Studio Renovation Day 1!

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Friday, October 10th 2014–we’ve officially begun renovation of our production studio! Our contractors are terrific, they came in over the past few days to go over the final details, shift whatever barang (belongings) that I wanted moved to the shop downstairs (including our 85kg shrink wrapping machine and curing racks), and tidied away all the mess I left behind to be tossed out of the studio. It feels GREAT to clear out all the junk from the cupboards and shelves!

We opened up the emergency stairwell, found a good locksmith who replaced all the broken locks and swapped out padlocks.

On Saturday the wrecking crew came in to start removing the carpet tiles, vinyl flooring and the existing partitions. Can’t wait to see what the space looks like on Monday!

Updates: October 2014

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Goodness, things have been whizzing past me and I haven’t really had time to keep you all informed about what’s happening on our end! Sorry about that. I trust that you all have been keeping well, yes? :)

So here’s what’s been happening recently:

Studio renovations to begin on Tuesday, October 7th.

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I met with our contractor earlier this morning (yes, despite it being a public holiday–I guess we’re both as excited about getting this project off the ground!). We’ve talked about deadlines, aiming to reopen the studio in mid November–so he’s promised to do all he can to help me achieve that target. The total renovation cost is looking to be at around RM45,000, not including some extra fittings like a good water filter and (maybe) a new air conditioning unit (which I’m trying my best to avoid purchasing).

In the meantime I’ve been trying my best to churn out enough stock to last us till November, and hopefully into the Christmas season as well. The prospect of shutting down production for 6 straight weeks is terrifying (I’ve never been without my soaping equipment and essential oils for so long!), but it needs to be done. The upside from this is that I will be forced to concentrate on doing up my filing system and paperwork in readiness for the studio’s reopening, and hopefully also dedicate more time to my poor children who have been going for days without me at home for 80% of their waking hours. My guilt is gnawing away at me. :”)

Christmas Warmth soap on the curing rack!

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These turned out to be phenomenally difficult to cut–partly because I left them in their molds for more than 24 hours, and partly because I used a soap recipe that was geared towards hardness and a longer-lasting bar. It took me 20 minutes to get the first slab through the log slicer. 20 minutes of huffing, heaving and pushing with all my might–for a single slab. Lessons learned: either cut the soap earlier if using a hard soap formulation, or opt for a softer formulation. Bumping up the water content should also keep the soap mixture from tracing too quickly, but I would only opt for this if I am certain of having at least 6 weeks of curing time available for the soap.

The end result was worth all the effort though! :) I’m very happy with how they’ve turned out, and the scent is lovely. They have different designs, but all the soap bars have the same, welcoming, warm and spicy scents of clove, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, sweet orange and just a touch of peppermint. I’ve made 3 batches this year–I hope that will be sufficient.

 Plans for the next 6 weeks

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I would really, really like to be taking a bit of a breather… So I will, for a few days, so I can recharge ahead of the busy holiday season ahead. The kids are going to LOVE that mummy will be home for more hours in a day for a change! :) Gotta schedule some time to also catch up on a bit of sketching, mending of the kids’ clothes, tending to the garden, thinking about the coming year.

Apart from that there’s all the background, unglamorous administrative work that needs sorting out. I have a couple of new corporate clients to get properly acquainted with, and there’s also the question of hiring a part-time production staff. Finding a suitable candidate will be an interesting pursuit. I haven’t heard anything on my FB feed about people being interested in doing crafty kinds of work for a living (unless it’s to run their own business), so I’m preparing myself to reach out beyond my natural connections to find that special someone (or could you be the person I’m looking for? Write to me!)

How am I feeling?

A little overwhelmed, to be frank. :”) But it’s okay. Nothing that a good night’s rest can’t fix. I’ve found that one of my most effective coping mechanisms when it comes to managing stress is to engage in physically demanding activities like this. What’s yours?

We’ve raised USD3,490 from our Indiegogo Campaign

Indiegogo Campaign Page

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 8.52.55 AM…or about 11% of our target USD30,000. All things considered (including the minimal amount of publicity we worked towards), I think we did okay. :) Now it’s back to ironing out details of our renovation work, which we intend to begin on October 1st.

Finalizing details

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this campaign in one way or other, whether directly through the campaign page on Indiegogo or by buying our products directly through our website and retail shop. I’ve been so caught up with production work, handling some new potential corporate clients and of course being with the children, that I haven’t found time to write as much as I want to here. Time management isn’t one of my stronger suits. :”) But I’m trying really hard to improve on that.

Wishing you all a productive day ahead, and a very pleasant, restorative weekend. Virtual hugs from me.

Revised Floorplan for BPFK’s Consideration

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I’m praying that this layout finally meets BPFK’s requirements. Being a complete newbie to cosmetics manufacturing and working together with the authorities to get a GMP-compliant studio has been extremely challenging (but in a good way, definitely).

Next is to get hold of a couple of contractors to once again provide quotations for renovating the studio and restoring the Jaya33 shop to its original state. Much has changed by way of the layout since the first quotations were presented to me.

I’m so glad I can finally sit down now… this particular drawing kept me on my feet ALL afternoon at my hubby’s standing desk. 0_O

Mould (Yuck!) On Our New Beeswax Cloth Packaging

140611 moldy wrapperSometimes the best laid plans really don’t turn out the way you expect them to.

