Thursday, 25 October 2012

The power of a Trade

Money wasn't always the way business was done between people.

It may seem obvious but all too often we only ever think about the money.  What every happened to favours and bartering?  Of helping one another out, or going to your next door neighbour to exhange some excess of butter for much needed sugar?

I've been inspired by ideas such as Trade School and time banking schemes where able bodied people look after an elderly persons garden in exchange for some home-made soup or baking etc.  I like kindness in a community.  It would be great if we could all do it for free and out of love for one another but I guess survival has had to let me think about other possible alternatives.

As a business start-up with no capital to invest it is fair to say we were doomed from the very beginning.  We have had to be creative in ways to get by financially in the daily things in life as well as sharing in the few luxuries that come our way by which we can celebrate.

Facing yet another anniversary and Christmas without gifts for each other or the kids - we began to think of ways to get things for each other that didn't really cost us much.  We even toyed with trying to trade with farmers for milk, bread etc in order to save those extra few pennies.

So, we began to explore trading as a means of spreading the finances a little further and stretch every penny we had for what it was worth.

Thing is - I have been totally blown away by it.  Not only have we been sent/traded some great items but its the messages, thoughtfulness and little extras that just blow you away.

One such example was that of  Farr Out Jewelry Designs on ETSY owned by the wonderful Kristy Farr.

We decided to do a trade:  She liked one of our soaps for a present and we quite fancied a pair of her earrings.  Once we looked at the value and postage etc., it became clear that we were definitely the ones getting a really really good deal and a little apprehensive about the worth of one of our soaps to a pair of earrings I felt I wanted to add a little something extra to the package.  Trouble was that it couldn't go over a certain weight - making the gesture ridiculously expensive.

Having done so I needed to tell Kristy about the extra item in case she was confused about the package upon arrival, or happened to give the little extra as part of the gift, without opening the box.

We communicated a little and all was well.

Until last week....

Last week, a package arrived and Carla was quick to get to the post man to sign for a package (Definitely a first!)  I arrived into the kitchen to see we had been sent this:

Now lets be clear - I was only sending something we were no longer going to sell.  What I got in return were two beautiful sets of earrings.  Carla got very excited as it meant one pair could be for her.

I understand that some people veer away from trading.  They feel that it may devalue your product but here are a few pros to think about.

The cost of anything you trade is only your direct material costs and postage.  This makes any item you buy much cheaper for you than it would if you used cash.  Whilst you do have to factor in time - you are doing something you love as your job and it is just one item of many you might currently be in the process of making.

Secondly, it is a great way of advertising without much cost outlay to yourself.  Kristy included her business card just as we did to her.  Anyone that sees Carla's earrings will get a wonderful story at little cost to Kristy just as we might receive from Kristy herself.  Adding a few business cards to this kind of person is much more likely to have impact as they take pride in the bargains they were able to get through a shop such as yours.

Thirdly, you might get things you really want, things you may want to use as gifts and things you have never even thought of.  Some items we have said yes to when approached about a trade and other items are just not suitable for us at this time - such as baby items, paper, soap and there is quite a lot of jewelry out there at the minute and we certainly can't keep trading for jewelry (there is only one female in this house!)

Fourthly, the feeling you get from a trade is sooo amazingly lovely.  We have met the most wonderful people, been truly blessed by the most amazing generosity from people in trades and have even been inspired to create our own trading team on

If you want to find out more about trading why not look up or

I want to note a few people either for contacting us about trades or agreeing to do trades with us.  We haven't been able to trade with everyone but each shop deserves a shout out and look into!  There is no guarantee that they will want to trade - but I'm sure they are all open to selling their remarkable items and they are all - remarkable people.

Handmade in Keswick

Lu Smith has without knowledge of the above competition matched the loveliness of Kristy.  We did a trade and got the most beautifully wrapped products - I still can't bring myself to open the wrapping!

But get this for thoughtfulness - not only was everything in a protective bag to ensure it remained waterproof but each item was wrapped in brown paper and tied with material and colourful string.  In the package came a note mentioning that each item was packed in such a way that we could open it to have a look but also possible to close it so that it can be a gift without us even having to package the items.

Aside from the trade Lu is a dedicated volunteer on where she volunteers to promote the work of over 200 crafters in Craftfest.  I can't praise her work ethic, commitment and dedication to the cause highly enough.

Lu,  Thank you

Handmade by Amor
The Crystal Cavern
My Olive Flower

Monday, 22 October 2012

Soap Classes

We have been running Soap Making workshops for a while now.  We had the advantage of being trained in Brazil and there are very few soap makers in Ireland who facilitate workshops.

As a result we tend to make them relatively regularly.  We run quarterly classes for groups, ad hoc workshops for organisations, house parties, children's parties and on occasion we get asked to facilitate one-to-ones.

In all the courses we took a deliberate decision to do the catering ourselves.  There is nothing better than a bit of home-made wheaten bread that you know will thrill all but those with wheat allergies.  Or, at least that was what I thought....

