How to make and sell homemade soap online
Making homemade soap and selling them online is not a new idea. However, there is an ever-increasing demand for homemade soap online. So, with a proper branding and marketing strategy, we strongly believe that you can tap into the homemade soap market even with a small business budget.
To start a handmade soap business, all you need are:
- Soap making equipment/raw material
- A Good soap recipe
- Approvals and insurance
- A Facebook page/a website (optional)
- Your time to make soap and to manage your business
In this guide, we will take you through all the above steps to teach you how to make homemade soap, getting the legal stuff done, how to create a website, and how to do marketing for your online soap business.
Is there a demand for homemade soap?
Before you start an online business, you must have to check the market. So, first things first, is there an actual demand for homemade soap? Do you know that there are 300,000 soapmaking businesses in the USA alone? And, a simple “Homemade soap” search on Etsy pulls up around 80,000 results. So, do they all “have” business, or can you “really” make money selling homemade soap online?
Are you looking for more online business ideas? Check these 15 best online business ideas for beginners.
According to the global Handmade Soap Market report published by Value Market Research, the homemade soap market is expected to hit USD 220 million by 2024, with an annual growth rate of 5.0% since 2017. Alright, now that looks like the market will keep growing for the next four to five years. So, what about the sales. Well, it is a matter of marketing, which we will discuss in detail towards the end. Hold on; we will also show you a real-world case study of how Dr. Squatch is selling 2000+ soaps online. Keep reading.
How to make homemade soap?
If you are a veteran soaper/hobbyist, perhaps you can skip this section about how to make homemade soap and continue from how to sell soap online. Others, let us start learning how to make handmade soap.
Making homemade soap isn’t that hard. The process is quite straightforward. There are three basic ways to make handmade soap.
- Cold process soaps
- Hot process soaps
- Using a ready-made base
How to make soap using the cold process?
Here is a cold process soap recipe for 2-3 pounds of regular soap.
- 8 oz. Coconut Oil
- 15 oz. Olive Oil
- 11 oz. Palm Oil
- 4.8 oz. Lye
- 11.2 oz. Distilled Water
- 99% Isopropyl Alcohol
- Essential oils and coloring (optional)
Also, you need a mold, stick blender, thermometer, suitable container, and spatula. Check Amazon for soap making tools and ingredients.
Steps for cold process soap
- Prepare the mold. If you are not using a silicone soap mold, use a suitable box, lined with a freezer paper. The shiny side of the freezer paper should be facing up.
- Prepare lye water. Slowly add lye to the water, and stir it slowly until the lye is fully dissolved into the water. Let it cool below 130 degrees. Do all these things in a well-ventilated place.
- If you like, you can add about two teaspoons of Sodium Lactate to the cooled down lye water to have a harder bar of soap that releases quickly from the mold.
- Combine all three oils (coconut, olive, and palm).
- Make sure the temperature of the oil mixture and lye water are the same.
- Put the stick blender into the oil, and tap the bottom of the container a few times to release any trapped air bubbles.
- Gently pour the lye water to the oil along the shaft of the stick blender.
- Turn on the blender and pulse several times. Then stir the mixture using the blender. Do these two alternatively until you get a medium trace (the soap is just thick enough to support the trailings).
- You can also add fragrances and colorings during this phase.
- Pour the mixture into the mold(s). Then, gently tap on the sides of the mold to release bubbles within the mixture.
- Spray isopropyl alcohol onto the top of the soap to avoid forming soda ash.
- Let it cure for 3-4 days. Then, unmold, and cut it into bars (if required).
- Let it cure for another 6 weeks. More you wait, longer your soap will last in the bath. If you can’t wait that long, try hot process soap making.
How to make soap using the hot process?
How to make soap using the hot process?
Here is a hot process soap making is almost the same as the cold process steps that we have described above. The only differences are, you have to do all the stick blender mixing in a crockpot (a slow cooker) and let it cook for around 50 minutes in LOW heat before pouring it into the molds. Then, you can keep it in the mold for one day, unmold/cut, and let it cure for another day. Check this video for more information.
