Cottage Industry/Cottage Economy

Pouring the traced soap recipe into silicone loaf molds, then smoothing down to make sure there are no air bubbles.
Pouring the traced soap recipe into silicone loaf molds, then smoothing down to make sure there are no air bubbles.

What motivates people to start a small cottage industry?  Those two words hold the secret:

Cottage – Humble Home – the place we hang our hat can become a small factory producing goodness that the world needs.  I can tell you the idea of using my home to become a source of lovely soaps, amazing hand dyed silk and wonderful and thoughtful products really appeals to me.  Being one of two bosses in a two person industry is awe inspiring.  Stepping from the stress of corporate America, there is a sense of freedom to create products, and freedom to forge a new economic future.

Industry – Place of productivity – Yes, it is good to be busy doing something other than housework from home.  I know it is our goal to build our business so much so to be able to employ others to help with making the soap, and packaging it.

Cottage Industry is known to flourish in times when the economy is challenging, or the job market is tight… As a way of extending the opportunity to earn a living, small home based industries flourish.

So what is behind this latest wave of local made, local grown, local sold?

I can only tell you our story – and that is the story of a sudden economic reverse after a lifetime of stability, great job, and strong prospects for a bright future.  In the aftermath of both of us loosing our jobs – our careers and our steady income, we had to begin rebuilding.  It was in one of those dark and bleak times when no prospects were apparent, no doors would open that we took my mother in law to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens for a mothers day event.  While waiting for us Steve spotted a display of handcrafted gardener’s soap.  I remember him clearly saying “Hey Barb, we have almost all these ingredients… how hard can it be to make soap?”

 

a few of the books from our growing soapmakers library
a few of the books from our growing soapmakers library

Soap, huh!  Well let me tell you what was going through my head… I am a fiend for lovely handmade soap… and at almost every fair or festival we have gone to i have looked for and spent a ton of money on soap.  I saw an instant joy in the thought of having an endless supply of this for myself!!!  And oddly i had been fascinated with the idea of soap making, having purchased several books on the subject.

The first batch was an experiment… but the second turned out amazing. We shared the bars with neighbors, and they came back asking for more.  Aha moment – business plan was born.

We love our soap business, even though it has consumed half of our basement, and at times the dining room table is commandeered for work table for wrapping and packaging.   Everything we invest in the business is paid for in advance… no debt on the business by design.  And every opportunity to share our soap with others is received well.

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Having a small business has stretched us to grow in our knowledge of marketing, of packaging, of strategic planning, and of new product development.  We have to keep the work fresh and exciting while differentiating ourselves from others.

So why do we believe in cottage industry?  Because there is a deep satisfaction in being able to make wonderful products that others enjoy.  We also love the chemical free experience our soap allows us to know… nothing that would irritate or dry the skin… just clean soap that is fragrant with essential oils.


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