constructive criticism that your ego is preventing you from hearing. You may not want to hear it, but often those are the things we need to hear the most.

To be truthful, it has no impact on me if you choose to sell what you make. What I care about is someone claiming that the separating, mouldy lotion they made a few weeks ago is "Swift's recipe". My name is on the recipes on this blog and in the e-books because I stand behind them being good and safe recipes, but that's only if someone makes it responsibly, following good manufacturing processes. Please don't sully my name.

If all of this doesn't convince you that it isn't wise to sell products when you're just starting out in this wonderful hobby, then please consider this: If you put out a terrible product, your name will be mud before your business has even started. Someone might not come back to you and tell you your product sucked, but it will get around. They'll tell their friends, and you will lose business without knowing why. (And think about what might come up in a Google search for your business...)

At the very least, even if you ignore everything I suggest, think about the impact putting out a poorly made product will have on your brand. All the work you've put into your logo, your website with the gorgeous photography and lovely fonts, your social media sites, and everything else is pointless if your products aren't also awesome!

Thus endeth the rant...


Robyn said...

Yep. At one point I was thinking about selling products but then I read some more about insurance, preservatives, legal claims and I realized that I would have a lot more fun just giving away what I make to friends and family knowing that they aren't likely to sue me or scandalize my name if something goes wrong. They think I'm wasting my talent and when I try to explain all I'd have to go through, they still don't get it. Anyway, HAVE A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR when it comes and I look forward to more amazing posts in the future.

Caroline said...

Fantastic rant ;)) this is where I am at at the moment - learning as much as I can and experimenting so I can create awesome products, your blog is a dream, I recently did an online skin care course which was very informative but then they wanted to sell you more courses to do with business and selling the products, easy to get on this roller coaster. Glad I got off and am enjoying experimenting and learning. Keep up the good work and a very happy new year to you and your family.

Kim said...

I've been following your blog and making products for almost four years, and I don't sell what I make. It's not about the money for me, it's about learning the chemistry and formulating really awesome products for myself! As a consolation since I don't sell, I know I've saved some money making my own products, and have acquired a wealth of information along the way. After learning about challenge testing, marketing, insurance, packaging, logos, etc. I found that that part of it wasn't interesting to me and would distract from making stuff. My friends get really awesome gifts, and love it when I share. You bring up some excellent points that, unfortunately, those who are focused on money will have a hard time taking to heart. I appreciate and thank you! Happy New Year!

Lisa said...

I'm with you on this one. I love how informative you are. Your blog is my reference every time I need troubleshooting. I have been learning to make products for three years now, and I am still learning. I make products mostly for myself. On occasions, I make small batches and I give some away to family and friends. I am still testing and testing because I am a perfectionist. I like feedback from friends and family too, so I am not delusional.

Dipper Harbour Diva said...

I've just discovered your Blog and wanted to says thanks for some very seasoned advice.

I have made a small intro batch of soap from the book "Soap Crafting". Red palm oil, coconut oil, olive oil, & sodium hydroxide. I've purchase the necessary safety eqpt. as well as a stick blender, scale, a couple of bowls & measuring items. My mold was a waxed cardboard orange juice container & I have 8-10 bars of orangy yellow, non-scented soap. I estimate by the end of Jan. it should have had sufficient time to cure and harden as much as it will. It's rather dark in the middle & slightly more light on the edges of the bar.

So - in saying all that, what does one attempt next? What's the time-frame from hobby to business? What is the appropriate learning curve, before selling your soap? Practice is all that will make improvement but how do you determine what supplies should come next? Pick one recipe & do that? - buying for each next project only? Or look for suppliers who match the way you'd like to do "business" and purchase quantity? I'd like to emphasize goat milk & organic/natural ingredients.

Maybe you've already covered this in your blog - I haven't gone thru all your posts yet. My small city has one - perhaps 2 others making soap. One is a farmers' market kind of production, the other has a retail store. From the start, I'd like to set my products apart from competition, once I get my head around more of the chemistry.

