For the Love of Goats
Have you ever dreamed of starting your own goat milk soap business? That’s exactly what Jill Spruance and her family did almost a decade ago, and they are still going strong. They make about 20,000 bars of soap annually and selling them on their farm and online, as well as wholesale through 35 retailers across the country.
In this podcast, Jill talks about why started making soap, why they started selling soap, and how their business has evolved. She also talks about how they pivoted when COVID changed everything, as well as the wildfires near their farm in California.
For more information
- BasilwoodFarm website
- BasilwoodFarm on Facebook
- BasilwoodFarm on Instagram
- BasilwoodFarm on Twitter
Other episodes you may like to listen to:
- Goat Business Ideas: How to Make Money With Your Goats – talking about a variety of goat businesses, starting with those that don’t have a huge financial start-up investment and moving on to those that cost six figures to get started in most states.
- Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery – If you’ve had friends taste your cheese and tell you that you should go pro and start selling it, this is the episode for you.
- Agritourism on Ten Apple Farm – agritourism business with goats as the centerpiece
- Airbnb with Goats – Have you thought about renting out a room or a small cottage or cabin on your farm through Airbnb? Then, you should listen to this episode.
- Email: The GOAT for Marketing Your Goat Business – Learn how you can use email to build a relationship with your customers on this episode.
Listen right here or on your favorite platform…
Deborah Niemann 0:00
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another episode. Today, I am so excited to be talking to Jill Spruance of Basilwood Farm in California. And she has a beautiful herd of dairy goats. And she uses their milk to make goat milk soap and some other body care products. Welcome to the show, Jill.
Jill Spruance 0:23
Thanks. Happy to be here.
Deborah Niemann 0:25
We had so much fun chatting before we even started recording, because I’m a soap maker too. I love making soap. I started making it in 2003 because I was allergic to everything else on the market. And I got really sick of just using unscented soap from the health food store. And so that was why I learned to make soap. And I think you had kind of a similar reason. Can you tell everyone why you started making soap?
Jill Spruance 0:51
Well, the reason I started making soap was sort of a personal challenge after my oldest daughter had gotten married and moved away. And I was kind of bored. So we lived on five acres of land, and I didn’t want to just live on land and not do anything with it. So we started looking for how we could grow things or make things for ourselves. So we got some goats for dairy use, and started milking them and using their milk for drinking milk, and cheese, and yogurt-making. And I had extra milk. So I started making soap. And I’ll tell you, it took me six months of reading and researching before I even attempted a batch, because I wanted to make it from scratch. And I knew I had to work with lye. And I… So I was very cautious about venturing into that and making sure I had everything squared away so that I didn’t have any disasters in the kitchen.
Jill Spruance 2:03
So I eventually made my first batch of soap. And when we started using it, my husband and I were so shocked at the difference in our skin. We kind of both went, “Wow, this could be more than just something that we make for ourselves; this could definitely be a product.” And so at that point, I just kind of went into full-scale thinking about becoming a soap business and working toward that goal. And so that’s kind of how it started for us.
Deborah Niemann 2:34
Wow, that’s funny. I think I spent about six months also reading about it and stressing about it and thinking, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want to go blind. I don’t want to burn a hole in my arm.” I was so freaked out.
Jill Spruance 2:44
Right, and which is probably good. It’s healthy caution, because you and I are both here with our eyes in our arms still intact.
Deborah Niemann 2:54
Jill Spruance 2:56
So when my husband was in junior high school, he had a science teacher who was doing an experiment in the lab, and she was using lye and she did get it in her eyes. And she was okay. But it scared him a lot. And he never forgot that. So when I started talking about making soap, he kept saying, “You have to work with lye. Oh my gosh. Are you sure you want to do that?” So I’m generally not really freaked out about much, but I’m thinking, “I don’t know.” So eventually, I did, you know, venture in. It’s not… It’s not that scary. It’s just something you have to know about and make sure that if you’re going to do it, you better read what you need to do and take the necessary precautions.
Deborah Niemann 3:46
Jill Spruance 3:47
Deborah Niemann 3:48
Yeah. Because I have heard about people who didn’t do their homework. And like one person, she didn’t know that you couldn’t use aluminum. And so she was mixing everything up in an aluminum pot. And black smoke started billowing out of the pot.
