Photo by Inc.com

Throughout the years, I’ve seen many women launch crafty businesses, and one of them is Anne-Marie Faiola, the Soap Queen! This summer she launched a new video series, showcasing the finer details of making really cool soap. But what really sealed the deal for me featuring her here, is that she took the time to send out a killer press kit and swag gift. Her sample product was so pretty, I couldn’t resist featuring it and then visiting her site. She is an excellent example of how to do it right!

I now present, the woman behind the suds!

QUESTION: Will you share your first soap-related project – the one that started it all!

AF: It was a disaster! I decided to make soap after spending a lot of money buying cute soap at the store. After all, I figured it wasn’t that difficult. The internet was in its infancy and there was only AOL chat boards and one book that I could find at the library to help me. So, I set about following the book and the AOL chat boards and decided to start with an all tallow (animal fat) soap. I went to all the meat markets and got their extra fat and went home and rendered it all down. Being a lifelong vegetarian, this process surprised me because I had never dealt with animal meat or fat. It smelled quite bad to me. But, I persisted and attempted to make soap. My first five batches failed. But, still, I persisted and finally made a batch that worked, smelled decent. I took that to a store and soon landed a wholesale account selling soap. I was 18 at the time.

Q: Do you ever look at making/using soap as a metaphor for life?

I look at soap as a consumable art form. Everyone needs a creative outlet and having a creative activity that people will use up (and use up quickly) is the best kind, in my opinion. Making soap can be a metaphor for life. First you need a good base or recipe. And then you add your own personality into the soap with choosing your colorant, fragrance and molds. Just like life – you start with a good foundation (healthy lifestyle, good friends, hobbies) and then add into it what you like to make it special (the place you live, the job you have, your fashion sense).

Q: What is the most common mistake people make in soapmaking?

Soapmaking is inherently easy. Anyone can learn to do it. But, it does take a little bit of research before jumping in. The most common mistake I see is jumping into this awesome hobby or small business without fully researching recipes and procedures. By the time you figure out what’s totally going on, you may have wasted some serious time (and maybe some money) playing around. I really like the book “The Soapmaker’s Companion’ by Susan Miller Cavitch for cold process soapmakers, the forum at www.teachsoap.com for melt and pour and cold process soapmakers and of course, all the videos at www.soapqueen.tv for melt and pour soapmakers. Doing research ahead of time will save you time and money.

Q: We’ve all seen things embedded in soap, soap made to look like food, all natural soap – what is the next big cutting edge technique in your industry?

I think the next big cutting edge technique in our industry is using a flexible molding putty (Bramble Berry sells Flexy Fast http://www.brambleberry.com/Kits.aspx) to create custom, one-off soap molds and texture sheets. I just shot a soapqueen.tv episode (airing late august) showing people how to use flexible molding putty to create molds for whatever they want. On this photo of the sushi soap I whipped up, http://soap-queen.blogspot.com/2009/05/more-sushi.html, I actually made a mold using the Flexy Fast of a flat piece of nori seaweed so that the sushi soap roll would have the same look and texture of a real piece of seaweed.

Q: Will you share a soap project that went awry?

I’ve had lots of soap projects that have gone awry over the years. The most recent one ended up just fine but was a long process to get there. You can read about it here: In a nutshell, I decided I wanted to make citrus soaps. They started out with this horrific exploding soap tube experiment and finally after three days of experimentation and countless soap batches, ended up like this.

Q: How does your brand mission help make the world a better place?

We provide income opportunities for women all over the world to start a soap and toiletry business, selling products they make themselves. It’s all about creating what you love, having fun doing it and providing a reasonable income as well. We have lots of hobbyists that just make soap for birthdays and holidays and they love it that way. They don’t have any desire to make it into a business. But, if you do want to take it into a business, selling handmade soaps and lotions, we provide that opportunity. Bramble Berry also believes that social responsibility is integral to how we run our business. We donate a percentage of our profits to worthy non profits and I volunteer my time on non-profit boards. We’re happy that we can make the world a better place by providing a creative outlet or the opportunity to start a small business.

Q: What advice do you have for other people who want to launch/build their brand?

Start small and start today. There is no reason to keep dreaming as you watch other people doing. Organic, slow growth is the way to go.

Q: What is the most unusual place you draw inspiration from?

I read about 38 magazines per month to get a birds eye view of all the macro trends going on – everything from The Economist to Fitness Magazine to Martha Stewart Living to People magazine. I like to watch for the big trends and try and capitalize on them in some small way.

Q: What do you have coming up next?

July is a big month for us. The Otion Soap Intensive Weekend happens in July so right now, we’re heavy into planning for that. The Soap Intensive Weekend is where we fly in the best minds in the soap business for one weekend and do a very small, targeted class of just 12 people to learn everything they need to know about soap and starting a small business. It’s a great weekend and takes lots of work behind the scenes to make it happen.

SoapQueen.TV has some really fun episodes coming up – Geometric Soap, Advanced Layering & Pinwheel Soaps. It’s going to be a fully engaged, soapy summer.

About Anne-Marie Faiola

As a teenager, Anne-Marie learned how to be business savvy from her father, a doctor who encouraged her to find her own business opportunities. Taking her father’s advice, Anne-Marie started making personalized soaps to sell to friends and family, and after a brief stent as a correctional officer, Anne-Marie left the criminal justice system in December of 1998, and founded Bramble Berry Inc. in her living room. Today, with over 2,500 products, Bramble Berry has a customer base that extends across the country. In addition to soap, Bramble Berry also encompasses supplies to make candles, lotions, exfoliants, lip balms and mineral-based cosmetics. Visit her at http://www.soap-queen.com!

Click HERE if you can’t see the video.

Love & light,


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