Until I discovered one had a dairy allergy.  Whoops.  This was the table we set.  She could eat - NOTHING!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Chocolate Festivals & Craft Stalls

Can I confess something?

Craft Fayers - Not sure they are worth the effort.

On the upside - it is a way for your craft business to support a charity as often we get asked to set up a stall for really good organisations such as Cancer charities, Children's charities or Church funds.  You get to meet great people and spend an afternoon out of the house.

On the down-side - a fee for a table is anywhere from £10-40 - which if you only make £100 is actually quite a dent in our profits.  Take into consideration the money required for petrol to get to the event and for food at the event and you are already beginning to wonder if it will pay for itself.  At £100 you might just be lucky enough to break even - which means you get nothing for making the products and nothing for the day you have just spent working at the stall.

Saturday tends to be a family day and generally there is very little on at a craft fair for a 1 year old and a 3 year old to catch their attention for a full day.  For that reason - we tend to do very few of them.

Killyleagh recently launched a chocolate festival within the grounds of the castle and we were asked if we could support a retailer that sells for us by coming along to the event.

We went one better - we made some chocolate soap luxuries.  Call it our own personal indulgence.

And these were the results.


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Christmas Products

Most of our soaps are 'Gift Soaps'. We haven't really ventured into the world of cosmetics just yet - still lots of time for that. As a 'gift' business we should by all accounts sell most of our products in the run up to Christmas - and whilst most of our products are suitable for such an occasion we also know that customers love Christmas Scents, Traditional themes and symbolic gestures at a time of good will. Christmas is important to us. Its actually 'make or break' for us. Christmas will be the deciding factor in our first year of business in dictating whether or not we can make this little project work. Such threats have honed our creative genius for that very reason and we thought it high time to introduce the results to this little blog of ours. You will notice in the collage our innovative take on the "Soap on a Rope" theme, our Gingerbread men, our Christmas soap bar among many many others. You can take a look at more at our shop.

I'll be keen to hear what you think...

I'll be keen to know what you think...

Monday, 15 October 2012

Scrapbooking versus Soapmaking equals Decoupage!

Introducing our new OOAK Soap Range. 

 Carla has been itching over the last few months to merge her love for Scrap-booking with soap-making. She started out by looking at different ways to package soaps in the hope that we could make some Scrap-book boxes or packaging to sell soap. Having talked to her her sister (also a Scrap-booker at and her shop they agreed to try a few of Lu's cards with some custom designed soaps. And here were the results:

Don't let that fool you... Carla, whilst happy with this introduced a Christmas Range also: 

And finally... Excited about working with paper again and inspired by a South African Magazine "Ideas" she decided to start using Decoupage to make OOAK Soapy Gifts. The Results are VERY Impressive: First up, "The Mask and the Face"

 And secondly, "The Lighted Window"

 OOAK's can be custom ordered along various themes and these items are currently available at under 'shop'. The are accessible also on ETSY, FOLKSY, WOWTHANKYOU and Luulla.

Monday, 8 October 2012

In homage to those faithful treasury makers....

One thing I find quite inspiring about Etsy is the joy many of the artists find in creating treasuries to help promote the work of other crafter's.

Treasuries are no mean feat.  You take a theme and plough through hundreds of items in the hope to find 16 lovely items that perhaps go together and with a little bit of luck may even make it onto the front page of ETSY.

In a bid to help people we usually align ourselves into certain teams whereby we support and encourage others in our team by featuring their items in our treasuries.  This helps promote your items, provide links to blogs and bring more people to your shops.


They are so time consuming and to be honest I don't have a love for shopping in general - so window shopping on the internet is something that provides no appeal at all.  That said, I have come across some fabulous stuff as I've searched through ETSY and been so inspired by some of the creative talent out there that I'm determined to find something I too can do.

Because I'm so bad at them however I want to take  a moment to pay homage to a few people who have treasured our items more than most and feature some of their products.  Its not a long list but they have some fantastic items.

For example:

Olive Penguin repeatedly features us in treasuries much to my delight.  Olive - Thank you!

Mother of Pearl Buttons & Metalized Plastic Beads Purple Ribbon Bracelet- Great gift idea for teens and young adultsMaroon Ribbon, Polymer Clay, Marble, and Green Recycled Glass Beaded BraceletUnique Kashmiri Beaded Multiple Strand Bracelet on Red Ribbon with Crystal Bead AccentsDark Midnight Blue Puzzle Piece Earrings w Sparkly FinishOrange & Pink Polymer Clay Beaded Stress Relief Keychain on Black Silky Cord

handmade by Amor AKA Anne-Marie O'Rourke is one of the stars of the Craftyirelandteam on Etsy with whom I have gained insight from her blog, promotion through the numerous treasuries we have been featured in and feel a little indebted to.  Anne-Marie - thank you.
Jumbo Bookmark. Oversized Shepherds Hook & Bright Buttons. Big Book Mark or Shelf DecorationIrish Jewelry. Beach Glass Pendant. Dark Forest Green. Ocean Moon

Green Chrysocolla Pendant, Wire Wrapped Gemstone, Sterling Silver. WAVES

Heart Ornament. Pink Decoration for Girl's Room, Rear View Mirror, Baptism Gift, Hanging Ornament.Irish Sea Pottery Pendant. Olympian Blue Beach Pottery Necklace from Ireland. Cornflower Ocean

Pat Longmuir seems to be everywhere - Facebook, Craftyfolk - you name it.  Always promoting and always commenting.  Pat, Thank you.  Pat as one of the worst Craftyfolk members around - I thank you!