Anywhere - I guess I'm looking for more of your good advice. Thanks so much.

Leslie said...

HI Susan,

I have seen, in my neck of the woods, a huge increase in bath and body products being sold at local craft fairs. I always like to look at the ingredients and talk with the crafter (friendly never confrontational). I got this recently,me: so how long have you been making products, her: OH I've been non-stop for almost a year. Well, I've been doing home crafting for at least 4 years and if I get 2 batches of lotion to come out really similar, I feel pretty good! I like the learning and every time I make something, I learn something, even when it is a product I've made many time before.
Someday, I may sell products but that day is pretty far away.

Love your blog more that words can say!!!!

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. I have been making products for almost 5 years and I still feel like I have much to learn. I don't sell. I love making and experimenting. I don't know if I will ever venture into selling. The thought of making the same thing over and over again because I have to kinda would take the fun out of it for me. I like changing things up, trying new ingredients and experimenting.

Brandi Yates said...

Ive been making beauty products for 5 years now and I have no problem selling them the problem is no one is buying them. I was hoping to make some of the 5,000 ive spent on learning and ingredients to put back in my pocket but its not happening.

Nerium said...

I am brand new at making soaps and creams from scratch and my search for conditioner recipes brought me here. I feel like I've stumbled across the holy grail of cosmetic recipes. I hope that people take your warnings seriously about selling people products without having the experience required to provide safe products to consumers. I have worked with chemicals (mostly pesticides) for many years and even those listed as natural, safe and organic require knowledge and care when mixing, using and storing the components. Our skin absorbs chemicals readily and I would not be impressed if I discovered that a product I bought was made by someone who had no idea what they were doing. Thank you, by the way, for all of your research on these topics. I'm going to try your solid conditioner recipe (for myself!) and I'll let you know how it turns out!

Fiona Harrison said...

I know, I have been making products as a hobby for nearly 14 years and have enrolled in a formatting course before I do more R&D to try and sell more widely.. I have only sold a few items, made from a recipe I have tweaked from a lotion making day, that is tried and true over nearly 10 years, and only to my work mates.

Nancy Liedel said...

Thus endeth the rant. Which is my rant. I formulated for five years and was about to really open, but my remitting/relapsing MS came at me with a vengeance. After several lye burns worth treating and several drops of things you should not drop (I made soap too), it became apparent that the idea of someone whose hands shook as they mixed product, gloved properly in my formulary, I could not safely sell what I made. It broke my heart. I loved Cosmetic Chemistry and the geek in me was almost desperate enough to try. The person in me who really cares about my customers told me to find another path. I took my education, my chemical knowledge and began dyeing yarn. I had the color mixing down, the science of dyeing yarn is very similar and I had a lot of things I could use to transition. I sold a lot of my equipment and moved to dyeing. My education started anew and I'm ready to sell now. I learned the value of education before sales. I decided the hanks of yarn I tested on were the cost of that education and it came to be about what a university education cost, if you go for a two year degree. I am confident I am ready. I tried to rush it and got frustrated, but I just kept reminding myself education makes you better.

It's hard to be humble and know you know so little. To start over, to start and know part of your education is making mistakes you cannot use, sell, etc. Learning to label properly, learning laws, learning that there is no such thing as a shortcut and I'm a better dyer for it. I was a good formulator. I'm a good dyer. I'm not the greatest, I'm good. I wanted my work and products to be safe, but more importantly, I want to be safe. Handle all items with care, dyes, etc, because my life is worth more than an injection of cash that does not come from extremely safe practices. Once, I was all cocky and knew it all. I knew so little. I didn't know how much I didn't know.