Jill Spruance 4:04
I mean that — Yeah, that could just be terrifying.
Deborah Niemann 4:07
Yeah. So definitely, you know, if somebody… If you want to make your own soap, there’s a lot of homework you need to do before you get started. And that’s why I actually —
Jill Spruance 4:18
Deborah Niemann 4:18
Yeah, and that’s why I created a whole course on that, because I just feel like it’s not something that you can summarize in five minutes. You know?
Jill Spruance 4:27
No, and I think… I think a lot of people just think soap making is just something sort of akin to baking a cake. You just put the ingredients together and pop it in the oven and, no, it’s not. Especially if you’re making it from scratch. So you know, if you wanted to just play with it or have fun making soap, you would buy premade soap, a Melt and Pour, and do that. But yeah, if you’re making — if you’re dealing with lye you need to make sure you know what you’re doing or work with someone who knows what they’re doing before you try to do it on your own.
Deborah Niemann 5:03
Exactly. And so how did you make that jump then from just making soap for your family to selling it?
Jill Spruance 5:11
Hmm. So for years, we had vacationed up the coast. So every year we’d walk along the beach and talk about wanting to have a side business or something of our own going. And we could never really determine what that was supposed to be. And I just kind of figured it would reveal itself at some point. And so for 15 years, I homeschooled my daughters, and so I really didn’t have time to do something else. And so when they got older and graduated, that’s kind of how, you know, we had always kind of been thinking in terms of a business. So for me, when the soap happened, and we were using it, and we realized what a huge difference that product made in our lives, I went, “Okay, this is something that I could really get behind and put time and energy into to turn into a business.” So that’s, that’s how the jump was made.
Deborah Niemann 6:18
Okay, and then where did you sell your soap initially, when you were a completely brand-new business?
Jill Spruance 6:24
Completely brand new. What I had done prior to selling was I had intentionally started a Facebook page with the name of our farm. And I began posting things that just drew people’s interest and attention to our location and kind of what we were doing here with the goats, and I had a big garden at the time, and soap was just beginning to be made. And so I was just kind of getting people’s interest piqued about what we were up to. And so then, when the soap came on the scene, I had already sort of set the table for them being excited about what might be coming out of Basilwood. So initially, I was selling phone orders; we had a website that was pretty rudimentary at the beginning, because you know, we didn’t have money to put into a website. And I did events. So my very first show was at a little art studio, in a small town not far from us. And people just came, and I did a little cute display, and I sold directly from there, and then continued to do more events like that. And my ultimate thought was always to generate multiple streams of income using the farm. And we’re ag exclusive zoned. So I was able to do that here and have a farm store here. And that, that all, you know, kind of evolved along the way. So someone thinking about going into business, too, it’s really important that they do things like determine where they live and what their zoning requirements are, and are they allowed to do the things that they want to do where they are. Because we have run into people who have just kind of ventured out and thought they could just hang a sign out front and do whatever. And then the county has shut them down. So you know, enthusiasm isn’t enough to really make it work unless you’ve done your homework again.
Deborah Niemann 8:48
Exactly. That’s a really good point.
Jill Spruance 8:50
Deborah Niemann 8:52
And I just realized I did not ask you what year you got started. So how long have you been at this now?
Jill Spruance 8:59
So… 10 years. We were established in 2010. The first two years, though, were really laying the groundwork. We began actually selling soap in July of 2012. And shortly after, I’d say… let’s see, about six months into it, one of the local TV stations had a show called “Made in the Valley” in the Central Valley where we are located, and the newscaster came up and did a little story on us. And it was extremely popular. And so overnight, literally, we were looking for more animals for milk and our sales just took a huge bump because of the popularity of that particular show. And she — the gal who did — it has quite a good local following. And so that probably was the thing that put us on the map locally and just created more visibility for us as a company. And so that helped a lot for us to… to just be a little more known and bring people, more people, up to the farm to begin shopping here, which was a big benefit for us.
Deborah Niemann 10:25
Now, your business has grown quite a bit because you’ve got your own farm stand now and you sell in a number of retail establishments and stuff. So how many retail establishments did you say that you are selling wholesale?
