I Hate Snow

I hate snow. I hate it. Actually, hate isn’t a strong enough word. The puppies can’t get off the porch because the steps have turned into a snow slide – that now needs to be shoveled. It’s cold and we’re stuck at home. I do believe this is the definition of hell. I moved away from the Midwest’s blizzards for a reason. Snow and I do not get along.

Side note: Where exactly is Spring? The good news is our farmers’ markets will be starting soon! I really can’t wait to get out and see everyone again. (please remind me of this post when it is 95 out with 80% humidity)

As I sit by the fireplace with Lizzy curled up next to me, I think we need to move to Napa. The wine soap maker at the California vineyards :) That is doable, right?

One can dream. Until then, there is little bath champagne in my plans for this evening.

Stay warm and safe everyone!

How I take care of my skin

Every few markets I get someone who asks what exactly I do to keep my skin looking so great. First, I love that people are using my skin as an example. For years decades I’ve been working on a routine that keeps my skin as clear as possible. There hasn’t been a day since my teens where I haven’t had some sort of breakout.

First, I drink more water that you will ever believe.

At our farmers’ markets I go through at least 1 gallon of water in 5 hours. Throughout the day I always have a large glass of water with me. It’s hardly ever empty.

Second, I always wash with the Best Face Wash Ever. It’s the only way I can keep my skin under control. At times it can a touch too drying (like in this winter season), but it’s necessary for me to keep the acne at bay.

After I wash with BFWE, I follow with either a facial moisturizer that is great under makeup for the day or I use our Hydrate Facial Oil for night or when I’m not wearing makeup. I LOVE Hydrate. After playing with some really young cousins, aka germ magnets, I got seriously sick. The Hydrate kept my nose calm, cool, and not flaky! I used a bit more than normal to help keep my nose happy and it paid off.

Last is something that I am really working on. It’s eating more vegetables. The saying is true, you are what you eat. It’s easier during the summer when I am running between farmers’ markets but I’ve gotta increase the amount of green leafy veggies in my diet. I believe that is the next step to really keeping my skin radiant and glowing.

1% (Not that 1%)

99% of the time, I forget I have a brain issue. It affects what I do on a day-to-day basis like not lifting above a certain amount, being careful how I exercises and the whatnot, but these changes have become normal for me. I’m used to asking for help moving boxes or drums of 400 pounds of oil. (My husband hates oil drums, I love them!)

Today, though, today is a different story. Today is that nasty 1% . I knew I needed to prepare for today last night. See, there is a giant snow storm hitting us right as this very moment. For most people, it’s just an annoyance in the typical way snow reminds us that a majority of the people living in the DC area do not know how to drive in snow. For me, I am pretty much bedridden. And it stinks.

Last night I stayed up until 2am making soap and trying to cram two days worth of work into one. I’ve learned in the last 4 years how pressure changes, like the we are having right now, take me out of commission. It isn’t your standard headache. It’s not a migraine. It’s almost like an altitude sickness, but at the house I’ve owned for more than a year. My face starts tingling and that is when I know it’s time to start taking my meds and curl up on the couch with the puppies. I imagine what I go through during these changes is similar to what it is like to have a stroke. Funny story there, the first time it happened I was told I was having a stroke – they were seriously wrong.

I am not sharing this for you to feel sorry for me. I’m sharing it because when I first found out I had a Chiari Malformation, it was hard to find out things about what it means to have Chiari. I know a majority of the people who find my blog are doing so through Chiari searches. Plus, sometimes you just need to get the bad parts out there so you appreciate the good days more.

Our New Retailers

If you’ve been reading about out trade show booth progress, it’s now time for the results of all of that work.

The list of our new retailers! From up and down the East Coast to the West Coast, we have some awesome stores that welcomed Old Town Suds into their family.

California

Independent Mercantile, Inc.
728 Main Street
Murphys, CA
Phone: 209.728.8416

Washington, DC

Lettie Gooch
1517 U Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202.332.4242

National Archives Store
700 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC
Phone: 202.357.5271

National Building Museum Shop
401 F Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202.272.2448

Georgia

The Uniqueness Of It All
6786 Broad Street
Douglasville, GA
Phone: 678.427.8088

Maryland

The Annapolis Pottery
40 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401
Phone: 410.268.6153

The Fine Arts Company
18031 Garland Groh Boulevard
Hagerstown, MD 21740
Phone: 301.971.2781

The Muse
19 North Market Street
Frederick, MD 21701
Phone: 301.663.3632

Massachusetts

Quinstance
Opening Spring 2015 in Burlington, MA

North Carolina

Cedar Creek Gallery & Pottery
1150 Fleming Road
Creedmoor, NC 27522
Phone: 919.528.1041

