As promised, presenting to you the brilliant, dynamic, and lovely Jennifer Young: owner, manager, and chief creator of natural soaps and beauty products of the highly successful Naturalmente Mediterraneo, and author of the blog, Jenora Soaps.
[Thank you so much, Jen, for saying yes to this interview! :-) ]
In just a short span of time, Jennifer was able to successfully make the leap from hobby soap making to full time business. From making 3-bar batches, she now makes 100-bar batches! Some weeks she makes 1000 bars! Wow, right? And on top of that, she has a whole range of skin care products.
I hope this interview with Jennifer serves as an inspiration to you, as she has been to me. If you have questions for her, please leave them in the comments section, and she will answer you within a week of this posting.
1. Can you please share with us how Naturalmente Mediterraneo came to be?
I began soapmaking in October 2009 as relief from a stressful job. I had been toying with the idea of what I could do with all of the Aloe Vera plants I was looking after and it hit me one night in bed. I bolted upright suddenly thinking – SOAP – Could I make my own? I went downstairs and got on the internet to see if making soap at home was even possible and was amazed at what I found out. I didn’t sleep that night and after reading many book reviews, I finally picked out and purchased a soapmaking book online. It felt so urgent that I paid more for the shipping than the book itself. My first soaps were Castille soaps – with only olive oil as it was all I could find in the area… and it all grew from there as I researched and experimented. I learned a lot about natural lifestyle growing up with my mother, who is stunning but has never dyed her hair, doesn’t use plastic or even Teflon. I was the kid at school with the “healthy” chocolate chip cookies with sunflower seeds in them. At first it was an obsessive hobby. I created my Jenora Soaps blog and made wonderful connections with like-minded people around the world, then starting Naturalmente Mediterraneo and expanding to moisturizing creams, scrubs, salves, lip balms, serums, and liquid soap with a focus on local, natural ingredients. In July 2012, I opened our retail shop and studio where I continue to hand-make our products in line with 4 core values 1) Enjoy what I do 2) Use only natural ingredients, from this are whenever possible 3) Support the local community and economy and 4) Treat the environment well.
2. How has owning and running your own business changed your life?
In my previous job, I had a lot of responsibility and stress and it was eating at me to the point when I got sick. So how has that changed? My life quality has improved immensely. Since the driving force behind this business was and still is my passion for the creation process, the ingredients, the products, this area and natural life-style, rather than money, I enjoy what I do every day, even during the moments when sales are low. I choose each day to do what I love. With my own business, all of the choices are mine… and I remain ever conscious that core value number 1 is ENJOY WHAT I DO. So although there are many routes I could have and still could take with the business that might bring in more money, I choose not to go down the routes that may lead me somewhere where I won’t enjoy what I am doing.
3. What’s the most rewarding aspect of doing business?
- The soapmaking process…. Soaping away on an early morning with music on.
- Creating a new product, not only the finished product but the whole lead up to it, the research and experimenting, testers feedback and then finalizing and launching the product onto the market!
- Repeat clients
- Positive feedback (although negative feedback is just as important to me during the testing phase of a new product)
- Opening the soap mould after making a new soap for the first time
- Cutting soap
4. What do you struggle with the most?
- Administration work. Paperwork can bog me down, especially here in Spain where red tape is incredible and health and safety require a TON of paperwork for each batch I make
- Lack of support for small businesses here in Spain. It is expensive to start and run your own business here.
5. How do you keep your creative juices flowing?
- Fortunately this is something I have not had a problem with since the moment I started soap making. It has been the most creative time in my life. I suppose paper work and admin, email etc. can get me down so I try to swap it up. I begin each day making something. It may be simply opening up the moulds, cutting and stamping soaps or it may be a full batch of something new. Then I will allow myself 1 hour on the computer, then I head back to the production room, where I am happiest.
Jennifer’s all-natural soaps.
I hope you enjoyed the interview and are feeling inspired. :-) Don’t miss the second half of it on March 21!
And please stay tuned for SoapJam’s First Soap Anniversary Giveaway: your own customized soap stamp – open to all soap makers from anywhere in the world. Contest commences on March 27, and winner will be announced on the anniversary day itself, April 3. :-)