New: Hassle-Free Monthly Soap Subscriptions

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We’ve finally launched a service that we’ve been setting our eyes on for years!

A proper soap subscription service where you can sign up for the plan of your choice (2, 3 or 4 bars a month), set up your automatic billing just once (only Paypal can handle this for now, not local banks, sorry), and thereafter receive a steady supply of soap to take care of your skin cleansing needs without having to place new orders, or make a trip to our shop.

How’s that for convenience? Plus you get to enjoy some savings too, as a little thank-you for allowing us to serve your skin’s basic needs for the long run, as well as keeping your throwaway packaging to a minimum. Have a look at the various subscriptions for more details of how they work, and some Frequently Asked Questions.

Shampoo Bottles That Can Sprout Trees?

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This is really exciting news! A Taiwanese company called O’right uses biodegradable bottles made from a plastic-like starch processed from fruit, plant and vegetable waste, and makes hair care products out of used coffee grounds. Seeds embedded in the plug at the bottom of the bottles can sprout into trees two or three months after the empty bottles are buried in the ground. It’s a fantastic green initiative that seems to permeate the entire company’s operations.

As I have said before, one of the primary reasons why I don’t make liquid products is because of the whole issue surrounding throwaway plastic bottles that will eventually clog up landfills and end up on our waterways. If truly biodegradable alternatives to plastic packaging are readily available in the near future, I’d certainly be more open to the idea of trying to make liquid soap. :)

Raising Prices on February 15th 2015

Hey everyone,

We held out for as long as we could–but now we really must move with the rising costs of pretty much everything (ingredients, transport, wages) that have already come to pass in the last 6 months. The events that have a major bearing on our finances are firstly the USD-MYR exchange rate, and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) by the Malaysian government starting April 1st 2015.

We import most of our ingredients, which are produced in the US, Europe and Australia, so we aren’t new to the effects of exchange rate movements. However the latest trend in the USD-MYR exchange rate, which is expected to hit RM3.78 to a dollar for most of this year, has pretty much broken out of our comfort zone in terms of the amount of extra costs we can absorb without hurting our bottom line.

As for the GST, we will be bearing the costs of GST just as an end consumer would. I personally feel that our company is not ready, or big enough, to charge for GST and claim tax credits at the moment. This may change in time, of course.

So from February 15th onwards, the prices of most of our items will increase by about 10%. Most notably, our soap bars will retail for RM22 per bar instead of RM20 (but there will be a way for you to still enjoy our old soap prices–more on that soon!).

We’re really sorry that we have to do this, but it is necessary–because we want to maintain the high level of quality that you have come to expect of our products and service. Thank you for sticking with us all these years, and we hope that we’ll be well equipped to continue delighting you in the future.

As always, you can get in touch with us at ask@kindersoaps.com if you have any questions or constructive feedback.

Take care and have a terrific week ahead!

Of Missing Equipment and Christmas

Day 74 of studio renovation – I’m making soap again! However it took me a bit of a while to really get back into the saddle with production, because I discovered that some of my tools were missing. My laser thermometer gun, some paint buckets, screwdrivers, a really nice hand truck and my favourite blender motor were all gone.

At first I put it down to me just being absent-minded and not being able to locate them in all the chaos–but now that I have unpacked everything and put all the furniture in place, it’s clear that they were purposefully taken. It’s hard to imagine how a thermometer gun could have singularly fallen out of a drawer that was carefully stowed away, nor a hand truck removed by accident.

I actually sat at my desk and shed tears. I really, really liked that stick blender (it was easier to make smooth soap without air bubbles), and I thought I worked hard for it.

It wasn’t the actual loss of items that was bothering me, but more of the sense of having your trust betrayed. It never occurred to me that someone would actually rifle through my things. Throughout the renovation period, I would pop by upstairs, say hello to the workers and ask if everything was ok, and if they needed anything extra that I could help with. I wanted them to know that I was grateful for their efforts.

Logically, I should ask for  compensation from our contractor for the lost items. When I told him about it, he promptly offered to pay for the replacements, I just needed to send him the bills.