Using ready-made soap base to make soap
Using ready-made soap base to make soap
If you don’t like to work with oils and lye, using a soap base is the easiest way to make soap. You can simply buy 2 pounds of scented soap base on Amazon for around $15. Then, you can cut them into small chunks and microwave to create the liquid. You can also add and stir other essential oils and coloring to the mixture before pouring them into a soap mold. The soap base is usually made out of glycerine, and it sets fast. So, you can unmold your soap after around 2 hours of initial curing.
Follow more homemade soap recipes
There are some engaging online soaper groups, forums, and recipe websites out there to learn more about soap making. Follow them and join them. Sometimes, people on those forums share some valuable information about marketing opportunities to sell soap online as well. Also, keep trying new recipes and improve your soap making skills to develop an excellent product that can attract thousands of potential online buyers.
Getting approvals and insurance to make homemade soap and sell them online
Now we are getting into the real business management stuff of running a homemade soap business.
Note: The information we provide here is not intended as legal advice, nor does it replace or supersede a manufacturer’s obligations to comply with all applicable legal requirements. Please note that the legal requirements for soapmaking depend on where you live. For example, if you are from the EU, you may need to get your soaps checked by a toxicologist first. However, in the USA the rules are not that strict. So, always consult your local authorities to have a clear understanding of the legal requirements. The below information is for the USA based soapmakers’ attention only.
The regulatory requirements of making and selling soap depend on how you make and promote your soaps. Answer these questions to decide which approvals you need to make homemade soap.
What are the main ingredients?
What are the main ingredients?
If your soaps composed mainly of the “alkali salts of fatty acids,” that is, the material you get when you combine fats or oils with an alkali (such as lye), then you are making actual soap. So, your product is regulated by CPSC (consumer product safety commission), and you do not need a pre-approval. Also, you can use the word “Soap” on the label. However, there are some mandatory reporting requirements that you have to comply with.
Use the CPSC regulator robot to find more information.
Are you promoting it as a cosmetic or a drug?
Are you promoting it as a cosmetic or a drug?
If you promote (online/offline) that your soap can moisturize skin, make the user smell nice, or deodorize, it is cosmetic. Similarly, if you say that your soap can treat or prevent a disease, kill germs, or treat skin conditions, it is a drug.
Likewise, if your soap is marketed as a cosmetic or a drug, it is regulated by the FDA (Food and drug administration). If it is a cosmetic, then again, you do not need any pre-approvals, except for the color additives. However, if it is a drug, you need to get a pre-approval before start selling your homemade soap.
Visit the FDA FAQ page for soap makers for more information.
Other manufacturing and business licenses
Depending on the state you live, you may need to obtain a small business license to manufacture and sell soap online. The SBA website gives you plenty of valuable information about the licensing and registration requirements for small businesses.
Getting insurance for soap-making/selling
Getting a product liability insurance protects you from the claims made against you as the manufacture and the seller of those products. When you sell a sensitive product like soap, many things can go wrong. For example, someone might get an allergy reaction and claim that you did not include something on the label. So, it is better to have liability insurance when starting a homemade soap business.
Sometimes you may not get a single claim anyway, but it is better to stay safe from such unforeseeable events that can put you out of business and drain your personal assets.
How to do branding for homemade soap
You might have the world’s best homemade soap recipe. But, nobody will buy it unless you have some super-duper label, logo, and packaging design. Honestly, branding is a significant part of your customers’ purchasing experience. It can change people’s perceptions of your soap.
Unless you are a graphic designer, I would recommend you to hire a professional freelancing designer to create a beautiful logo for your soaps and do the labeling and packaging design. It won’t cost you more than $50 to get it all done. But, professional touch on such aspects brings in more value to your products.
One thing to note here is that our marketing strategy will be based on the attractiveness of your soap. Yes, we are going to leverage the wow factor on social media ad campaigns to sell your soap. So, have a good soap branding design that can trigger the impulse buyers on social media.