Jill Spruance 10:36
We have about 35. About 35. Most of them are in California. But we do have them outside of California as well. New York and Iowa… Let’s see… Oregon, Washington, I think. Yeah, Washington. Trying to think where else…
Deborah Niemann 10:55
That’s a huge number right there already, like I am just in awe. Because we had a little… We had a little soap making business here. You know, we just — I think what we did was what probably thousands of soap makers across the country have done, and that is, you know, we put up our little website. And we went to some craft fairs or farmers markets and sold a little soap. And then and then one day, I sat down and started doing some math.
Jill Spruance 11:23
Deborah Niemann 11:24
And, you know…
Jill Spruance 11:30
Don’t do the math! Oh my god.
Deborah Niemann 11:31
So I can’t even imagine making enough soap to sell through 35 retail establishments. So how many hours a day or a week are you making soap, and how many people are helping you?
Jill Spruance 11:47
So actual hours spent making soap is probably minor compared to the rest of the business. Um, we do about, I’d say, 18,000 to 20,000 bars a year. And I am the — I’m the primary… Well, I’m the only soap maker. My daughter does all of the non soap products. So in addition to soap, we also do scrubs, we do lotions, bath bombs, lip balm, some face creams. So she’s always producing all of that. So I do the soap, she does everything else. And then my husband primarily takes care of the grounds, the livestock, he does the milking most of the time. When we started, we were hand milking. And then between getting older and arthritis and carpal tunnel, milking every day was just getting too hard on the joints. So we got a little milking machine, we only — it only does two goats at a time because we don’t have a ton of goats to milk. But it’s time consuming. And so he takes care of all the milk processing every day. And so, you know, I’d say we’re putting in probably 60 to 70 hours a week, the two of us, and then my daughter does a 40 hour week. So timewise you’re putting in a lot of time. Of course we live where we work, so we don’t have commute time and that sort of thing. But you really have to enjoy your surroundings and know how to separate business from home life, you know. So, when you’re in house, it’s good to not be working. so, um, so that you can separate that out. But, uh… Let’s see, I’m trying to think. Hours-wise… This year, we went to mega-batch days. So my daughter sets me up,. She pours all the batches. And then I do one to two days a week of mega-batching. And I do about 10 batches during those days, which would be about 600 bars of soap. And that works pretty well. So that way I just grab my containers, make a batch, send the dirty dishes to the next table, she cleans them, and I just go to the next batch. So you have to have a lot of molds. You have to have a lot of containers. You have to have enough room. When you ratchet up your production, you’re going to start buying in larger quantities to bring your cost down. So all of these things, like you’re talking about, you know, making some batches and going to a farmers market, that left the gate a long time ago for us, because we needed to produce more quantity in order to make it cost-effective to actually get a return that was livable. So as we were chatting earlier, if you had to… If we had to also make a mortgage payment on top of it, we would have to increase the size of our business in order to make that happen. When we began, we owned our property. So we didn’t have that additional burden to worry about. So that’s something that people would have to take into consideration if they were thinking about doing a business that included dairy or, or something like that. If that helps.
Deborah Niemann 15:42
Yeah. And now, where are you making your soap? Because I can’t quite picture this in anybody’s kitchen.
Jill Spruance 15:49
No. So when I first began, I was making it in the kitchen. We have two houses on our property, and at the time, we were living in one and the other one was unoccupied. So I used that kitchen of that house for a short period of time. And then I moved to what I used to call “the all purpose room.” We have of sort of a… Well, it was an all purpose room. We’ve used it for so many things over the years. But it’s a room that was next to our garage that had a sink in it and a small air conditioning unit. So I could work in there and be comfortable. And so I started making it in there. And I did that for about the first, oh, three or four years. And I mean at some points we had soap curing in the main house, in closets, in extra bedrooms, because I had outgrown that very quickly. And so eventually what we did was doubled the size of our garage and turn that into our, what I call “the soap room.” And so that has three, four-by-eight-foot work tables. And so we work on those tables. It’s got a three bay sink. It kind of looks like a commercial kitchen; it’s just a very large room. I think I’m one of few people who goes to the kitchen store all excited about what they have there without intending to make any food whatsoever. So I just began to slowly build that, putting all those things together. We bought racks — curing racks — and that sort of thing. So it’s filled to the brim, and to the point where we could probably expand that too, again.
