Sunday, September 7, 2008

Etsy Interview: Soap Deli!

I had the chance to interview Soap Deli! I have purchased from her shop awhile ago and have always loved the products I received! You will find some familiar questions if you know about Etsy's featured seller interview questions! Read the interview below!

Kittycrossbones: Tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm 33 and a mother of one with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Roanoke College. I greatly enjoy soapmaking and reading. You’ll never find me without a “to be read pile” on hand, or a stockpile of soap taking over my home. I also have agoraphobia, but haven't let it stop me from going out in the world. This is my third year of selling my soaps at my local farmer's market.

As a child I always wanted to be an artist and eventually found myself with a BA in Fine Art from Roanoke College in 2000. Desperate for a job I took the first thing I could find, a sales associate position at Gap. I quickly moved up into a management position with the company. However, I soon realized what that what my professors had told us students time and again was sadly true. Once you find yourself out in the real world, you find you have no time for your art anymore. My passion had been photography, and I'd all but ceased taking photographs.

In 2001 I started up a small business with the help of my husband. Rebecca's Soap Delicatessen was born basically on a whim. However, it was nothing like it is today. It was primarily a hobby on the side that didn't even turn a profit until its third year. I didn't have the time to invest myself fully in my business and so it suffered. In the meantime, I stepped back down to a part time associate position at Gap in order to be able to see my son who had recently entered kindergarten and to fit in the time for soccer practices and rec games.

Around 2005 I started having episodes where I couldn't breathe. At least, that's what it felt like. I hauled myself to the doctor who told me it was all in my head. I refused to believe him and insisted on an asthma test. The tests were negative. Shortly afterward I was diagnosed with agoraphobia. My breathing issues were attributed to multiple panic attacks one after another, literally nonstop, outside my residence. I couldn't hold a conversation without having to pause after every word to catch my breath. I took this as a sign and took a year off from everything. I left Gap and become a stay at home mom. I actually learned how to cook, and was finally able to do what I hadn't been able to before. I was able to slowly begin investing time into my business.

I'm not sure how I really decided to start selling on the Farmer's Market. Maybe it was the desperate need to communicate with someone other than my husband and child. I'd gotten to the point I was striking up conversations about the sales at Target with other customers in the store. Then one day I just happened to be downtown and decided that "this" was what I wanted to do. I called Downtown Roanoke, Inc. the next day and set up an appointment with then Market Manager, Hope Hollingsworth, and things catapulted from there.

It was a scary transition going from the solitude of my home to the population of a bustling downtown. I had panic attacks on the really busy days so I avoided Saturdays for the biggest part of my first year on the Market. Today, however, the Market is my comfort zone. I love going there not only to make a living, but to socialize with the other vendors and downtown's visitors. And, because I was able to take that leap and give Rebecca's Soap Delicatessen 100% of my time, I've been able make a livable wage doing something that I love. While making soap isn't exactly a "fine art," I like that I'm able to create something from scratch and give it my own unique flair. I have also been able to squeeze photography back into my life through the inception of my blog I created for the Roanoke Farmer's Market. A thankless project which features vendors, events, dining, and shopping in the downtown Roanoke area. I've also come to appreciate the historic and cultural aspects of our city and downtown area. Roanoke now holds a much brighter appeal for me, and yes, I'm able to find lots to do.

Kittycrossbones: Apart from creating things, what do you do?
You mean I'm supposed to do something else? I read a lot. A whole lot. Paranormal fiction is my favorite. But as far as a job goes, I'm a full time soapmaker.

Kittycrossbones: What first made you want to become an artist?
I've always loved making things. I used to draw houses with furniture that looked like you could sit on it on the street outside my house. Then I'd draw roads all over the entire cul-de-sac connecting the houses for me and my friends to "drive" our bikes on. I did this on paper as well for my toy cars. I drew a lot growing up as well and everyone always asked if I was going to be an artist when I grew up. I didn't really decide on anything though until my second year of college. My first year I wanted to study psychology.

Kittycrossbones: What advice would you give to artists who are new to selling their handmade products?
You have to get out and talk to people. I've seen posts on the etsy forums with comments that said they were afraid to even give out their business cards. Just selling your stuff online isn't enough. If you can't get out there and talk about your stuff, how are people going to know you even make anything. I have several neighbors who are great customers because I chatted them up. Also, I've found that you cannot expect to get 100% out of your craft if you're not willing to give 100%.

I also blog about my products and sell locally. It makes a big difference when people are able to smell - in my case - and touch your work. You should definitely sell at a real location in addition to online regardless if it's a home show, a craft show, or your local market.

Kittycrossbones: How do you promote your work?
I sell regularly 3-4 days a week downtown on the Roanoke City Market. This brings back a lot of local repeat customers. They in turn recommend my product or bring their friends down to buy their own which further expands my customer base. I hand out business cards with every order which also brings back non-local customers to my website who were just visiting. Additionally I'll hand out free samples downtown to people who have never tried my products and I send other etsy sellers samples to send out with their orders.

Kittycrossbones: Anything else you would like to add?
Not that I can think of.

There you have it folks! Go get clean and head on over to Soap Deli's!

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