Celebrity Soap Maker Warning
If you are new to this little corner of the soap world, you don't know me. I am Bee from Sorcery Soap, founder of soap dough.
If you do know me, you might not know this story.
That's a big thing to lay at your feet, that you are reading from someone who created something, well to be clear, brought forward and catalyzed something that the world had not seen before. Soap dough has been around, as a by-product of hand made and industrustrially made soap.
Soap dough, in this form, with this process had not been seen before I brought it into focus. This information has taken me years to realize, and hardest, to acknowledge.
In the beginning I was baffled anyone wanted to know about this stuff I was calling "soap dough", as it seemed rather obvious. Those ideas that seems obvious to one are not always obvious to others, and why I'm writing this post.
In the beginning I was asked to join a group - this part is unclear, either she put a notification for a group or I was asked to join - but either way I joined the group. It was an experimental group to write a book. (I felt honored to be considered, because the woman asking was a soap celebrity. Or in my mind, anyway.) The claim was to write a book in 8 weeks.
I have been writing for many years, been in many groups, studied at university and college and participated in having my work published on many occasions. And, writing takes practice. One must read and write a lot. Some of us need more practice than others, and I'm one of the former. It had been years since I wrote a book and thought it would be good practice.
I also discovered that as I shared my soap creations many questions were asked, "how" about soap dough, even the word, was confusing. No one had coined the term as I was using it. That was a big question to answer.
During my writing and business practice I was taught to ask myself this question, "what new thing can I bring to the table?" If it wasn't a new idea, I should reconsider why I was taking the effort. This helped me clarify my "why". Once I had the why of the situation, the rest became much easier.
Along the way I did what I do and met every challenge and deadline in the group. I also had a few opportunities to speak with the woman running the group on the phone.
After the completion of this project I had a book. I quickly saw the need to create another book because I had been asked for soap dough recipes. As I had the momentum of the group, and the completion of my first soap book, I dug right in. This book turned into my recipe books. Before they transformed into a printed version they were binders. I was so proud of them and wanted the woman who ran the writing group, now I considered my mentor, (not that she knew, but we had long conversations about honor, copyright theft, marketing, etc.) as someone who might want to see this prototype. I trusted her.
The books were expensive to make, time consuming and to make it worth my while, I would ask $65. My mentor said, no one would purchase for that amount. I continued anyway. I thought, ok, if no one wants these I'll give them as gifts. Fair enough. I'll chalk it up to product testing. If the world doesn't really need this book, I'll know.
How Sorcery Soap Started
All this was funded by my measly pay as an esthetician. I mean, measly. I held the record for doing the fastest brazilian in the salon (cleaned and gone in 16 minutes), always took the trash out and cleaned up after the other employees. I came in on my day off, didn't complain about the mess my station was left in and took the few crumbs I was offered. It was a miserable job. My employers were about creating a franchise, not employee retention.
My customers were great, though. I talked them through the pain of hair removal and comforted them. Everyone apologies for the unnerving pain of hair removal. I'd seen it and knew it was embarrassing, although, I'll admit, entertaining from the creative cursing that went on.
In another life, I once, had a nice size company so I knew what it meant from an employer's perspective to be a good employee. I knew what I looked for in a "good employee" and strove to be that stellar employee: someone who was well paid for the job they did, always received their paycheck (no excuses, despite what I was taught, I paid the most important people - my employees and my suppliers first). I wrote a handbook for my guys (as there were only men electricians, although I did try to hire a woman) so they knew what I expected. We ran our shop with absolutely clear communication. I even offered free yoga classes at my instructor's studio. As an electrician (of which I apprenticed) it's imperative to be flexible. I offered bonuses that would benefit them, striving to be the best employer I could, doing those things I wish someone would have done for me.
I knew, from my past company that my employees, if they had any gumption, wouldn't stay working for me for their life, so I supported them on their journey. I didn't see it as beneficial to hold it against them if they wanted more in life. I got it. I sent them to electrician's apprenticeship school on my dime and time and asked them to contract and agree to work for 4 years after schooling was done. I would have a skilled electrician and a committed employee for at least five years. Fair trade. They heartily agreed. I was the best deal in town, as I paid them at the top of their game. I needed NOT to keep hiring people, as that is also a cost to the company.
I offered ways they could start their own business by allowing them to do side jobs for friends and families. That was their business, and they would anyway, without or without my permission. I did not want them sneaking around or getting in over their heads. I also wanted them to be bright eyed and bushy tailed at my jobs. I also didn't want my license anywhere near them if that were the case. I said, if you are going to do this, here is your "almost wholesale" option at our suppliers and you must NOT wear our company shirts or drive our company trucks. You also cannot claim to be working for or with us while you do whatever job you're doing. If not, here is over time. Win/win.
Just offering overtime was a bonus, as some companies in that area only made you work overtime without time and a half. What the crazy-making was that? I had that happen to me first hand for a jeweler I worked for. 60 hours I worked, and they slid that time on to the next paycheck. Yup, not that person. A human's sweat equity is valuable in my book. The job quality is different, but the effort... It's the agreement that is important to me and not to be violated.
I also knew that being an esthetician was a means to an end. Not a life career. Salon politics was not for me. I just needed enough funds to get my own thing up and running. I suspect my employers knew that too, but they didn't know how to deal with it. I gave them every excuse to keep using me.
Back To The Soap Story
During this time I was making soap cookies. When I introduced them many were puzzled about them. I offered to send samples of these cookies to the first 100 soap makers that signed up for free. I'd make them, pay to ship them and all I wanted in return was feedback about the soap quality, size and usage. I received well over 100 requests and didn't want to turn anyone away, so I sent them all 100+ off. This seemed like a fair trade to me. I was asking for feedback and they were receiving something for absolutely no cost to them.
