By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador
Sabrina Lemky is a soap-maker (soaper) extraordinaire and owner of Sab’s Soaps, located inside the Covent Garden Market in London, ON. Lemky says that she loves “everything about making soap and bath products”. Making soap involves shopping for new scents, formulating new soaps, communicating with customers, and more!
Sabrina described her daily routine as follows: “A typical day [includes]: getting up early, checking emails, printing labels and gathering the products that are going to the shop that day. I open the store and spend the early part of the morning labeling and playing with my displays. Being in Covent Garden Market brings people from everywhere and from all walks of life and I get to meet and talk to lots of them. My husband takes over in the early afternoon so I can get to my soap lab and make a few batches. I am usually still working late into the evening. As we take care of every aspect of our business-- from the ordering, to the sales, to the books-- there is always something that needs doing. ”
Soap-making is a very hands-on process. However, Sabrina began her journey as a soaper in a more digital realm: “I watched hours of videos of other soapers on YouTube. Soon, I felt confident enough to try it myself. I gathered all the tools, the oils and scents, and plunged in. I was immediately hooked!” In addition to YouTube, Sabrina read everything she could get her hands on to learn more about the soap-making process and technique.
As a self-learner, Sabrina did not take any formal classes, but this has not hindered her success. “I keep up with demand by keeping lots and lots of lists! I also have spreadsheets for my spreadsheets.” By keeping current information at her fingertips, Sabrina can determine which supplies are necessary 4-6 weeks in advance. “Mind you, I cannot foresee chance, like if a customer comes in, loves a scent and cleans me out-- but I do my best,” she added.
“I think most people are surprised about the amount of time it takes to cure a batch. It usually takes 4-6 weeks to cure…. I use a water discount these days, which means I use less water in the soap to start with” she continued. With less water, the evaporation process is quicker and so the soaps are usually ready after about four weeks.
As for her favourite soap, Sabrina Lemky says that they are all her favourite! “You may laugh, but it’s true. I love each and every scent I carry, or I wouldn’t carry it. I understand that some people don't like some scents and love others, but my nose has not let me down yet. ”
“My advice for anyone who wants to start a soap business is this: Take baby steps, start small. Order small amounts of ingredients and grow as your demand grows. This way you can keep more of your cash in your pocket vs. having a load of supplies that you hope to someday be able to justify with sales. Avoid loans if you can. Money woes can bog down a new business fast. When you start small, you keep folding your sales back into more supplies. When you own your business lock, stock and barrel every day is a joy. Because if it is all for you-- all yours-- the sky is the limit! This is a field where you will not see profits for quite a while, so be prepared to keep your day job.”