Anna Maria Musso of Hokum Wares shares how she found her calling in soap making and how one can get started crafting custom soaps.
Hello. Welcome to another episode of Handmade Pennsylvania. My name is Josh
Meyers and I’ll be your host. This episode was previously recorded in 2019 with my
good friend Anna Maria. Since then, she’s continued to expand on her offerings,
incorporating science and the world around her. Check her out and give a listen. Hi,
Anna Maria. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.
So full disclosure, Anna Maria and I know each other from another life, our full-time jobs.
At one point I no longer work with a company, but that’s how I came to know Anna
Maria and see some of the creations that she made before you went professional,
we’ll call it. And back in 2017. Yeah, but you’ve been making before 2017. So how did
you kind of get started and where does your drive to do what you do come from?
Well, it’s interesting. So. Back in 2012. I had to look this up because I didn’t know. Like
some of the, details are kind of hazy. But in 2012, I worked at a lab in King of
Prussia, so I was doing like organic compound, like extraction work, whatever. And
there was like very, very small lab, like 20, 30 of us in the lab, very small and in the
whole building. And our lab manager would have me do like these little odds and ends
jobs like just for probably shouldn’t have been doing them, but she had like a
nonprofit at the time and I would make like posters or like change certain things, like do
like document stuff for her. And I was getting paid to be there, but she’d be like, Do you
like soap? And it was the strangest thing. And I’m like, Yeah, you know, like, I really, I
really do actually. Like, it didn’t bother me that she said that. And she’s like, Well, you
know, what sense do you like? But she would like, give me for like, like
almost like little rewards with these bars of soap. And I love them so much. And I was
like, This is so cool. At the time I was making candles, so it was like an eventual, you
know, graduation to that. But she had her soap in the bathroom for all of like us to
use and the just spark like a very interesting like meld between like this kind of like a
scientific backing with an artistic kind of streak running through it. So that’s kind of
where I, I had the bug come from.
I got you. And that’s one of the things that I really enjoy. Watching all the content you
put out and just how you make things is the behind-the-scenes post and how you geek
out on the science of it and the formulas and the testing. And really it’s more than
just like a love of pretty things. It’s, it’s a comprehensive kind of approach. And it’s, it
was inspiring to me, like, wow, this, this girl’s got it together. Like, she’s organized and
testing things, taking a total scientific method to it and producing amazing things. And I
think the end result, it shows I was using one of your bars of soap the other day in the
shower, and I’m just looking at the swirls and it’s functional and it’s fun. Like it’s a win
That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted not that. And I don’t I’ve never had anything against
other people that make, you know, like pretty things, like things that, you know, you put
up the display or whatever prints this that because I love that stuff and I buy all that
stuff, but I wanted more of a functional something that’s pretty. I do have people that are
like, Oh, this is too pretty to use. And I’m like, No, like use it because I’m going to make,
I’m definitely gonna make more. So like, it’s okay, right? So, but I wanted to have that
functionality that utilitarian, you know, something, it’s pretty and it doesn’t, it doesn’t
have to be blah to use it every day, but it does serve its purpose.
Yeah, it’s, it’s way more fun to use than a plain white bar, so that’s for sure.
And you do more than just soap. I mean, there’s bath bombs, body butters, lip balms,
sugar scrubs and eggplants, and hand-dyed textiles. I mean, you kind of have a lot of
interests, but they all play together and that the natural aspect, I think, and the function
and the beauty, except for maybe the airplane. So I think that might just be beauty.
But yeah, I think like with the airplanes, the airplanes are cool and people really love
them actually. But I think I’m going to like kind of pull back from that. It’s I kind of had
like an explosion that I was like, I want to do all the things and I’m like, No, no, no, you
shouldn’t do like all the things, like pull it back a little bit. But same thing with, you know,
coming back to like the functionality, like all the stuff that I make I use on a like at least a
weekly basis. Like I’m not giving scouring myself with a sugar scrub every night. That’s
maybe every couple of nights. But it’s nice because I use my sugar scrub and I’ve I’ve
always told people that like, you know, I’m I’m lazy, I can be lazy. So when I use my
sugar scrub it, it leaves like a nice moisturizing, like barrier, like after you get out of the
shower. So that way, like, if you’re like me and you’re like, Oh, I don’t want to lotion up. I
don’t want to do that, but I’m already good to go. So, you know, I’ve tried to formulate all
of these things, keeping in mind, like I use all those things on an almost daily basis or
So do you have a favorite? Like if you had to pick one thing like and really hyperfocus
Oh, so it would.
Like I love, I love the idea of bath bombs and I’ve just gotten the whole blooming down,
like blooming the colors into the baking soda. I’ve kind of gotten that down pat where I
like it for the most part. It could be, obviously. It’s always something to be worked on.
But it’s true. But soap is my favorite thing to make. Just because I am not saying
because bath bombs are definitely a scientific. You know backing like you have your
your carbon dioxide is making your air bubbles. Bath bombs are finicky. And I don’t have
as much of a love for them as I do for soap making. So I think soap would definitely
be my favorite thing to make.
