I caved today and bought Facebook ads for my business. It’s one of those things – you work so hard to grow organic reach and engagement, and then everything tanks and you’ve got not option but to pay for advertising. It is what it is however, and paying Facebook to actually show my page to people probably isn’t akin to dancing with the devil, no matter how it feels like it.

Online sales have been slow for the last month. I know you’re not meant to admit things like this as a business owner, but there is it. October was a slow sales month in terms of online business, although the in-person business was quite brisk – between the Pop Up Shop and various markets, we did okay. Obviously nothing is making a profit yet, but the business is growing quite steadily, wholesale orders are increasing, and the feedback I’m receiving in person has been amazing, and quite gratifying.

It’s hard to make a profit in soapmaking I suspect. So much of what creates good soap actually takes a lot of money. Between the top quality oils and butters, the hand cut packaging, the time and effort, our profit margins are slim. And as the quantity of soap we sell increases, so does the quantity we make, in order to keep up.

If you’d told me 12 months ago that I would regularly be buying 20 litres of oils at a time, and spending more money than I care to think about on top quality essential oils and things like cocoa and shea butter, I might have looked a little shocked. But there it is.

Of course I could make soap with cheaper oils, but it wouldn’t be as nice, so I don’t.

The other side of selling online is keeping up with things like SEO, and promotion – but not too much promotion. Twitter and Facebook are great, but there’s a fine line in people’s minds between you sharing your journey and things they love, and pushing yourself upon them. One gains engaged interested followers, and the other makes them dump you like hot coals.

So, facebook ads. Obviously the goal is for Facebook to show my page to more people, thus increasing views and engagement, and maybe contributing to sales.

In the meantime, we’ll keep trundling along. The feedback I’m getting from markets has been great. I have lots of return customers, lots of people popping by to let me know they bought soap last time and they’re loving it, lots of people telling me my soap is the first thing they’ve found which doesn’t make their skin feel itchy and tight.

It’s gratifying to know that in a small way, I am making a difference in people’s lives. That something I’ve created, pulled together from scratch, makes someone happy in a small way. That the smells I blend, that the balms I make, that they help people.

It’s really really nice.

Even if I do have to pay facebook to keep it happening.


Today’s soap: Orange Blossom and Calendula Soap, with shea butter and coconut milk.

Orange Blossom and Calendula

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It’s 10.30am and I’ve just eaten chocolate for breakfast. In my defence, one of my children went trick or treating last night, and if I didn’t get in fast, there wasn’t going to be any chocolate left.

The trick-and-treating child is the reason there are chocolate wrappers all over the floor.

Unfortunately I don’t think I can blame her (and force her to pick up) the scattering of wood chips all over the carpet, brought inside by an enthusiastic dog, who conveniently killed the wood chips while I wasn’t looking and thus, unable able to send her BACK OUTSIDE JESUS NO WOOD INSIDE.

So there’s that. Woodchips and chocolate wrappers, while the smallest child sits on the couch eating blueberries and demanding ABC Kids be put on the TV, even though it will quite possibly drive me to stab out my own eyes.

(The older children are into music lately, and I don’t even hate their taste. Given a choice between Raa Raa The Lion and Imagine Dragons, I know which is less annoying.)

I need to make soap, and the lip balms need restocking before Brighton Show next weekend. I’m not sure how we’ll go – most people head to a show for the showbags and the dagwood dogs and the omgimgoingtovomit rides, but this year they’re adding a Farmer’s Market section, and hey, apparently handmade soap fits the bill. So there we are, at the show. The children are Very Excited because WE ARE GOING TO THE SHOW. I don’t think they’ve quite realised they’ll be stuck at home until mid-afternoon because I cannot work a market with three children weaving around my ankles, demanding money. So, they’re stuck with Daddy, while I head down at slightly-later-than-dawn-but-not-by-much-and-only-because-it’s-summer-o’clock.

I’m sure that’s going to be a Fun and Exciting day for poor Nathan.

