There are certain products that everyone is going to need, no matter who they are. One of these is soap… but for some customers, not just any soap will do. They're looking for natural, homemade, or other alternative soaps rather than the usual types you can find at the grocery store. If you love to make your own soap, or you want to learn how, why not start an online business to sell your handcrafted soap online?
Of course, you'll need a solid business plan and the tools and resources to put it into action. Starting and growing a business is always challenging, but can be rewarding and profitable enough to make every step worth it. Plus, if you have the right eCommerce software on your side, you'll be equipped with the best tools for managing your inventory, reaching out to customers, and becoming a leader in your industry. Shift4Shop has everything you need to build a full-featured online store and grow your business to the heights you want to reach.
Handcrafted soap is a complex industry, and in fact, this is a major part of its appeal. Soapmakers love to come up with their own proprietary mixtures and fragrances, and are often passionate about finding their new favorite recipe. Selling your soap online is the best way to share this interest with customers everywhere.
There are almost infinite possibilities when you decide to make soap, and many soapmakers create their recipes based on their own interests or the resources available to them. For example, if you have easy access to a steady supply of goat's milk, you could base your soapmaking operation around it as a primary ingredient. Of course, if you want to offer your customers more variety, you can also source your ingredients from any reliable supplier. Even if you only want to make one general type of soap, you can still offer plenty of choice by making soap in different colors, fragrances, shapes, and more.
These are just examples of the types of products an online handcrafted soap store could sell, and each entry on the list could itself represent dozens of items. For example, a store could specialize in goat's milk soap and still produce an entire product line covering different mixtures, colors, and scents. We've also included soapmaking supplies on the list since you may want to help others get into your favorite craft rather than worrying about competition. As with many handcrafting industries, soapmakers are often very community oriented and happy to share knowledge!
Before you continue, you first need to be aware of any restrictions or regulations applying to soapmaking businesses in your area. This is dependent on your country, state or province, and city. Some regulations are broad and apply to anyone starting a business, while others relate to the soapmaking process itself. For example, in some countries, you'll need a dedicated soapmaking space to help ensure purity, while in others, the typical business licenses are enough. Always research the laws in your area before you commit to a business.
There are three general ways to make soap. While you can always come up with your own special recipes and scents, each method follows its own procedure. It's up to you which method you follow, and you should choose based on the resources available to you and the type of results you're looking for. Of course, if you want to offer many different kinds of soap on your eCommerce website, you can always use multiple methods to create a variety of products.
This is the easiest way to make soap, and is often preferred by beginners who want to learn the basics or get their foot in the door of the soapmaking industry. This method involves using a pre-made soap mix, which usually comes as a block that can be cut up, melted, and poured into molds. This is a good starting point if you're not yet confident in your mixing abilities or you want to experiment first with small batches.
Pre-made soap bases are available in different mixtures, and some are even already scented, although you might prefer to buy it unscented so you can add your own oils. Since this soap isn't technically "handcrafted" in comparison to the others, it's primary appeal to your customers could be a variety of shapes, colors, and fragrances you can offer (rather than fully hand-mixed soap which is usually sufficient as a simple bar). Invest in plenty of molds, hypoallergenic and non-toxic dyes, and essential oils to create some variety.
Cold-process soap is made by mixing ingredients like lye, oils and fats, and fragrance or essential oils along with any other additives. Once the mixture is thoroughly blended, it's poured into a mold and left to harden. This isn't as simple as it sounds, as you'll need to come up with a soap recipe that uses precise amounts of ingredients in order to ensure that the saponification process occurs correctly (the chemical reaction that turns a mixture into soap), and despite the name "cold process," you'll still need to melt your oil and fat mixture. You'll also need safety gear like gloves, a mask, and goggles, since lye is a caustic chemical.
You'll need time as well, since the mixture will heat up on its own due to the lye and must be given time to cool before you continue. Once it sets and you're ready to take it out of the mold, it will need to set for 1 – 3 days before you can cut it, and the bars will then need to cure for an additional 4 – 6 weeks. Between the time investment, caustic chemicals and hot oils, and the need for a safe and well-ventilated work area, this method involves much more preparation and may not be favorable if you lack space or have small children. However, it's a tried-and-true method for developing your own soap recipes with full control over what you produce!
Hot-process soapmaking is similar to cold process in the sense that you're mixing everything yourself, according to a carefully balanced recipe. However, instead of relying on the internal heat generated by chemical reactions with the lye, you're heating up the entire mixture yourself. Usually, this is done in a crock pot or other vessel that can distribute heat evenly throughout the mixture. You'll still need the same safety gear, and you can consider hot process a little more dangerous than cold process, since you'll be working with a large amount of extremely hot, thick fluid.
The main limitation of hot-process soap is that it doesn't take decoration as well — such as dye swirls or floating additives that can be more easily mixed into cold-process soap — but it's ready much faster. Hot-process soap is usually ready for use the next day, although it's a good idea to let your bars cure for longer if you plan to sell them online. Longer curing produces a harder bar that will better withstand shipping (and survive longer in the shower, too).
Soapmaking is an art that goes back tens of thousands of years, and there's no way we can explain all its intricacies on this page. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available, including the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild, which has a library of complete instructions on its website. They even provide a lye calculator to help you create the precise recipes you'll need to do the hot or cold process.