Cost of Education
I did not, by the way, receive even close to 100 replies to my form sent for the soap cookies. The upshot was, the feedback I did receive was so exceptional, I made the adjustments and carried on.
Soap cookies were not a thing. Yes, they were around, but not like they are now.
Back to the book story... During this time I also asked for feedback from a few people about my book. I was unsure, asking questions about what if I'm wrong? What if I've made a mistake in some area? What if I'm not good at... Any of it? Biggest of all, what if I'm dead right and my work isn't protected?
I am not anyone, not a big supplier, not a soap celebrity... I don't have a staff of editors, marketers, soap makers... I do all this myself. (Now, I have my partner for help, but only recently.) I had to figure out basic things from how to layout a page to what program to use, then learn that program... All of it. How to upload an ebook, print it, share it... So much. The looming question, if not me, then who? Who has had more experience with soap dough then me?
I learned some hard lessons in under-valuing my photography in the past, not protecting it and sending my little children out into the world. I've been a photographer both professional (have to earn X amount in one year to claim professional) and ameture since 2004. My photos were stolen and when I addressed it the thieves were bold enough to accuse or attack me... Publically. So, I was leery of sharing my writing with the world.
My mentor said to me, "who cares if someone takes your work?" I had read little of her work until then, but she had (IMO) a humongous following. So, I trusted her. This, my dear soap witch reader, is my fault. Just like it's my fault for trusting that people WILL take what is NOT theirs. Snakes do what snakes do. Or in this case scorpions.
Tale of the Scorpion and Frog
Do you remember the tale of the scorpion and the frog? The scorpion asked the frog to ride on its back across the stream. The frog refused, claiming the scorpion would sting him. The scorpion denied this and said, why would I sting you? We'll both drown. The frog thought it a fair point so agreed to transport the scorpion.
Halfway across the stream the scorpion stung the frog. The frog, in his surprise and anguish, asked, why did you sting me? The scorpion replied, because it's what I do.
I take this to mean, there is a nature to things. That nature is not in the telling, but in the overall expression of the being. When we go with that, move with it, the nature of the thing can bloom. Be that dark or light. Pleasing or not pleasing.
So, after some time of my books being around I saw that my words, my ideas, my phrasing was being lifted. My original ideas were being used and claimed as their own. Copying is an acceptable form of expression, and we all copy along our paths, but theft of an idea is something entirely different. We can feel it, sense it, and even if it only seems that way, we can watch.
The words taken and used were directly from my books. I asked my mentor about this, as she had done it. Not harboring ill will, but asking directly is only fair play. She attacked me, verbally. I begged forgiveness, as I could (and can) be mistaken, yet the intimacy of the arrangement, the coincidence of the words and ideas, seemed too on the nose to be incorrect. And yet, all I could do at that time was trust.
I still left my "I'm sorry, please forgive me" out there. That was 5 years ago. She has not replied since. I have been watching. I have bought her books. I take her newsletter and watch her behaviors. I should have known. A scorpion will always sting.
Since that time I have continued on my journey. I have created thousands of new ideas in soap. Brought light to soap dough and the possibilities of a bar of soap being so much more. I offer pre-made soap dough, had four of my books properly printed, made 100's of videos, written over 300 blog posts, interviewed many soap makers and helped to market them, sent out for free many books, soap and soap dough and continued to support other soap makers. Along with having a Facebook group that is growing daily.
Sorcery Soap (not me) has 43,000 followers on Instagram. That is meaningless. What is meaningful is that I continue to create, support and have a great deal of creativity to offer and this number conveys how long I've been doing this work. What is also meaningful is that you, my dear soap witch sister, are reading these words. That means more... More than I can adequately express with my fingers on this keyboard. And, I'm someone who tries to express in this medium.
The shocking thing for me is this has happened over and over with people and suppliers you'd never think possible. Just because someone has half a million followers does not make them a "good" person. You'd think I know this! It makes them good at something, but not what I thought. I let myself be enamored with their "soap celebrity" status. I LET myself be glamoured.
My dear soap witch sister if you have been horn-swaggled too, don't be hard on yourself. Take your lumps and keep doing your work. There are many, many people out there who don't create, don't offer anything to this world, but think they can - and will - take your creations. I am under no illusions. There are idea thieves and soul-eaters.
When I create I ask myself questions like, is this interesting? Would I be interested in it if someone else made it? Does it spark delight or curiosity? Of course, I have to answer myself honestly. If that answer is, yes, I continue.
Remember, there are also you and I in this world. And, we found each other.
I do not want your trust because I say something or because I have a certain number following what I do.
I would like your trust (if I have earned it) because you have watched me, seen what I'm capable of and, although baited I do rise to absurd taunts, mostly; because I do what I say I'm going to do. (Offering more than I get and if nothing else strive to make all trade fair, or lean in your direction. I might amend this in future, but for now, that's how I operate. Money is small beer for dedication and effort. A life worth living is invaluable.) You trust me to send you supplies, to carry on creating, offering new ideas and forthwith, they arrive.
I also don't let obstacles stop me. I am imperfect striving for better. I speak/write what is true for me and do not pretend otherwise, yet striving for kindness and patiences. (Much like the state of Zen. I view it as one can only strive for those states of being, if one claims they achieved it, it is lost.) I make fewer mistakes today (hopefully) and will continue to support those who are kind and do similar. I am loyal to those who have supported me especially in a dark times and retain those impressions.
My goal is to offer things you can use or might need along your journey. If I can shed light, I am truly blessed. That is a life worth living. Because, when it all comes down to it, I want to know I did my very best in all arenas, everyday. If my best helps you, mores the better.