How We Grew Our Craft Business


naturally scented rondavel bath salts

People often tell us how much they’d love to start a craft business, or that they have a craft business on the side and they wish they could just get it to grow a bit faster, and ask us how we’ve managed to do it full time. Well, there’s quite a bit to it, but mostly, I’d say the practice that’s really helped us get where we are has been….standardisation.  What do I mean by that? Well, a lot of crafters make really beautiful products really well, but each one is unique and a once-off item. For some crafts, this can be a very successful business model, especially if your product is valuable enough to command a high price for each  individual item. But for most products, as much as crafters don’t like to hear it, a superior business model is to standardise a product, or products, and get larger volumes out into the market.

I’m not talking about getting your product manufactured in a factory and distributed via wholesale distributors either. It’s possible for a craft business to become a cottage industry. In our case, for example, I started out making batches of soap of about 25 bars at a time, and once I started selling them, I realised I had to increase my output. Since I still had a day job at the  time, and soap-making opportunities were limited, I had to increase my batch size. So 25 bars became 50, and once I was confident that I could do that number of bars without reducing quality, I pushed it to 100 bars per batch, then over 100 bars, and today, I make just over 200 bars per batch of soap. And I’m doing it full time, so I can make more batches per week than when I had a different day job. Progression from Craft to Cottage industry.

Anyway, the point of this is, it would be really difficult just to produce this quantity of soap every week, if I were always chopping and changing my recipes and packaging for each variety. I used to do a lot more experimenting when the batch size was small, and I didn’t really know what our customer base liked. That was our experimentation time, and we used it well. But once I started to get to a larger batch size, I wanted to know that we’d be able to sell all of the soap fairly quickly, so I started to narrow the focus to the products that I knew had been popular, and before I knew it, we had a catalogue of products I’d repeat, and repeat customers were familiar with.

Naartjie mieliemeal soap bar

This also simplified our purchasing on the raw materials and packaging side, because I could match output to required inputs much more easily than if I were to come up with a new essential oil blend for each batch I made, for example. It also allowed us to switch to a professionally printed packaging solution, which I’m sure you’ll agree is stunning, thanks mostly to Kate’s artwork ( I did inspire the concept though, I’m pretty sure. She probably recalls it differently ).

Anyway, if you’re looking to start or grow a craft business, take a look at what areas you can do some standardisation in. It could pay off . I’m currently working on increasing my batch size from about 200 bars per batch to over 300 after more than two years at the same batch size – I’ve been limited by the maximum size of the stainless steel pot I had, but I’ve just found something bigger…and I’ve got some new soap cutting equipment that’s allowing me to make more batches per week…

If you’re more interested in purchasing our standardised craft products than in making your own, check out our’s here.

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