•  photo slider2_zps31871b78.jpg" />
  •  photo slider3_zps609883f2.jpg" />
  •  photo slider1_zpsa0315a5e.jpg" />
  •  photo slider5_zpsc036a679.jpg" />

Shops that Shine - Prunella Soap

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I'm really happy to have Janell from Prunella Soap here today to share a little about her inspiration, technique, and business perspective. For me, there is so much to love about Prunella - a Portland maker, vegan ingredients, and an overall charming shop. 

Welcome to my Shops That Shine Series! I love hearing from where makers draw their inspiration, can you share with us where you find yours?

Thank you, Allisa, for the opportunity to share more about Prunella Soap!  Sometimes I feel like my business is evolving so quickly, it’s great to have the chance to step back and observe the path that the business has taken so far, and think about where it’s heading.

Generally I am drawn to products that have clean lines and simple color palettes. I love products that are very simple and straight forward but at the same time it’s apparent that the materials and construction are of high quality and have been well thought out.  I am inspired by modern architecture, interiors and modern classic furniture design and I also enjoy reading cookbooks and blogs that contain recipes using fresh, local and organic ingredients to make amazing meals. I also love baking, and am inspired by looking at recipes of artisanal breads, cakes and French pastries. When choosing my soap recipes I take into consideration the origin of the ingredients and enjoy learning more about the healing properties and cultural traditions of the natural spices and herbs that I use.
From the vegan ingredients to charming photography your shop really stands out in the world of handmade soap. What’s your approach to differentiating Prunella Soap?  

My main focus was to create a product that uses all natural, mostly food-grade ingredients that are plant-based as opposed to coming from animals. I use only essential oils – no artificial dyes, fragrances or preservatives in the soap.

Managing stock levels of a product that needs to cure for 3-4 weeks before it’s ready to sell can be challenging, so one thing I am very focused on is keeping the majority of scents in stock all of the time. I also want to be able to accommodate last minute orders once in awhile, because it’s always a great feeling to be able to provide customers exactly what they want within their timeframe.  

I chose to name my products in a very straight forward way because it can be difficult to sell fragrances online, and calling a scent “midnight symphony” or “glittering sunrise” just adds another layer of confusion to the online purchasing experience.  

As far as photo styling, I wanted to have a fun, playful and modern aesthetic because looking at a bars of soap online can be pretty boring.  I have a simple point-and-shoot Canon digital camera and am lucky to take my photos in a space that has wonderful, unobstructed natural light.

How do you see your business growing in the future?  

I would love to eventually have my own website, and work with more boutiques all across the US.  

Which aspect of running a creative business is the most enjoyable to you? And which has challenged you the most?  

I really love bringing together tangible, handmade products with technology, which is both fun and challenging at the same time.  It’s an amazing experience to use the internet as a platform to create a business with a relatively small initial financial investment and the ability to reach a giant market of consumers in seconds, but it’s also the biggest challenge.  There is such a large amount of choice for consumers now that as a businessperson you have to figure out a way to outshine the thousands of competitors, from all over the world.  Some days the fact that I have packages going out to Norway and Saudi Arabia absolutely blows me away, I really enjoy the global aspect of having an online business.

Tell us more about the old-fashioned method use to create your lovely soaps.  

Making lye soap is actually really similar to baking, except that you have to be really careful when handling lye, because it’s highly caustic until it’s mixed with the oils and has “saponified” them into soap.  Once the lye is mixed with the water and is set aside to cool, it’s all about mixing the oils, spices and scents which is the fun part. It’s important to get the ratio of ingredients exactly right, otherwise the soap will either be too drying to the skin, or will be too slick and not rinse off easily.  I use the same three base oils in all of my soaps, so the only difference is the scent of the essential oil used and the other exfoliants (coffee beans, oatmeal, poppy seeds etc.) that are added.  The pH of handmade cold process soap is typically lower than that of commercially produced soap, so many people who use it find that it is less drying to the skin than regular bar soap and also a good option for sensitive skin.

How did you prepare for the opening of Prunella Soap?

I think the biggest part of preparing to sell Prunella was designing the packaging and labels, and to make sure that all of the ingredients were listed accurately on each label.  I had been selling greeting cards on Etsy for 6 months (cooljane), so I had a pretty good idea of how much time it takes photograph products, edit photos, create listings, prepare packages for shipping and interact with customers. It’s been so tempting for me to want to rush the process of releasing new products, but whenever I list something new, I envision a football stadium full of people sitting looking at a big screen with one of my photos on it.  I ask myself “is this something I want potentially thousands of people to be able to see?”  It’s a good indication of whether or not I feel ready to launch something new.

I always say “starting is the hardest part” and if you would have told me a few years ago that I would be putting a dog on top of a bar of soap and taking a photo of it I would have thought you were crazy. I had no idea how people would respond to my “style” and I am so happy to be where I am today after just over a year in business. The reward of having my own business has been well worth the time I have put into it to make it “shine!”  

Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your story with us. Your perspective is refreshing!

You can find more Prunella here:

{{do you know a shop that shines? would you like to be considered for a feature? Please send submissions to  allisa.jacobs [at] gmail [dot] com }}

1 comment :

UnusuallyYours said...

Great interview ~ Very inspiring! Thanks!