One of my favorite soapmakers on YouTube is Kenny Lef! She is simply the most positive, joyful and happy soaper out there! I love her vibe. <3 <3 If you aren’t watching her videos…subscribe!
Amanda: Tell us about how you got your start in soap making.
Kenny: About 7 years ago, I went to a very posh mall in my state (Michigan) and they had this store called Lush. When I walked in, I was in awe at all of the pretty colors, smells and bath bombs. I just had to try them all, but once I looked at the prices, I quickly decided “trying them all” wasn’t in my budget. However, I did leave the store with three items in my bag and $47.00 less in my bank account.
Once I got home, I had a blast with my new face masks and bath bombs and needed more, but I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that kind of money every time I wanted an at home spa day. So I decided to try to make bath bombs myself, and lets just say, it didn’t go that well, but once I got the hang of it, my creative juices were unleashed and I wanted to try my hand at other bath and body products. This is when I discovered the wonderful world of handmade soap making on YouTube. I loved the idea that I would have control over what went into the soap I used on my skin. For a full year, I stalked every soap making channel I could find before ever attempting to make it myself, but once I did, I lost my mind and couldn’t stop making soap; it was like a drug to me and still is till this very day, lol!
Describe your first batch of soap. What do you remember about it?
My first batch of soap was a 1 pound batch made in an aluminum bread pan that I lined with a plastic grocery bag. I was brave enough to make a three color swirl, which now when I think about it, that was one ugly colored soap. I chose teal, peach and orange and I can’t describe the swirl. It was supposed to be a drop swirl, but most of the color just kind of hung out at the top of the loaf. At the time, no one could tell me I wasn’t the most awesome sauce soap maker that has ever lived. Oh, the pride I felt was unmatched, but now that I look back, that little odd shaped soap was pretty laughable, but I was really proud of it and the lather was actually quite nice!
How would you describe your style of soap making?
I would describe my style as Messy and fly by the seat of my pants. In the beginning, I would see all of the YouTube soap makers having everything so nice and neat and drawn and planned out, and no one ever spilled anything. I tried my best to be like them, but I quickly discovered it just wasn’t gonna happen. In the beginning, most times, I spilled more batter on the table than I poured into my molds (I’ve gotten a bit better since) and planning never really worked for me because at the very last minute, I changed my design and just winged it. I think my best work pops into my head as I go. Seven years later, I still make epic messes, but I’ve learned to embrace the mess. This is why I go by “Kenny the messy soaper.”
Where do you find inspiration for the soap that you make?
I always have been an artsy person. I was a professional seamstress for about 15 years, so inspiration comes from all things from designs on fabric, the color of a sunrise or sunset, Pinterest, definitely Pinterest. I often find myself falling into a Pinterest hole for hours. There are so many colors and ideas there.
How has your soap making evolved from when you first started?
When I first started soap making, I thought there was this list of golden rules to soap making that you had to stick strictly to, and really there are some that you really should stick to, but I would have never dreamed of using fruits and veggies, impression mats, and circular molds and not doing a small test batch with new fragrances. Now, nothings off limits to me! I never do test batches for new fragrances or colors, so when the soap gremlins come a knockin’ at my door, I sit out the welcome mat. I’m not saying this way of soap making is for everyone, but It has made me an ambitious soap maker. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I put the smack down on a misbehaving soap and the end results are better than what I expected.
Have you ever had any big-time soaping fails? What did you learn from it?
The very first soap cake I ever made, once again, I was being overly ambitious and tired a piping technique I saw a cake decorator using. One I was done with the soap cake and cut it the next day, all of the piping separated from the base. I was pretty bummed and vowed to never make another soap cake again.
With the encouragement of my Subscribers on YouTube and my family, I decided to give it another go. I’ve never been about wasting anything and that failed soap cake wasn’t an exception, so I decided to rebatch it. My mother came up with the idea of whipping rebatched soaps because she didn’t like the textures, so I used that technique and created an even more beautiful soap cake the second time around. I’ve learned that soap is so versatile and just because it turned out as a fail the first time around doesn’t mean you can’t reimagine it and give It new life. Also, if it doesn’t go as planned, just remember at the end of the day, it’s still soap and there’s always a use for it!
What is your favorite soap to make for yourself?
As much as I love a “Jazzed to death” soap, for myself, I tend to make a plan ole’ unscented oatmeal soap. When I was 19 I used to work at a fabric store and the store used to sell unscented oatmeal soap. I loved that soap, I loved it so much that I had the manager buy it by the case for me and that was the only soap I ever used for years. Now it’s so nice to know how to make my own and much cheaper.
Where do you soap? Do you soap in the kitchen, or do you have a dedicated space?
Before we bought our home, I used to rent a tiny little house that had tiny little bedrooms. I turned one of the bedrooms into a soaping studio and I used the kitchen pantry as a soap curing rack. Once we bought our current home, I was told by my other half to not even look at the pantry. Whelp, with that being said, I made it a goal to purchase a home with a basement. I turned half of it into my little soaping studio and our kitchen pantry is now soap free!
What was your biggest struggle during the process of starting a business?
The biggest struggle for me during the process of opening my business was getting people to notice my product. It’s a great feeling to open a business, but for me, believe this or not, before I started my soap company, I didn’t have social media and I actually really disliked it and had no intentions on getting on any platform. Imagine that, LOL!
