The majority of people who start a soap-making business begin their venture with a hobby. They enjoyed making homemade soap for family and friends. If you’re ready to get serious and you want to know how to start a soap-making business, you’ll have to up your game.
Here’s some business advice – you’ll have to focus on the business end when you start selling. Soap makers wish they could spend all their time making soaps but should spend the majority of their time working on ways to sell soap.
Why You Should Consider Starting a Soap Business
There are many reasons why you might consider starting a soap business. Here are a few of the most compelling:
- The demand for handmade soap is growing. People are increasingly interested in using natural, handmade products, and soap is no exception. This means that there is a growing market for your handmade soaps.
- Starting a soap business can be relatively inexpensive. You can start a soap business with a relatively small investment, as you don’t need a lot of specialized equipment or inventory.
- Soap making is a fun and creative hobby. If you enjoy making soap, then starting a soap business can be a great way to turn your hobby into a profitable business. You can be creative with molds, ingredients, scents and colors.
- Soap making is a relatively easy business to learn. There are many resources available online and in libraries that can teach you how to make soap.
Of course, there are also some challenges to starting a soap business. These include:
- Competition. There are many other soap businesses out there, so you’ll need to find a way to differentiate your products and stand out from the competition.
- Regulations. You’ll need to comply with a number of regulations, such as those related to food safety and labeling.
- Marketing. You’ll need to develop a marketing plan to reach your target customers.
How Much Does It Cost to Start Your Soap Business?
|Soap-Making Ingredients and Supplies||Depending on the types of soaps you're making, your ingredients might include a variety of oils, lye, additives (like colors, scents, and exfoliants), and water or other liquids. These costs can range anywhere from $50 to $500 or more to start, again depending on the volume of soap you plan to produce.|
|Equipment||Basic equipment for soap making includes a soap mold, a pot, a scale, a stick blender, safety equipment (like gloves and safety goggles), a thermometer, and utensils. This could cost between $100 to $300.|
|Packaging and Labeling||Costs can vary greatly depending on the type of packaging and labeling you choose. This could be as low as $50 for simple packaging or up to the hundreds for more elaborate or custom options.|
|Marketing and Advertising||Building a website, advertising, business cards, and other promotional material can range from a small investment if you do it yourself, to several hundreds of dollars if you hire professionals.|
|Licenses and Permits||Depending on your location, there may be costs associated with obtaining a business license, insurance, and potentially other permits or inspections. These costs can vary greatly but may range from $100 to $500 or more.|
|Workspace||If you're not working from home, you'll need to factor in the cost of renting a workspace.|
|Miscellaneous Costs||You may also have other costs such as shipping, professional services (like accounting or legal), and ongoing supplies.|
Many soap makers start small from home, with a minimal product line at a cost of about $1,000. You most likely have some basic equipment needed for a small operation, such as a microwave, blender and mixing kettle. You can save money using equipment you already have.
Small Business Deals
The cost of starting a soap business depends on many things, including the size and scale of the business, the type of soaps you plan to make, the ingredients you plan to use, the equipment needed, the cost of packaging, and marketing expenses. Here’s a rough breakdown of the potential costs:
- Soap-Making Ingredients and Supplies: Depending on the types of soaps you’re making, your ingredients might include a variety of oils, lye, additives (like colors, scents, and exfoliants), and water or other liquids. These costs can range anywhere from $50 to $500 or more to start, again depending on the volume of soap you plan to produce.
- Equipment: Basic equipment for soap making includes a soap mold, a pot, a scale, a stick blender, safety equipment (like gloves and safety goggles), a thermometer, and utensils. This could cost between $100 to $300.
- Packaging and Labeling: Costs can vary greatly depending on the type of packaging and labeling you choose. This could be as low as $50 for simple packaging or up to the hundreds for more elaborate or custom options.
- Marketing and Advertising: Building a website, advertising, business cards, and other promotional material can range from a small investment if you do it yourself, to several hundreds of dollars if you hire professionals.
- Licenses and Permits: Depending on your location, there may be costs associated with obtaining a business license, insurance, and potentially other permits or inspections. These costs can vary greatly but may range from $100 to $500 or more.
- Workspace: If you’re not working from home, you’ll need to factor in the cost of renting a workspace.
