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Vegan Soap vs. The Fight Club

You’ve seen The Fight Club, right?  If you haven’t, please discontinue reading if you think you might in the future and consider this your final SPOILER ALERT.

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This isn’t a film review, and I’m not going to cover much of the actual storyline, but how soap-making is portrayed in the film.  For the general public, The Fight Club may have been their only exposure to behind-the-scenes soap business, and I hope my observations put a new spin on the small homegrown community of “soapers”.  We’ve all heard Fight Club references to our craft, so I revisited the film and scraped a bunch of quotes from the collective knowledge database to allow for our intellectual and sometimes hypothetical analysis.  I’m not a scientist or a factory, after all.

Let’s start out by discussing the business plan.

Tyler runs his soap business with all kinds of illegal behavior, which is integral to the film’s development of characters – but not practical at all for real soapers.  First off, the Return On Investment potential (ROI) is damaged by the risk for legal penalties, since they are stealing human/animal fats from liposuction clinics.  Soaping is one of those tasks that is truly Artisanal [if you take Artisan to mean: noun: a lifelong apprentice to a traditional craft, and Artisanal as adjective: student craft].  So, where did he learn how to make soap?

Tyler lays it down with this gem: “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”

Seems as though he was inspired completely by the media to take up soaping.  But then in practice, his marketing strategy is unsustainable.  He approaches department stores with backdoor deals and body language really putting his business in the hands of the receivers’ emotions – bound to change on a daily basis.  And, not to mention the fact that he’s selling each bar for $20 wholesale!  How are they possibly going to market that to customers without his seduction skills, everyday?

His philosophy of goal structure: “Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing.

Sure, I spend a lot of time working alone when I’m blending, counting drops of precious essential oil or measuring out caustic lye in order to saponify my chosen base oils – and the power of the aromatherapy is undeniable.  I often think how unfair it is to the consumers of my soap that they aren’t there to see and smell the processing bars.  Unlike the locker room at the Fight Club.  How could one tip the scale at bliss to deduce pain?  “Let me pour some caustic solution on your hand to get you to understand…”  Non sequitur.

Then, there’s the flawed chemistry in the script. Tyler says, ‘when the tallows harden you skim-off a layer of glycerine, if you were to add nitric acid, you got nitroglycerine, if you were to add sodium nitrol and a dash of sawdust you got dynamite – Yeh, with enough soap we can blow up just about anything’.

Soap is defined by the FDA as “the bulk of the nonvolatile matter in the product consists of an alkali salt of fatty acids and the product’s detergent properties are due to the alkali-fatty acid compounds“.  Why then, does Tyler refer to the saponifying chemical as Nitric Acid, and not Sodium Hydroxide?  Nitric Acid is the finished chemical reaction in glycerine, not found in cold-process soap that uses fats such as he is using.  Further, non-animal oils/fats with similar saponification values and humectant qualities are plentiful, not to mention you’re only addressing the metabolism of your consumer with your product and not multiple of levels of potential toxicity.  Because his quality of chosen fats would be inconsistent at best, longevity was clearly not part of the business plan.  Not to mention the unfortunate loss of a spendy jacket every time he jumps a barbed wire fence.

So, my summary is that vegan soap must be superior and more cost-effective to that which is produced by Tyler, whether you know that you’ve been talking to yourself or not.

Small and Local Shopping Opportunities!

The holidays are here, so without delay – here’s my current list of Pittsburgh events with opportunities to see, smell and touch the handmade body care products I have honed since taking my hobby into a business.   Small Business Saturday – Pittsburgh! is not only my first business anniversary, but a tradition: I’ve always liked taking the opportunity to seek out local friends and small businesses to support with my dollar. I look back over the last several years and see many of these people are still pursuing their dream careers, and I feel fortunate to have been a part of their journey. As a small (tiny) business owner myself now, I can see that the effort that goes into each product or service can not really be quantified with money, yet we need to keep selling it in order to continue on our path, however attached we might be.  Wherever you are, please support hard-working small business owners this Saturday.

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Saturday, November 29th at the Pittsburgh Public Market from 9 am – 5 pm: 2401 Penn Ave (Strip District) – In addition to loads of new seasonal items, I’ll also have a limited supply of pre-made environmentally-friendly gift bags for sale ONLY available at this market!  Because it’s Small Business Saturday, I’ll have some #shopsmall swag and a bunch of other local vendors will also be sampling stuff until 10:30am.  Click the pic below for more info.

Sunday, November 30th at the Pittsburgh Public Market from 10 am – 4 pm: 2401 Penn Ave (Strip District) – I’ll continue to sell the latest handmade body care products I’ve made.  Check in to see if there are any pre-made gift bags for sale ONLY available at this market!  If not, I can do custom-orders and sustainable gift-wrapping via Etsy.

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Saturday, December 6th with I Made It! Market and Think Shadyside – Shop Small for the Holidays in Shadyside from 11 am – 5 pm above Shady Grove Restaurant 5500 Walnut St at Bellefonte St. Lots of various handmade craft and food vendors will showcase their latest creations!

Sunday, December 7th with Journeys of Life Bookstore – Handmade Holidays & Metaphysical Marketplace 2014  from 11 am – 5 pm, again in Shadyside above Shady Grove Restaurant 5500 Walnut St at Bellefonte St. Jewelry – Soaps – Holiday Gifts – Tarot Ornaments – Incense – Tarot Readings Too! All Handmade in Pittsburgh!!

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Lots of new items to try!

I’ve been working pretty hard to refine products and packaging for the holidays, stocking up on supplies, ingredients, sleep and even preparing food in advance so I don’t have to take as many breaks.  I’m definitely working more than 40 hours a week, now that I’m a small business owner!  Over the weekend, I had a successful kick-off and reinvested my profit into future event fees, more supplies and ingredients.  I feel so fortunate to be able to buy such quality ingredients, be the first to test them out and finally, share them with you.  Next stop, Small Business Saturday!

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My new items include a Winter Balancing Act Facial Toner, Sinus Care Aromatherapy Roller, Holiday Soap and the return of the Meditation Mixer and Bike Face Soaps.  My from-scratch winter soap base has begun to include moisture-retaining oils like castor and shea butter, and as always, I list all the ingredients per FDA guidelines on plantable paper.  They are a little more creamy and less hard as a result, never containing the typical and bubbly sodium laurel sulfate.    Woodsy Warrior, Chef’s and Gardener’s soap will be making a comeback in the Spring, when fresh, seasonal herbs are available again.  If you want these updates as soon as they become available, please consider joining my email list.

I’ve been having fun taking product photographs for my Etsy shop in addition to the Gift Basket for last weekend’s Pittsburgh Vegan Festival and my process for checking pH of the Bike Face soap prior to cutting into bars.

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Everything in one place!

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When I launched my Etsy page last November on Small Business Saturday, it was a major leap to turn my hobby into a small business previously only serving custom orders for the holidays, baby showers and wedding favors. Since last November, my “shop” has grown to include many new products under the body care umbrella, DIY learning tools and an ongoing sharing campaign.  In addition to custom orders, I also sell my product in a couple stores around town and at local craft fairs, music and food festivals.   Check out the boxes below!

Disclaimer: This website is presently a work in progress, and I hope it will become a resource for natural body care enthusiasts like myself to research and share information!
Here’s a sneak peak at what I’ve been working on:

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