But this doesn’t strike me as the right thing to do.

Let’s be honest–a big part of the reason how I can afford to undertake this massive renovation is because it was affordable. Kinder Soaps doesn’t make a huge amount of money. It’s enough for us to get by, and to grow gradually. So for us to be able to afford this project is a huge blessing.

Unfortunately, it also brings to light that most of the workers, especially the ones who were foreigners, are probably underpaid. Which could be why they even considered pilfering in the first place (I’m convinced that NOBODY would automatically want to do bad things to anyone, given the right circumstances).

I had the option of leaving the studio space when the smell of turpentine was overwhelming. They did not. I covered my nose and eyes while they sawed, drilled and hammered at walls, breathing in fine dust. I stayed for a few minutes–they stayed for days.

All I had to do was cough up enough cash, and through their physical efforts and expertise, they gave me this:

curing area(This is the curing area)

hallway in Kinder Soaps studio(the hallway, looking out from the back of the studio)

Mixing Room at Kinder Soaps studio(the mixing room)

It’s a really wonderful space to work in. I couldn’t be happier with it. And it’s because of their sheer hard work that I have the privilege to call this workshop our home.

So I have decided not to take up my contractor’s offer to reimburse me for the lost items. I can afford to pay for it on my own, even if it’s at a later date.

Instead, I have gone ahead to prepare a box of soap to be distributed to all of his workers (and for himself) as a Christmas gift. It’s the least I can do to show my appreciation for all of their hard work and diligence. I wonder if any of them have ever received Christmas gifts before.

soap in box

Boxed soap for contractor

I hope that whoever has my equipment will put them to good use, and maybe in some way, help them along in getting to a better place in life.

Now this – this makes sense as my personal response to this situation, and I feel happier for it. :)

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Merry Christmas everyone, and have a fantastic new year!

Studio Renovation Day 13

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studio sans partitions

Goodness, do I really have ALL that space?

 

We’re almost 2 weeks into the studio renovation now. The carpeting and vinyl tiles were stripped within a day, then my contractor and I spent an afternoon marking the intended positions of all the room partitions using a pretty nifty little tool that looks quite similar to this:

Taut line ink marker

It works by pulling a string that’s wound in a spool, through the round chamber that is filled with ink, holding it taught on the ground over the straight line that you want to mark, and then snapping the taut line against the floor, thereby leaving a nice straight line in ink on the surface. To prep it for the next use, the string is simply wound back onto the spool using a little crank on the side of the box. This was completely new to me, so I was quite happy to keep playing with it by helping to mark the rooms!

A few days later the carpenter came and took all the necessary measurements for the partitions and doors, and very confidently told me he would be back in 2 days (i.e. that very Saturday) to begin installing the partitions. And he really did begin work on time:

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By Sunday morning most of the frames for the rooms were installed. Notice that quite a lot of my stuff is still in the studio–I feel a bit bad for making the workers have to manoeuvre around them and also shift the really heavy stuff all over the floor as they complete different jobs in stages, but I didn’t really have any other reasonable alternative for storage.

I also discovered some (hopefully) unintentional ‘line art':

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I made sure that the contractor was alerted to this, and that all wiring must be done in lines that are either parallel or perpendicular to the floor. Still – seeing this crazy thing made me laugh. :p

Now the rooms look more or less like this:

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That’s the washing up room on the left, the weighing and dispensing room to the right, and the mixing and moulding room closest to you on the right. Plastering is being done to smooth out the surfaces of the gypsum boards, and sockets are being added to the walls.

And what did we do about the packaging room, to which I wanted to allow as easy an access as possible? Instead of sliding partitions / doors which would have cost a bomb, my contractor suggested installing double doors instead:

141023 packaging room

They can swing open flat against the partitions, which affords a nice open feel to a room that would have otherwise been really cramped (half the space will be occupied by our shrink wrapping machine). Same function for one fifth of the original price. Sweet!

I’ve bought 18 pendant light fixtures for the electrician to install. Looking forward to my next visit this coming week. :)

 

 

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.