Okay, so what? Obviously soap making. I’m sure like most things, there are many
different ways one can approach learning how to do it. But for somebody who’s
interested and wants to do a little more than just like a pour and melt, which I think is a
pretty standard off the shelf, you could do with kids almost where you’re not using some
chemicals that could be harmful. Any tips or equipment to maybe kind of give somebody
a head start and know where to go if they’re looking at a bookshelf or they’re at
Michael’s or a craft store?
Yeah. So it’s funny because I tell people, like going back to the bath bombs, people
were like all like, it’s so cool. I want to really learn how to make bath bombs. It seems
really relaxing and I’m like, Don’t do that to yourself. Like, I’ll teach you how to make
soap way faster than I teach you how to make bath bombs. Honestly, how to start. I
would. Youtube has been blowing up in terms of videos where people either get it’s
either as simple as just music playing and you see just word scrolling by whatever of
what they’re doing. And then some people get hyper-technical with it where they’re
telling you step by step by step. There’s a lot of people that I learned from, from like
royalty soaps and like the Soap Soap Queen and Marie from Granbury, which is a pretty
big soap company in terms of books. I’m trying to think I have a pure soap making by
Anne Marie from Brand Mulberry. I also have a book. It’s called Scientific Soap Making.
That’s if you’re if you really want to get into the nitty gritty. But for the basic layperson, I
don’t think you need to get that deep into it. I would say a lot of YouTube videos and. A
lot of just studying what those people do. And I feel like an appreciation and a. A kind of
respect for the sodium hydroxide if you’re going to do the cold process method. Your
background in my background, we kind of sometimes with things like that, I feel like we
let things go to the wayside because you and I have dealt with grosser things and
scarier things and sodium hydroxide, but it’s always nice to come back to that.
It is it is a chemical. It is a caustic chemical, and it needs to be treated with respect. It’s
not this scary, scary thing unless you’re messing around or you spill it on yourself,
whatever. But just having a healthy respect for the sodium hydroxide. If you’re mixing it
with your water, you want to do it in a well ventilated area. Any book or any person
teaching you how to make soap online will definitely tell you this, and then it’s basically
playing from there. There’s hundreds of thousands of recipes online to try out. It’s just
going to eventually be what how simple or how complex you want to get into it. Like, do
you do you want to go to like two stores? Like I can take I can literally go out right now
and take you to two stores and we can make soap like right now. Like, if I had nothing at
my house, I could take you to target. It will get you like stick wonder. We can get some
silicone molds or honestly you can use like a milk carton or an old school milk carton. If
you turn it on its side and you cut out the top, you have a mold. You need to figure out
the volume of that mold. But I’m pretty sure the side of the milk carton will tell you that
another, I think, hurdle some people get through, it’s kind of an important hurdle. But
there is there are so calculators online that tell you your your concentrations of oils that
you pick, the oils that you have on hand. So you only have like coconut and olive oil and
like Castro or whatever you got them from Walmart running all of those materials
through like a soap calculator, which I use a soap cap dot net, I believe it is.
Yes, that’s what I use. It’s a little daunting for people that aren’t tech savvy in this
respect, but it’s very important. Even if you find a recipe online from some blog or
whatever, you want to throw it through a calculator just to make sure that you have your
sodium hydroxide levels where they need to be and water and all those calculations
that’ll spit that out for you. How much how many or how much oil you need, how much
sodium hydroxide, how much water? So it’s very important, a very important hurdle to
learn. But it’s it’s not super difficult. It’s when you start getting into it and you have a
specific recipe and you want it to do things like I have multiple recipes for multiple
purposes. Like if I want to swirl a lot, a lot, a lot, like I’m making a bar today, I have a
steel recipe, which is the steel recipe is, I believe, 70 or 80%, at least 70 or 80% olive
oil. So it’s going to be a recipe that stays pretty fluid for a little while. And you’ll learn this
as you test and test and test and test. But if you’re just making. You know. On a regular
just a basket like soap for your family. Like, so you don’t want to go out and buy Dove or
whatever you can you can do it at home pretty easily. With with. Resources that you
have on hand.
So, yes. What about like the whole fragrance? Because to me, it seems like making this
soap itself is one thing, but then making it smell good and look good would be another
thing. But for for this smells, I imagine you could buy off the shelf just scents like
fragrance. But I also imagine there’s there’s another way to incorporate maybe essential
oils or some natural occurring plants or anything like that that maybe you also have
around the house to use.
Oh, for sure. So like in terms of like colorants and things like that, I’m almost positive.
