Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Featured Exhibitor: A.M. Soap Company



Who are you and what do you do? 

Bill Smith. I make handcrafted olive oil-based bar soaps and shave soaps. I have been making soaps for almost 20 years and have been selling my soaps since 2009. I have been many things in my life; engineer, chemist, sculptor, librarian, and more, and being a soapmaker is the most enjoyable thing I have done because I get to use many of my interests and talents.

What’s the latest thing you’ve been working on?

I’m working on developing a shampoo bar soap formula and a jewelweed soap for poison ivy relief. I spent four years developing a shave soap formulation I was happy with, and ten years for the bar soap formulation I use. Shampoo bars are challenging because there are many factors to consider and balance.

Will you be featuring any special holiday items?

I have several bars that are scented intentionally for the holidays. Orange Clove, Peppermint Vanilla, Frozen, Balsam, Holiday Berries and Frankincense & Myrrh. I will likely also have a holiday sampler set of six half-bars wrapped in ribbon which will make wonderful gifts.


What was your first memory of making something?

My parents (a machinist and knitter and wonderful cook) always encouraged all five of their kids to use their hands. The first thing I remember making is a scrap-wood fort in the middle of their driveway. The neighbors were not happy with a kid’s eyesore, but it was recycled pretty quickly into more projects.

What do your customers love most about your product(s)?

My customers give my soaps rave reviews for the way it leaves their skin feeling when they use it and the scents I use. Many people tell me how much they love my soaps because their skin is moisturized and not dry and the bars are silky smooth with great lather.

Have you always been passionate about art and design?

Yes. I am trained as an engineer because I love to design and make things. While studying engineering, I also studied art history, ceramics, and sculpture. I have studied and practiced various arts since I was a child.


What do you love most about craft show vending?

Meeting hundreds of people and having a chat with many of them. Those that I have met before at previous craft shows often become repeat customers and friends. It makes me happy to make others happy.

Is this a full-time business for you?

Soapmaking is my full-time occupation and has been for about five years now. I sell at about twenty craft shows each year and supply a number of stores in Minnesota with soaps. I also ship soaps all over the United States to repeat customers.

How did you get started in your business?

My wife convinced me to sell soap when her office told her they wanted to by my soaps because they loved them instead of get them for free. I had been giving every member of her office soaps, as well as friends and family, to the tune of about 100 pounds of soap each year so I could make more. I made way more soap than I can personally, and I keep wanting to make more. My soapmaking is a hobby gone wild.

Why did you start working in this particular craft?

Commercial soap was unsatisfying to me and made my skin itch. I’m an engineer. I knew I could make better soap and spent 10 years refining my recipes and techniques.

What do you think sets your designs apart from others?

I use bold colors and bold scents in my soaps. Many handcrafted soaps are rather bland in color and weak in scent, in my opinion. My wife says her opinion is that it’s a reflection of a man making. I also use oils that are better for your skin than many soapmakers. Soap can be made from a lot of different oils, and many soapers choose cheap oils that clean well but strip skin oils and are unsatisfactory in other ways; lather, conditioning, moisturizing.

What are some inspirations for your work?

I try to make every soap bar design be unique and have a rational relationship between the scent and the color. Scent is the most nostalgic sense, and if a scent calls an image or feeling to my mind, I try to design the bars to reflect that.

What motivates you to create?

Curiosity. If a person has curiosity and acts on it they will never be bored. I don’t like being bored and I like to challenge myself. How is X done? Can I do that? Can I do it better?

Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting story behind it?

a.m. soap company is named because when I finally created a soap formula that I though was perfect, I got out of the shower telling my wife that it made me happy in the morning and it was a great way to start the day. Our original image was a sunrise over a lake, and our current package highlights a shining sun.

What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?

I have good skills in mathematics, chemistry and formulation and have good lab skills because I have worked professionally as an engineer and a chemist. These skills are important to being able to create beautiful soaps that perform extremely well and satisfy demanding customers. I am also good at creating specialized equipment and tools I might need.

What made you take this leap into being your own boss?

In 2008 when the economy tanked, I had no employment. I decided that I needed to make my own job if I wasn’t finding one, because doing nothing wasn’t an appealing option. I started this business so that I didn’t sit around unproductively, and so that I would model good behavior for my children. I wanted to show them that we are the masters of our own fate.

What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?

Don’t take on too much debt. I believe it is better to build slowly on a solid foundation than to saddle oneself in large debt quickly to accomplish growth quickly. Cash flow problems are what ruins most small businesses. It takes time to build a business and relationships with customers, and word of mouth reputation takes time to build. Treat customers well, price fairly and keep price points in mind because customers do. Don’t skimp on materials to increase profits. Customers can tell quality and they appreciate it.



Check out more of Bill's products online, and be sure to stop by his booth at the Minneapolis Gift & Art Expo, November 2-4, 2018 at the Minneapolis Convention Center!



Posted by Admin at 4:08 PM  ⁙  0 COMMENTS

CATEGORY:  Featured Exhibitors
Be the first to leave a comment.