However, it didn’t take long for me to realize, growth in this day and age for a business is relied heavily on Social media. Even after setting all of my platforms up, I still didn’t get a single sale for an entire year. I actually had one of my friends buy something from my website to be sure it was actually working. It was, people just didn’t know anything about me or even if my products were any good.
Even seven years later, marketing is still somewhat of struggle for me but it truly has gotten a lot easier.
What is your typical day by day in your soaping business week?
Well, I actually hold down two jobs. My day job is being an Electrical engineer and my second job is my soaping business. So Monday through Friday, I wake up at 5 am and head out the door by 5:40 to play with electricity and by 5 pm. I am back home, then I change clothes and head down to my soap studio and begin packing orders, creating labels, wrappings soaps, editing videos for YouTube, cutting soaps for curing and all the other little things that have to be done, then I go beddy-bye at 9:30 to get up and do it all over again.
On Saturday’s and Sundays, I’m up by 6 am. and these are the days where I have all of the fun of making soaps and other products while thinking of my next soaping adventure and packing orders as well.
How did you establish your line and keep yourself limited to a manageable amount of varieties within that line?
Well, because soap making is my creative outlet, I find it very hard to stick to making the same soaps over and over again, so for my most popular soaps, which are about 6, I continuously keep those in rotation because I know there is a love for those and they sell very well.
As for all other soaps, I like to let my creative flag fly and sometimes those soaps can be very time consuming and detailed, that’s why I prefer to make them in limited small batches and once they are gone, that’s it! They’re gone. Unless there is a huge demand for them, then I will bring them back a couple of times a year. I know this isn’t conventional, but it keeps the excitement of creation live in me because I tend to get bored with the same ole, same ole.
As for other products, such as candles and sugar scrubs, I keep the same line so I don’t have to plan so much for those and it makes it easier for me to whip them up in a flash.
What is your favorite mold?
My favorite mold is my three cavity acrylic custom mold I had made by Custom Craft tools. I love this mold because it gives me the perfect size soaps known to my brand and I love the fact that I can use it as a single mold or a triple mold if I’m making a bigger batch. Honestly, I love all of my molds from Custom craft tools. They are just beautiful to look at and easy to unmold, plus I get a sneak peek at my soaps before unmolding because they are see through.
What base oil could you not do without and what properties do they give your soap?
I could not do without coconut oil because it’s so versatile and it lends such great properties to my soaps, such as a very hard bar, which I’m a total sucker for, and it’s cleansing ability is key, plus it make for some wick huge bubbles in my cured bars. I just love the stuff!
What is your favorite soap making additive and what does it contribute to your soap?
I love, love, love heavy whipping cream as an additive to my soaps. The creaminess that it gives the lather is everything!!! Sometimes, I turn into a kid when I’m washing my hands. I’ll just stand at the sink and keep rubbing and rubbing and rubbing because I love the creamy feeling.
Who are your favorite soap blogger, or YouTubers to binge on?
My favorite soap YouTuber has to be hands down, Missouri River soaps, Miss Holly! I have loved Holly since the very first day I found her channel. There is just something so soothing about her eye for putting bright colors together and her sweet demeanor, and I envy her super-duper strong arms! That girl can sling 15 pounds of soap like no one’s business!
If you could meet anyone (living or gone) and got to make a batch of soap together, who would it be and what kind of soap would you make?
If I could meet anyone and make a batch of soap together, it would be without a doubt Meryl Streep!!!! I simply adore her and her versatility as an actress! I don’t watch television, but she is always my exception, I can’t say enough about how much I love her. I would for sure make a “The devil wears Prada” themed soap…matter of fact; I think I’ll have to do that now, minus Miss Meryl.
What advice do you have for those just getting into soap making?
My advice for the newbie soap maker would be to KEEP IT SIMPLE!!! Don’t be like I was when I first started out. I spent a lot of unnecessary money on exotic oils and butters, such as meadow foam and kokum. Really all you need is to head to your local grocery store and pick up coconut oil, olive oil and cocoa butter and if you really want to get jiggy with it, you can even grab a can of goats milk and, VOILA, you’ll make a lovely soap out of those simple ingredients.
Tell us about your YouTube channel!
I consider my YouTube channel a place where you can go to relax, have a good laugh and feel like you’re having a chat with a friend. My channel isn’t structured and things don’t always go as planned, but one thing I’ve always done is share my boo boo’s and successes. I remember when I first started watching soap making videos and feeling like I was a bit of a disaster because everyone else’s soaps went into the mold without putting up a fight and their batters never gave them any problems. And I’m sure that’s the norm for a lot of makers, but I want everyone to feel okay with not being perfect and it’s okay to make a mess and most of all, it’s absolutely okay to laugh at yourself because at the end of the day, it’s just soap.
My channel is light and laugh and I really do consider my subscribers to be more like family than fans.
What has surprised you most about starting a YouTube channel?
What has surprised me most about starting my YouTube channel is the love I receive from my S.A.C (stinkin awesome crew) this is what I call my subscribers. It amazes me how complete strangers will stand up for me when trolls appear to simply try and ruin my day, or how If I miss an upload, the flood of emails I get asking if I’m okay and just the overall abundance of love I am shown each and every time I post a new video.
Since, I started my channel almost 7 years ago I have gained some truly wonderful friends that have left the virtual world and are now a part of my real everyday life, and I’m still surprised by how many people actually like to watch me make soap…mostly messes, but some pretty awesome soaps too!
Find Kenny Online!