Tell us a little about the team!
The Soap for Sinners team is made up myself (Jessica), my business partner and boyfriend, Chris and a handful of creative people who work with us part time. We employ a chef, a photographer, a clothing designer, a 2nd grade teacher, a stay at home mom, and some actors and art students, who all moonlight with us as soap and candle makers. Another thing a lot of people don’t know about us is that we employ a lot of recovering addicts. They come and go while they’re in treatment and early recovery. It serves as a stepping stone for them and it’s something that is important to us and close to our hearts.
How long have you been creating and how did you get your start?
I think I’ve always had a creative mind. I remember as a kid mixing “potions” while taking baths. I would pour different kinds of liquid soap & bar soap shavings and mix them with shampoo and conditioner, stirring them in cups to “experiment". I also grew up in a family who wasn’t afraid to take risks. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents all owned small businesses. I went to art school and really lacked direction. In my twenties I worked random jobs that served the purpose of paying bills but I was never passionate about any of them and I really lacked work/ life balance. I think it came to me once I hit 30. I quit my job and created the LLC for Soap for Sinners the day after my 30th birthday. Looking back, it probably could have been considered a mini life crisis. It was pretty impulsive. I didn’t have a business plan or much money saved but I felt the need to detox my life from toxic relationships, work misery , commuting stress, processed foods, and chemical body products that included artificial colors, fragrances, parabens, phthalates, etc... I remember thinking, "There are so many things in this world that we have no control over so what can I control?" The conclusion I came up with was: I have the power to control the people I surround myself with, the food I eat, and the products I put on my body; everything else is a variable.
What's your most memorable experience as a vendor?
I have so many memories that span the past three years of doing markets. We started so small as a micro-business just doing weekend pop-up tent events. We worked really hard and have lugged inventory, stood in the rain and snow. We’ve worked through the night to make products and sold them the next day. We’ve gotten flat tires and have hit tons of bumps in the road. I’m not sure that one experience stands out as the most memorable, but overall I can say that I have absolutely loved being involved in the community. The experience overall has honestly changed my life. I’ve met so many really cool hardworking people. Some of them are my great friends today. I’ve gotten to know so many small business owners, political figures and customers, and lots of market management teams. It’s a whole niche world I never knew existed until a few years ago. I feel like I’ve really grown up since starting Soap for Sinners. I’ve never been happier in my life and I think it will only get better.
What is your favorite part about selling at markets?
I love talking to my customers and having face to face time with them. I have regulars now that I love to see and catch up with. I hear about their lives. They trust me with intimate details about their health issues and skin conditions. I am obviously not a medical professional and I will always make that clear but I do have a good knowledge of natural products, plant based skincare and market trends, and I love talking about it with people who are interested.
Where do you see your brand in 10 years?
I wonder about this often. I’ve thought about opening other retail locations and doing more events, but there is so much labor and cost involved with pop-ups and brick and mortar. I think the smartest thing for our business right now is to focus on wholesale and growing online orders and that’s what I’d like to see expand in the coming years. So hopefully in 10 years, we’ll have an even more established customer base, our brand awareness will grow through social media and being on more shelves of bigger retailers, and we’re able to hire more employees, hopefully full time, offering a great work life balance for our little team. I’ve always had this dream of buying a really cool industrial building that will duel as a production space but also a creative center for people to come and take classes. Maybe even have an after school program for kids. That might be a pipe dream but who knows.
Do you remember your first ever sale? Tell us about it!
I’ll never forget my very first market. It was the downtown Jersey City Farmers Market at Grove Street by the Path Train and I was so unprepared. At the time, I didn’t even own a car. I took a bus down to the market literally carrying a duffle bag full of soap. It was so heavy. I rented a table, put a scrap piece of fabric on it, and put my soap down. I didn’t have a sign or any kind of display pieces. I couldn’t take credit card payments so I was cash only. Despite all of my hurdles, that very first market I sold $556 in about 3.5 hours and I thought, if I could do this everyday, for more hours and at multiple locations, I could make a lot of money. I also remember, I couldn’t believe people were buying the products I had made. That still kind of shocks me.
What new projects/ pieces are you working on?
I love following beauty trends. I read different blogs and pay attention to what’s popular and effective. I don’t think natural skincare has to be expensive. Right now there’s a new plant based serum on the market that costs $180 per ounce. It’s a little ridiculous to me because I know what all of the ingredients cost. I’m working on making my own version at a more affordable price. It’s going to be called the “Super Powered Serum”. I’m excited about it. By the way, serums are great for oily skin. They're are all the rage right now because unlike cream based moisturizers, you don’t need an emulsifier and preservatives to give them texture and shelf life- and because serums are lighter weight the molecules are very small, they absorb quickly and deeply into the skin. Thicker and heavier creams often contain parabens and phthalates and can form a barrier on your skin which is good for locking in moisture but will also lock out active ingredients you want to penetrate. Ten years ago I would have been afraid to put oil on my face. Now I can’t live without it.
When is the first time you saw someone with one of your pieces outside of the market environment?
I was riding the path train and I saw my soap on an advertisement on the inside wall of the train car. It was for a new apartment building in Jersey City. Apparently the designer had purchased some of my bars to stage a model apartment and my soap was sitting right there in the photo on the bathroom sink. I was like, omg, that’s my soap! It was really cool. I also love shipping online orders. We’ve shipped all over the US and I still get excited when we ship to new states. I’m so grateful to all of our customers who go to our website and place an order. We send free gifts and a hand-written note in every single box!