Julie with Wild Poppy Soap Co. always wanted to try soap making, but she couldn't find time in between running a business and raising a family. Once she got started though, she never looked back. Julie was able to take her passion and turn it into a business. She makes bold and creative bars of cold process soap. Learn more about how Julie got started, what inspires her, and her soap making tips.
How long have you been making soap and how did you get started?
I have been making soap since 2012. I knew for close to 20 years prior to making soap that I would do this someday. My husband and I owned a specialty food store and we had a small health and beauty aid section. We carried Zum Bars in the store and I loved the scents, the colors, and the quality soap. Because I was running my own business full-time and raising a family, I never could find the time to learn how to make soap. The internet was new and resources back then were not as accessible as they are today.
Fast forward 20 years I was having lunch with a friend and he told me he had made soap over the weekend, I was intrigued. I excitedly went home and started researching online, reading books, and watching Soap Queen TV non-stop! I didn’t make my first batch of cold process soap until four months after my research began. The first soap I made was from a Bramble Berry kit. The kits were very helpful when I started out. My first batch came out pretty well, except that I kept lifting the towel over the cardboard tent looking at it and ended up with a big gel circle in the middle of my soap - oops! My second batch seized and I had such a mess on my hands that I considered quitting, however by the third batch I was hooked. I knew I had finally found my passion.
What advice would you give to makers just starting their businesses?
Keep working on your recipe, share your first trial soaps with friends and family, and ask for honest feedback. I still make little cards with questions for feedback. When I develop a new product I share samples, gather feedback, and make changes. Once I feel I have feedback that demonstrates success, I can move forward with the product on the retail end. Research all aspects of the business. I’m always reminding myself that you only get to make that first impression once.
What is your favorite type of product to make?
Cold process soap hands down. I love the creativity it provides. The challenge of trying a new design and working with various scents is that they all behave so differently. You may have a particular idea in mind, but until you cut the bars, you do not know exactly what you end up with.
What inspires you to create?
My inspiration comes from all around me - my garden, local art, and it can even be the weather map on the news with all the vibrant colors. I was recently gifted a beautiful handmade hat and scarf that had various shades of green, gold, and blue. Looking at the scarf, the dreaming of a new soap began. Once I had an idea that I believed would capture the scarf and hat, it took me a while to choose a scent. After cutting the bars I was really pleased. I think it captured the essence I was after. I scented it with Blackberry Sage.
How did you come up with the name for your business?
Our state flower in New Hampshire is the lilac, and lilacs are one of my favorite flowers. Pretty much everything with lilac in the name was taken for business names. I also love poppies and grow hundreds of them every year in my gardens. I played around trying different word combinations that worked with poppy and when Wild Poppy Soap Co. popped into my head, I just knew that was it.
What is your favorite Bramble Berry product and why?
I have to say it’s the 5 lb. Wood Mold with Sliding Bottom used with the silicone liner. They are wonderful molds that get quite a workout in my soap making studio.
Tell us something unusual or unique about yourself!
I had a unique opportunity when I owned my specialty food store. In 2000, I was selected as a judge for the Fancy Food Show. I was flown to NYC for three days in May, along with six other people in the industry. Our job was to taste hundreds of different foods all day (then we were wined and dined each evening) and select our top five favorite foods from each category. The foods we selected went on to another round of judging that was judged by hundreds of people. The awards were given out at the Fancy Food Show and the winners received an Oscar-like statue that looks like a chef.
What are some of your other hobbies and interests?
I enjoy traveling, gardening, cooking, reading, watching movies, and spending time with my family.
What is your number one soap making tip?
Soap makers who want to stamp their soaps may find it helpful to place a piece of Saran/plastic wrap between the soap and the stamp. It can help keep the stamp clean. This was a game changer for me. I was constantly getting the stamp stuck, full of soap and spending too much time cleaning the stamp.
Have you ever experienced a soapy fail? How did you work through it, and what did you learn?
One time I was prepping 30 batches of lye water and was interrupted. When I went to make soap, I missed putting the lye into one of the pitchers of water, and oil and water really do not mix. I tried to mix the lye in after the fact, hoping I could dispose of it more easily. I now move a spatula along the pitchers, so if I get interrupted I will always know where I left off.
If you were to give one of your products to a stranger, what would you choose and why?
A bar of my Summer Breeze soap. It is scented with my personal favorite fragrance, Bramble Berry’s Summer Fling. I am really proud of my soaps. I love making them, and I love that people from all over the globe enjoy using them. Anytime someone can create a job from a passion is a gift. I feel so grateful that I have been successful with my Wild Poppy Soap.
What do you love most about creating bath and body products?
The artistic creativity and the actual process. I enjoy working with the scents and colors the most. In soap making, I love how the creativity of art and the precision of science collide to make a product that is mild and gentle and yet so beautiful. I enjoy the challenge of attempting to make the soap look as it should smell. I receive a lot of customer feedback saying this soap smells just like it looks!