Having encouraged–I hope!–many of you who read here to make soap, most likely some of you have also thought about selling it. For me, selling soap is very much a sideline. I’m a writer, and writing will probably always be my primary occupation, above selling soap, teaching workshops, or even farming. I’m no traditional farmer, that’s for sure–I’ve simply found a way to combine a multiplicity of passions under one big “umbrella” by writing about farming, cooking, crafting, and country living. Teaching skills and selling some of the by-products work in there, too, so that it all fits together. Still, just because selling soap isn’t my main thing doesn’t mean I don’t have to approach it professionally–and so do you, even if it’s a sideline for you, too.
Someone emailed me recently asking if I knew about labeling, and it occurred to me that labeling might make a helpful post. This post isn’t intended to be an end-all be-all of instruction–your end-all be-all on such topics should be your local county extension service, which is the end-all be-all resource for many things! If they don’t know the answer, they will help you find it.
If you’re selling any type of baked goods, canned goods (jams, jellies, etc.) and other products, those items also need to be properly labeled. My county extension service has a free booklet with specific information in a farmers market vendor guide, which is helpful even if you’re not selling at a farmers market.
My soap (and other items I sell locally) is packaged in a very rudimentary way. Maybe someday I’ll get some fancier packaging, but I’m not into fancy packaging, so maybe not! How fancy you want your packaging to be depends on your perspective and how/where you intend to sell your soap. (Remember also that packaging costs money.) If you’re displaying your soap in local stores, or making very “artsy” soaps, you might want your packaging to reflect that artsy aspect. My perspective is about the old-fashioned air of my soaps, which is why I make my soap by the hot process method (more in touch with old-time soapmaking) and prefer my soap to come out looking rustic and quaint. Extremely simplistic packaging reflects those ideals. Also, I primarily sell my soap from my website, so I’m not trying to attract buyers with my packaging.
When I first starting sending my soap out, I just stuck the bars in an envelope! I’ve gotten slightly more sophisticated. (Ha.) Now I place each bar in a plastic sandwich baggie. I include my business card and a Sassafras Farm sticker that I put on everything I sell, and a label with the following information:
The name of the product (example: Sassafras Tea/Homemade Soap), an ingredients list in order (by greatest to least), and contact information to identify and locate the maker of the product. Identifying information does not have to be your entire home address, but should make it possible for you to be located. I list Sassafras Farm and my county and state. I also list my website address. This is enough to identify and locate me as the maker of the soap. Sassafras Farm is a registered business in the state of West Virginia. Whether or not you need to register as a business to sell soap is not a question I can answer. (In this case, I’m not sure if the county extension agent would be the best resource. You may also want to talk to your accountant.) Chickens in the Road is incorporated and I operate Sasasfras Farm as a business under the Chickens in the Road corporation, which includes my farm, writing, workshops, and all else and sundry. This is the setup that works best for me in order to streamline my otherwise complicated taxes. You may need to do some homework to figure out what will work best for you and I can’t give any advice in that area other than you should be sure that you are doing business under the law in your state.
I slice my soaps so that every bar weighs approximately 4 ounces, but since every bar of homemade soap is unique and varies in weight by minute percentages, I have “Net Wt” on the label then leave the weight blank. I weigh each bar in ounces and grams and hand-write it in.
It’s also important to list any potential allergens (which includes fragrance or essential oils).
As I said at the beginning, this is not intended to be a complete instruction, but hopefully may be a helpful start. Remember also that, no matter what special ingredients you use with helpful herbal, natural medicinal, or so on properties, you cannot claim or advertise that your soap does anything but clean (or you will be in trouble with the law). Good luck!
P.S. You can find my soap for sale in the Farm Store.
P.P.S. I’m making six pounds of Sassafras Tea soap today to fill orders!