Updates

USPS Update

In order to meet increased production demand, we will be making a small shift in our schedules to assemble online orders for pickup only Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This should still support the essential USPS service, maintain safe and sanitary product handling, while still maintaining our 1-2 business day fulfillment goals – it is our hope that the shift should be indistinguishable to the regular customers who sustain our business.

The change, on our end, allows us to have longer time blocks to make larger batches of products on the days in between fulfillment days, while we also continue to host Local Pickups through our production studio window on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We appreciate your patience as we find a working balance that meets everyone’s needs.

What is your trail sign all about?

Did you know that essential oils can have a function outside of olfactory (aroma) sensation?  With each level of care in the Apothecary Muse product lines, the presence, source, amount and order of formulation is thoughtfully prepared to provide the least impact on the environment with performance for different kinds of skin or body chemistry.  It is recommended that you read the descriptions, ingredients and not shop by what you like to smell, alone – while lavender may suit your bathing experience, it may not be compatible with the type of chemistry your body is creating to be effective as a deodorant.  Not one product works for everyone and it would be misleading for anyone to suggest that.  Indeed, to have the multitude of ingredients to accommodate everyone in a single product would be environmentally and economically wasteful, ultimately serving NO ONE.

Gentle, Everyday and Advanced Care levels of Lip Balm

Our Gentle Care level uses little to no essential oils for the most sensitive skin and athletic lifestyles, the Everyday Care level includes an industry standard 2% dilution of essential oils to be effective for casual activity, and the Advanced Care level has added functionality with a combination of herbal extracts, essential oils and exfoliants or clays for occasion use to restore the body’s natural systems – not to be confused with medicine.  Our biodegradable paperboard tube and reusable tin products have our custom washi tape with the levels of care indicated, in addition to the familiar iconic trail sign levels of difficulty: Green Circle, Blue Square, Black Diamond.  And the soap bars have the icon on the side of the label.

soap box apothecary muse
soap box apothecary muse

Local Pickup Window

As a convenience to local customers, we are experimenting with allowing a modified local pickup option that still feels safe and sanitary to us, while following state mandates and CDC recommendations.

If you would like to pickup your order at our Production studio, please confirm these steps: 
1) PICK A DAY/TIME and place your order in advance of the NEXT pickup time slot:
a. Tuesday 4-6pm OR 
b. Thursday 4-6pm 
c. no other appointments will be available due to production and sanitation demands. 

2) PLACE your pre-order online (https://www.apothecarymuse.com), so that it can be prepared for the next pickup. Once you input a local shipping address, you will see the LOCAL PICKUP shipping option without additional shipping costs. 

3) COME to pickup your order at the next available pickup timeslot. Our window is on the side of the building and will have a sign on it, reminding you of the pickup hours. We will be waiting for your pickup, and if you don’t come that day, we may cancel the order.  If you aren’t sure you will be able to pickup, please message us so we can plan accordingly and/or hold for a future date.

Do NOT come outside of these hours or without placing your pre-order online, as this disrupts production. You will not be able to shop inside our production studio and classes are cancelled indefinitely.

Natural Colorants

First off, this is not intended to be a comprehensive assembly of all natural colorants that exist – its is merely the short list of those which are used regularly at Apothecary Muse in soap making. Whenever we source a new material, we research the safety of use during manufacturing as well as topically in skin care products on the Environmental Working Group website. If we change distributors, we ask questions about their sources, maintain records of the material safety data sheets for our batches and perform testing in product samples before releasing to the public.

What is different about soap colorants?

Because our methods include cold process which require extensive weeks of curing, many herbal extracts will fade and/or provide minimal herbal benefits after this time, especially if they are stored in direct sunlight. However, these can be used in combination with some essential oil and/or clay combinations that do not fade quite as readily:

Alkanet Root

Annato Seed

Calendula Flowers

Chamomile Flowers

Lemon Balm Leaves

Nettle Leaves

Powdered herbs or clays can be used at about 1 tsp per pound of soap.

