The early beginnings of what is now ISLAS Aromatics started way back 18 years ago in 1999 as I experimented on making soaps and giving out, then selling them to friends. The luxury of web resources was then quite scarce since venues for easy online publishing weren't available as it is today. There were very few websites for soapmaking recipes, tutorials and info about starting home-based, craft-related businesses so I really had to resort to doing a lot of trial and error on product development, being resourceful with scouting for local suppliers and buying books for business advice during our family trips abroad.
As the years went by, more and more websites and blogs have sprouted which I would visit from time to time in order to get inspiration, packaging ideas and business advice. Here are some online resources I recommend (I've also bought from them in the past), and some books I have, which luckily now have online versions and can be read through Kindle. Kindle is an app by Amazon.com which you can download on Android & Apple devices in order to read ebook versions of printed books.
W E B S I T E S
As far as I can remember, Soap Queen or Anne Marie was one of the first soap crafters to make available online a variety of tutorials, recipes and videos in their very own website. She owns Brambleberry Soapmaking Supplies which has been in business since 1998. When I started soapmaking in 1999, Brambleberry was already the only online site that had the most complete ingredients, tools and resources. My problem then was how to ship their raw materials from the United States to Manila so I couldn't really order my supplies from them as often as I wanted to. Inspite of this, I found their site so inspiring since they not only sold raw materials but were generous enough to teach people how to transform them into beautiful, skin friendly products, and gave tips on how to create a business out of the hobby. Anne Marie now also has her own YouTube channel so you can watch how she actually makes homemade bath & body products. Anne Marie is truly an inspiration and I'd probably faint or get so starstruck if I meet her in person!
I consider Bulk Apothecary to be fairly new to the industry since they just started last 2010. The company is based in Ohio, USA and has enjoyed some sort of growth spurt in a few years, based on their excellent products and sound business principles. One particular company focus of theirs which I love is that they will never sacrifice quality for price. This means they don't alter the products just to make the price tag more appealing to their customers, and this is what we also practice in ISLAS. We never dilute. If we purchase something and the price tag is high but we know the quality is great, we still get it knowing our customers will not be failed when they use it. Like the two companies mentioned above, Bulk Apothecary has a Blog that is filled with recipes for making soaps, lip balms, scrubs, candles, diffuser blends and other creative concoctions. They have a dedicated section titled "Start Making Money" which has business-related tips and articles for start up entrepreneurs. I also came across an article in their site called "How To Make Money AND Stay Home With Your Children" which is geared towards encouraging work-at-home-moms about the opportunities out there, and still being able to contribute to the family income while being with the kids. I'm a big believer of this because guess what fellow moms, we really can!
B O O K S
I've had the first edition of this book since the early 2000s and consider it as something like my Aromatherapy Bible. It has charts, descriptions of oils, synergy blends and other useful information about which oils to use for different needs & situations. I ordered it online back then in Amazon and upon checking recently, they now have an updated, 25th Anniversary edition and it comes in print and Kindle (mobile) version. It would be much quicker to buy the Kindle version but I like writing and highlighting on books so I ordered another print version for myself. This is written by Dr. Valerie Ann Worwood who, for me, is the ultimate authority in Essential Oils. She's a British aromatherapist, reflexologist, lecturer, consultant, and she actively conducts research on the healing benefits of aromatherapy and essential oils, which is shared in her books. The book I'm featuring here is actually #1 in Amazon's list of Aromatherapy books and I highly recommend it to hobbyists and entrepreneurs.
Given the hundreds of essential oils available to us, Valerie starts off her book with her "Basic Care Kit" and focuses on her 10 must-have oils. She provides the readers with a brief background, benefits and uses of these 10 oils. Throughout her book there are chapters dedicated on how we can use single and blended essential oils for different purposes, from using it to ease stress, to prepare for exams or an interview, soothing aches & pains from sports activities, oils for babies, pregnancy, and for home use, among many others. She also teaches the different ways of using Essential Oils and the index part contains Essential Oils Charts, and illustrations on simple "Aromassage". This book is my ultimate reference and should not be missed.