This is a fabulous business. Chemistry is my jam and I found a way to make it work for MS lady. I just don't mix colors that are sensitive to minor changes on days I can't feel my feet, or hands. I am not standing on a mountaintop. I don't have a mountain to stand on. I have a little hill of who I am and what I learned. What you taught me was to be safe, be concerned and stop being a conceited brat about being ready when I was not. Your rant is right and your thoughts my own. Even going into dyeing I figured I knew more than I did because of my background. I didn't. I will always be learning and honing and I've never missed a blog post of yours. Even if I'm not making cosmetics for anyone, other than me, on days I am 100%. I still follow the rules. Still have my formulary with all the stuff I need for one. I'm happy, healthy as possible and safe.

Sometimes you need to take a step back and realize you are not there yet. Sometimes you get there, but re-think and tinker. Sometimes you make excuses. Sometimes those are cop outs, for me at least and sometimes valid. The education you gave me and still do, with this rant, for example, has taught me to be a better dyer and now my son is in cosmetology school. He has benefitted from what you have taught me and what I learned from people like Perry Romanowski. I will always make my own shampoo and conditioner, solid because when you have MS, it can slip out of your hands, or drip out some days. Even if someone is always learning and sells little, if your products are safe, you will sleep better at night.

It is no elitist. At first I was mistaken and thought it was. Humility can really educate you.

Who will never be done learning, even at fifty two.

La Prairie Lady said...

Hello Susan and All

You are so right. You are a reference for all of us, you are often quoted in many blogs and all love you. You have acquired your knowledge by studying and transmitted to us. Thank you, thank you and thank you.

I tested many samples of creams and lotions. I left a lot of small pots on the bathroom counter to heat and light and let simmer for one year. The results are fabulous. All creams and lotions had yellowed. All with essential oil the smell became fade (bad smell), those with fragrance oil, the smell remained stable. All had no mold, no separation.

You gave us a good base, now we creating our recipes.

I am not a seller and never will be, it's for personal use, family and friends. I am a patternmaker, dressmaker and sell vintage patterns.

I wish you a Happy New Year, Health, Happiness, Success


Carolyn Openshaw said...

I appreciate the learning opportunity you provide. There is room in this world for everyone's perspective. As was said above, I am never done learning. I'm pretty sure I will never be, otherwise life will get rather boring.

Here's to a fantastic 2016 and the continuation of learning.

Thank you for caring.
Carolyn O.

Laura said...

Good point :) it took about 2 years before I felt comfortable with the 'whole thing' :) the learning will never end, which is actually great.

Baby Kat said...

Well, how easy it is to pass judgment of others hiding in anonymity. I too have friends who tell me that I should be selling my magic potions (as I call them), but personally having to deal with all the details that go into making my hobby a business would take all the fun out of it. I am very grateful for all the information you post here and I am always thrilled to learn and accomplish something new. Of course, I immediately want to share these products with my family and friends, and their input helps me to keep improving them, but I know that I am nowhere ready to become the next Jessica Alba. Nor I think that I'll ever want to.
Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us. And happy new year! Rox

rubylamore said...

WOW! What a way for you to have to start the New Year with a comment like that! The person is a coward. Plain and simple. The people who value your knowledge are the only ones that matter.

SarahB said...

Good for you! Don't let other people use your name or damage your reputation!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I've been making products for a couple years now, and do want to start my own business. Of course, I may not actually launch it for a year or so; there's so much to think about! My first lotion was one of your recipes, and you've been a huge influence on my philosophy toward formulating. Getting over being addicted to hard drugs for several years(clean a year now!). I'm young, 22, and really want to do something creative and worthwhile as a career/job. Also planning on going to college(but haven't decided what I want to major in. There's so many things I'm interested in). I guess I feel that now that I'm in an economic situation where I can do what I want, it should be something I'm passionate about. I guess this is TMI, but just wanted to tell you my reason for wanting to sell what I make, and thank you for being such an inspiration, Susan :-)


Wildwood x1 said...


