Sometimes it's fun to look back at where you started to see how far you've come. I was looking back at some photos from when this business was first getting started and thought it would be fun to share some then vs. now photos.
I made my very first solo batch of soap in October of 2013. I made it in an old plastic food container (because I didn't have anything else to use as a mold), and I was so proud of it I took professional photos!
Once I got the basics down, I started experimenting with fragrances and colors. And then I moved onto swirling techniques and texturing. There are just so many creative things you can do with soaps that it's still my favorite product to make. It's really hard to reign myself in when it comes to ordering new fragrances to try! Once my soaps started to look more professional and I was really liking the recipe I developed, I had an acquaintance make me this white wood backdrop so I could take nicer photos:
Later in 2013, I'd made enough trial batches of soap that I had to buy this little wheely wire wrack to cure them on. As you can see, I've had to upgrade! Now, about a quarter of my industrial size racking is dedicated to curing soaps, while the rest of it is for boxed backstock.
My market display has also changed a lot since my first events. This photo is from early in 2014 at Newbo City Market. I started off using a borrowed sheet from Mom as my table cover (thanks, Mom!), Dollar Tree baskets, a bucket lined with a placemat, and some really basic and inexpensive packaging. I achieved some height at the back of my table by shoving an empty cardboard box under there. You have to work with what you've got, right?
This is more or less what my display looks like now. I've put a lot of work into my branding and trying to get everything to look cohesive and bright. The beginning of my handmade business was a lot of fumbling around, not really knowing what I was doing. And to be honest, each year I've done this, I've tried a new tactic to see if something else works better than what I did the year before. And while I've learned a lot by doing this, it still feels like a guessing game at times.
Markets are great and all, but my favorite way to sell my products these days is in stores. You don't have to worry about what the weather is going to do! I will be forever grateful to my late friend Brian (may he rest in peace) for giving me an "in" with the first store to carry my soaps - White Lion Treasures (although then it was called Rustic Treasures) in Czech Village. I met him at a particularly dreadful event that we had both signed up for and weren't selling a thing at. The bright side of events like that is that they can be valuable networking opportunities. Some of my favorite people I've met at slow markets!
Here is a look at my display from that first store. And a current display from NewBo Shops at 208.
My packaging has evolved a lot over time (just look at the three soap photos below), and so has my product selection. I've tried a few products that flopped (bath salts, facial cleansing grains and salves), but have been successful selling beard oils, sugar scrubs and lotions. All of these products required product testing and recipe development. A few products that I've tested have never reached the sales phase. If I'm not 100% confident in a product, I won't sell it.
That being said, I have some new products that have recently passed the testing phase and will be available yet this year! So stay tuned for those announcements.
Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me! If you've been using Thumbprint Soap products since we first started, thank you SO MUCH for your continued support!
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