Chlorella Powder

Hawaiian Salt

Indigo Powder

Kale Powder

Kudzu Root Powder

Pink Himilayan Salt

Spirulina Powder

Tomato Powder

Natural, mineral ingredients used on average 1/4 tsp per pound of soap.

Activated Charcoal

Bentonite Clay

Morrocan Clay

Mica (natural, not synthetic)

Titanium Dioxide (we practice safe handling during manufacturing)

Chromium Oxides (we practice safe handling during manufacturing)

Ultra Marine (from Lapis Lazuli)

Ethical Pricing is a Triple Bottom Line

Logic: we need to establish parameters for sustainable success for the environment, community and our businesses.  Pricing is complicated, and incoming and outgoing costs may vary, requiring constant research.  Cultural negligence is an opportunity loss for all of us. 

If after reading this, it also resonates with you, I want to know you exist.  If you have additional thoughts of your own after reading this, I would listen.

Many years before I started my business, I worked as a buyer for retail shops.  Later on, I would create a tool to measure the viability of square footage throughout a retail storefront, based on customer trends, seasons and goals for growth.  These things sound like something a recent college grad wouldn’t be interested in, especially an avid cyclist who had never owned a car, worked in the outdoor industry advocated for shared use access for youth and minorities.  Exclusion was prevalent in the industry and I struggled to feel safe in my work environment and most open space, but I needed them so I developed a knack for tolerating discomfort. I knew this wasn’t right and I saw my discomfort reflected in untapped markets and unspoken stakeholders in the environment.  I sought to give a voice to NEW customers and meet them where their needs lay was like permaculture, cultivating active and responsible users in the outdoors, while addressing existing barriers.  It would be inappropriate to push performance brands on folks not acquainted with the outdoor industry’s marketing tendencies, and when I consulted a local, multi-store chain to create unique merchandising plans for each store to accommodate each niche culture, and it was never more apparent to me that supporting diversity could bring success for everyone.  Marketing is advocacy.

Money is gross, smells weird and generations of people have been exploited for the benefit of the privileged few. Yet, we live in a culture that quantifies everything with it: products, equipment, labor, natural resources.  How do we reconcile ourselves with this historical loss?

We listen. We pay fair prices in order to charge fair prices. We reevaluate regularly.  For Apothecary Muse, this means accepting no labor that is unpaid, including friends.  Establishing a trend of unpaid labor is a privilege that not everyone has, undermines competitors, devalues the laborer’s time, and falsely inflates your profit margin.  Once you bite that apple, it is difficult to pay someone else and face the person you accepted free labor from.  You might lose friends, or if they are your family, lifelong trust.  Not to mention that there are actual labor laws preventing a business from accepting unpaid labor if it could be payable.

When it comes to raw materials, packaging and equipment; this can be difficult unless everything is affordable and accessible.  I’m appalled at how much of my bottom line goes to shipping costs, incoming and outgoing – and the devastating environmental impact that has because of the shipping travel itself.  This is an area I am constantly trying to improve while meeting the needs of a growing economy that, like me, doesn’t have access to quality goods within travel distance.  When my business was tiny, just selling to a few folks and shops locally, I was purchasing at retail prices and selling for close to what it “cost” me to make it.  I wasn’t making a profit, but I was also working full time with a paycheck and healthcare elsewhere so it didn’t seem like a priority.  I started noticing lots of other shops offering free shipping yet a retailer even told me that they thought my products were overpriced.  I checked my privilege.  My job paid only enough to keep me fed, not enough to save money or take a loss with my sales from my tiny “business”.  I was so excited about all the things that I could make, that I tried to make everything that I could possibly make to replace household items I would purchase.  If I didn’t know it then, I know now that the quality of my products wasn’t great because I was caught up in the romance of creative expression, and perpetuated underserving the community.  