Great post. I felt a ton of pressure form people, telling me that I should be selling right away. I know that these people care about me, but it was still really uncomfortable. It's been about 4 years, and I'm still learning, and have just focused on a few recipes. The patience pays off.

Kirk said...


Yes you are right. Making and selling cosmetic products is a serious business. Cosmetic products should be properly formulated (i.e. well preserved, emulsions not separating,), properly tested (undergone and passed stability testing, PET, among other tests), produced under good manufacturing procedures, and properly labelled in compliance with FDA regulations. If these criteria are not complied, that product has no right to enter the marketplace as it endangers consumers. Now the skills required in order to pass these criteria are not learned overnight (or in five minutes). Whoever said that it should be is definitely clueless. I should know this, as I'm a formulator myself for a personal care products company here in my country and do all of these stuff for a living.

Just my 2 cents.

Best regards,

Never be discouraged by that commenter, whoever he/she is. You're doing a great job with your blogsite, which is a treasure trove of info.

Sarah Johnson said...

This makes me think of a Christmas gift fair I attended in November. I've been trying my own stuff for a while so when I saw a booth that sold lotions I walked up and read the label of the first jar I saw. It included water, had no preservative and used lemon and orange essential oils with no warning about photo-toxicity. I didn't know what to do. Should I have said something to them? I'm pretty horrible at confrontation so I just set the jar down and walked away.

Plus, It's hard for me to judge. I have been attempting to sell some products but I justify it because I only sell very simple anhydrous things (with warning not to get water in the jar) or commercial bases customized with recommended additives. For me it's about being able to fund more experimentation. I have successfully made lotions for myself and family but learning is expensive yo.

You are truly an angel of good sense and endless pursuit of knowledge. Thank you for all you do!

LS said...

How rude. Seriously. It's your blog, and you can express yourself as you see fit. No one has to like it, no one is forced to read it. But to call you names, when you spend countless hours sharing your hard-won knowledge with everyone, when you spend time helping teens, when you spend your valuable time putting together books to donate the proceeds... that takes the cake. And not in a good way.

Rock on, Swift!

Wendy said...


Susan I totally agree with you! I was once that person and wanted to quickly sell things but after so much research, I'm no where near start up. I've made some samples but nothing I'm ready to put on the shelves! This is no joke and you definitely want to sell safe and effective products. As Susan said, if you truly want to make cosmetic products it takes time, passion, and dedication. Again Susan, I will not forget you when I Boom. Lol.


Cristina de Garcia Venturini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cris Venturini said...


Susan, I agree with you! I am Pharmacist, however I never worked with cosmetics. I started studying and making cosmetics for myself and I have a lot to learn. It does not matter how much theory we know, it is very important make, make and make, to see how it works.
thank you to share your experiences, it helps me a lot.

Robyn said...

I wish there was a like button so I could like this!!! It really irks me when people learn how to make a product one day and then try to sell it the next day! Urgh!!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Wow! I love your comments, and hope you will keep them coming!

Please don't feel bad for me being called mean names. I've been called much worse on this blog - I'm not kidding - and I'm growing quite a thick skin. It's surprising how mean and aggressive people can get about bath & body products!

And thank you for letting me know the impact this blog has had on you. When I'm lying on the couch writing on the laptop, it often feels that I'm just writing for me and no one else will see it. (I'm still surprised when I see something I've written referenced elsewhere!) It's lovely to see your comments because I know someone else is out there who has the same passion for bath & body products that I do!

I think it's so interesting that when we say we make products, people automatically encourage you to sell it. I wonder if it has something to do with the idea that everything must have a dollar value attached to it or it's not a worthy pursuit, or something else? I've been pondering this, and would love to hear your thoughts!