Jill Spruance 17:43
When people come for events, or if we are doing tours, pre-COVID we used to do four big events here a year. And we would do tours, which would include the soap room, and people were always surprised at the size of it, I guess, and the amount of soap and other products that we had in that room. I’m not ever surprised by it, because I live with it all the time. But I suppose if you’re from the outside looking in, it looks like a lot. So… and I guess for three of us, yeah, we do produce quite a bit. And I’m kind of surprised myself sometimes at what we are able to do with just three of us, but we kind of have a well oiled machine. So we all kind of know what we’re up to.
Jill Spruance 18:34
I was gonna say though, the making of the soap is really such a small percentage of time for us. Because once you make it, then you have to sell it. Right? So if you… if you aren’t marketing, and if you aren’t packaging well, labeling, taking care of your website, making sure inventory is updated, communicating with customers — because I’d say we probably do 70% direct sales/30% wholesale. So you know, customer inquiries, people call, we do store three days a week here so we have to man that as well and keep that supplied and manned, you know, on the days that we’re open. So there’s a lot more that goes into the product than just making the product. Right? And then there’s the administrative part too, on top of that: the paperwork and filing taxes and keeping that all straight. And for me that’s the part that keeps the juices flowing. I love making the soap and I love coming up with new ideas, but the creativity of the packaging and marketing and all of that too is something I enjoy. So there are many aspects to being a manufacturer of a product and then also a retailer of that product.
Deborah Niemann 20:12
Right. And we were talking earlier about the fact that, even though you’re selling tons of soap, but you’re still not making enough money to hire more people to help you with this.
Jill Spruance 20:27
Well, we have had employees in the past. And in California, we’re, we’re probably in one of the most expensive places in the country in order to bring employees on. You have higher wages, you have — I don’t know what workman’s comp costs in other states or even if it’s required in other states, but it is here, and it’s expensive, especially if you’re small; when you get bigger and you have more employees, the cost goes down. So it comes to the point where you have to weigh whether or not it’s worth it to increase your production to the point of absorbing an employee that… where you could pay them enough that they want to be here, right? And the types of tasks that you’re having people do tend not to be career-oriented, you know, it’s a lot of tedious tasks, or clean-up, you know, things like that, that most people who you would hire for a place like ours would be transitioning from college to a career, or maybe they’re older and retired and want just a little side job or something like that. But for — I think this is true, not just for us, but for a lot of small businesses, it’s at what point do you decide to hire? So as we were talking earlier, I was saying, you know, in order to really make it a going concern to the point where you’d want to support more people, you would really have to probably quadruple the size of our business to make it worthwhile. So you get to the point where you go, “Okay, do I have the time, the energy, and the willpower to want to push for that? Or not?” So… And that’s just got to be an individual choice for whoever is venturing into a business. And for us, at this point, we’re kind of comfortable where we are. And it would just depend on if other family members wanted to be a part of it, and then we would decide to expand. But at this point, we’re not that young anymore, and I, I don’t know that I want to expand.
Deborah Niemann 22:58
Right. Yeah, that’s understandable.
Jill Spruance 23:01
Deborah Niemann 23:01
So a lot of people I know… I told you — I was one of them. You know, when we first moved out to the country, we had Stars in our eyes about how we were going to be self-sufficient, and not only that, but we were going to make a living off the land. And, had all these great ideas for everything we were gonna sell. And then you start doing it and reality starts to sink in. And then heaven forbid, you pick up a pen and paper and start to do the math.
Jill Spruance 23:29
Right. Yeah, and… and you’re right. We have had, I told you, I can’t count how many times we’ve had — especially younger people — who are just sweet as can be come in and tell me that I’m living their dream. And that’s what they want to do. They want to move to the country and have some goats and maybe do a little dairy and make soap or cheese and just sell it at the farmers markets. You know, and aside from having any bills to pay that, yeah, that could work. Um, but you know, especially in terms of benefits, when most people look at a job, they’re looking for an income, and then the benefits that come with that income, like insurance. So for us, yes, we are covering those expenses, and so our income isn’t as high but we do have a lot of expenses covered through the business. So we’re not having to pay those out of pocket. So there’s that benefit. The other thing is, we do live on the property. So we don’t have, for instance, if we were living here and then also having to pay for rent at a store or a space where we were selling, we don’t have that expense because we sell, you know, from here in one of our own buildings. But, um, yeah, it’s… I think when people get involved, and being self-sufficient, of course, means you are working to grow your own food, and then prepare all that food, and then store all that food and etc, etc, etc. And quickly, you find out how much work it takes to do that. It’s a lot easier to go buy stuff at the grocery store, right?