Anyway. Lip Balms, Soap, Etc etc. Making

Sundays tend to be a catch up day here for me if I don’t have a market on. I don’t have any spare weekends until after Christmas now, so spare Sundays are few and far between, to be cherished like gold, or the random twix’s inside a halloween bag.

I just checked my recipe tracking software (Soapmaker 3, if you’re in the market. Won’t work on Mac’s, but if you’re on Windows it is a GODSEND when it comes to tracking curing times/ingredient usage and ordering/money/costs-per-portion), and I’ve got nearly 200 soaps to pack before the show.

On the upside, you should see some shiny new soaps in the Online Shop soon. (Please buy them. Support my soap habit. Also my book and good tea habit.)

On the downside: I need to pack 200 soaps and make another 200 to get through Christmas.

Yay! Business!


(Just quietly, I’m trying to blog every day this month. It’s a good habit and I miss the writing. So, cheer me on?)


Two things: Markets, and Not Having More Children

by Veronica on October 31, 2015

in Life

Two things:


instagram screenshot

I did a market last night and lip balms were SOHOTRIGHTNOW. One little girl bought a lip balm and then suddenly, I had swarms of girls at the stall, buying and smelling and chattering.

It was so lovely.

It’s really interesting to me how there are giant runs on things during markets. I won’t sell bath salts for three markets, and then suddenly, every bath salt will sell out during the next market. Often customers don’t realise that previous customers have bought the same thing.

It’s a phenomenon. Is it something in the air? Does everyone get infected with the “I MUST HAVE THIS ONE THING” air as they walk into a market? No one knows.

It’s the same with soap smells. Some days, everyone wants sandalwood. The next market, everyone is into the fruity smells. Then we’ll have a run on florals. But when a soap is hot, it’s so hot and I’d better hope I have it in stock.

(Unlike the market where everyone wanted woodsy smells and the new soaps were still curing. whoops.)

Anyway. Lip balms. I need to go restock all of my market lip balms because seriously – I sold so many. Montagu Bay Primary School is going to be awash in my lip balms for a while.

I also won fourth prize in the raffle, so it made it extra worthwhile. A 60 minute massage gift voucher. Very apt, considering my physical state lately.


My smallest child dressed herself this morning, including putting her own shoes on.

Then she used the toilet. Alone. Without my help. Including washing her own hands.

She’s not a baby anymore, and I am so so thankful for that. I can understand other mothers bemoaning the loss of their tiny babies, but I am not one of them. I have a smooshy baby nephew to snuggle, but my own children are growing up, growing into themselves. I feel like I can breathe again and it’s so very nice.

People still ask if I’m planning on having more children.

“But you’re so young! You’ll be desperate for another when you’re in your 30’s.”

Look guys, my husband had a vasectomy. MY HUSBAND. A VASECTOMY. We took permanent steps to remove more children from our future.

“Ah, but you never know what will happen, hey? Right?” wink wink, nudge nudge.

You’re either implying my husband is going to divorce me and I’m going to find a new man and have more children, or what? What exactly are you implying there? That my uterus rules my life and I can’t possibly just decide to not have more children? That not having more children determines my worth?

I don’t even know.

Last time I checked, sperm doesn’t magically fly through the air impregnating random women, so I think I’m pretty safe here in my sub-fertile little bubble.

Thanks though. Nice to know that whether or not I have more children is a burning concern of yours.



Enforced time off. Boo, hiss..

by Veronica on October 29, 2015

in Life

Sometimes, I really dislike my body.

For those who have been reading here for quite a while, you’ll know that I have a disabling genetic collagen disorder (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome). The issue with this is, despite physio, despite eating well, despite attempting to sleep 8 hours every night, sometimes I have to push myself a little harder than I should, in order to do something I want to do.

This results in a health crash, which leaves me feeling like death warmed over, barely functioning. When my health is crashing, I count getting dressed and managing to feed myself to be an accomplishment. Having three children means I also have to feed them, which is doubly an accomplishment.

I’m on day three of enforced rest, which is probably going to drive me insane, but there you go. Turns out, when you spend two weeks running a shop in Salamanca (even though I wasn’t down there every day, thanks Mum) it’s a little damaging to already precarious health.