Scottish Landscape Stripe Felted ToteAmethyst Fairy door with Pink RosesTeardrop Earrings "Pastel Rainbow"Sparkly Snowman Buttons6 Gingerbread Men Sewing Buttons6 Puppy Dog Sewing Buttons Light Brown

And Last but not by any means least: Kyrene Designs - our most loyal supporter on Facebook with some wonderful items.  likewise - thank you for the likes, pins, promo and advice.

And there it is a little roll call to all the tireless crafters out there selflessly promoting other crafter's work.


Monday, 1 October 2012


It has been an amazing month for us with regards to publicity.  We seem to have been featured in lots of different places.

In the first week of Sept we were asked to participate in the Creative Crafting Magazine - Christmas Edition.  This involved a quick question and answer interview and a number of photos.  Fantastic.  CraftFEST also helped us in winning a Cow Award (see earlier post) and opened our eyes to the power of interweaving all our social connections to increase SEO - Search Engine Optimisation.  It sounds like something from Star Trek to me if I am honest.  Thankfully, I am a fast learner.

Next up was a request from WOW THANK YOU - probably my favorite Internet shop with regards to customer care, attention to detail and genuine passion to get crafters seen in the greater public arena.  We only really signed up to WTY on the back of CraftFEST as we met some great people on the site who raved about Tracey and her dedication to all things hand-made.  Cautious about the expense and fearful about more hours of uploading photos I kept trying to put things off.  Finally, frustrations with another internet shop site convinced me to sign up, pay the money and take a breath.

Needing to give ourselves a presence I decided to upload a few photos and perhaps add more as the weeks went on.  Within 24 hours Tracey had contacted us about an open call for photographs for a magazine advert for WTY with "Homes & Antiques".  As we had only about 5 items listed - I decided to stay clear. Within the next day Tracey asked us to get photos in ASAP as she wanted to feature some of our soaps.

WOW.... THANK... YOU!!!!  I was so uber surprised and enthused about the wonderful reception to this site that I even offered myself as a human sacrifice to the mighty Tracey Kifford (turning 40 btw - as I write this).

Next up was the Wonderful Online site "One Fab Day" where we were mentioned for our Cow Award winning sheep that we made for friends of ours getting married.  Cameron & Katies wedding was a special affair and more can be found at:

Onwards and upwards... - we moved into the bazaar realm of ETSY - where it is nigh-on impossible to be discovered never mind found despite hours in relevant forums.  It is our best selling shop but in regards to numbers of visits it is probably still quite low.  Unexpectedly, out of the blue, we got contacted by a PR company asking for photos for "My Scottish Weddings" @  Apparently they were interested in our mini-cupcake wedding favours.   YIPPEE.

And finally, at least for now, came FOLKSY with a fabulous offer.  This site I have really struggled to love.  I confess I even thought about closing the account but for the fact that I'd paid money to list some items and thought I should hold out until they at least expired.  The search was clunky, the categories didn't suit, we couldn't list oils or cosmetics - only soap, you couldn't tag, uploading was a nightmare and generally it felt as though they didn't care.

I humbly appologise FOLKSY.

The very day I was publicly dishing them I got a request, albeit a last minute one, to see if we would be interested in making an exclusive for FOLKSY.  They loved our soaps and this was a great way to publicise it.  Whilst we couldn't sell the 'exclusive' product anywhere else - they would in return use us as one of 15 shops in all their Christmas promotions.  Having been given a few options we decided to go for a Christmas Pudding Soap.  The expected turnaround was quite literally overnight for us - but we came up with something we are pretty dang proud of.

These little soaps will now sit in the Christmas link for the 12 weeks of Christmas.  They will be offered to magazines and in press-releases with the media able to choose which of the 15 shops they want to profile.  Included will be a brief about us and our story.

I mean I genuinely couldn't buy that kind of publicity.

So, what I have learnt in this last month is one very valid lesson.  We make Soap Art that even people who are professionally working in the Craft World are impressed by.  We have really seen favour.  Its been great.

Now all we have to do is begin to see sales to compliment this not so minor feat.  Christmas will be the real tester for us as a business in working out if we can make this work for us or not.  We have only limited stock and no idea about demand - but we walk into the next three months with a sense of anticipation and optimism about what might be possible if it works!

A big thank you to all the internet shops in general. Thank you for taking note of us and for supporting us in our bid to make this little business work.