Monday, March 19, 2012

Would you start a bakery using a Duncan Hines recipe?

As I stood making cupcakes this morning - it's National Social Worker appreciation day this week some time, and my team at work decided we would send some treats over to our local social workers to appreciate them - I figured out the perfect metaphor for an issue that has been bothering me...

I'm always perplexed by requests I get from people saying something like this..."I'm developing a line of skin care products and I want you to help me do it as I've never made anything before." I find this confusing. Would you decide to start a clothing line having never cut out a pattern or threaded a needle? Would you decide to start a woodworking company having never owned a hammer or cut a piece of wood? So why would you start a skin care line when you've never made so much as a lotion bar or body butter? It would be like starting a bakery when you've only ever made cupcakes from a boxed recipe! 

You're just asking for trouble when you don't know what you're doing and have to rely upon the free advice of people like me to make your business successful. There's a reason this is called a craft - we're craftspeople who have worked hard to hone our skills, and there's much more to making products than just making a recipe in your workshop. You have to learn what information you can trust, which suppliers you can rely on, which recipes work the best in your climate, which containers look awesome and keep your products safe, and so on. To think that you can just follow a recipe and start selling it a few weeks later is simply ridiculous: I would argue you need at least a year just to test the stability of your products, let alone all the time you need to perfect your recipes.

Please don't be offended when I write back to you with the comment that I don't help businesses for free. I don't help businesses for money, either. I don't have time to help your business succeed. I wish you all the best, but it's not fair to ask me to give you my time for free so you can make a profit. 

Terry Pratchett wrote, "Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." Resolve to be on fire instead of begging for a match! 

As a note, it's National Community Social Service Workers' Day on November 6th, so I guess we do get a celebration as well! 

Look for more posts later this week - it's so busy around here, and now it's Spring Break, so it's even busier! 


jettiemae said...

I completely agree w/ you on this post. Great analogy :0)

Anonymous said...

Lovely, you've been missed <3


Ben said...

My contaminated lotion is a perfect example of this. I'm reading up on multiple sources (basically taking myself to college, oh thank you so much Al Gore for inventing the Internet ;) to be able to make formulations in my head. For a specific reason, given a certain skin type.

But progress can come to a screeching halt with a contaminated lotion. Oh well, keep on moving.

twobloomsdesignstudio said...

Great post and I agree. I don't think people have any idea how much time and effort goes into creating a recipe..

Anonymous said...

Well said.
For goodness sakes, you write blogs, give out recipes, collate e-books...
How much more flaming help does a person need?
Perhaps you should actually make their products for them. For free, of course!!!

Nancy Liedel said...

It's taken me three years. THREE years of 16 hour days, every day, but one, and I was still at the zoo, notebook in hand, designing my herb garden for my products. Yes, I've given everything else up in my life for this.

I am obsessed and love what I'm doing. The feeling of running around and wanting to call everyone and tell them, I MADE X!!!!! Even if X is a flop, I've learned.

I thought it would be easy. I can cook, after all. However, this is more akin to baking. I'd say baking a perfect pie crust, or making Croissants. Both are fussy things that fail. Oh, I have a better one...A Souffle!!! There's a challenge. Took me 5 years to perfect my souffle and even then, I've had pitiful losses (The guest wait for the souffle, not the other way round).

I have tons of stuff and I use it.

I've made so many mistakes and I rarely talk about them, because it's downright embarrassing. If I'd jumped the gun and sold a mistake, I'd never forgive myself.

Start off slow, small batches and wait. You are not supposed to Quality Check your own products in the USA, but until something is really ready, I'm not paying that huge amount for a Challenge test.

Know what each ingredient does. How it plays with preservative systems (several don't like the Polysorbates, or anything of a cellulose type nature. Swift has a downloadable list here.

If you aren't sure, join, and read it all. Okay, in bites. Many will lead you to tech specs on what you're using and they really help. Study the lotions you love. What does what? Is this the emulsifier? There are three, why? Two is the norm and one if you use BTMS. Why Xanthan Gum? Can I use something else? Those questions should pop off the top of your head. How can you make it yours? You're worth the best products you can formulate.

I break down formulas, so I known the ins and outs and make things my own. You would never tell that I formulated an entire line around a formula on Ingredients to Die for. "That's interesting, but if I add this, and that and the other and remove this, I have a mattifier!!!"

It can take one spark to inspire you. I find mine in odd places. Always carry a notebook and pen everywhere you go.

I cannot innovate without inspiration.

Always start with one of Swifts formulas, or from a supplier. You learn to tweak from a basic place. I detest simple boring lotion. So I made Swifts simple lotion formula and stuck to her instructions. Twice, fairly large batches to get the feel. I gave it away and they are loved. I gave credit where it was due and then proceeded to swap out oils, etc.