Friday, April 23, 2010

Feature Friday - Soaperstar Profile at Creation|Collaboration

Welcome to our first Feature Friday on Creation|Collaboration! Each Friday, we'll profile a woman run business by interviewing the founder and finding more out about them, their business, their life and loves!

So, for our first Feature Friday, we've chatted to Celine Blacow, owner of Soaperstar. Soaperstar is based in Dublin, Ireland and design & produce handcrafted luxury goatsmilk & glycerine soaps and handmade Sheer Luxury Body Butter.

So Celine, introduce us to yourself and your company!
My name is Celine Blacow and my company is Soaperstar. I am a soap crafter/artist/designer/producer/photographer/labeller/seller! Basically I do everything from the very beginning to the very end of the whole soap business. I've also recently branched out into making body butters - the 100% butters/oils type that are designed so that they sink into your skin, leaving it really soft and supple. I'll shortly be introducing new lip butters too - they are at their final testing stage and ready to be sent to a pack of lip butter hungry experts across the world (literally, some are even going to New Zealand for testing - I'm nothing if not thorough!).

Where did the idea of running this as a business come from?
I got started initially by making soap as a hobby, to help reduce stress. My whole range is made from goatsmilk & glycerine soap - I don't make the traditional type soaps with oils and caustic soda because they react badly to my family's skin (we've tried many types and they really just haven't suited us). So when I started making glycerine soap, we were hoping that it might help sort out some of our dry skin issues and boy, did it! My husband can get very dry cracked skin on his hands and, due to medication, has quite thin skin that can become very dry and sore very quickly. Since starting using my soaps, all of that has been resolved and his skin is back to being soft and supple (that's a yay for us both!). I personally also have very dry skin and it's really sorted out those problems for me too. I can even wash my face with it, something I would never have thought about doing before.

So, it started as a hobby but I found I loved it soooo much! If it doesn't sound too silly, it ignited a passion in me. I've always been fairly creative as a child and an adult - I worked as knitwear designer/producer professionally some years ago until repetitive strain injury meant I had to stop. In my current profession, I don't have a huge scope for creativity and I'd sort of lost it along the way. The minute I started the soap making, it was like a light bulb came on and all these creative sparks were flying out of my head! Any soapmaker will understand when I say I dreamt about soap - seriously, the ideas that come to you in your dreams can be inspired.

By now I was hooked and started making lots and lots and lots and lots of soap and investing in equipment and moulds and ingredients to help me do it better. From the start, I researched various oils, butters and other skin hydrating ingredients to make sure that the soap I made was the best soap ever, I never do things by halves! So my growing stock, my growing equipment and my growing ingredients store sort of lead me to realise that I had to think about selling my soaps. Plus my husband pointed out that people could really benefit from them and I shouldn't just keep them for just our family.

In order to sell any cosmetics, soap included, in the EU, you must be fully certified with a safety assessment from a qualified cosmetic chemist. I had to do a large amount of research to see what was involved, costs etc as well as locating a cosmetic chemist (turns out that's almost impossible in Ireland - in fact, I still haven't found one located here). However, perseverance will always get you results and I then sought certification and got it approximately 12 months ago - then it was on to designing specific ranges and getting more ideas for different types of soaps that would appeal to everyone. Then, with insurance sorted too, I started selling.

What do you love most about your business?
I love, most of all, the ideas, the design element - I dream of things that might not be possible at all and try to modify them so that they could become soap related. I love learning new techniques and the one I love the best of all is swirling - where you get two or more different types/colours of soaps, and make incredible swirled patterns in the finished products. You'll notice that swirling is pretty much a trademark with me!

I love making my ideas into soap - that is, thinking something through and then actually having it reproduced in soap, just exactly as you imagined it. That is a great great feeling. I adore using colour - you'll see that in my whole range. I recently invested in a shipment of POP micas from the US - these are natural colourants but very very bright (a little goes a long way!) and they are such fun, happy colours. I can't help but use them in everything lately!

I really love dealing with customers too - I want them to adore the products, to know that there is real passion behind what I sell. I trial new products for a long time before releasing them because I'm an utter perfectionist at heart (Virgo trait!) and I want them to love this soap or body butter just as much as I do! I am also crazy about excellent customer service - notice I say excellent, I don't believe in only having "good customer service", I want it to be excellent. There's a marketing saying that you shouldn't meet the customers expectations, you should exceed them and I totally believe that. So, if you order from me, I will do my level best that your order will go out that same day or the following day and in the first post where humanely possible. I always email upon receipt of an order to say that it's been packaged up and ready to go and I email to say that it's been sent too. I personally hate waiting and wondering if they ever got your order at all - I refuse to do that to my customers. They'll know every step of the way where their goods are - I want them to go to a good home!

What would you like to change?
The recession, please! No company in this day and age can deny the recession isn't hitting them and hard. For smaller companies, it might be somewhat easier ... we don't have business loans or staff to pay, so we can ride the rocky road for a while. Not all businesses are as lucky. As I work from home, it's a lot easier for me to manage the cutbacks it's made on people's purses and I firmly believe that keeping up marketing and promotion, even in such hard times, will pay back dividends in the future.