Shop sitting was ultimately quite productive, but exhausting. So exhausting. I finished the time there, knowing I would have nine days off, which weren’t really days off when I sat down and did a stock take, and realised just how much soap I’d actually sold.

(It was a lot of soap. A LOT.)

Nine days off is not many days when you’ve also got to catch up on soap making, packaging, and paperwork, alongside all of the family things I let slide while I was working. So I worked for the first five days of my “time off”, before my health went bottoms up and I had to sit down and stop.

It’s very clear that traditional work would probably actually kill me if I attempted it, so here I am, in business for myself. Or not, because I’m taking time off. Forcing myself to sit down, watch Netflix, catch up on paperwork and things I can do laying down, and letting my body recover.

(Side note: it’s not actually working so well, which is concerning considering I have a Twilight market tomorrow night.)

On the upside, I think, maybe, I should have enough stock to see me through the November markets. Probably. If I’m lucky. The curing shelves are (mostly) full, and other things can be made quickly in large batches when I’m feeling better.

On the downside, December markets are looking shaky, unless I magically feel better on Saturday, and regain all my lost muscle tone and manage to make it through a day without needing anti-emetics to make me stop wanting to throw my guts up.

So classy. So businesslike.

I keep looking at the things I need to restock, and the goat’s milk in the fridge which needs using, and having to remind myself that if I push through right now and do too many things, I’ll send myself out of commission for a month, rather than the three days I’ve made myself sit down and rest.

It’s a balancing act, and it’s hard work sometimes. Juggling the things I want to do, against the things I am physically capable of doing. There’s a disconnect and it’s a struggle to reconcile the two things.

But there you go.


Upside: The online shop is now incredibly up to date with soaps, so if you want to buy Christmas Presents, now is a great time.


Tuesday night I got up on stage and talked about my experiences of PND following Evelyn’s birth.

The days leading up to the talk were filled with hyperbole, used as a coping tool to cover my nervousness. “I MIGHT DIE” is an adequate description of how I felt, right up until I stepped onto stage and everything was okay again, despite the bright lights and the audience staring at me.

Things are bothering me at the moment – a combination of busyness and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, the discussion of disability, my inability to do things I want to do in favour of having to take care of my health so I can continue to operate a small business, but in the wake of Tuesday’s talk and remembering just how rotten my PND was at the time, everything feels like sunshine and smooth sailing.

However, disability is a tricky thing to manage when there’s little consistency to my particular brand of bendy/broken. Good pain control helps immeasurably, but there’s exhaustion and joints which refuse to stay in place on a regular basis.

And I do identify as a disabled woman, despite my ability to hide how broken my collagen is with braces and smiles, good painkillers and carefully managed activity.

Wednesday, the organisers of the Mental As forum called us, the speakers, to make sure we were all okay. And I am okay. I was on my way to bump into the Pop Up Shop, where my soap will be available for sale for two weeks, so I was stressed, of course, but I’d moved on to the next big thing. Speaking on stage didn’t kill me, I didn’t pass out or throw up, so it’s all good.

I’m alternating times in The Pop Up Shop with Mum (Kim Foale Ceramics) – who will likely do the bulk of the sitting, while I spin in circles at home, trying to manage the Christmas rush (which is a lot of fun), with stock levels and wholesale orders (also fun, and I love doing them).

It’s the last few days of school holidays, which is a beautiful beautiful thing. I’m going to be sitting in the shop during Salamanca Market on Saturday, which is also a beautiful thing.

Having my own business is the only way I could work. Being able to structure my work days around naps, paperwork while laying on the couch, and small children, is a good thing. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s all a juggling act. That I can’t actually do more than I am without paying the price down the track.

Right now that price is some tiredness and a bit of breakthrough pain, plus a lot of nausea.

Down the track that price tends to be catastrophic body shutdowns as I lay in bed and shake and tremble and try not to throw up.

I’m juggling, structuring my days nicely, and taking time out to lay down with cups of tea and my book.

So far, it’s working okay.