Like most people have some things that they can use around the house. You can
obviously leave your soap better plain and depending on what oils you use is. It will be
an indication of what the bar will look like. So if I use a higher olive oil soap, it will have
more of like. It depends. If I use like normal, I use a normal olive oil, more yellow olive
oil, because I want a lighter batter in case I want to color things. And I don’t want to be
throwing so much color in. And if you’re using something like an extra virgin, that’s like
green. I’m trying to think of like natural colorants that I have turmeric powder every
almost, almost anyone can get a hold of turmeric powder or paprika, things like that if
you want it to color. And you can even do swirls like that. If you wanted to split your
batter in half and color one of it, or like half of it with turmeric and half of it, just leave as
your normal batter, you could do something like that. So there are natural colorants and
there’s also like other natural ingredients that you can throw in for and things that you
don’t have to buy off of offline. I’m trying to think corn meal you can use corn meal
is like an exfoliant and that’s readily available.
Same thing with oatmeal. You can either throw the oatmeal in whole like quick oats, you
can either throw them in whole or you can kind of pulse them in a blender or
something like that and toss them in. Those are readily available for people if anyone
can get a hold. I’m trying to think of Whole Foods because I’ve used some things at
Whole Foods that sometimes people use beet powder, but powder like it’s a beautiful
pink color, but it’s not going to stay pink. And so it’ll be like a brown. So that’s
unfortunate. But cocoa powder, that’s another one. Cocoa powder will be like a beautiful
rich brown in terms of scents and things like that. You can obviously use essential oils. I
get my essential oils and fragrances and things like that online. Any kind of fragrance
that you want to throw in, you just have to be mindful of your usage guidelines. Almost
all the fragrances that I use are phthalate-free, but there are usage levels for all
of them. So just because you’re your max is like at a 50%, you don’t want to be using
usually using an immature my max is maybe like a 5 to 6% and essential oils. You just
have to be mindful of that too. And that’s all information you can find online for like at
EO, EO, calc dot com or dot net.
And all of those things can be found just with I feel like so making is such a huge like
rabbit hole. If you just spend enough time online, like you’ll find the answers to things.
But yes, in like things like court, like if say if you wanted to use coffee for fragrant like it
doesn’t really stay. Like if you want to use fresh brewed coffee, the scent won’t stick in.
So unfortunately it is something that you have to find either essential oil, essential oil
blend or the blend of the two fragrance and essential oil blend. I do that sometimes too.
And then that’s another thing with playing around, because, you know, there’s some
fragrances that will do some weird things. So some fragrances that will that contain
vanillin, they will darken up your soap. So if you’re banking on this beautiful white bar
soap and you throw in like a sugar cookie or some kind of fragrance like that, well,
you’re going to end up with like a tan. You might end up with like a tan or like a white
bar. And you could just get to get over that, I guess with maybe having half of your
batter scented or colored with cocoa powder and you just fragrance the the dark stuff
and then you leave the white, it might leach into the white, but you’ll have you’ll find your
way around it.
There’s other fragrances that do this fun thing called racing. So once you add the
fragrance into your soap batter, it’ll form like these small little oil granules, and it’ll look
like you poured, like, a little bit of, like, white rice and you’re mixing. And sometimes
those are easily fixed with just stick blending it. We use an immersion blender, usually
with soap, making something you would use in your kitchen. I have a KitchenAid
immersion blender. That’s what I use. You can blend those little pieces of rice out. And
then there’s another fun thing that you can run into where it accelerates. So you’re so
better say you want to do these, like, fun, intricate swirls and you’re so better. Is that like
the perfect consistency to do that? And you add your fragrance oil and it turns into
something we like to call soap on a stick where it just the batter immediately turns into
like, almost like a pace and you’re like, oh, and then that’s. Kind of what the testing
process is all about is seeing things like that happen and just being okay with the fact
that your idea might not pan out the way that you want to, but. You know, it’s okay. And
there’s always another there’s always another loaf to be made. So.
Yeah, it’s all part of the learning process.
Yep. It can be expensive, I’m sure. Like, I don’t know how it is with leather, but like
candles, especially candles are very expensive to like get through that fun process of,
like, testing and this and that. But like. At least with soap, as long as it’s not lye heavy
like you have bars that you can use, you can give them out to your friends. Give them
out to your friends like I did. Give them to your family to, like, test on them. Or you just
like me, still have, like, a stockpile of soap to get through.
So how would you know if it’s lye heavy.
You would probably start washing yourself and you’d get like big red splotches. Yeah.
So that’s another fun. Like, another thing. Like I said, it sucks to learn the soap calc, but
it’s so important and to have a very good, like. Not a like. With soap. Making a scale is
very, very important. That’s another thing you’ll be putting out money for. So you don’t
want to be doing things by cups and tablespoons and unless it’s color and stuff like
that, but like your, like your base recipe, like you want to be weighing that out. So that’s.
It’s almost like baking where you’re, I think baking not like you want it to be accurate.
Like your measurements should be precise, otherwise the formulations off and you’re
not going to get the end result that you want.
Right. Right. And then if you choose, use too little lye, then you’re, you’re basically
pouring a bunch of like half bonafide oils into a mould and then it never sets. And you’re,
you have like a oily, soupy mess and there’s both ends of the spectrum. But yeah, if it’s
lye heavy, you can usually re-batch it or something like that. There’s always something
that you can do with it, but obviously, you wouldn’t want to sell it or give it away. So.
