You can find natural soap…
… in all different kinds of sizes, forms and colours.
I try to tred a distinct path in this respect and don’t use any palmoil in my soap (even though the characteristics of this oil are absolutely ingenious for soap….).
The main ingredient I use is bio olive oil from southern Italy which can no longer be sold as foodstuff due to it having some sort of “flaw”.
All of my products are scented with 100% natural, essential oils (therefore they can have an aromatherapeutic effect).
For coloring I use colored clays.
For several years I’ve been intrigued by natural, hard soaps. Not only that I understand what they’re made of (in contrary to industrial ingredient lists….) but also because they are good for my skin. Needles to say: there’s a thousand theories about something being “good for your skin”. Or being “natural”…
For me one of the most important aspects of any product is:
Where do the ingredients come from ?
How were they grown or manufactured ?
Even if it seem ridiculous for my mini-sized operation, I have a couple of issues which I try to focus on.
One of them being energy.
I try to use raw materials from not too faraway places, in order to avoid lengthy transport. This kind of energy is called “embodied energy” and is just as important to keep in mind as energy used in production.
Why use a raw material from afar if I can make a product with ingredients from nearby ?
Price is certainly an issue – but the price of things can not be the only justification for choosing a certain raw material.
I could drill into other issues of this nature … but I most probably would bore you to bits 🙂
How a product is made is very important.
Before you start producing something you actually fix most things right then and there.
During the planing and formulating phase you fix the cost and the working process.
And this leads to things like usage of energy, use of raw materials, use of indirect material and traceability (i.e. transparency).
A small sardine
It may sound a bit over the top when I – as a small sardine working in a garage-workshop in the Kanton of Aargau – talk about “planing” or “formulating”.
Nevertheless it’s important to consider these themes during the planing “phase” because lots of things get fixed then and there and are hard to change afterwards.
Does my product create rubbish ? If it does: what kind of waste ?
Can this waste be disposed on the compost ? Or can it be reused ? Can it be burned in an incinerator with a small environmental impact ?
Or: what kind of waste do my (bought) raw materials create ? I am little enthused about the plastic canisters (with the exception of the olive oil) my oils are delivered in…
Or: what exactly does my product (in use) emit – to waste water, the air or the ground ?
Does my product ask for materials which have to be hauled to my workshop from faraway ?
For my one-woman-show and rather dinky workshop there’s no space for big machines. And big machines would use lots of energy. Now that’s good news 🙂
The only “real machine” in my garage is a really stunning destilling unit which most often just sits there “pretty” and waits till spring rolls around. Then I fill it with pure water, pull the switch and fill in the sweet balm coming from my garden.
The beguiling smell travels up and down the tiny road my workshop is located on – so all my neighbours get a fragrand idea of what I’m currently working on…
All of the above points I fix during the planing phase.
And after that things tend to become a bit iffy if you want to change something (website, design, text, packaging, label, foto, shop, description, certification etc. etc. etc. ).
I try to do my best – but I don’t always achieve what I aim for…
In other words: I try to fill the room for improvement 🙂
Why did I start with this business ?
Because I like to work with my head but also with my hands.
Because only doing what I am currently doing can I REALLY live up to the important issues which are dear to me.
And all of this with my heart and soul.
It’s not as simple as you would expect – that’s what I’ve come to realize during the last couple of years.
BUT I still love my work.
Interestingly enough every now and then a new challenge squeaks around the bend… This keeps me on my toes and holds my interest.
Differently said: dull moments are few and afar.
With the exception of the french translations and the grafic design everything is done from lonesome little me.
The mountain of different assignments keep me (most often) busy as a bumble bee.
That said, some assignments tend to drag on for a bit too long; off and on things don’t get done that “lickedy split”.
Even so I most often get things done, in a quality I – as a consumer – would also look for.
I hope you feel the energy and thought which goes into my products.
In 2010 I quit my job (rather on the spur of the moment) as a sourcing manager and turned my small garage into my workshop.
Since then the garage has become fuller and fuller with alls sorts of raw materials, small equipment, packaging material, the destilling unit and soap, soap, soap.
Looking out of my workshop window I have a nice perspective of my garden, which changes wonderfully from one season to the next.
No telephone (therefore you most often “land” on my answering service) or emails reach me in my old garage. For inspiration I listen to podcasts from all over the world – from history to science to politics – most everything interests me.
Such bliss that I decide what goes into my products !
Such bliss that I can produce something practical with my own hands !
Such bliss that I can run my small garage-business and be independant !
Thanks to you as my customer.
Making soap or special beauty products takes up approx. 20% of my time.
The rest is brimmed with sourcing, formulating, testing, inventory, admin, bookl keeping, correspondence, cleaning, calculation, marketing, design, website, texting, fotografy, research, packing, auditing, dunning, paying, selling and repairing.
The mix of it all is what I like and appreciate.
The lack of monotony.
Three things have I “outsourced”: the french translations (I french is absolutely horrific…), the grafic design (without my brilliant graphic designer Larissa my things would look absolutely disastrous) and the annual financial statement.
Hang on ! My most precious asset I haven’t mentioned yet: my hubby.
Disposal, lugging and hauling, helping out, running all different sorts of errands, delivering and running to the post office. Without him I definately would be doomed.
Not that I own a huge car (more like a dinky, rusty VW which luckily still rolls-on) but even my small banger never fit into my garage.
It probably was built to fit two mopeds…
For some years it simply collected alls sorts of odds and ends which I didn’t want to haul into the attic; or they didn’t yet seem ripe for the trash.
When I decided to look into the soap making a bit more seriously I cleared the garage completely and set it up as my workshop.
It hasn’t grown since 🙂
Still small. And stacked sky-high with raw materials, tools, machines, packaging stuff and finished product.
What’s really lovely about it is the view into the garden.
Whilst working I watch the birds, the colors, shades and light of the different seasons coming and going.
Me, myself and I
Business economist with specialization in sourcing and process management coming from the engine building industry.
Having reached the middle of life, I wanted to do something different.
Something new, unknown, unsettled, where I could use not only my brain but also my hands.
Where I could work creatively, design, tell stories, organize and produce something useful and good.
But also analyzing, calculating and researching – also important fields of activity in my current function.
Soap making lady ?
Head of workshop ?
Most people just call me “DuschMödeli maker”.
Try something new – let something go
Every situation has its advantages and its disadvantages.
As a small “maggot” here in my workshop, I have the advantage of being able to react agilely to changes.
In effect I can make new things more or less at the push of a button.
And I can also drop things when they no longer seem fit.
The direct communication with the users of my products is most important – for them and for me.
All the way to the harvest
Purchasing for such a small “maggot” like myself tends to be a bit difficult. Especially if you want to really know where stuff comes from.
Even so I can get my hands on great raw materials – I do. But I can’t get to the root, the picker, the presser of my oils. I most often only use a few liters per year of each.
So I have to trust my merchant to deal properly, fairly and respectfully with their suppliers and producers.
As is generally known, paper accepts almost anything.
Unfortunately it’s not that uncommon that the “valley of desolation” between reality and certification is quite large…
99.9% of all raw materials that I buy were produced in organic quality. There are a few that are not organic, because I can not find them in organic quality. Or just in huge quantities that would stock me for the next 50 years (and turn bad after two years and therefore end up trashed).
But things change and since I started my venture in 2010 many more materials have become available in organic quality.