The way you package and ship your soap should account for regulatory requirements, customer expectations, and product condition. Basically, this means your packaging should include the right information, and both it and your shipping procedure should please customers and ensure the integrity of your soap shipments.
Laws require you to list the ingredients of your soap somewhere on your packaging, in order of greatest to least proportions. Make sure you're up to date on the regulations in your area, as well as those of any other country to which you intend to ship. Of course, you'll also want your logo and other branding visible, so consider this when you plan your packaging design.
Most people who buy handcrafted soap are also interested in reducing waste, so it's a good idea to avoid plastic wrap. Instead, use paper. For shipping, bars of soap should be prevented from coming into direct contact with each other to avoid them sticking together in case of moisture, so wrap each bar completely. Some online soap merchants wrap their bars in fabric, which can double as a free washcloth.
If you sell any of your soap in person, it can be good to leave much of the bar uncovered (or have a sample available for customers to pick up and smell), but you still need enough packaging to display the required information and to allow customers to handle the bar without touching the actual soap. For both storage and shipping, you need to avoid extreme temperatures and moisture, so be sure to ship promptly and include silica packets if needed to help avert condensation. The process and ingredients you used to make your soap will affect its tolerance for moisture and temperature, so be prepared.
What's better than handcrafted soap? Never running out of handcrafted soap! Your most loyal customers will do their best to keep some of your soap stocked up at all times, so make it easier for them with a recurring subscription. Shift4Shop's Autoship™ Recurring Orders module will allow you to offer subscriptions so customers can sign up to automatically receive your products on a customizable frequency. This is a great way to keep your customers happy and earn repeating income.
You can also use Autoship™ to sell a subscription "box," which you can fill with various products each period. Random items and themed boxes are both popular, and customers look forward to receiving a surprising and new collection of items. If you decide to offer subscription boxes like this, take extra care with your packaging and presentation to ensure a fun "unboxing" experience. This makes it more likely for customers to make unboxing videos and share them on social media, which brings attention to your brand.
Just because you're selling soap online doesn't mean you can't also sell it face to face. Craft shows and farmers' markets are both popular venues for handcrafted soaps, or you may even decide to open your own brick-and-mortar store one day. Of course, you'll need a POS (point of sale) system, and preferably the right software to keep your inventory consistent between your online and offline sales.
Shift4Shop integrates with Harbortouch, a leading POS module that synchronizes your inventory (and customers, too) between your face-to-face sales and those from your online store, so you won't need to do extra work to keep track of your stock between these channels. This reduces the amount of work required for you to run your business while keeping everything organized.
We mentioned earlier that soapmakers are community minded (which is common among crafters), so you may want to welcome hobbyists to use your website as a learning resource and supplier. If you'd like to go this route, you can sell soapmaking supplies alongside your own soaps, plus you'll have an excellent opportunity for SEO (search engine optimization).
Search engines prefer useful content, so you can fill your site with valuable information for aspiring soapmakers. Shift4Shop makes it easy to add new pages to your website, so you can publish guides and instructions that will appeal to both humans and search engines. You can also use the built-in blog feature to post news, reviews, and other fresh content on a regular basis.
If you'd like to monetize your soapmaking guides, you can sell digital downloads using Shift4Shop's built-in tools. If you want to provide information for free but also give your readers a way to "give back," you could set up a donation area, or alternately you can offer PDFs or other downloadables for sale alongside the free content. Just state on your site that customers can download the same information for a small fee as their way of saying "thanks."
Shift4Shop is the best eCommerce software for building and growing an online soap business. We've already covered a few highlights, but Shift4Shop also includes hundreds of other tools for taking care of every aspect of your business. You can easily build a website, sell across multiple channels, maintain customer relationships, and much more. Best yet, if you choose Shift4 Payments as your payment processor, you can access our free End-to-End eCommerce plan which includes all our features (and no limits) with no monthly fee. No other eCommerce platform can offer a completely free, enterprise-grade plan!
Building a website doesn't have to be difficult. Shift4Shop is a complete eCommerce website builder with numerous templates that can be used right out of the box, or customized as you see fit. You can create a website that fully matches your brand with no need for coding knowledge.
As your inventory grows, you'll need ways to keep everything organized for easier shopping. With Shift4Shop, you can create unlimited categories and subcategories, so it's a breeze to sell dozens of types of soap and hundreds of supplies if you plan to create a large store.
Want to add lots of products at one time? Shift4Shop includes robust data import and export tools for product, customers, tax rates, and more, so you can upload it in bulk rather than entering information manually. Data export is also included in case you need it.
Expand your handcrafted soap brand by selling across multiple channels including Amazon, eBay, Google Shopping, and more. Gain exposure to millions of potential customers and keep track of all your sales in a single, centralized location: your Shift4Shop dashboard.
Spread the word over social media, including both organic and paid marketing. Sell right on your Facebook Shop, fully synchronized with your website. Plus, create email newsletters and beat the search engines with the best built-in features in the industry.
Shift4Shop is powered by Shift4 Payments, an industry-leading solution for accepting credit cards and several alternate payment types. We also integrate with over 160 payment processors so you can give your customers plenty of options. Accept PayPal, digital wallets, international payments, and even bitcoin and much more.
A clean and attractive free eCommerce website template made to sell handcrafted soap right out of the box. A sticky dropdown menu remains on the page as the customer scrolls, making navigation easy, and you can showcase featured products, current promotions, new releases, and more on the front page.