On this week's Shop Small Saturday Showcase, I have a long overdue shop to share with you! As you know, I prefer using natural products whenever possible. When I spotted SOAP FARM's beautiful products at one of my favorite craft shows, I knew they had to be a part of my series!
Vanessa has been making soap since 2001 and really knows how to make a beautiful bar of soap. She also makes other natural bath and body products and puts together baskets of her items, which make perfect gifts. Also, she is offering a promo to my readers to receive 15% off of her items. Lucky you! Make sure to check that out after the interview, and now let's get to it!
Tell me a little bit about yourself!
I am an art school and film school grad who spent my entire adolescence figuring out a way to get to New York City. I am adopted from Korea, grew up in Minnesota with the Mississippi river in my backyard, and, yes, did get myself to New York at twenty after transferring from more than one college. I hated school so much I was truant and graduated high school a year early (just to get the heck out) and finally finished college summa cum, to my father's relief and disbelief. I am a broadcast news and documentary producer/editor by profession with eighteen years working for the majors in television. I can make a bar of soap and produce your marketing video; a rare occurrence. I have had no professional training or background in soap making or business but I like to do things the hard way.
Where did the name of your store come from?
My father's side of the family are all commercial agricultural farmers from his generation in the American heartland. They grow soybeans and corn on thousands of acres of land. Their kids have gone off into other fields (pardon the pun) and careers. I've always lived in major cities (I'm a city mouse) but always wanted the purity that doesn't exist there. I've always wanted to create businesses around delivering the essence of nature to the urban masses. Hence, SOAP FARM.
Why did you start making goods for SOAP FARM?
Everything comes from experimentation for me and I was attracted to all natural soap making because it's rather dangerous. Customers came next-and that's what changes why you make what you make.
What is your favorite item?
My first and coveted item, my SUPERFAT SOAP; an all natural, giant, fat bar of soap made with pure essential oils and ingredients that help and heal sensitive skin.
What is your most popular item?
Superfat Soap and ONE All Natural Hair and Body Wash-and the Loofah Soaps. It's a tie really.
Where do you get the inspiration for your work?
Over the years traveling around this country and Europe I have come across life-changing products and goods. It's usually where I get inspired. I never copy or plagiarize. I think that makes you a thief, not an artist, but to say we ever invent something of our own is truly rare. It's all just an interpretation of something that's been around a long time. How you interpret makes you successful or not. My art school background has made me keenly focused on design, color, and experience. I'm the type that can find inspiration in a trashcan.
What makes your store unique?
I'm sort of a wanna-be tech geek so I have always imagined my store to be online, cashless, virtual. I'm one of the few handcrafted vendors who have had a mission to provide free shipping since day one. I want people to experience my products and work less at getting them. Oh, and I'm known for doing everything fast so I have the fastest shipping around which customers appreciate but also expect nowadays (at least I do).
What is the toughest part about making your goods?
Like any artisanal craft, it takes time, patience, skill and patience. It's not for the weak or lazy. Soap has to cure like fine wine or cheese. There's no shortcut. Oh, and since our ingredients are commodities, you deal with raw material price fluctuations which is not great for business overall.
Do you take custom orders?
Yes, I used to do a fair amount of custom soap orders but seems like less of a demand now. I used to charge a premium for finding the scent and custom blending. A small audience is looking for this but it's interesting because scent is tied to our earliest and most personal memories and attachments. It's part psychotherapy and part chemistry doing custom orders.
Where can I see more of your work and buy a gift?
Website: www.soapfarm.com Los Angeles customers get their orders in one day!
Are you going to be at any shows soon, so I can see your work in person and say hello?
Patchwork Santa Ana, as usual!
Anything else to add?
I started out when natural was still a little obscure. To anyone trying to grow their artisanal business, know your field, know your competition and figure out the business first. Otherwise you have a hobby. Industries can catch up to you :).
Beautiful products, right? Her natural soaps are smell amazing, feel wonderful, and even look gorgeous. My advice is to order a few items so you can find your favorite scent! Lucky for you, Vanessa is giving you 15% off of your purchase for the next month by using the code VINTAGEZEST. I think you should send me some thanks for showing you this lovely shop... and maybe a bar of SUPERFAT soap too? :)