Make your soap stand out
Create a stunning branding design to help your products stand out from the rest. Now you can hire a professional graphic designer on Fiverr for less than $50 to get a logo and branding design for your products.
Take a look at these handmade soap branding designs. Can your product compete with them?
Creating a Facebook page, an Instagram account, and a website to sell homemade soap
People do not usually search for natural goat milk soap on Google. But, when they see a stunning homemade soap ad like below on Facebook or Instagram, that will trigger the impulse buyer in them. And, that is how we are going to sell your homemade soap.
Start a website to sell homemade soap
Having a website to sell your products is optional. You can even start selling on Etsy and Amazon to get started. However, if you are serious about your homemade soap business, it is worth investing in an online store. And, it won’t cost you a fortune to start an online store to sell soap. You can have your very own online store by paying less than $30 a month.
There are many ways to start an online store. However, the easiest and cheapest way to start an online store without any technical knowledge is to use Shopify to create one. There are plenty of themes, layouts, and templates to set up an online store with minimal computer and internet knowledge.
Try Shopify for FREE
Choose from over 70 professional and free online store themes. Customize colors, imagery, and fonts with ease. Build your own online store without any design skills.
Try Shopify for FREE, or read how to start an online store without any technical knowledge.
By the way, we honestly need to help our readers to start online businesses. So, we decided to start a free service helping them to solve their issues when creating an online store. If you ever came across with an issue when building your shop for handmade soap business, just send us an email to “firstname.lastname@example.org” and ask your question. I will personally look into your problem, and help to solve it. It is totally free.
Create a Facebook page and an Instagram account
If you are a Facebook/Instagram user, then I have nothing to explain here. However, if you are not familiar with Facebook or Instagram, get some help from someone you know. Maybe your kids can be social media marketing managers for your business. On a sideline watch the movie Chef (2014) to understand how social media marketing works for businesses.
Marketing and Selling homemade soap online
Now you have soap, a Facebook page, an Instagram account, and a website (probably). So, you got everything you need to sell handmade soap online.
As we have discussed in the very beginning, soap making and selling is a competitive industry. So, the success of your new business depends on the marketing strategy that you come up with. In this section, we will discuss how to market your homemade soap brand online and find potential customers.
Running Facebook and Instagram marketing campaigns
Facebook and Instagram have over 2.5 billion active users. So, it is a massive online audience for you to pick the best target audience for your business.
Facebook and Instagram are both social media platforms, so keeping it social is the best way to sell soap on those platforms. People use Facebook and Instagram to consume content. That means, people use those platforms to see photos and videos. So, you can create stunning photos and videos for people to follow. Don’t make your posts too salesy, make it organic and natural. The best way is to closely follow an existing business and see how they are crushing it on those platforms.
As we have discussed on how to handle marketing for a new business, you will have to spend a lot for advertising in the beginning anyway. In my experience, around 30% of my product cost goes for advertising. And, using Facebook ads is the best way to get new customers for a homemade soap business.
However, you have to work on customer retention strategies in parallel to your ad campaigns. After all, running ads are expensive, and if not handled properly, it can drain all your profits. So, you need to work on Cross-selling to increase the order values and try to get them registered for your email marketing campaign and social media campaign to build an audience at your reach.
Are you ready to make homemade soap and sell them online
Jack Haldrup, a 33-year-old San Diegan, makes $6 million a year doing what we were just talking about. There is nothing special about Jack’s handmade soaps. His soaps are natural, made from lye, vegetable oil, and a variety of essential oils, smelling like woods. It is wrapped in a well-designed brown packing. And, he believes in Facebook marketing a lot and sells his products online (Dr. Squatch soaps). That is everything we have talking about so far. Aren’t we?
So, what stands in between you, a passionate soaper, and that $6 million a year?
Get started right away, make your first batch of homemade soap, test it, get feedback, and launch your business. Invest in marketing a lot, and it will bring in sales for your handmade soap business.
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