Hi Dipper Harbour Diva! What do you want to make? I think following your curiosity will lead you to the next thing you want to make. I started with bath bombs, then shampoo, then lotions, then everything else. I just followed my curiosity to the thing I wanted to make next, and it turned out pretty well for me! I would lie in bed at night thinking about products and what I was going to research in the morning. I made them, then wanted to modify them, so I learned some more. It didn't matter if no one else liked it; I did, and that was all that mattered. It might be you can't sell bath bombs, but making them teaches you something important! Follow your snoot to flavours of fruit...or products. (Hey, Toucan Sam taught me a lot about life!)

Hi Brandi! Are you selling online? Do you have a website? Are you on Etsy? Maybe the more experienced sellers could offer some advice?

Hi Sarah! When it comes to unsafe products, I'm at the point where I say something. Yeah, I probably come off as a complete jerk, but I don't like the idea of someone selling something unsafe when it's so easy to make something that is safe! I'm not saying you should do it, but I had to make that confession somewhere!

Please keep sharing your thoughts!

Erica Echternach said...

I have been doing this for over 2 years and am still learning something new all the time. Sadly, the people who are doing this right out of the gate are giving the rest of us, who have put years into it a very bad name. Nobody that has started their own business has done so successfully in one day, probably pushing it with one year. I wish everyone who ventures out on their own the best of luck...but do so with knowledge, otherwise you are making us all look bad. It seems so many are looking for a get rich quick business. I put over 80 hours a week in my business and thousands and thousands of dollars. It's the most exhausting and most expensive "venture" I have ever taken on.

Susan, for goodness sakes don't let people get to you like that. You have a huge following and the people who would make such rude comments are making them because you are right. You are not a business selling anything and you have made it clear that you say what is what without fear of losing sponsorship because you are an independent, with no one paying you for anything said. So, let them call you names...for every one name you are called, you will have 100 people behind you defending you.

Danuta Kilar said...

Three years of making body products and learning all the time. I tried every combination with supplies i have, and I have a lot:)
Susan thank you for your awesome blog and all the info you give away. People always will try to make unkind comments, I would not focus on them. Focus on group that love you and your blog. :)

Brandi Yates said...

For me, I was just hoping to make some money back. I dont think you can really make money selling these products because the ingredients are so expensive. I may be wrong but for the effort in making them, packaging and everything its really not the best way to make money.

I have a few products here:

I know the pictures are not very professional. I guess I wanted to share these great products with everyone because of how obsessed I am with making them and Love using them.

My husband keeps saying, when are you going to cook food instead of all this stuff I cannot eat!

The Primrose Petal said...

Wonderful blog post! Thank you for sharing. I love your blog and appreciate the wonderful treasure trove of knowledge you share! I make mineral cosmetics, loose minerals. I have just ventured into pressing and working on a serum foundation. It is so much fun for me and I really love it! I thought of selling my makeup and maybe in time. I am such a perfectionist though and I am always such a critic of my formulas. I wouldn't want to put anything out there that isn't less than the best I can make. I am not into lotions and soaps and such, just anhydrous butters and oil serums for skincare, lipbalms, and herb-oil infusions, so I don't deal much in the way of emulsions and preservatives yet. Making things for yourself as a hobby does cost some money. I am always formulating (minerals cosmetics) in small amounts and trying to be frugal with ingredients, but it still does cost some bucks that I won't get back. I have learned to be careful with it and also take careful notes too. The most joy comes from learning new things as I go and trying new ingredients, coming up with a new color, and giving products to friends and family to try. Thanks or sharing your hard work with us. We DO see it and DO enjoy it! <3

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Brandi! I took a look at your blog, and noted that you are using some of my recipes (and pictures) without noting they are my recipes. I realize once recipes are on the 'net they can be used in a variety of ways, but it would be nice if you linked back. I notice you do this on some of them, but not others. Could I ask you to link back to me? It would be a nice thing to acknowledge where you got the recipe.

I went to your Etsy page and I can't figure out how to see your products. Are they still there?

Brandi Yates said...

Yes mam I will! I linked to most but not all.