Right, right. So. Once you got to the point where you were comfortable with your
formulas and your recipes and you wanted to start selling it. What was that process like
for you? Were you going to shows? Was it all online? Was it still just through friends
and family but now you were charging for it, or how did it become more of a business for
Yeah. So. That was kind of like at that point getting your ducks in a row. So like
registering your business on soap labels, you have to. So soap is regulated by the
Consumer Product Safety Commission. If it’s just soap, like if it just cleans you, it’s
not regulated by the FDA. So like all your cosmetics or your bath bombs, sugar scrubs,
all that other stuff is by the FDA and what the Consumer Product Safety Commission
like, how they like their soap to be labeled as having your address, your full address,
which I wasn’t a big fan of your full address on the label. That’s one of the requirements.
But if you have your address in a printed, a printed. You know, entity. So like a yellow
book, not online, but in a physical printed format, then you can get away with just your
city and state, city, state and I believe zip code because I wasn’t a big fan of doing that.
But you get your ducks in a row and that’s another thing like before you start selling, like
I, I tell people, people make like two batches of soap and they’re like ready to roll. And
I’m like, this is something that people use on their skin. Like, you want to nail, you want
to nail down your process. You know, you want to look into certain things. I have so
many spreadsheets of, you know, oil suppliers that are the best cost. And this is just
over time. You want to get all those kind of ducks in a row because you want to make
you want to make a profit, but you want to be getting the most bang for your buck in
terms of your ingredients and things like that, which with us, I’m sure it is you like, you
know, you buy things in bulk.
So getting those things ready, registering your business, getting a business tax ID. So
you have to pay taxes. I pay quarterly. I think they changed it. Now, though,
I’m for soap. It’s like a sales and use tax that I just pay through like e tides. So all these
like little business things that need to be lined up. I was giving it away to like family and
stuff like that. It’s interesting because. It felt like family like backs you like 1,000%, but
like, they’ll buy from you occasionally or they’ll they’ll ask for soap occasionally, which is
fine. Like, I, I kind of, like, knew that kind of, like, running into it, and it’s fine. It’s not.
It doesn’t, like, hurt my feelings. I’m not an easily broken person. It’s fine. But, like, my
boyfriend uses my soap all the time, and every time he comes out, he’s like, I like this
one or like this one. I don’t like. I’m like, take notes, things like that. But I do sell online
on my own website. Homewares dot com. I never had an Etsy. At the SC. I know Etsy is
like supersaturated with soap makers because it’s so much fun to do. I don’t I can’t
speak on how that all works and especially now that I think there’s like some kind of
thing now where they want you to ship like $35. If it’s $35 and over, they want you to
ship it for free or something.
That was recommended for search rankings. Yeah. The shops that offer free shipping
for purchases over $35 would show higher in search results. I think that started I don’t
know if that was November, October, but yeah, I remember seeing that.
Yeah. Which sucks. Like. Not. I mean, I get it. I see their angle with it, but I definitely
think it sucks for like the candle makers because like candles are having a shift. True.
So they have to pretty much either eat that cost or they need to increase their candle
prices to account for that. Which sucks a little bit. But I mean, it is what it is if that’s the
platform that you want to stay on. I have my own website. Instagram and then
Instagram posts to Facebook. And then I also do a lot of events. I before was like
anything that I could find. Like I would just throw myself at like school events, church
events, this, that, everything else. And now I feel like. I think it’s because I still have a
full time job where I’m not like actively chasing those small venues anymore. That and
the fact that. With the smaller venues you get, you might not necessarily get your
customer base that you’re banking on and that you’re hoping for. I make soap with like
cat bones on top of it. And to try to explain that to like a mother of two, it’s kind of like
strange because I’m like, Oh, that’s cool. And then they realize what it is. And I have
had people have like do that too, or they finally realize what my logo is and like I had to
do like walk out slowly, like back out of my tent on time when he realized what it was.
And he was like, Oh no.
It’s good to polarize people.
Yeah. So it was like crazy. But it was, it was kind of funny, but I didn’t. I watched it kind
of happen. And then I finally realized what was happening and he, like, just booked it.
But that stuff like that happens, but. Sometimes the smaller events are the, you
know, craft like bazaars and like church events and things like that, aren’t you? If they
are your target audience then like have at it like I would never do. Do you like
definitely get on that because there’s there’s a lot of fun. I mean don’t be mad if there’s
another soap or there. But like. You know, have at it. But I’m slowly starting to get away
from that and stay more towards like more like not fine arts stuff, but more like curated
shows, especially if they have to do with darker artists and things like that. I’ve attended
an event recently somewhere where, you know, I was next to like a lady, I think it was
next to Bridge Street chocolates from Phoenixville. I was next to her and I was with
some other like, really like. Nice potters and people that sold like maple syrup and stuff
like that. And I looked around and I’m like, This is not my normal like now, not my
normal, like fellow vendors. It’s like I’m vending with people that have like taxidermy
and, you know, weird, weird, weird stuff. So yeah, that’s, that’s kind of like my outlets
right now. And then mainly trying to just grow like the Instagram organically, grow an
Instagram following so that I can grow a customer base.