Deborah Niemann 25:32
Jill Spruance 25:35
Yeah. So, um, I think it’s something that you have to really do a lot of research and go in with your eyes wide open, or have a secondary income. We grew up in a farming community. And I know, there was the farmer, and then the farmer’s wife was usually a nurse or a school teacher. And why? Because it was the second income, and she got benefits. She had the insurance for the family. And she… that, that job covered those things, because the farm income wasn’t enough to do both. So I was laughing with a friend this morning about how my husband worked in another industry for 35 years. And had it not been for that I couldn’t have started what I started because he basically funded that business. So if you have seed money, or if you do have a partnership with your spouse where one of you has a job outside of the home, and you can use some of that cash to seed a small business, eventually, you could get it to the point where it could be your primary income, but you really have to be smart about how you go about it. And one of the things that we did was, we had committed to not go into debt. So we’ve been able to do that, we’ve been able to self-fund our business and our expansions. But that’s not always doable for everybody. So, you know, you just have to determine whether or not that will work for you, if you are interested in doing any kind of entrepreneurial venture of that sort, you know, especially in a farming type of environment.
Deborah Niemann 27:31
Exactly. Yeah. So I’m sure… Like, this all sounds so seamless, and perfect, and beautiful right now, like, I — you’re living my dream.
Jill Spruance 27:44
Come on over!
Deborah Niemann 27:48
So, I gotta know, like, did you have some surprises in there somewhere that made you like, “Whoa, I was not expecting that.”
Jill Spruance 27:58
Well COVID, that was a big surprise.
Deborah Niemann 28:01
Jill Spruance 28:02
Right. So, um, so what we had built up to was, pre-March of this year, our daily or weekly business model looked more like: We were doing frequent workshops; we did a cheese-making workshop at least once or twice a month that my daughter taught. Then I did woolly-making workshops, which are felted bars of soap, and my husband did bath bomb making workshops. And we had people coming up frequently, groups of eight or more signing up to do those workshops for parties or for family get-togethers. And then after COVID happened— oh, and we also had an Airbnb going too. March hit, everything shut down, and we literally spent probably three or four days just refunding workshops that people had signed up for that weren’t going to happen. And so at that point, I was thinking, “Okay, we are hemorrhaging money right now.” Because these were all prepaid workshops that now were not going to happen, and we were refunding not for that month, but for like three months. So I quickly had to figure out, “How are we going to make this up?” You know, so unique to us, I think, and probably a lot of other small businesses, our customer base is very loyal, and very wonderful. So one of the things that I’ve always focused on from the beginning was not on how much money can I make, but how can I serve this person who wants to buy something from me? And I think that resonated with our customers. So when everything shut down, we pivoted to a immensely huge increase in online sales. People couldn’t come up; they just started ordering online. And we were really kind of shocked at the amount of online business we began to do literally overnight. So that continued March, April, May, June. July, we were starting to feel like “Okay, this is good. Things are going well.” August, heading towards Christmas, the fourth quarter, you know, and things are ratcheting up. And then we had a wildfire breakout up the hill, about 30 minutes from us, that was raging so quickly that we ended up having to evacuate for a few days. Had to move the livestock, had to pack up all of the stuff in the soap room, all of our raw materials had to be moved out of here because at that point, I’m thinking, “Okay, if it all burns down, how do I make anything? How do I fill orders? How do I do anything?” Right?
Deborah Niemann 31:19
Jill Spruance 31:19
So… because you can’t just blink your eyes and have 55 gallon drums of oil right in front of you. Right?
Deborah Niemann 31:28
Jill Spruance 31:29
So lucky for us, the fire was far enough away that it wasn’t as impactive in terms of loss timewise, it probably put us behind about 10 days, because we had to move everything down, and then turn around and bring it all back up. And even now — this has been about five weeks now — people are still calling to see if we’re open again. And we have been for, for a month. But they’re not sure because, you know, if you don’t live in the mountains, you don’t know how far away something is from the mountains, or the mountains and the town is the town.