I'd also love to win the lottery so I could stay home and do this full-time!!!

What is your aim for the next year?
I'd like to introduce more into the range - our Sheer Luxury Lip Butters will be introduced soon to match up with our Sheer Luxury Body Butters. I had hoped to look into candle making after the Summer but I think this might have to be pushed back a little - however, it's something I really would love to get into as I have a real love of fragrance (something you'll notice from my soaps and body butters too) and I adore when you walk into a house and it smells so wonderful. I'm including new soaps all the time - currently I have 20 in the range which is our limit but, as they sell, I will introduce new seasonal lines also.

Where do you ultimately see yourself?
Ultimately, my dream is to move to West Cork, and open a small shop by the sea selling all our soaps, body butters, lip butters and then move into a facial range and bath products also. I'd love to have a store/workshop so that people could see how the products are made... even to teach classes there. I can also see a little coffee shop to the side so that people can come and visit, browse, watch as things are made and then have coffee and cake outside in the sun afterwards! Even just talking about that makes me smile!

What are the 5 Top Tips you'd give to women starting out in business?
Hmmmmm 5 tips ... ok:

No.1:  When you come to launch day, realise that you'll be worried and a bit panicky and know that that's ok! I remember my launch day, I was sick to my stomach and everyone else seemed not to worry at all so I thought I was crazy or something! It is perfectly normal to worry and fret and, personally, I think it's a good thing because it proves you are in love with this project already.

No. 2:  Use social networks as much as possible to market and promote your products - you probably won't have much of a marketing budget (if anything at all) so look at what you can do for free... get on Twitter and Facebook, get all your friends to help, makes new friends too. It does work and I'm living proof.

No.3:  As an addition to No. 2, don't expect social media to work if you don't put work into it - it will take time to build a fan base so give it time. Nobody knows who you are starting out and there are likely to be many competitors - ask yourself why should someone buy from me? What can I do to make them fall in love with my products and my company? Find the answers and give it to them - but realise it will take time and work on your part, don't underestimate that. Two Tweets and a Facebook update once a month isn't going to cut it!

No.4:  Take all the help you can get! If you're just starting out, the chances are that you're a one woman show, you do everything so you're going to need help. Get your partner to bring orders to the post office, ask friends to help market and promote you, see if anyone you know can do your label design/photography/build something/make something/work on your stall while you have lunch etc. You cannot do it all yourself and don't expect to - lean on those who are happy to help. I have the most fantastic husband who supports me every step of the way and is happy to do some of the jobs himself (when you get your packages, you'll know he's the one that's gone to the post office first thing every morning!)

No.5:  Take some time out for yourself - I work full-time, have a household to run and work on Soaperstar full-time too. When I'm not designing, I'm making or cutting or labelling or taking photos or updating the site or packing orders or planning new ranges or on Twitter or Facebook and working with people to promote the company. There are only 24 hours in any one day and you will be exhausted so make sure to plan some time for yourself and your family. You need a break just as much as anyone else does! Exhausting yourself will not help the business or you and will reduce your passion and love for what you do - so make sure to take breaks and have fun with it!!!

I really hoped you enjoyed this profile - if you'd like to check out any of the Soaperstar range of handcrafted luxury goatsmilk and glycerine soaps and our Sheer Luxury Body Butter range, please drop into us at or catch up with me at or - or you can follow my blog by reader or by email at

Creation|Collaboration would love to take this opportunity to congratulate Celine for winning the April Mr Site Website of the Month as announced in their April newsletter - you can read the Soaperstar feature article here.

We'd really want to say a huge thanks to Celine for talking with us today and we really hope you have enjoyed our first Feature Friday.  Don't forget to check out Celine's fabulous soaps and body butters - we just adore them!

Next week, we'll be featuring Alison Tinlin of Plans and Presents - make sure to check back then!


  1. Ohhh absolutely fabulous, makes me nervous about doing mine! Your passion really shows and you certainly have EXCELLENT customer service, as tried and tested by me ;)
    Well done xxxxx

  2. Thanks Lois!!! I try my best, you know me... Mrs Perfectionist!!!

  3. Enjoyed reading this Celine your love and dedication just shone through blimey sounds like I'm gushing but I can tell just how much effort and hard work you put into soaperstar x

  4. Brilliant Celine. This really shows your dedication in doing what you do as best as you possibly can. Fantastic interview - you are so professional yet incredibly down to earth. Many business people are simply in it for the money, but your main priority is the customer - well done darling. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this! :o) xx

  5. I really enjoyed reading this, your passion & dedication really shows through :))

  6. This is a brilliant article. You put your heart and soul into Soaperstar and it will reap you many rewards. You have an amazing product, and evryone should have Soaperstar soap.
    You are passionate, dedicated, very very creative and your customer service is outstanding x

  7. You all make me blush so much.. thank you. A very big Thank YOU!

  8. Celine, what a fabulous article. Your products are wonderful and your passion shines through. Keep up the good work and I've no doubt soaperstar will be a huge success. xx

  9. Your soaps look so good and your vivid descriptions really make them jump off the page. A great article, I loved reading what makes Soaperstar tick, you can just see how passionate you are about what you do. x