Yeah. Your Instagram posts excuse me are always. I love the. When you have the
bones and the herbs or the crystals or the plants or the. Do you take it in the same
place in the house? Like every time? Like the light always looks perfect. It always looks
laid out perfect. How do you get it? So perfect.
So. So. It’s. It’s weird, especially now just because of the timing. Especially like after
work, I’ll go to the gym and I’ll come home and it’s dark. So pictures aren’t really
happening, like during the week. So I’m actually looking at my new setup right now. So
it’s, it’s, it’s super simple. You don’t have to get, like, crazy, but that’s another thing.
Like, it doesn’t you don’t need a lot to take great, great pictures. You really don’t.
Because I’ve been following some stuff online that like, people make like these cool,
like, surfaces that you can, like, take pictures on and they, they have these, like,
beautiful setups with, like, these, these. I guess these like backdrops or backgrounds
that you can buy and they’re kind of expensive. So what I do is I have a little
greenhouse here, and especially right now, the light is coming in beautifully. So usually
during the weekends, since I am home, when the light is out, I take my pictures. On the
weekends I set up a small little like $20 table that I bought from Target. Next to the
window sits a little lower. It sits maybe I’m looking at maybe about two and a half, three
feet off the ground and. I take my pictures. If you look at some of my pictures on the
backgrounds, it’s like a slight ish background on the I guess on the ground, that’s just a
slate tile from Lowe’s. I bought two in case I needed to put them together and make a
larger, larger spread out kind of display. But I’ve only been using one and. I usually
have. I have so many little bits and bobs around my house that I save. I saved things to
take pictures with and stuff from, like my home decor.
So, like, all these bones and things like that, I have them displayed in my house
because not necessarily, you know, I’m not shopping, you know, home goods for my
home decor. So I’ll, I’ll go around the house and I’m like, I want this and this. I want this
stick right now. And I have leaves like I have leaves around my house. It’s so weird to,
like, tell people I have a beautiful sycamore out front of my house. And, like, he lays like
he drops these beautiful big leaves, and, like, every year I save one. He’s so cool. He’s
my favorite. But I have leaves from him and leaves from places that I’ve been and like
herbs drying salt I usually pull them off of. I’m looking around right now because I have
stuff hanging and I’ll pull it off of the nail and like put it down to take pictures with. I don’t
use any artificial light to take any of the recent pictures that you’ve seen me take. That’s
all sunlight. That stand that I use with the slate tile is, like I said, it’s butted up, like right
up against the window. So, like, the light is shining down upon it. I don’t use any kind of
flash or anything like that. I do have a small. A small, little light boxy kind of thing. I don’t
know if you’ve seen some people can make them out of like they make them out of like
cardboard boxes and like white like poster board to make like almost like a backdrop to
take pictures within like a little shadow box. And it came with lights and I’ll use them
very, very occasionally. But 99% of the time I’m using just natural sunlight and little
things around my house.
They always turn out really nice. It’s something I strive for and I, I think that’s what I’m
doing wrong. I’m not using natural light. I’m trying to use artificial light because I’m in my
basement and half the time I lose track of what the sun is doing outside since there’s no
windows down here. But yeah, they always look great. And I always love the like the
natural earth element to where, you know, you’re talking about the leaves. And it’s
funny, I think it’s kind of cool or the dried herbs, you know, it brings that that local,
personal, natural touch and, you know, maybe I’m your audience, so it’s speaking to
me. But I think it it speaks to what you do as well, incorporating that into the soap and
then having that there as a presentation piece. It looks really cool.
Yeah. I like your I like your spreads on your on your like, hey, like this is like it’s very I
like it because it’s very like to the point it’s kind of like, hey, guys, this is what I’m
working on right now. Like, like, head down. Like, this is what I’m working on. Like, that’s
what I see when I see your spreads, like, on your, like, grid board and stuff like that. So
like, I like it.
I appreciate that because that’s usually how it is, is this is what I’m working on. I better
take a picture now before I forget. Yeah, because I need to, you know, put stuff out
there so people can see what I’m doing because I get these orders in and it’s
sometimes you just get in the zone of making and shipping and you kind of forget that
marketing aspect. And that’s something that as I transition from a full time job to doing
leather more and thinking about how to schedule my time and kind of chunk my day up
to be the most efficient, it’s not all going to be making. And so how do you how do you
manage your time? You still work full time and then you make a lot of things and take
pictures and any tips for how you stay organized and kind of schedule stuff or. Let’s
accomplish everything you do.
Sleep is for the dead. No. So it’s difficult, too, because, like I said, I work a full time job.
So I’m there like 9 hours of the day and then driving home and I do go to the gym like
four or five days a week so that I’m totally not, you know, I’m still it keeps me
levelheaded. But in terms of staying organized. I’m trying to like I do like a ton of lists.