Deborah Niemann 32:09
Jill Spruance 32:10
So we continue to have a good online presence. So that continues. We started doing free shipping on orders over $35. That helped a lot. So I guess what I’m saying is, as things happen, if you aren’t able to quickly pivot and figure out what you can do to make the most of a particular situation or change things up so that you can continue operating, you will drown. So I’d say so far, we’ve been pretty good at that. I’m not saying I want another wrench thrown at me, right? I think we’ve had enough this year. Yeah, but those are the kinds of things that if you if you don’t like change, don’t go into business. Because… Right? Especially, especially nowadays, in this environment, people want what’s new and different all the time. And so you… Even if you like making — you have a great product, and you like making that product — you know, they liked white yesterday, tomorrow they want pink, and then the next day they want green. So you have to constantly be up on what is trending, what colors are in, and that sort of thing. So marketing becomes very tantamount to success in a lot of ways. Keep making your good product, but also make it pleasing to people who want to purchase it.
Deborah Niemann 33:52
Right. Mm hmm. Yeah, when I first started making soap, I went to some conferences, where they not only talk about soap making, but also, like you said, all the business aspects of it, and like, you know… And it was pretty hilarious, because when I went to that conference, I had chosen my fragrances by walking into a soap making supply store and just sniffing everything. And so of course, I got all these fragrances that I personally loved, which is pretty much a lot of florals. Which is not a bad option. But you know, like at the conference I learned that about 60% of people like florals. So I was doing a good job for 60% of the market.
Jill Spruance 34:36
Right. And 40% you were missing altogether, right?
Deborah Niemann 34:39
Jill Spruance 34:40
And I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but what cracks me up — and I don’t know how this happens — but if we come out with a new scent or product, it usually takes about six months before it catches on. And that, that has happened over and over again. I’ll come out with a new thing, and I’ll think, “Oh, this is just going to fly off the shelves.” Occasionally that happens. But usually it takes six months of momentum to build up, and then all of a sudden, boom, it’s gone. Another thing that happens is, if you go to a show — I don’t know if you found this to be true — but there are certain products at certain shows that you will sell a ton of that maybe at the next show, you don’t sell anything of. And I just laugh every time I go, “Do all these people call each other and say, let’s all by scrubs this weekend, and let’s get it in citrusy?” No. You know, they don’t. But that’s… everybody buys that. And then you say to yourself, “Why didn’t I bring more of that?” Well, how would you know? Right?
Deborah Niemann 35:49
Jill Spruance 35:51
So, I don’t know how that happens. It’s weird.
Deborah Niemann 35:54
Yeah. And the thing is, if you’re making natural products, they’re… Like, if you’re, you know, like, if you just got like a sugar scrub that’s sugar and oils, those — without an preservative — those oils are gonna go rancid if you don’t sell it within, you know, a certain number of months.
Jill Spruance 36:11
Yep. Yep. Yes, ma’am. So you cannot have something that’s gonna sit on your shelf for two years, you know? Oh, that was another question I had recently that, for me, keeping up with the soap production is a constant thing. I’m always behind. Always behind. So I try to make it so that if somebody wants to order something, it is available at all times. Well, that doesn’t always happen. Because, case in point, we have a wholesaler that likes to buy our lavender castile soap. And she doesn’t buy it consistently, but when she does, she’ll buy the entire batch. And she did that this summer. So I made 60 bars, she emailed me, boom, they’re gone. I make another 60 bars, they no sooner get done caring, she wanted those too. I did it a third time. And this time, I made two batches, figuring, “Okay, she’s gonna do this again.” And she did, but at least I had some for me, too.
Jill Spruance 37:20
So we recently had somebody come into the soap room and ask me how long we have our soap in inventory before it’s sold. And I just kind of laughed, I thought, you know, “I wish longer than I did, because, because I’m always behind.” So for us, sales are not a big problem, but we’re always thinking about it too. So it is something that we are intentional about moving product; if something… if we have more of something than another item, we’ll bundle it together and promote that. Christmas is coming up, so you can do that a little bit more, and then plan for it, you know, so you can produce more of that lotion or that scrub or whatever, get it out the door together. But you know, it’s, it’s a constant thing that’s making your brain work. So for me that part I like because I like being creative. And I like being challenged.
