- Ask Rene
- Family & Home
- Health & Beauty
- GEM ON THE GO
- Rene on TV
About ten years ago, on a sunny afternoon in New York, I was checking out the amazing crafts by artisans that lined the streets of SoHo when I stumbled upon a woman who was selling handmade soaps.
Soap is something I’d never really given much thought to until I saw these. Beautifully wrapped, each one individual, they literally smelled good enough to eat. I snapped up three boxes for gifts and one for myself. I never forgot her and, unfortunately, never found her again.
Lucky for me, and you guys, I found something better! Introducing one of our Featured Advertisers, Nordea McKoy who churns out amazing products from her own kitchen and trust me when I say you can feel the love! Nordea Soaperie uses natural oils (I’m a fan of those for hair and skin) so you don’t feel all dried up and pruny after you use them.
My personal favorite is the Poppy Sugar Scrub, one of her top sellers and I can see why. It exfoliates and moisturizes at the same time and hello? How Good Enough Mother is it of me to fall in love with a product that allows you to skip a step in your routine? And to top it off, they smell divine.
Now, Mother’s day is May 8th. Don’t be an ungrateful child and wait until the day before to find something. Because I’m a mom I can say this; she’ll know. How about this? Click on the advertisement on the left of the page and order something that is not only beautiful but that she’ll love using?
And don’t forget – if you’d like to advertise on Good Enough Mother please just click on the How To Advertise button in our left hand sidebar and my team will be only to happy to help you out. We offer a special rate for small companies like Nordea’s. We’re big fans here at GEM of supporting women who are building their dreams!
Now, read on about Nordea, whose Second Act, is beautifying the world, one bar at a time.
Nordea Soaperie features handmade soap and body products made from scratch. I do not use pre-made bases, which allows me to better predict the outcome of the product. There are a few ways to make soap. I choose the hot process method, which means I mix all of the ingredients, and then cook the soap “batter” in the oven.
Soap is made by a process called saponification, which is simply a chemical reaction between the oils and sodium hydroxide (soap cannot be made without NaOH.) After the soap is cooked, I add extra oils that are not affected by the chemical process. So, in theory, these oils are left on the skin, which leaves it feeling, moisturized instead of stripped and dry.
There are a lot of soaps to choose from on the market. You can get soap at the pharmacy, supermarket, even the dollar store. Many people prefer handmade soap because of how it feels on the skin. Glycerin (a humectant which draws moisture to the skin) is a natural by-product of the soap making process. Many commercial soap makers extract the glycerin and sell it to makeup companies to make more money. This is why many soaps can leave your skin feeling dry.
Handmade soaps also allow for a lot of creativity. I can scent and color them any way I want. I also like to use unusual ingredients. Two of my more popular soaps have cucumber puree and beer on the ingredient list. I also make soaps with aloe juice, coconut milk, Dead Sea mud, pumpkin, and even eggs! During the summer months, I like to make a soap with banana puree.
Sometimes, I wish I had help. Unfortunately, this is a one-woman operation. I once made some soap for wedding favors and had some friends come over to help. They meant well, but didn’t wrap them properly, so I had to redo everything after they left. I am such a perfectionist; I don’t think anyone who is not invested in my company could ever do a great job. So, I just plow through it myself. Now that my business is growing, I have to really think about how to expand, but still maintain a high quality product.
I moved to Harlem in 2004, and was amazed to find people selling shea butter on the streets. I could not understand the fascination with shea butter, and bought a small tub. I started experimenting with it by adding different oils, and mixing them up. Shortly thereafter, my whipped body butter was born. Around the same time, I stumbled upon an online soap-making forum. I learned so much from these women who have been making soap for many years. They were taught by their mothers and grandmothers before modern soap calculators and the Internet made the process accessible to the public. I learned the importance of testing, quality control, and how different ingredients add to the success of a particular recipe.
I decided to give it a try, and found all of the ingredients locally. I made some soap, and to my amazement, it actually worked! From there, I fine-tuned the recipe, and really started to churn out some fantastic soap. The lip balms, and sugar scrubs, etc. came along naturally since I already had most of the ingredients on hand. Many hours of testing led to the products that I sell now.
I had been working as an Associate Director in TV news for many years. With the economic downturn, many of my freelance gigs dried up. I had a lot of free time on my hands, so I spent that time working on my products. After a while, I had a lot of soap in my home….I gave a lot away, but needed to recoup some of the costs to continue with my hobby. Selling the soaps allowed me the freedom to continue with the hobby, which has since grown into a full-blown business. Selling my products also provided a nice income, which helped keep food on the table and a roof over my head. I still work in the TV biz, so now it is a challenge learning to balance my two careers.
When I first started making soap, I had no intention of selling them. I knew nothing about running a business. I have since learned a lot about marketing, inventory control, correct pricing, etc.
I try to stay active on Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch with my customers. It is difficult to sell soap and body products online. People want to feel, smell, and touch everything. Until we get “smell-o-vision” computers, it will always be difficult to explain how great they are. I like to sell my soaps at markets on the weekend, where customers can meet me, ask questions, and offer scent suggestions. I usually have water and paper towels at my markets, so people can try my sugar scrubs before they buy. I also have a great spreadsheet that allows me to keep track of expenses and control inventory.
I have also learned to just say no. Not a day goes by when one of my customers asks me about making shampoos, conditioners, lotion, bath teas, etc. I can make any of these, and I do make them for myself. But, all of these products take extensive research and testing. I know my limitations, and I want to take my time. It is important to make sure that the product is ready for the general public. I would hate to recall anything because I did not do the proper testing required.
I am in the process of launching my “Spa Collection” which is a set of products that will be found exclusively in stores. These products are slightly different (different scents, ingredients, and packaging) from the products I sell online. Nothing is finalized yet, so anyone interested can purchase my existing products from my website: www.nordeasoaperie.com or, you can find me at different craft markets on the weekends. I can be found at various places in the tri-state area, and you can check my schedule by visiting the “upcoming events” page on my site.
Thanks Nordea – good luck!
So what are you waiting for all your GEM’s out there – Mother’s Day is just around the corner!