Sabrina Lemky: A Self-Made Soaper

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!

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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.”

You can visit Sab’s Soaps at The Covent Garden Market Monday-Saturday 9-6, Friday 9-7:30 and Sunday 11-4 and also online at

Not Just a Dirty Trade

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

Shawn Sellon's path started at Saunders Secondary School in London, ON where he spent two years learning the art of welding. The Grade 11 and 12 classroom introduction lit the flame of passion. He continued on to take a Welder/Fitter program at Conestoga College. After completing this program, Shawn attained all his welding certifications and started working at Tigercat Industries in Cambridge. However, he wasn't done with Conestoga yet and went on to tackle the Welding Engineering Technician program. This led him into robotic welding and to learn the science behind it.

 All these experiences changed Shawn's perspective of what he thought was a smoke filled and messy job: "it showed me that there was more than just what was thought of as a dirty, Red Seal trade. It was now something more..and interesting!"

 Shawn shared the experiences that have stayed with him throughout his career: "Everything I ever did with my time at Conestoga. All the professors involved in the welding programs have industry experience. They know what is required from graduates as they move into the workforce and I think this is a critical factor in why these poly-technical programs have a good history. The skills I have found most useful would be working in groups, good communication, and report/memo writing. It is critical in manufacturing environments to be able to work effectively in a group. Writing reports and detailed emails are important for Technical/Technologist's positions. All of these skills were attained from my educational experience at Conestoga, and have helped me tremendously "

 A day on the job for Shawn is full of high temperatures and lots of responsibility: "I'm in charge of the robotic welding operations, and all welding applications that are done at our two facilities in Stoney Creek. Jayne Industries, where I work now, is a refractory hardware and fabrication company for the oil, gas, and steel industry. Refractory is a ceramic compound that is lined on the inside of furnaces that operate at a high temperature above 1500F. If the refractory was not in place, the steel structure of the vessel would deform with the high heat. To anchor this refractory material on the furnace wall, stainless and Inconel fabricated materials are used. These procedures are completed at Jayne. To weld exotic alloys like these, it has to be done properly. Most of these fabrications are done robotically in a controlled environment, using the right processes and consumables. I am in charge of developing the procedure to weld the materials, program the fabrication, and supervise production afterwards. I train and teach employees to use the new technology involved in our facility, and provide any technical information to customers.  Customers such as Exxon Mobile, which is the largest energy company in the world. Our anchoring systems are used on shut-downs when they are replacing refractory material on a refinery."

 Shawn is extremely satisfied with what he's accomplished so far. He is always learning about new technology and information. He has accepted a leadership role as a floor supervisor, which has improved  his skill set. He has learn what he and his team are capable of and how to deal with conflict among employees.

When asked what the most rewarding part of pursuing welding was, Shawn said that seeing how much his educational background is acknowledged in the industry is a bonus.

He also doesn't mind the fact that he is 21 and doing ok for himself. The starting salary for a Welding Technologist is about $55,000 yearly. Along with the nice pay, Shawn says he appreciates that the learning possibilities are endless.

  As for advice, Shawn says that the more education you have the better. The more aspects of any trade that you know, the more opportunities and skills you will gain.