NM: How long have you been making soaps?
RD: Since 2001. I started out making glycerin melt and pour soap but quickly fell in love with cold process soapmaking once I got over my fear of lye.
NM: How did you begin soap making? What attracted you to it?
RD: I've always had extra sensitive skin and discovering handmade soaps after college was like a blessing to me. After months of buying soaps from other soapmakers I took the plunge into making my own starting with extensive online and book research. I still buy from other soapmakers time and again though. No one makes exactly the same soap and it's fun to experiment especially if you're as big of an addict as I am.
NM: Do you make soap full time?
RD: I did up until recently. I've been way laid by some health issues recently and have cut back to try to get myself mentally and physically in order. I'm very lucky to have a supportive husband and the ability to take time off as needed. However, that being said, I have a large amount of soaps back stocked to get me through the holiday season if needed. I work hard when I can because I know there will be days or even weeks I can't get anything accomplished.
NM: What differentiates your handmade soap from others?
RD: The recipe. Every soapmaker has their own recipe or recipes they use. I have two basic recipes - one that's good on all skin types and another that's formulated specifically for drier skin types. My soaps are also designed to have a nice, rich lather and work well not only as body bars, but as facial soaps and shampoo bars as well. I also heavily scent all of my soaps so the smell lasts from shower to shower without fading.
NM: Since joining Etsy in 2005, you have sold over 2000 items. You also have more than 200 sales on Artfire. How do you attract people to your shop? Where/how do you promote your shop?
RD: It's all about marketing. I joined Etsy as a buyer while it was still in beta and originally sold some art and m&p soaps there just for fun. I didn't get serious about selling on Etsy until January 2008. That year makes up the bulk of all my sales because I was able to market constantly. I actually wrote an article about my experience as a "newbie" to selling online and have it posted here. I've also found giveaways effective.
NM: Are your items available anywhere other than Etsy and Artfire?
RD: I offer my products in several local shops - Shades of Color and Calhoun & Kipp in Roanoke, VA; Poked You Too in Daleville, VA; and my mother-in-law is opening a new brick and mortar in Zanesville, OH soon and will be carrying my soaps there as well. I gave a brief go at selling at 1000 Markets, and even sold some things there, but didn't have the time to juggle multiple shops nor 1000 Markets' markets.
NM: What is your favorite item in your shop? Why?
RD: My Raspberry and Vanilla Soap is my favorite. It smells fantastic and it's great on my dry skin. (We have especially hard water where I live which doesn't help.)
NM: Do you sell your items at craft fairs? If so, what advice can you offer artists considering their first fair?
RD: I sold for about 4 years at the local Roanoke City Market which is similar to a farmer's market but it allows crafts as well. Recently I pulled out of the Market to focus on other things in my life including my mental health after recently being diagnosed as bipolar... and that's on top of having agoraphobia. So I'm searching to take a new direction now and working on improving my quality of life. In lieu of selling in person, I have placed my products into shops, sell online and I have some wonderful people who are taking my products to shows and fairs for me to sell there for a percentage of the sale. First timers should always take business cards. Even if no one buys that day, that business card can bring them back to your online site down the road. Be cheerful and maintain a positive attitude even if sales are bad. Your time isn't being wasted because as long as you are there you are getting free up close and personal advertising.
NM: Do you have a blog? If so, please tell us a little bit about it.
RD: I actually have two blogs. Soap Deli News is my blog for my shop, Rebecca's Soap Delicatessen. You'll find lots of fun craft and soaping projects there as well as all of my new updates to my line, contests, etc. My other blog is Shop ByHand. Shop ByHand is a handmade shopping blog dedicated to products handcrafted by indie artists. Discover fun, new handmade products and unique gift ideas by independent artists, along with artist features and artist interviews.
NM: What is your affiliation with byhand.me? Can you tell us a little bit about the site?
RD: My husband, Adam, built ByHand to give back to the handmade community. I try to manage it but lately have been struggling with it. We've considered selling, but want to keep it a free and open community and not become divided by venues, etc. Right now I'm looking for ways to make "maintaining" the site easier on me and trying to rile up Adam's attention to it once again. Perhaps someone can think of a cool coding project for him?!
NM: Do you belong to any groups on Etsy, Artfire or elsewhere?
RD: I do, but they're not worth mentioning as I'm not active due to lack of sheer time.
NM: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
RD: You can shop through Rebecca's Soap Delicatessen on Artfire through 12/25/09 and receive free shipping to the US or Canada when you spend just $30 or more. Use coupon code: FREESHIP at checkout.
Your Name: Rebecca D. Dillon
Shop Name: Rebecca's Soap Delicatessen
Location: Roanoke, VA
Artfire Shop: soapdeli.artfire.com
Etsy Shop: soapdeli.etsy.com
Blog URL: www.soapdelinews.com and www.shopbyhandblog.com
Facebook Fan Page: facebook.com/soapdeli