A Look Back On Our First Day Selling
This blog will be my first (hopefully of many) and I write this as I want to publish my first experience of selling soap. To set the scene, I think it's important to talk about the year leading up to the event.
I began making soap in April of last year. It was entirely new to me and I had no prior knowledge of cosmetics or soap itself. It's a funny sentiment, knowing nothing about something which you've used your whole life on a daily basis.
For whatever reason, on a regular day of last year, I decided that I wanted to learn something new; that happened to be soap. It began with watching videos, then reading blogs, tutorials and everything in-between. I suppose that I've always possessed an interest in how things are made, which is the reason I chose to study chemistry at university. This interest quickly became a hobby - I gathered the basics tools and ingredients and stuck to a plain recipe. They came out well, but I knew that I could do better. So I began researching what makes the perfect soap, brainstorming ideas for my own recipes. I knew that I wanted to make soap that was professional quality, with a rustic vibe. After having worked in a lab, I knew that only natural ingredients would work for beautiful skin. It may seem surprising that I enjoyed the research, but there was something captivating about designing something from the roots up - seeing how decisions that I made with ingredients and methods would come into fruition.
After my first few batches were made, I began to consider selling the soaps locally. I had no idea at the time how arduous the process would be to reach a point where I could legally sell soap. The sale of cosmetics in the EU is strictly regulated - each product must undergo safety assessments and notification on the EU portal prior to sale. There are many restrictions on the formulations of the soaps, which is necessary to ensure that it's safe for use. I think that if I had learned of these regulations (in a business mindset) prior to making soap, I may have given up before I'd started. The trickiest part was gathering all the information that I needed, but luckily there are many great resources on the internet which are great guides for start-ups. By December last year (with a 3 month trip to Brazil breaking up the year) I was ready to sell!
The next step was to decide how to get myself out there. I would need a website, but they're expensive to run. If I wanted to sell at fairs I would need to pay for a stall and what if nobody bought any of my soap?! I had experience with door-to-door from a previous job, where I would work for various charities. So, I would be pretty comfortable with people telling me to go away if that happened! I planned ahead before December and applied for a peddler's certificate which would allow me to sell on the door and luckily the certificate came through just in time for selling. Christmas was soon to come, so it really was the best time to just get out there and sell locally!
I live in an area of West Bridgford called Lady Bay, where I have always lived aside from time spent at university. It's a friendly community filled with families; there's a primary school and parks with new and old businesses dotted about the neighbourhood. It's an ideal place for a small business to start, because the local people support that and many people in the area seem to be very arts-and-craftsy.
So, I filled up a straw basket with my soaps, business cards and a bunch of change and headed out! Despite having experience selling door-to-door, I'd never been this nervous. I was selling something that I'd spent time and effort researching and making all for myself, from start to finish. If people weren't interested, it would be devastating. The first few houses didn't answer, which just added to the suspense of speaking to the first person. But, as soon as I began talking to people, it became so natural again. Even if people had no interest in the soaps, they were happy to support a new, local business and so everyone was friendly. By the end of the first side of the road, I'd sold about 15 bars! More importantly though, people were asking about the soaps and wanting to know more about them, which was great because I had all the information! I did this over the next few days and it was a wonderful experience and I was blown away by the warm reception. I had sold over 100 bars after having travelled down 3 streets..
I think that the main message of this first blog is to always believe in the goodness of a community. The whole experience made me appreciate so much more how lucky I am to live in a safe and friendly area where people recognise hard work and dedication to a new business. More than that, it's easy to get stuck dwelling on the hard work of starting something new for yourself, before you even begin. If you believe in yourself and set yourself daily goals, you can soon achieve what you desire. Finally, challenge yourself and don't be afraid to fail, because that's how you learn!