[Start-it-up] Building a handmade soap business
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The beauty and personal care industry has been growing exponentially in the last five years.
With masses becoming aware about the ingredients used to make personal care products, including soaps and shampoos, many homemade soap companies have gained traction.
A few including Rajasthan-based The Soap Company, run by husband and wife duo Somiya Khanna and Pawan Ahuja, and Chennai-based The Soap Factory, started with manufacturing soaps and have gradually expanded into full-fledged personal care firms.
“It is possible to start by producing just soaps and become a full-fledged venture,” said Shikha Bakshi, who runs Bubble Babble Soaps. Based in Bengaluru, Bakshi started the business, in 2017, as her daughter started having extremely dry skin after using regular soaps.
“I was looking for something, which would be good for my daughter's skin but could not find anything,” said Bakshi. She started experimenting with ingredients in her house and after attending multiple soap-making workshops started producing them out of her own kitchen.
There are many books and YouTube videos, which teach soap making but it is important to get some basic knowledge. Since there are not many dedicated schools in India that teach soap making, attending workshops is highly recommended. A session could start at INR 1,200 and could go as high as INR 8,000.
A few initial investments such as buying mixers and blenders, moulds, pigments and essential oils, would also be required apart from attending workshops.
The one-time investment includes a hand blender, which costs INR 1,000-3,000. Basic moulds can be bought for INR 200-1500 and fancy ones, with intricate designs, can be rented. Since, soap-making is a creative business, there are many moulds available in different designs and shapes.
To save cost, many soap producers, or ‘soappers’, replace essential oils with fragrance oil. There is a huge variety available in the market and an aroma therapist would be able to help you understand which ones to buy.
Distributing initial soap samples among friends and family would help in getting feedback and also understand the market. Companies cater to luxury soaps, custom-made soaps for particular skin types, among other categories.
An average handmade soap, if not in the luxury category, can be priced INR 200-300. The final cost includes packaging and raw material charges, which would come up to INR 80-100 per bar.
Showcasing your products at corporate events and exhibitions would be a good way to get more orders. If your product is good, you can be busy producing 40-50 soaps in a day.
Now, if you want to scale the existing business and introduce other products, there are a few things to take care of. You or your partner would need a degree in chemistry or pharmacy to prove that you understand the ingredients used in your products. Also, every state has its own compliances, which needs to be adhered to. A few also ask for a bigger commercial space, which mean you won't be able to operate out of your kitchen.
A marketing agency would ask for INR 12,000-15,000 for campaigns and a professional website can be developed for INR 25,000-30,000.
Before investing all this money it is recommended to consider if this is just a side business or a full-time job. If it is just a side business, then social media platforms including Instagram and Facebook, and word of mouth can give you enough orders.