- Miscellaneous Costs: You may also have other costs such as shipping, professional services (like accounting or legal), and ongoing supplies.
Starting a small-scale soap business could cost you anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. This is a general estimation and the actual costs may vary significantly based on the scale of your operations, the location of your business, and the types of products you plan to produce. Start with a detailed business plan that outlines all potential costs for the most accurate estimate.
Starting a Soap Making Business in 20 Simple Steps
1. Research the Competition
There are many other soap makers already in the business. Before you start your own soap making business, you need to learn who they are, what they make and where they sell.
Also consider the competition you’ll get from the manufacturers making commercial soaps for the big box stores. Acknowledge that people can buy soap very cheaply. How is yours going to be so special that they’ll spend more to get it?
2. Choose a Niche
Choosing your niche and knowing your target market are closely related. It’s important to realize that just because you absolutely love a certain soap you make, doesn’t mean there’s a market ready for you.
Today, small businesses specializing in homemade soap making are focusing on using natural ingredients, which is just what the consumers want. To your natural soaps you can add tweaks in the manufacturing process that make your handcrafted soap unique – such as embossing it, adding specific herbs, mixing in essential oils or coconut oil.
3. Know Your Target Market
Are you going to sell to local store owners, or conduct much of your business in online stores?
Most businesses, not just soap making, carefully consider the demographics for their buyers. To be a successful soap maker, you’ll need to do a mix of both – sell local and via an online store on the web.
4. Name and Brand Your Business
Make sure the name you take isn’t already taken, or very similar to another business that makes homemade soaps.
Also, be careful not to limit yourself as your business grows, because of the name you’ve chosen. For example, “Linda’s Lavender Luxury Bars” doesn’t allow Linda to expand to other scents.
Your logo you design is extremely important. It will most likely be stamped or printed on your shipping materials and packaging. It should be easily recognizable, as a consistent brand with a distinct style and color.
5. Create a Soap Making Business Plan
Every profitable business has a plan with all the features needed:
- Mission Statement – Why the business was started.
- Executive Summary – Who’s who in management.
- Type of Entity – Business Structure
- Accounting program
- Shipping Needs
- Development of Sales Channels
- Membership in Groups – Such as the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetics Guild.
- Management plan for expansion balanced by cash flow
- Business plan for expansion by reaching new customers.
6. Look into Small Business Grants
There are several sources for possible grants:
United States Chamber of Commerce
Amazon – Amazon recently launched a program called the Black Business Accelerator for their sellers. There are other programs for those who are marketing handmade crafts.
7. Form a Legal Entity and Register Your Business
Most common for the soap making business is the Limited Liability Company, or LLC. That’s because an LLC will protect your personal assets.
Other choices include a Partnership or Corporation.
8. Open a Business Bank Account
You’ll need a business bank account and credit card separate from your personal bank account and credit card.
9. Look into Licenses and Permits
You’ll need the standard stuff, such as an Employer Identification Number (EIN) in order to file sales tax. You’ll also need a Business Operators Permit. Before you start making soap in your home, you need to check to see if you meet local zoning requirements.
Because you’re selling something people will use on their bodies, you’ll need to pay attention to cosmetics regulations in your state, which will spell out what you need to do in order to meet the standards of the consumer product safety commission.
On the federal level, you’ll need to meet FDA regulations. For example, all the ingredients must be listed on the label.
10. Buy the Necessary Equipment
Before you spend money on small equipment, consider being bolder. You’re in this, right? Save your blender for smoothies, and buy commercial grade equipment:
- Commercial Mixer
- Large metal bowls
- Commercial microwave
- Large metal mixing kettles
- Personal gear such as goggles (you’ll be working with an alkali and hot materials), spoons, measuring cups, thermometers, gloves and scales
11. Find Ingredients Suppliers
Many soap makers say this is one of the most critical and difficult steps. But let’s face it – if you don’t have the supplies, you can’t make the soap.
- You’ll need oils, such as fragrance oils/essential oils, and (depending on your recipes) olive oil, coconut oils and/or shea butter.
- Soap base – you can choose to buy this pre-made.
- Molds – You can buy already for soap use or find other items that could be used as molds for soap.