Pennsylvania

Pearl S. Buck Gift Shop
520 Dublin Rd
Perkasie, PA 18944

Urban Post
323 Market Street
Lewisburg, PA 17837
Phone: 570.374.0606

Virginia

Artful Gift Shop
145 Church St NW
Vienna, VA 22180
Phone Number: 703.242-1220

Chateau O’Brien
3238 Railstop Road
Markham, VA 22643
Phone Number: 540.364.6441

Michie Tavern General Store
683 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Phone: 434.977.1234

The Picket Fence
Burke Village Center
6025 Burke Centre Parkway
Burke, VA 22015
Phone: 703.250.2671

Stifel & Capra
260 W Broad Street
Falls Church, VA 22046
Phone Number: 703.533-3557

Tin Top Art & Handmade
130 N. Loudoun Street
Winchester, VA 22601
Phone: 703.999.2997

Wanda’s Hair Salon
3784 Old Franklin Tpke
Rocky Mount, VA 24092
Phone Number: 540.489.1068

Old Town Suds’ Trade Show Booth

I think the hardest part of making our trade show booth was figuring out the feel I wanted to project. I knew I wanted hard walls, that was a given (thank you trade show background). But, how do I want to display all of my babies soap?

Thank goodness for pinterest. First off, there are hardly any soap trade show booths on there. What is plentiful are the stationary show booths. That, my friends, became my starting point. How do different handmade printers make themselves standout? How do they differentiate themselves from their neighbor? How do they stay true to their identity and still wow everyone who walks by? Luckily, when you are turning into an insomniac, these answers come quickly. Sidebar: my best ideas come between the house of 11pm and 3 am.

practice setup

Practice Setup

Old Town Suds makes 80% of its products out of beer, wine and/or chocolate. Three things that I love to partake in! We are located in the Virginia vineyard region so I am always among the grapes and that is basis of our booth design; plus it flows naturally from our farmers’ market display.

The semi-gloss  black hard walls took 5 coats and 2 gallons of paint. (Honestly, they probably could use a few more coats.) Then came the handmade shelves. These were constructed from cheap lumber we found at the lumber yard and some molding to provide a raised edge. They are wide enough to hold a beer bottle and a bar of soap laying down. Wide enough to create soap pyramids but not wide enough for much more than that. A lesson learned is, for our next trade show, we’ll make some shelves for the corners and make a few wider shelves.

 

Next up are the lights. We used the clip lights from home depot. Originally, I thought they would provide enough spot light to highlight a few products and help draw eyes into the booth. Well, it was a good try. For the next go, we’ll be investing in a different set of lights.

The sign was laser cut out of wood and held on with velcro. I really think it added a needed dimension to the booth. Also, we put a copy of our Washington Post coverage plus a few photos up of me making soap. They were to add color to the booth, plus add that little touch of showing just how handmade our products are.

Here it is! The finished product. Our first trade show booth. For my first one, I am extremely happy with the outcome. It’s the first booth I’ve built having less than a $20,000 budget for JUST the build. It’s the first booth I’ve built where I’ve been selling my own product and everything that was made by me. For those reasons alone, it’s my favorite trade show booth to date.

Booth Shot

Up next, some more lessons learned and what I want to approve on before our next trade show this summer. I can’t wait to make this an even better display for our wholesale customers.

The Making Of Our First Trade Show Booth

The past few years, I’ve been slowly expanding Old Town Suds’ wholesale clients and made the decision that we needed to go to a wholesale show to make it happen. As luck would have it, a show was planning on coming to DC so it was a no brainer to attend.

After deciding on our booth space size (6’x10′), I had to figure out our theme. Suds is kinda brewery, kinda posh, and kinda chocolate factory – which is rather difficult to transpose into a 3 dimensional space. I started on pinterest by searching for booth images. I found a lot that were beyond my skill level, the image of Suds and, well, the hubby would have killed me.

After the hubby calmed down when I told him I wanted to build hard walls, we got to work.

It was a pretty simple design. Basically, we took plywood, cut it in half, framed it with 2×4’s (that were cut in half), added hinges, and added tons and tons of paint.

Cutting the frames for the plywood

A video posted by OldTownSuds (@steffaniehousman) on

Framing the plywood

A photo posted by OldTownSuds (@steffaniehousman) on

Post painting testing

A photo posted by OldTownSuds (@steffaniehousman) on

Stay tuned for more posts on our first trade show and all of our new retailers!

Getting your Soap Business Organized

Getting my office under control has been something I’ve seriously struggled with. It slows down my shipping, all over productivity and my motivation. In December (or was it November) I decided to try to get puppy to a better state.

I mean look at this mess! It’s only half of my desk too!

