H Foster sells ingredients. It’s what we do, and it’s what we’ve always done. When our customers ask for advice, we always try to help, but sometimes we fall short.
With this in mind, we set off to Regent’s University in London to attend the Soap School’s two-day Soap Boot Camp.
Shawn was there to meet us when we arrived and set us up at our desks with some “everyday” equipment laid out in front of us. Once furnished with gloves and safety glasses, we were ready to begin!
Shawn began the course by explaining the equipment we would be using (bowls, spatulas, spoons and a stick blender – all things you’d find in your kitchen already) and the safety equipment. We would be working with lye, which is caustic and therefore needs to be handled with caution! Then began the real work. Understanding the chemistry behind soap-making is so important, and although Shawn explained it clearly and concisely, we all began to see that it isn’t as easy as it looks.
When it was time for the practical element, we were all raring to go. We put on our gloves and goggles and measured, mixed, scraped and blended. When we hit trace (the point that the oils and lye join and become soap) we added fragrances, seeds and colours, ending up with some lovely soap loaves. For the rest of the afternoon we used different scents, different types of colours and learnt some other decorating techniques using different levels of trace – once you’ve grasped the basics, the sky’s the limit with what you can do.
Our first day finished with the legalities of selling and labelling your soaps, which gave us much-needed insight into what information our customers will need from us to keep their labelling legal.
Day two was all about liquid soaps, which we agreed was more time consuming than the solid bars, but just as much fun. We learnt how to make, colour and fragrance a liquid soap base, but the real winner was the Liquid Cream Soap. Cooked in the same way as the normal liquid soap, different ingredients cause an amazing reaction that creates a rich, creamy consistency. Whipping this soap into a mousse was one of our favourite parts of the day.
Once our soap loaves were cured enough to cut, we all had a go on the cutting machine to create individual soap bars. We got to take back to the office a slice of every delicious soap made that weekend, as well as pots of cream soap, liquid soap and small finished bottle of fragranced, coloured liquid soap.
We had an amazing weekend and can’t thank Shawn and Sarah enough for their tutelage. We now have a deeper understanding of the needs of our customers and a bit more knowledge and understanding to help when things aren’t going directly according to their plans.
For information on courses, please visit the Soap School website.