I’m a list maker for sure, which is a little bit more difficult if you’re just sticking to the list,
because I feel like a list is like a here and now thing. But like with soap, making your
soap is curing sometimes for 5 to 6 weeks. So if you want a soap tomorrow, you can
make it tomorrow. But it’s not going to be ready for you to use tomorrow unless you
want it to just melt away in the shower. So you’re looking at, you know. When do you
want it by? And then counting back. So I use a lot of lists for things that can be done
here. Now I know bath bombs and other things can be made relatively quickly. Like they
still take a good chunk of time. But it’s it’s not there’s not a lot of waiting, a waiting
period. I do a lot of calendar print outs, too.
I know it’s really simple, but like, I just go online and find like a blank calendar, just
layout and I fill it in on the days and then I fill in my days off and. I just, you know, start
counting back. I have an Excel spreadsheet with certain holidays and things like that
that I. You know, plan on having things available for. So I’ll have the date in which that
particular event is occurring, and then I’ll have a column that says five weeks before that
you need to have soap made by blank. So that way it’s a it’s a quick I still pull up the
calendar and I count back just to make sure everything is correct. But like, I’m still. You
know, I’m still doing like by hand on sometimes. Like I said, I do the excel with the major
holidays and things like that. I was using a like a project management, like free project
management website. And to be totally honest, I don’t think it exists anymore because I
went to look for it like look it up because I haven’t I’m more of a like paper and pen
person and I kind of fell, by the way, so but I don’t even think that what I use is available
anymore. But I did find something comparable, which was Trello and it’s a free I’m sure
there’s upgrades and things like that.
You can pay. I’m not doing that. So. You can use things like that to keep yourself like a
touch more organized. I feel like with October. October was just so crazy that my
December like release is isn’t as early as I wanted it to be. I had it on December 7th and
I had the ability to push it back to the first just because I want people to be able to shop
for their loved ones and things like that. And I’m usually a pretty quick shipper anyway,
but I just wanted to give people that time. But that was like there was almost like a point
after October, the craziness that is October for like creepy makers, that after October I
just wanted to do nothing for like a week. Like, I stepped outside and I didn’t have to
pack the car up and it was beautiful. It was a Saturday morning. I just like and I love,
like, winter. All this is my favorite. Like, I know we don’t get a whole lot of light, but like, I
could live like this forever. I love it. And I went outside and I just breathed deep and it
was cold and I didn’t have to do anything. And it was lovely. But to keep yourself, keep
It is tough, especially for small makers that still have a full time job because I take I take
like pretty, you know. Pretty accurate notes of everything that I make, every batch that I
make. So that’s time making time for that, making time to eat, stuff like that, making time
for food and like for other people in your life is very it’s very difficult if you don’t have
your ducks in a row and then there’s there’s stuff that’s going to fall by the wayside. You
just have to. Prioritize your time and it sucks too, because you want to be online and like
meeting other makers and you want to like take all your, your friends that are also
makers. You want to be liking all their stuff, you want to be watching all their stuff on
Instagram. You want to be pushing their stuff and sharing their stuff just like they’re
sharing yours. But that’s also time. So, you know. I’m getting better at it. I’m not that I’m
I’m learning. But to better prioritize weekends and things like that to have like
designated phone time, I don’t want to be know I’m supposed to be doing one thing and
I’m staring at my phone and I’m not getting anything done. So it’s it’s walking a very fine
Yeah. And I think, you know, like making soap or like a lot of things, it’s, it’s testing. Like,
I know with my scheduling, I’ll try writing it down in a schedule and planning out my
days. And, you know, if that doesn’t work, I’ll try something else and just making a list,
but eventually finding something that kind of works for and you can stick to and prioritize
what you really need to do to move your business forward or to accomplish what you
need to accomplish. What would you think or what would you say was one thing that
really helped grow your business since you started with? Whether it be marketing or
your organization of being able to produce more products or wholesale. I know you
do some wholesales. Any thoughts?
I would say a combination of it’s it sucks. It sucks for me to say this, but like, I could sit
and write like. The most scientifically like based post and the most like intricate like
words woven. And I swear, some people like, they see the picture and I’m like, Oh, it’s
pretty. And then like click and they like it and then like the words fall by the wayside. But
I feel and it sucks, but those pretty pictures are, are like, like your style of pictures will
hook people. So that’s cool. So I feel like it’s a combination of like those pretty pictures
on Instagram. Wholesale. Wholesale definitely helps and so does getting out into the
world and doing events and markets and things like that. Like for example, like
wholesale. I’ve had a lot of people that shop at my wholesale account shops because
they’re physical shops. I have a couple in Philadelphia and they’ll go and then they’ll find
me from there and then they’ll start following on Instagram and ordering and this and
that. So that’s cool. Also. I was I had this conversation, too, with Bridge Street
chocolates when I was vending with her a couple of Thursdays ago, because she
doesn’t do them her herself.