IMG_1949

I got a filing cabinet from Poppin to help keep all of those pesky records filed and a bunch of the paperwork that piles up off of my desk. (Now I just have to actually use the filing system I created. Details…)

To make shipping easier, quicker and less painful I asked santa for the Demo 4XL printer. My in-laws beat santa to the gift and they got my super easy and quick printer! It will be so nice when I ship out all of out new orders today! It will be a 1 click print instead of finding my shipping labels, making sure they are right side up in the printer, printing those first; then printing the invoices and then remembering to use the other half of the shipping label (2 are on a sheet) when the next order comes in.

I feel like she (he?) needs a name. Right now I am just calling her my precious.

 

What are you doing differently in 2015 to get your business organized?

On the Drying Rack 10/31

Take a look behind the scenes at Old Town Suds to see what is curing. These are some of our newest soaps and will be ready in a few short weeks. Want to check out the soaps in person? We’ll be at the Mosaic District Market on Sunday from 9-2!

 

Behind the Scenes – Soap Kitchen Tour

soap kitchen

This is it! This is the main area of our soap kitchen. It was designed with the help of our contractor who did an excellent job building everything for me. (if you need a recommendation in Northern VA, I’ll send you his info!)

I still need a few more shelves to help control all of the oils I use. You see those brown bottles on the shelves and the far right counter? Those are our fragrances and essential oils. Once you start collecting them….it is very hard to stop!

We’ve almost had this new kitchen a year now. I’m learning what works and what needs a bit more improving. You can never have enough lights and I’m in desperate need of a paper towel dispenser. Details, right? I’d also like some of those shock absorbing mats they use in professional kitchens. A few hours of standing on tile and you feel it in your back!

Next time I’ll show you our soon-to-be-built shelves in the drying room. My husband is supposed to be making them for me as my birthday present. My birthday was in September…Maybe I’ll get them by December? I hope. I really don’t want to learn how to build shelves.

3 Myths About Handmade Soap

3 Myths about Handmade Soap There are many myths floating about when it comes to handmade soap. I’ve already debunked the myths about how one can make soap without lye and that lye soap is harsh and here are 3 additional myths that need to be set straight.

Myth #1: Antibacterial soap is better than regular soap.

Soap is a surfactant – it helps water to disperse on the skin and then propels dirt, oil and grime away from the skin. Antibacterial soaps are marketed as germ-killing, and therefore are touted as being better than regular soap. The reality (which is backed by scientific studies) is that regular soap is equally effective as antibacterial soap at removing bacteria and preventing illnesses.

Furthermore, long-term exposure to triclosan and triclocarbon, which are the active ingredients in most of these antibacterial soaps is considered to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria and even lead to hormonal imbalances. This has lead to the recent (December, 2013) rule proposal by the FDA for the makers of these antibacterial soaps to prove that their soaps are safe for daily, long term use and that they are more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections. If the proposal is accepted and companies cannot prove these points, then the products would need to be reformulated or be relabeled in order to remain on the market.

Myth #2: Handmade soap doesn’t create as many bubbles as mass-produced bars, so it can’t clean my skin as well.

We’ve already established in the myths above that mass produced bars are actually detergents, with synthetic chemicals that can, among other things, boost lather. There is a big misconception that lather = clean, and there is no scientific proof to support this idea.

It is true that some handmade soap does not bubble as much as other handmade soap, and that is a result of the ingredients used. For instance, soap made with mostly olive oil will not be extremely bubbly – it’s more of a gentle, creamy lather.  Compare that to a soap made with castor oil, which creates an abundance of large bubbles, and the resulting lathers will be quite different. The ‘bubbliness’ of handmade soap will depend on the ingredients used, but either way, bubbly or not, soap will clean your skin.

Myth #3: Handmade soaps are expensive and overpriced.

Compared to a synthetic, mass-produced detergent bar found in the store, yes, handmade soap will often cost more (and should!) But when you stop to think about what goes into the production and the end result, the price is well worth it. For instance:

  • High quality oils and butters are selected to create a gentle, soothing bar of soap
  • The glycerin that comes from saponification is kept in the soap (not removed as it is with commercially produced bars) to make it even more moisturizing
  •  Premium essential oils and fragrance oils add scent
  •  Natural herbs and botanicals add color, soothing properties and even exfoliation
  •  The labor for an artisan to handcraft their soap, versus a machine cranking out thousands of uniform detergent-based bars

Also, most whom use handmade soap do not have to use lotion after bathing with natural soap, whereas those who use commercially made soap often have to slather lotion on at least once, if not more often during the day. So consider the cost of lotion when you’re comparing that bar on a grocery store shelf to a natural bar of soap from a handmade artisan and you’ll see that it’s a much better investment to go with the handmade soap.