- Scents and colors (pigments)
- Packing materials for shipping and/or display
12. Plan Your Accounting System
You’ll need an easy way to track income and expenses. Some suggestions are Quick books, Intuit, or Zoho products.
13. Design Your Packaging
On your website and social media accounts, you’ll need really great descriptions and ever better photos. Unless you’re a good photographer, you may want to hire this service.
Social media marketing may be your best source for developing a loyal customer base, which is directly related to how much profit you make. You don’t want to scrimp on attractive packaging and photos of your finished product line.
14. Get Insurance
One of these types of policies may be necessary for your soap business:
- Business Insurance – whether you’re home based or manufacturing from another location.
- General Liability Insurance
- Product Liability Insurance
- Errors and Omissions Insurance
15. Plan Where You Will Sell Your Soap
Many get their start by selling at farmers markets or craft fairs. From there, judicious use of a business card will lead those customers to your social media platforms.
You can also try online marketplaces such as Etsy shop and Amazon Handmade. Read the fine print so that you understand the terms of those agreements. Overall though, selling through Etsy or Amazon opens the door to you contacting thousands of buyers.
You can reach out to brick-and-mortar locations such as stores, Spas, hotels, Inns and more.
16. Create a Website
Your website should be extremely professional with beautiful design, informative product descriptions and brilliant photography.
Helpful tips for creation of an interactive website:
- Hire a professional to link your website to search engines – this is called search engine optimization.
- Include a space for announcements, such as your plan to sell at an upcoming farmers market or craft fair.
- Include a space for customer testimonials.
- Sell from your own website.
17. Get Your Taxes in Order
As previously noted, you’ll need an EIN so that you can pay sales tax.
You’ll also need to file business taxes. Most small business owners do this quarterly.
Tax requirements vary by state and can be confusing. It may be best to hire a professional.
18. Hire Staff
You’ll also need your EIN if you hire staff. You may not need to hire staff right away. You may consider hiring a graphic designer, to make sure your products are presented very professionally. It’s not necessary to hire people with soap making experience – you can train them.
19. Make Your Soap
This is the part where you get to have fun. You can use existing soap recipes or tweak them using scents or colors that you prefer.
Remember that handmade soap has a perceived value of being better than other soaps. Make sure that your soap lives up to this ideal.
20. Market Your Business and Expand
Here are four awesome ideas for marketing and expansion:
- On your website, create a monthly “soap subscription” that people can purchase for themselves or purchase as a gift.
- Use Etsy Soap.
- Partner with a school club or charitable entity and supply your soaps (at a discount) as part of a fundraiser.
- Diversify – Make a specialty soap for pets, such as dogs and cats. It’s already being done, with great success.
What are the basic steps to start a soap making business?
The basic steps include researching the soap making process, obtaining necessary licenses and permits, developing a business plan, sourcing quality ingredients, creating unique soap recipes, and setting up sales channels.
Do I need any special skills or knowledge to start a soap making business?
While prior soap making experience can be beneficial, it’s not a strict requirement. You can learn the techniques through online tutorials, workshops, or courses, and practice until you master the art of soap making.
What are the costs involved in starting a soap making business?
The costs can vary based on factors such as the scale of your operation, equipment, raw materials, packaging, and marketing. Generally, expect to invest in equipment, ingredients, packaging, and marketing efforts.
How can I market my handmade soaps and attract customers?
Utilize social media platforms and create an online presence. Use high-quality images and engaging content to showcase your soaps. Attend craft fairs, farmers’ markets, or local events to reach potential customers in person.
Are there any regulations or safety considerations for selling handmade soaps?
Yes, it’s crucial to comply with labeling requirements, product safety regulations, and health standards. Research the specific regulations in your region and ensure your products meet all necessary legal requirements.
Can I sell my handmade soaps online?
Yes, selling online is a great way to reach a wider audience. You can set up an e-commerce website, use online marketplaces, or even create a presence on social media platforms to sell your products.
How can I differentiate my soap making business from competitors?
Focus on creating unique soap recipes, experiment with various natural ingredients, emphasize your commitment to quality and sustainability, and offer excellent customer service to set your brand apart.
Image: Depositphotos, Envato Elements
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