Making your own skincare products is actually rather simple – you just need a little know-how and the right ingredients, and before you know it you’ll be whipping up non-toxic, chemical free, sustainable stuff for your bathroom. In My Soap Pot is a great resource to get your DIY underway, or you can shop their products too. We spoke to Jackie Z aka the “Soap Lady” to learn more about how she got started with her business.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
I remember as a child, grating up a bit of soap and mixing it with water and rose petals to try and make my own bubble bath. I’ve always had this fascination with making my own soaps and skincare products, and I really learned a lot by trial and error. This was in the time before the internet existed, and I had to rely on books and word by mouth and a lot of experimenting. Then the internet came and it opened up a whole new world for soap makers. It gave us an opportunity to connect and talk to each other, and share information. The first chat forums in the mid nineties is when soap making really started taking off. There’s been another more recent soap making boom in the past few years with the zero waste and anti-plastic movement. Last year, most of my workshops were booked out ahead of time and it seems that everyone is wanting to learn how to make soap and shampoo bars!
The Launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Actually, it all just kind of fell into place. After my son was born, I stopped my old 9 to 5 job and became a SAHM (stay at home mum), and coincidentally around the same time, Rutherford College asked me if I wanted to teach soap making at their community education college. A decade ago, there weren’t any soap making teachers in New Zealand, and even now, it’s difficult to find good foundation courses that focus on the basics of soap making, rather than just show you how to follow a soap recipe. I’ve got a degree in science, and I think it’s important that you understand the chemical processes when you make soap. That said, I do try to keep the chemistry part in the courses light and easy to understand!
Science also helps understand why plants and essential oils can be so beneficial to us. I have a strong focus on natural soap making and sustainability. All the formulations are palm-free, and I research each ingredient thoroughly before I use them in a tutorial: is it natural, how and where is it sourced, if it’s not natural, how is it manufactured, what are the benefits, are what is the research saying? It is really important to me that people understand what they are using when they make their own products. There is so much (mis-)information on the internet, that it can be really confusing to know what is good and what is bad for you.
I have a strong focus on natural soap making and sustainability. All the formulations are palm-free, and I research each ingredient thoroughly before I use them in a tutorial.
A few years ago I started my website, with tutorials on how to make soap and other bath products. In the meantime there are over 100 tutorials, including how to make a gentle baby bottom balm with calendula, vegan lip balms, a natural and effective insect repellent, and of course, many soap tutorials. Since I launched In My Soap Pot, things have moved quickly. Emmet Bowker from Pure Nature, one of the leading soap making and cosmetic suppliers in New Zealand, approached me to teach courses at their company. And suddenly, new opportunities started opening up everywhere.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
Last year, two entrepreneurial ladies contacted me with an idea for solid shampoo bars. One was an experienced hairdresser and the other had savvy business skills, but they needed someone to formulate their products for them. They had a very specific concept: it had to be natural, palm-free, but also unlike many shampoo bars, they wanted to cater to specific hair types. It was a huge learning curve for all of us, and it was a lot of fun working with them. They just recently launched their company Splash Shampoo Bars, and the product I’m most excited about is their purple shampoo bar for blonde hair. I never imagined I’d be advising companies. That’s pretty cool!