"Creating an Herbal Bodycare Business" by Sandy Maine touches on the different aspects involved in sustaining your hobby-turned-business. Sandy owns Sunfeather Natural Soap Company, which is based in the United States. Her adventure started in the year 1979 with "a business idea, a $15 investment, sheer ambition and complete faith." I find Sandy's story so inspiring and worth sharing because not everyone has a lot of money to buy all the raw materials, equipment and tools they need at once. She only bought the basic necessities with her $15 and worked from there. Also, when Sandy started making her soaps she had a full time job and soapmaking was something she just did on the side. During that time also, information via the internet wasn't readily available so she resorted to going to the library to read business books, visiting stores and making sure she connected to suppliers and target customers. Sandy had a vision and she was mindful of what she did, making sure that each action would contribute to learning more, which paved the way to the success of her business. The different chapters include topics on business planning, pricing, purchasing, sales mediums, marketing strategies, working with employees, and business ethics, among others. This is a short book (156 pages and that includes the index already) and for me it was a quick read because each chapter was of value. Like the book I mentioned above, this is one book I go back to from time to time as a reference for business basics.
Here are other titles I have which were then good reads but with information and research being constantly updated, I'd recommend that you look up the different rankings of books in Amazon according to your specific interest before deciding which ones to buy.
Below, I'd like to share some personal insights and learnings, which I also share to our store customers when getting into conversation about turning their hobby into a business...
- Research is key. It's worth your time to read, converse with and learn from people who've had years of experience and have done what you want to do. Remember though to verify the information you receive. Verification comes in many forms but for us in comes by doing actual experiments, comparing information from different sources and getting inputs from suppliers, customers and people who work in the same industry.
- Don't just believe in what you read, try them yourself. There are plenty of recipes online but remember that most books and articles are written by people from different countries, so it's possible that formulas which work for them may need adjustments to suit our own environment. Remember also that people have different skin sensitivities and our senses react differently too. Do a lot of trial and error and learn from your mistakes. Remember to be flexible and make recipe adjustments until you come up with a product that totally satisfies your need.
- Be picky with your raw materials. Use the best raw materials you can find (oftentimes not the cheapest though but choose the best you can afford) to yield the best end product you can create. Customers want something that will work, instead of something cheap yet ineffective. If you're making products for personal use, you'd want your family members to have only the best and you should have this mentality also if selling to other people.
- Have a dedicated notebook and take down notes as you go along. Write down EVERYTHING. The fun part about this business is we are able to squeeze out our creative juices to make totally new, original products. Record each and every step and go back to your notes from time to time in order to continuously improve your product/s or create new variants.
- Lastly, continue to encourage yourself and get inspiration from your own situation. Oftentimes the best products come from wanting to create solutions from our own needs. To expound on this, let me share with you the success story of one of our products...
Our Soothing Ache Balm product was created because I wanted to give our wedding guests something to use in case they experienced headaches or dizziness going to our wedding which was out of town. After some research, I created my first batch of headache balms. For me (looking back) it wasn't the best in terms of consistency but our guests didn't notice that aspect and instead loved the smell and found it effective. When my daughter was born and turned 1, I didn't want to apply Vicks on her when she had colds. I went back to my basic balm recipe, did more research and tweaked the formula until I was totally satisfied and started using that on her. I gave samples to my family members, friends, relatives here & abroad and guess what, now it's my bestseller for giveaways. My relatives actually stock up on this product, and this is also what they order as giveaways for their personal events.
To sum up, let me encourage you by saying nothing is impossible. We all have different backgrounds, financial positions and personal challenges but in order to keep moving forward in life, we have to actively and passionately try to go above what seem to be road blocks and stay positive. Success will not come overnight but with hard work, patience, integrity and honesty in doing business, success will surely come to you in its own perfect time.