She doesn’t do them that often because she’s usually running the chocolate shop. She’ll
have somebody else sit at a table and go. But this was one of the ones where she
actually went and she’s like, What do you look for in a good show? Like, you know, how
do you know if this show is good? And I kind of told her and I’m like, not it’s not that like,
I mean, maybe very, very rarely the show is like super, super bad, but there is every
show has the opportunity for having you learn something. I gave her the example that
like , I was at a show at like some music venue and no one was buying for me. It
was like 4 hours and I hadn’t made any sales at all. And I’m like, I’m sitting there and I’m
getting like pissed because then I had another lady that sold like comparable things, like
three tables down for me and she’s complaining to like other people that I’m here and
I’m like, Man, don’t be so thick. Like, don’t do that hashtag soap. Oh, man.
Yeah. Yeah. So, yeah, that’s that’s a whole conversation of that hashtag. But I’m like,
Man, this is terrible. But it was at a bar. So I was like, I get myself a beer and I sit back
down and I’m like, okay, like, this sucks in terms of customers, but I got my notebook
out. I had a notebook with me and I was like, What sucks about this table said like, what
do you not like? And I sat there and I paced around my table and I’m like, Well, what
can be? We need a little bit more height. We need to separate these out. We could
spread these out a little bit differently. We could do this, we could do that. And I started
writing all these ideas down, and it would have been time that I didn’t have any other
time because I would have been home making soap or making food or doing this or
doing that. So I use that time wisely. So yeah, that show wasn’t great in terms of sales,
but it gave me the opportunity to sit down and look at my table and like, What can you
do better? There’s always something that you can do better. So what is it that you can
figure out right now? Write it down. Write down these notes. Take a picture of your
setup right now. Edit that picture, move this here or there or whatever so you could do
that, that. And I also told Bridge Street Chocolates, I was like, you know, there’s
sometimes always like a silver lining to these events because I’ve had I attended I
attended a witch market in Manny on a Sunday.
I can’t remember which Sunday was. It was Sunday in October this past October. And it
was pouring. It was pouring. I was like this close to just being like, you know what? Like,
I don’t know. Like, I have bath bombs like those. My first my first concern is like I have
bath bombs, like, we’re going to turn this street into, like, a sudsy mess. So I’m like, I
don’t know, but I had a tent and it was just by myself. And I was like, it’s, it’s right now.
It’s just like missing. I could put the stuff out. I could put the tent up by myself, I could
put the stuff underneath and it’ll be fine. And then it poured and I was like, Man, we’re
not going to get anybody today. It was so busy. So busy that day. Yeah. And I was like,
Oh, my God, thank God I stayed. So, like, this was awesome. But it was interesting
because and you never know the people that you’re going to meet at these events. I
had a woman reach out to me about a week and a half ago. She wants to wholesale my
items, my wares in her shop. And I was like, Oh, that’s cool. She said her niece bought something from me at that particular rainy day event.
And shared it with her because this woman who wants me to wholesale to her is in
Maryland. And I don’t and I’ve never vended or step foot in Maryland with any of my stuff
I probably shipped there, but like not ever, ever done an event or had any like anything
like that. So she found me just that roundabout way. So I would say stuff like that, like,
and sometimes this shows like I’m a very introverted, like I’m a very like kind of
extroverted, but like mostly like I’m almost probably like, besides dropping these
sales off or these wholesale orders to like, I’m coming right back home, I’m not going
out very like reserve person. So the shows take a lot out of me. I usually come home
and I don’t say a whole lot after I’m just kind of like people out. But it does say
something to just like get out there and talk to people and like believe in the stuff that
you sell. Like, like I said, I tell people, like, see all this soap? Like the ends of these bars
are in my shower right now because I’m using them and I need to get clean too. So, like,
everything on this table is somewhere or multiple places in my house. So it, it does say,
say a lot to, to do all those things, even though you might not want to. And just do it.
Just get up.
That’s I felt the same way and I’m similar. And that blend of kind of extroverted introvert
where like getting people out is a perfect that’s another hashtag because it is exhausting
and I enjoy it. It’s, it’s fun, but it’s a different kind of energy. And it’s, I mean, it’s not one
that I’ve found. Coffee can always boost me up to. Like it’s, it’s a challenge, but there
are a lot of rewards that come with it. You know, like you mentioned just the networking
aspect, whether it be a niece of an aunt who has a shop in another state or another
artist that you make some connections with or you collaborate with later, or you find
another show that you didn’t know about or or anything like that. And it’s just somebody
else. I can support you or pass on your information to somebody else, and you don’t get
that. I think with Instagram, like you said, people see the pretty picture double tap swipe.
You know, it’s and it’s there and gone in a flash, whereas that face to face interaction,
there’s so much more that you get out of it. And that’s probably why it is a little more
exhausting because you’re not just giving a pretty picture. You’re giving your
energy kind of real time.
