I am thrilled to introduce you to Katie of Thumbprint Soap. We met in a Facebook Group (surprise!). The group was starting some creative coaching and we happened to start at the same time. We just connected right away. She’s perfectly no nonsense and has a LOVE of animals. So much so, that she donates 5% to shelter animals. Isn’t that great? Let’s meet her, shall we?
How did you get started with Thumbprint Soap?
At first I was just messing around. I had a healthy living blog and was experimenting with homemade body products like deodorant and hair rinses. I became an Etsy addict, too, sampling all sorts of crunchy handmade products – serums, cleansing grains, etc. It wasn’t long before I stumbled across some beautiful cold process soaps. I bought a couple, and really liked them, and that was when something clicked. I didn’t want to just use them, I wanted to be the person making those pretty soaps. I was a bit intimidated by working with lye without any formal instruction, so I started searching for a class. There weren’t any in my area. But it just so happened that a man my mom worked with was a self-taught soap maker – he needed a way to use the excess animal fat he had after butchering chickens and other farm animals. So he offered to teach her and I how to do it and sent me home with my very own bottle of lye to practice with. And I dove right in!
What do you love about making soap?
First and foremost, it’s a creative outlet for me. I’ve always needed a way to express my creativity. I’m a graphic designer also, but soap making is more playful, less structured; so it feels more like something I’m doing for myself instead of someone else. I also enjoy the formulating process. When I start to get bored, I just experiment with new recipes and ingredients to get myself excited about soap making all over again. And finally, I like that I know exactly what goes into my soaps, so I can be sure that it’s good for my skin. The recipes can be adjusted to address different skin issues or to be used on the face or for babies or even for dogs. The possibilities are limitless.
What craft would you like to try?
I’m always trying something new…I’ve taken classes for wheel pottery and embroidery, and a couple of people have tried to teach me to crochet (I don’t have the patience or the skills for that!). I’m actually going to take a macrame class on March 12th – I’m pretty excited about it, because I think those wall hangings are so cool and I haven’t been able to talk myself into buying one (I was raised to be frugal haha)!
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wanted to open an online handmade shop?
Whatever platform you choose – whether it’s Etsy, Storenvy, your own website, etc. – do lots of research on how to get traffic to your store. If no one visits, you won’t get sales. There are Facebook groups for small business owners and social media marketing, and there are thousands of articles online to help your store get off the ground. It’s not going to happen overnight, and probably not even in the first year.
It took two years before I actually started making money with my hobby – there are startup costs to consider, and equipment to buy, and you will probably have to do some local networking, too. I make more money from wholesale and consignment than I do with my Etsy store. I make more money from selling at markets than I do with my Etsy store. Markets are important in my business – people have started to recognize my brand and I get repeat customers this way – but you have to be choosy about the markets you do. I have had bad luck when there are vendors or resellers allowed at a show. If you are already broke, then now is not the time to start a business. Have a little money set aside first or you will just end up working yourself to death.
What inspires you, or how do you keep your creative mojo going?
Where can we find you?
My soaps can also be found locally in a few stores in Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls and Dike, IA.
I especially love her Lego soap. It’s such a unique, playful and cute idea! Definitely something I’d like to get my boys for Easter. They love handmade soaps! I would also like to say that I totally appreciate the friendship Katie and I have cultivated. She adds me to groups she thinks would work, and we talk “shop” when we need to. She’s just a great biz buddy to have.