We discovered that mould was developing on the edges of our beeswax cloth wraps. :( That’s the greyish, knobbly stuff that you see along the corner edges of the wrap in the photo.

However, the white powder on the flat surface of the wrapper, however, is known as beeswax bloom – something that appears on 100% pure beeswax products, and is entirely safe. Read this page for a bit more info on this. It can be brushed off the surface of the wrappers with a dry cloth, and both the wrapper and the soap it protects will be perfectly fine.

To say that I am disheartened is putting it very mildly. This is the first time ever that we have had this kind of thing happen to our products. So far we have seen the mould appearing on the cloth wraps for Goat’s Milk and Honey (Batch Numbers GMH1402-01 and GMH1402-03). It sort of makes sense, because not only does cold process soap naturally contain glycerin which is a humectant (i.e. absorbs moisture), but our goat’s milk and honey soap also contains a generous amount of honey, which is also a humectant. It must have been exposed to quite a bit of moisture in the air that made the soap slightly damp, and allowed the mould to form along the edges as you can see from the photograph.

Recall that we are doing all that we can to reduce the use of plastic in our packaging – these beeswax cloth wraps are a completely plastic-free alternative to shrink wrapping, but from this incident we can see that they do indeed have limitations. We’ve never had mould growing on the plastic shrink wrapping that we used to employ to protect our soap in the past.

There doesn’t seem to be any sign of mould on the soap – just the cloth wraps. The soap bars still look completely normal despite the mould on their wrappers, but we’re taking them off the shelves anyway, to be kept for observation.

Now while I am all for championing the use of environmentally-friendly packaging options, I don’t like the sight or just the idea of mould appearing on anything that we make. So here’s what we are going to do:

If you notice this happening to any soap that you have bought from us from March 2014 onwards, we would like to offer you a full refund or an exchange for fresh soap to replace the ones that you have found to be in mouldy wrappers. Just send us an email together with photographs of the offensive wrappers (so that we can confirm it as a valid case, as well as for supplementing our own investigation) and we’ll get you sorted out.

If you have bought soap from us in these beeswax wraps and you foresee storing them for a long period of time (i.e. more than a month), please do all that you can to ensure that the place where you’re storing your soap is clean and dry. We reckon that we may have a dampness issue in our retail store at Jaya 33 (we aren’t the only store owners reporting mouldy items, apparently – I will need to confirm this). Here’s what you can do to keep your storage areas dry:

  1. Use ordinary uncooked rice. Place it in a bowl or a drawstring cloth bag, and keep it in your storage space. Check on it every now and then, and replace every 3 months. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that rice has saved many an electronic gadget from ‘drowning’! :p
  2. Use rock salt. Here’s an easy how-to for this method. I love the fact that the salt can be reused again and again – just by drying it out in the sun, if necessary.
  3. You can also opt for store-bought dehumidifiers like Thirsty Hippo, but they are not biodegradable, and can only be used once (as far as I’m aware, at least).

On our end, we’re taking the soap bars that are affected by this mouldy wrapping, and keeping them for observation. They will not be available for sale.

We are truly sorry that this has happened. We really didn’t see this coming when we first rolled out the beeswax cloth wraps at the end of last year – testing in the months prior to that went along without a hitch. I think mould on our wrappers is going to be a longstanding issue due to our natural tropical climate in Malaysia, as well as the fact that we are trying our very best to adopt an earth-friendly stance to our packaging options… But I truly hope that together with your own efforts to provide good storage conditions for your soap, we can still make these beeswax cloth wraps a viable, long-term packaging solution that will be kinder on our earth.

If you have any thoughts on this, please share them with us in the Comments section below, or write to me at michelle@kindersoaps.com. I would be more than glad to hear from you.

All Package Deals To Be Discontinued From June 9th onwards

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From this coming Monday onwards, Kinder Soaps will no longer be offering Package Deals for sale (both online and at our retail store), but will instead be putting in place a Points and Rewards system.

We know that quite a number of you have been regularly purchasing your basic skin care items with us, which is why we have decided to set up this way of saying “thank-you” for being such loyal customers. This system lets you rack up points with every purchase – regardless of how much you spend at Kinder Soaps – and redeem them as savings against your future purchases from us. I’ll be posting more details about this system at a later date, so watch this space. :)

(UPDATE: Complete information about our new Points and Rewards system can now be found on this page.)

Having said that, you can still purchase any of our Package Deals for the rest of this week, till Sunday.

Fire Duck

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…that’s what I keep thinking when I look at this photo. :p

It’s been raining lots in the past few weeks, mostly in the evenings. It’s challenging to photograph products with my camera phone in this light, but it’ll have to do for now. Thanks for your patience as we gradually introduced products onto the site (namely essential oils) over the past week or so. Our Father’s Day promotion is still on, so remember to enter the coupon code “ilovedaddy” after clicking on “View Cart” to enjoy 20% savings on all soap (except Teselli).

Hope that all you parents out there are enjoying the school holidays with your children! I’m thinking of taking ours to the bird park within the coming week… or quite possibly, trampolining! :D