Deborah Niemann 38:29
Yeah, exactly. And I discovered fairly early on that one of the things I really liked about making soap was trying different recipes, and experimenting and stuff. And then… But my customers always wanted the same things. And so that… I actually found that then to kind of be what killed my desire to, like, make my soap-making business bigger was I felt like I was gonna be a robot like making pretty much the exact same soaps day after day and I couldn’t picture myself doing that.
Jill Spruance 39:06
All the time. Yeah, so, so we probably have about 60 soaps total. Six of those are facial bars, and then the balance are body bars. And what I’ve done that has kind of helped that was created some that were seasonals. So we have our holiday soaps, and then we have spring/summer and fall/winter. And so if there’s a soap that honestly I just don’t like making or I don’t like the color scheme, or I just tired of it, I’ll either change up the colors, or I’ll drop it and create a new one. And… So that doesn’t happen often because like you said, people have their favorites and as soon as you drop one, you know — If there’s one that just doesn’t sell very fast, as soon as we drop it, that’s what everybody wants. Right?
Deborah Niemann 40:02
Jill Spruance 40:02
Yeah. And I’m like, “Okay, why didn’t you say you wanted that when it was sitting on the shelf?” But yes, it can, it can squeeze out the fun unless you can make it up somewhere else. And for me, the making it up somewhere else comes with the packaging and the marketing. So, uh… And even posting, creating the graphics for posts on Instagram and Facebook and that sort of thing. So, I like doing that part so there’s more creativity than just the soap-making. So that’s kind of how I satisfy that while also having to be a producer, too. Because like you said, there are people who want lavender swirl every day and twice on Sundays. And if it’s not there, they’re not happy. So, so yes. There are their favorites, are staples, that we have to make all the time. And I can see where yes, it could get boring if you did it all day every day. So the key is trying to change it up so you’re not doing the same thing all day every day.
Deborah Niemann 40:02
Right, yeah, I totally agree with that. You have offered so much incredible information during this episode. I think anybody who was thinking of starting a goat-milk soap business before they started listening probably has a much more realistic view now of what is all involved in that. And, do you have any last, like, final words of encouragement, or warning, or advice?
Jill Spruance 40:02
Yeah. I would say — cuz this is something that I feel strongly about — that if you’re looking to do anything creatively, think of what it is that differentiates you from everybody else. Because you are uniquely you, and I am uniquely me, and, um, if you venture into something and just try to do what someone else is doing, it’s not going to bring along the signature that is uniquely you. And so, I would say, look for inspiration and ways of, of helping you hone what that is, but, uh, make it your own. So, in other words try to put your own signature on what it is you’re doing. Because there’s a lot of soap makers out there, but everybody does things a little bit differently — for us it’s goat’s milk, and I would never make non-goat’s-milk soap. Goat’s milk soap is my thing, I love, I love the way I make it. And finding the inspiration for color schemes and that sorts of thing is just basically looking for inspiration in nature or design and that sort of thing. It’s when you try to copy that it will squash your creativity, I think. Because competition can kill that for you, if you are just focused on what everybody else is doing. Just look at what you want to do and, and do the best at that. That’s what… I probably used way more words than I needed to to try to make that point. But I hope I made sense.
Deborah Niemann 40:02
Yeah, absolutely. And I totally agree. So that is a wonderful point to end on. And I think if you want to have any business at all, you know, not just soap, any business at all, that you really have to figure out what is going to differentiate you from the competition and not just try to copy somebody else, but just to come up with what is uniquely you.
Jill Spruance 40:02
Yeah. Yes. And do that! And then people will — the people who love that — will love you.
Deborah Niemann 40:02
Exactly. That was awesome! Well, thank you so much for being on today.
Jill Spruance 40:02
Deborah Niemann 40:02
This has been a lot of fun.
Jill Spruance 40:02
Well vice versa. Thanks for having us.
4 thoughts on “Goat Milk Soap Business”
I am looking forward to making my first batch of soap once I get established.
Deborah, do you sell your soap?
Yes, I do, but not nearly as much as I used to. I was talking to my husband about making some soon to sell for Christmas. We have some now, but only unscented, unscented with coffee, and frankincense.
Thank you for sharing their story and the transcription, very useful.