Benjamin and I had an overwhelming response to our Facebook Live video on the topic of wholesale. You can view it on our video page in case you missed it. We have a planned series of blog posts and resources including eBooks/eCourses to help you develop your wholesale program selling your handcrafted soap. We just finished the first online eCourse, How to Create a Wholesale Line Sheet Using Canva.
Below are some general wholesale tips that came up during the Facebook Live.
Tip #1: Keep it simple. Don’t wholesale every product that you make.
Our number one tip for soap makers who want to wholesale their products is to only wholesale 4-12 products. Do not wholesale every single bar of soap that you make. It will drive you crazy! The purpose of wholesaling is to sell a large quantity of product for a lesser amount of money. You’ll have cash flow, inventory and production nightmares if you try to wholesale everything that you make.
Put yourself in the place of a retailer making a decision as to what to carry.
- You can actually overwhelm them if you offer 20+ products. They won’t know which to choose and might even decide not to choose at all! By offering a smaller number of products you are making their job easier by making it easier to choose.
- Retailers only have a certain amount of space to offer for your products. They probably aren’t going to want to sell 20+ products; that would take up a lot of precious shelf space.
So how do you choose what to wholesale?
Take a look at your sales. Hopefully you are tracking what you are selling. What sells the best? What do people grab up as soon as its off your curing rack? Don’t just go by your personal favorites, or even what you think is going to sell. Go off of your sales history.
Tip #2: Consider the process that it takes to make your soaps.
If you have soaps that are made using time-consuming design methods, such as complicated swirls that don’t scale-up easily, you probably don’t want to wholesale those soaps. Again, wholesale is all about quantity and that means scaling up your production. Take a hard look at what it takes to make each of your soaps and picture making each soap in a 20 pound or 40 pound batch. Could you do it?
Tip #3: Know your costs and develop a solid pricing structure.
Do not even stick your toe in the wholesale game without having a firm understanding of your costs. You have to develop a pricing structure that ensures you are covering all of your costs, overhead and your salary! Yes, your salary! Why are you doing this if you aren’t paying yourself?
If you want to learn more about the financial side of running a soap business, check out Benjamin’s eCourse Setting Up Your Soap and Bodycare Business for Success. He talks about pricing, costs, expenses, creating income goals, etc.
Tip #4: Shop around for better pricing on bulk ingredients.
Once you are ready to scale-up your production for wholesale, you need to shop around to make sure you are getting the best pricing for your raw materials. When you wholesale, you usually sell your soap for half of the retail price. So you have to make sure that your costs are as low as you can get them by sourcing the least expensive ingredients that you can find. And this usually means buying in larger quantities. We can get a bit cozy with suppliers that we are used to ordering from. Don’t be afraid to shop around.
Tip #5: Your branding needs to be solid.
As soap makers, more often than not, we start out making soap as a hobby and then one day we decide to create a business. We have tons of product lying around that we want to sell. Many soap makers decide to start a business selling soap without properly branding their new business. They pick a name, design a quick logo…and they’re in business!
There is so much more to developing a brand than picking a name and logo. A brand is how people think and feel about your business.
It includes graphic elements such as your logo, website, email templates, social media design elements, brand colors, fonts, photo styles…etc.
It includes choosing your product names and the voice of your product descriptions. It also includes intangible elements such as your mission, voice, style, values…etc.
There are hundreds (if not thousands) of soap businesses selling the same lavender, peppermint and coffee scrub soap. Solid branding helps you stick out from the crowd and makes you memorable. It helps people to trust you and creates customer loyalty.
There are tons of branding resources if you need help. Here are some of my favorites:
If all you did was create a logo when you decided to sell your soap, you are not ready. Take the time to develop a strong brand.
Easy Branding-Building Questions: If your business was a person, what kind of person would they be? Where would they hang out? With whom? How old are they? Male? Female? Either? What is their income level? Where do they live? Do they have children? Are they children? What do they care about?
Tip #6: Find retailers who sell similarly-branded products.
Focus your wholesale efforts on retailers who sell brands that feel like your own. They are more likely to say yes to purchasing your products. For example, if you package your soap rustically in brown coffee filters tied with checkered red ribbon and your business name is Country Bubble Soap Co., you probably aren’t going to wholesale your products to high-end retail stores. But there will be lots of boutiques and shops that fit your branding! Seek those out.
Tip #7: You need a wholesale line sheet.
A wholesale linesheet provides all of the information needed for a retail buyer to make a decision about buying your products. A well-thought-out line sheet includes:
- Beautiful images of your products.
- Pricing information.
- Your minimum order requirements (for opening orders & reorders).
- Your payment terms.
- Your lead time on orders.
- Your shipping terms.
- Your cancellation, damages and returns policies.
You have to have a line sheet ready because once you start contacting store, they ask for it! You want to show them that you have all of your wholesale ducks in a row and that you know what you are doing.
Having a line sheet designed by a graphic designer could cost you money that you might not have. And learning complicated (and expensive) design programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign can make you pull your hair out.
You can DIY your line sheet using my favorite online graphic design program Canva. I put together an eCourse that walks you through everything you need to know and decide about when putting together a line sheet. Then I actually show you how to design it using Canva. Check out How to Create a Wholesale Line Sheet Using Canva eCourse. I also show you how to design an order form. You can use Canva for all of your wholesale program documents + social media posts, brochures, flyers, postcards…etc.
Tip #8: Send full size samples.
When sending samples to stores do not send tiny little soap pieces packaged in glassine bags. Send your actual products. Retailers want to see your full-size products and your packaging and branding. They will probably care more about your packaging and branding than your actual product!
Tip #9: You need insurance.
Most retail partners that you work with will ask for a certificate of insurance. Here is some info on insurance for soap makers.
I hope these wholesale tips helped you! We’ll have more wholesale tips coming soon. We do have a few resources available for those wanting to learn more about wholesale.
How to Wholesale Your Handcrafted Soap eBook by Benjamin Aaron – This is one of our top-selling eBooks for soapmakers. It offers wonderful advice about setting up your wholesale program. Benjamin sold his soap in nation-wide retail chain stores including Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Sprouts…etc. He shares his knowledge gained from working with these and other retailers.
How to Create a Wholesale Line Sheet Using Canva eCourse – If you want to DIY your wholesale line sheets and other marketing materials, this course is for you. It also helps you work out all of your terms & conditions and order minimums…etc. This is a must if you want to wholesale.
Benjamin and I recently did a Facebook Live on wholesaling. It is loaded with lots of good info and wholesale tips. Check it out on our videos page.