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Serving Our Handcrafted Industry since 1996 - To over 145 Countries & Thousands of Cities (See List) - Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQ - Start Up Questions

Custom Designed Soap Making Systems

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I am interested in your full production system. Can you tell me what would be possible to do with it?


There are many levels of production “Full” could mean, 1000 bars per week to one person and 10,000 bars, per week to another. Below are some suggestions and comments, giving an idea of what is possible, with what we might call an average, Air Soap Cutter™ Production System.


A complete production system, less storage and drying space can be accomplished in a space of less than 16’ x 16’, giving close attention to work flow and access to oils and ingredients. Some oil storage can be in this area.


Drying can be accomplished in very small area by stacking trays higher than the avg. 6 feet (1.8m). These can actually stack up to 8 feet  (2.4m).


You want an efficient, dependable, system that all you have to do is add a piece or two to step up to the next level without changing anything in the basic system and flow of production. That can be done with this system.


One Air Soap Cutter™ with one person operating can cut, rack and maintain 3000 to 4000 or more, large bars in an eight-hour day; one person can pour the same amount in a day. Much depends on bar size, formula complexity and proper layout. This of course is exceeded with experience.


Hotel size, starting out at around 5000 per day. More time is spent in racking the bars. The actual cutting time is only a couple hours.


By using our liner paper for lining, shortening for sticking and a plastic putty knife; the paper can be quickly applied and made smooth, eliminating any need for a trim cut. Lining a mold takes about 30 seconds to a minute.


A general rule of thumb is one mold pour per hour when first starting out; this includes, pouring, mixing, measuring all oils, eo’s, fo’s and lye.


Allow a possible three-day rotation for curing in the soap mold.


If using scales under the oil, lye tank or Pot Tipper and pumping directly out of the oil barrels into the Oil-Wax Heater (Melter); you can again reduce production and pouring time considerably; by possibly half.


Lye and Oil-Wax Heater (Melter) can be pre-loaded the end of the day and can be on a set timer to turn on just prior to your start up time.


Manual Soap Cutter

Manual Soap Cutter™

Professional Air Soap Cutter

Air Soap Cutter™


I am really interested in buying soap making machinery, but as a novice, how can I tell which equipment is rudimentary to soap making and which maybe optional?


You first have to start with something concrete, for example; how many bars do you want to produce per week. How much space will you have to work in? How many days per week will you be working? This will help us determine the basic equipment you need, number of molds, size of tanks, the proper cutter, etc.


If you are under 1000 bars per week, then I would recommend the Manual Soap Cutter™ and Manual Soap Cutter™ molds. You can see details for a start up company in soap production on our website; see this link and look for the Manual Soap Cutter™. The equipment described is a good place to start. This bar size is average and one of the most popular sizes of soap bars. The equipment is very basic and does not cost much. You can make a lot of soap with this basic set up.


If you are over 1000 bars per week you might consider an Air Soap Cutter™ System. This is also at the same area of the website.




We would like to start a business in soap making, but we have very little idea of how. We would appreciate if you could supply us with a starter pack about soap making, and also magazines for it, and advise us on all the things needed to be able to make soaps.


We have a starter pack that can be seen here. We do have a number of books that will answer many of your questions. There is a great deal of information on our website concerning, systems, layouts for the equipment, production, etc. Also on our links page you will find several organizations devoted to helping people in our industry to expand or start a business. See also, some of the links here.


SunFeather Natural Soaps has a great mentoring program for existing and start-up businesses. They are also one of our distributors.


Other groups and organizations are:

Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild -



Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start a small soap business?


If I were you, I would try to concentrate on one or two products and get those down to a science. For example, come up with a good recipe for CP soap and use just that. To start, don't have several formulas, using different base oils as this becomes confusing and leads to errors. When you are ready to expand this, have controls in place, so things don't get mixed up.


Scent and color is what usually makes the difference from soap to soap.   It is what the customer notices first. Well, packaging is right at the top too, especially if you are fully covering the bar. I would suggest starting out with about eight scents, building the number of selections little by little as your find what people in your market are looking for.


CP soap is the "Premier" of soaps.  It is difficult to go wrong with it and you make it from scratch - meaning you get to do all the labor, you even get money for the water in it. With M&P, you have to buy the base and pay shipping, plus 1/3 of it is water. Liquid soap is profitable and again, you can make it from scratch. Lotions are good later on when expanding your line, but you have to have something to put it in, same for liquid soap and containers can get costly.


Persistence and discipline are the key factors in any business. Things get tough, and many times the picture looks grim. Just don't ever give up. Force yourself to do the job, even when there seems to be nothing to do. There is always research - find the deals, find the short cuts, the best products and shop, shop, shop. When you find yourself up against a problem look outside the envelope, you have created. There are a hundred ways to do the same thing.



Ever sell directly to retail stores like  Whole Foods, Walgreens, or health food stores? If so how much did you have to discount your selling price?


Yes. We had a number (about 80) of Long's and Raley's drug stores in CA and WA carrying our products. Around the Midwest, OSCO, only about 10. We had a couple large accounts, Cabela's, Yellow Stone National Park Lodges and some I can't remember. Most were gift, antique, local craft, boutiques, etc. Some were, B&Bs, small lodges. 60% was private label.


We started out at $2 per bar, wholesale and then around 2002 raised to $2.25. We never sold much retail, started out wholesale. Maybe a 1/10 %, of our business was retail.



Were you ever required to work on consignment? If so, how can we get around that?


Tried it once, a real hassle, and you discover that they place no value in your product because they have nothing invested. Not for professionals....only for part time crafts people. Any store that asks you, is probably not worth the trouble or may be having financial difficulties.



How much commissions did you pay to your reps?


15%, pay on pay. Pay on Pay, which means, when you get paid, they get paid. We paid monthly, on time and never missed. Trust is all important. Oh, and don't expect them to be very good at collections. They might put in a word, but that's about it.



We would like to direct ship to our accounts. What are standard terms for payment, credit cards, collections or guidelines to follow?


Boy, that one is tough. We started doing credit cards late in the game. Credit cards does give you the option of using that method for the first few orders. Remember you lose money on card charge fees. It does add up.


If you are on a net/30 and your product doesn't sell well, and they lose interest, they may lose interest in paying you. After a few re-orders you and they have a relationship. You can do net/upon receipt for the first couple times, then net/30, but get a feel for them first.


Long established stores that a Rep says is okay, you can go to net/30 right off. The Rep may even require it. A Rep can work very hard for a sale. They will expect you to take a gamble too. Don't be afraid to ask questions though.
You can do credit checks, use Dun & Bradstreet, etc, but that is time consuming and; who's to say, those few accounts they give you are paid well and the rest of their accounts are treated like dirt? Best to have in place some parameters and get good at reading people and between the lines. A good set of payment rules, makes a difference. If payment is not right on time, given time for mail, to and from; call, email or fax them.


You will need to become a good bill collector, it is inevitable, so get used to it now. Get every phone number, contact information you can on a, "Net/Upon....". Get their Home number, Sister's number, Mother's number  :o)....etc. You don't get mad, you get persistent. Out of thousands, upon thousands of orders, over about seven years, we had three small accounts, we never collected.



What is the proper way to list ingredients on packaging?


This one is easy to answer. A book written by the President of the Handcrafted SoapMakers Guild, Marie Gale; covers this subject. Here's our book link,  "Soap and Cosmetic Labeling".



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