Inspiring Soap Maker: Jennifer Young (Part 1 of 2)

Drumroll, please…….

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?
A list:

–   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

–   Sales

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 first soap.

First soap.

Naturalmente M 3

First market.

All-natural soaps.

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.  🙂

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20 thoughts on “Inspiring Soap Maker: Jennifer Young (Part 1 of 2)

  1. soapsudsations

    Very nice interview Silvia and thank you for introducing me to yet another awesome soap blogger. Seriously I need more hours in the day to keep up with all these amazing soaping blogs. Can’t wait to read part 2!

    Reply
  2. ecovioletsoap

    Silvia,
    Thanks for this interview with Jennifer. I especially like her #1 core value “Enjoy what I do”. In the past, I have worked in areas where I did not enjoy what I did and was very stressed out and unhappy. I hope never to do that again. I do have a question for Jennifer- are there any requirements from the government of Spain (Health and Safety) on the testing of soap? If so, what types of tests/data are required? Just curious, I come from a Pharma background and and I am very familiar with U.S. FDA regs. on drugs but the U.S. does not have very much if any requirements for manufacturing soap. Wondering if it is the same in the EU.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      Hello! Great question and yes, testing is required here for every soap batch I make for selling. I have to send a sample to an external lab and keep their results on file for Health and Safety, all part of the Tracability process. There are 6 things they analyze, 2 of those are pH and free lye. It would be so much easier, less paperwork heavy and less expensive without that test… and hard to compete price-wise with the Americans and other soapmakers from areas where this is not required. Even within the EU, regulations change as I see people from the UK make small batches of unique soaps and sell them so I doubt they have to anlyze each batch. I think there, they simply need a Safety assessment of a base recipe, and then they can make certain changes to it and sell it. Also, here, we cannot make and sell soap from home. A dedicated location is required with several completely separate áreas such as Raw Materials, Production, Packaging, Curing and Finished Products…. each área has very specific requirements. Thanks for the question and interest!! xo Jen

      Reply
      1. ecovioletsoap

        Thanks Jen for your response! I have mixed feelings about regulations. On one hand, it makes it difficult to operate a business because of all the compliance issues you have to deal with. On the other hand, as a consumer, it would significantly influence me to buy your soaps over someone else (that did not have to comply with any regulations) because I have confidence that the quality control is there. I have seen some examples of handmade soap being sold here that were very scary (lye heavy, mold, huge orange spots, etc.) I suppose that is the risk when there are very little regulations out there and the buyer must be aware. I have even more admiration for you now that I know the hurdles you need to go through to run your business!

        Reply
        1. Jennifer

          Lovely response – thank you!! I know you are right, that regulations are here for a reason, it is just frustrating sometimes, when I see easy it is in other places. I remember seeing a photo on a soapmaking blog one time of someone sitting outside on their farm cutting soaps without gloves and with their dog beside them and thought… wow how fun! but ooooh yuck… the things that could get onto that soap!!! Happy soaping!!! xo Jen

          Reply
    2. soapjam Post author

      Glad to know you enjoyed the interview, JV. I admire Jennifer for a lot of reasons, but high on the list is for her clear vision and core values. I think when you have that, the path to success, and happiness, is easier.

      Reply
  3. DivaSoap

    I have always admired Jen for being so professional, passionate and dedicated to her work. She’s brought her job to the level I would like to bring mine,so naturally, I find her very inspiring and someone I look up to. Thank you both, girls for this great opportunity to find out more about (you,) Jen, I’m looking forward to reading the 2nd part.
    (Oh,God help me, I can’t stop thinking about that stamp 😉 )

    Reply
    1. soapjam Post author

      Precisely. I admire Jen for all the qualities you mentioned. I thought it was just apt to feature someone we look up to, to help celebrate my first soapy anniversary. 🙂 Hahaha! I hope you have an idea for your logo, because a stamp may be heading your way soon. 🙂

      Reply
  4. mijnzeep1

    What an interesting post, Silvia! Congratulations!
    We all admire Jen and it’s nice to know more about her and about this passion which became her job. How inspiring!
    Silvia, it’s a honour to read Jen words on your blog!

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Inspiring Soap Maker: Jennifer Young (Part 2 of 2) | SoapJam

  6. Gordana

    At the moment soapmaking is my hobby and stress relief therapy taking into consideration my regular job and all other family tasks and responsibilities. Sometimes I wonder if this hobby can turn into business and will it make any difference. That’s why Jen is a true inspiration to me! I really admire her work and courage to make her vision live!

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      Thank you so much Gordana! This was stress relief for me at the beginning too! I love to hear that I may be inspiring someone! Xo

      Reply

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