I lost my job.  I was suddenly forced to reevaluate my – everything.  Newfound free time spent outside helped me to problem-solve and on a weeklong backpacking trip I decided to take my business more expertly and intertwine it with my advocacy.  I brainstormed ways to improve, tackling better ingredient sourcing, sustainable packaging (including shipping materials), and more streamlined production methods for overall quality control.  I made some difficult decisions about which products to drop from my line (including some good ones) so I could focus on quality for a more reasonable few products, purchased raw materials in bulk, rebranded and relaunched my business with the support of a small, community-backed loan.  I picked up some part-time work as prep cook in a local restaurant to maintain some finances (not all), while the rebranding was underway.  Finding a way to valuate other household contributions became necessary, more than comfortable. My tolerance to discomfort has waned over the years and I’m aiming for something that doesn’t conflict with my ability to fulfill production demand, knowing much of the work is mine along the way.

Yet, I chose this path and many do not have this choice.  This drives my research in sourcing through sustainable suppliers, from permaculture practices to reduced carbon footprint on freight.  The community backed loan endowed me with this privilege – which I’d never had, and fear I could lose at any moment – and I am acutely aware that others do not have.  This affects my competitors, because having a little breathing room in my finances changed my perspective.  I haven’t forgotten where “I came from” though, I just unlocked some new level in the game of business where I had more opportunities and I was able to have conversations with new people about environmental issues. After being used to being ignored in a male biased industry, I was able to increase my availability to advocate for the environment, meet with legislators and mobilize administration to change a law.  My business had empowered me to envision success and it was a new flavor. I wanted my competitors to have some breathing room, too.  If all my competitors were able to have these conversations, sustainable advocacy could have such powerful momentum.

In summary, I am sharing my personal story because it is no simple thing to calculate the price of an item, because that is unique from the cost.  If you came to this website looking for advice, it would be a disservice for me to generalize your situation because it will be different from mine.  I can say that it won’t hurt you to start by looking at where you can pay fairly – according to the seller – for everything, It may take years of continuous research (I’m still going 6 years after initial launch), but you may find you appreciate your products, your time and your self more as well.  Others may see the value in these as well.  I am so grateful for these 6 years where I have had the opportunity to learn more about myself, the community and environment needs and it is my hope that I may be able to continue to learn and contribute in all these ways for many more years to come with a growing team. I hope there are other folks as interested in cooperative industry leadership as I am.

Choice is Freedom

Might be more than a shack in the woods. Photo and words by Eryn Hughes (c)2019

This isn’t a sale pitch. It’s more like a public record of why I do what I do. This may change over time and most certainly will be perceived differently by others, but I have always felt the need to anchor my personal values somehow in my work to create meaningfulness.

Rules and boundaries have always begged me to challenge them. Broad applications of a system intended for everyone can not work effectively for anyone. We each have nuances, ideas and other contributions that can only be throttled by complete assimilation. Our identity is impacted by the circumstances in our environment and the Choices we make to interact with it.

These things affect my personal space on a daily basis and I find myself constantly adapting with the ebb and flow of the business needs. Even though I’ve finally moved my business out of my home into a professional production studio and sometime have staff assistance, it’s a legitimately chaotic ecosystem at times, and I don’t know how someone could prepare for this. It seems simple to the undiscerning eye, including my own.

How I serve the public is by offering soap and skincare products formulated for people who spend a lot of time outside. These products seek to spark a conversation about the environment and bridge a gap in consumer goods. I am inspired by anecdotes from my professional training in the outdoor industry, coaching, sports nutrition, transparent marketing and outdoor advocacy – places where I’d been in the comfort of collecting a modest paycheck, having benefits and the burden of decisions upon someone else. I don’t make any promises to fix the world, but I do want to engage the senses so that users can go through daily steps of problem-identification and solving on their own terms. Being creative with inflexible circumstances is fertile ground for rewarding innovation, although technically it is also a risky financial investment. It’s impractical to achieve alone, but worthwhile to pursue and develop allies along the trail.

Researching claims, making independent decisions and choosing which rules to challenge, gives me hope to maintain a living wage, save for retirement and lift someone else along the way. I welcome alternative opinions and feelings, but make no offers of free labor or goods with my transparency piece.

“We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.” ~ Oscar Wilde

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