Oh, you’re working for sure. Like you’re definitely, you know, definitely working
for especially if the like, the clientele and like the audience of the event that you’re
working at don’t really mesh with you or align with you. I feel like you work a little bit
harder. But then some people, some people I went over like they see like some people
don’t even notice, like bones and things like that and they won’t even notice. My logo
was here and they’re like, Oh, this is so nice. It smells so good or it’s so
pretty. And then that’s. That’s it. So. Yes.
You know, it takes all kinds. Well, I know we’re getting close to our time here. Is there
anything else you want to talk about with your craft or your business or any anything
else you want to say?
No, I think we covered everything. Like I said, people can like I’ve always been open to
people, like if like, hey, I’m learning how to make soap, whatever. I’ve always been the
one. I’ll definitely answer your questions. Like I said, if you’re just getting into it like I
would, I would hang out, I would make so much. So I would make like so for like a year
or two before you jump into like selling just because you want to hone your craft, you
want to get it done, Pat And you don’t want anyone to get hurt and you want to learn
your labeling requirements and stuff like that. There’s so much out there that is. It’s
interesting because, you know, I tell myself I’m like, you know, don’t like you shouldn’t
care. Like, why do you care so much? Because I won’t, like, nitpick. Myself so hard like
this label this on this primary display like panel of this of the label of the soap. This
subplot needs to be, you know, at least like the L, the uppercase L needs to be 1/16
high for in order for this to be. And this is like all serious stuff. Like, I have like I have to,
like, regulation books on my shelf right now. One’s like brand new. I’m like half tempted
to give it away as, like, a giveaway because I already had the copy of the book, and it’s
like, rat tail, like it’s, it’s like tagged and it’s disgusting because I’ve been in and out of it
so much, but I have a brand new one and maybe I’ll give it away as a giveaway for
somebody who wants to legitimately do it.
But. Cover your. I feel like I tell it. Cover your bases. Know your product and know
your requirements to labels and your requirements of things that you are and
are not allowed to use. Like a lot of like I see people use a lot of greens and greens and
like bath bombs and like MCUs and things like that. Most greens are not safe to use in
cosmetics, but I see it anyway. I see a lot of big, big, big companies misspell things or
not label their things correctly and they’re killing it. That’s why my integrity means more
to me than that. So if I never sell in Target or Walmart or any of those things or like Ulta,
I’m okay with it because I’ve seen some of the things that do and it’s not up to par to me,
not just with my stuff, but any other makers that I know that like kill it and in terms of
their specificity with things. But yeah, just immerse yourself. I think that’s what the
takeaway is and anything you do like, just if you love it, like just deep dive.
So true. Thank you very much for your time. I know you are a very busy person. I love
what you do. I will link to all your social media is your website and the show notes and
I’m sure people can reach out and contact you there if they had any other questions or
want to buy some of your awesome soap. I highly recommend it because like you said,
it’s coming from somebody who cares. That isn’t just out to make a buck that you know,
you’re not in target, you’re not just mass producing things to turn a profit. It comes from
a place of love and concern. And you use it yourself. And that that shows. And that’s
what I love about handmade people and makers in general, because I’m finding there is
an underlying self-regulated pride in their work where it’s not just, Oh, I’m going to get
rich. I don’t think anybody does any handmade pursuit to get rich. It’s for the love of the
craft. And I think it shows through in the work. And that’s what draws me to people like
Yeah. I mean, and vending with people like I meet so many or people that, like, can do
such cool things. And I’m even sitting back and I’m like, that’s awesome that you do
that. Like, especially people that like. Like you, especially like people that make stuff
with their hands, like. It’s you can see it like in their hands and like everyone that you
talk to that has a genuine love for what they do. That’s not the first thing that comes out
of their mouth. They’re just like, Yeah, like I make a lot of money doing this and blah
blah because you won’t like you do it because you love it, not because you want to
buy another Porsche. Like that’s not happening. So. It’s yeah, I like I said, I’ve been with
so many cool people and I look at stuff and it just like it’s still to this day, like it leaves
me in awe, so.
That’s awesome. Me too. That’s another reason I like going out to those live shows
because you can’t always find people on Instagram that are locals as you can when
you’re out at those craft shows and just walking around and doing a tour and seeing
what people create. Because as we said, you know, it takes all kinds. People
come up with some awesome ideas and are crazy talented. And it’s awesome for
sure. Well, Anna Maria, thank you so much. I wish you all the best in the new year. I’m
going to continue to follow your stuff. I know you’re going to do great things. I look
forward to seeing what you produce.
Well, thanks, bud. Thank you so much. I appreciate it so much that you had me on.
Oh, it’s been great. I’ll talk to you soon.
All right. I’ll see you.
Well, I hope you learn something in that episode. I know Anna Maria is a wealth of
knowledge and she continues to expand on what she can offer. And if you’d like to hear
about other makers and their crafts and what they offer and how they got into doing
what they do and creating a small business out of it, I encourage you to subscribe and
check us out here at Handmade Pennsylvania. I’m Josh Meyers.