Monthly Archives: September 2015

PLEASE DO NOT ASK US TO TEACH YOU TO MAKE SOAP – AS A REFUSAL MAY OFFEND

Khoelife has a standing offer for any NGO, CBO or individual: if you sign up as a distributor and build up your turn-over to the point where you have created one or more jobs in production – we have been making soap for a long time so we can tell you exactly where this point is – then we will train someone from your organization to make soap. As long as you can feed and transport your trainee to our soap workshop, it will not cost you a cent. Once we feel that the trainee is able to make soap with renewable energy to Khoelife’s exacting quality standards, which could be anything from three months to a year or two depending on what type of soap you are wanting to make, we will assist you to set up your own workshop. Personally I feel at least a year is best because the thing with renewable energy is that it puts you back in touch with natural cycles. The soap and your energy source really behave differently depending on temperature, humidity, etc. So I don’t feel I have properly trained someone until they have been with me for a full year. However some of the simpler soaps can probably be taught a little faster than that. Be that as it may, when Khoelife feels you are trained then you can produce soap under licence and pay us a royalty fee of a few cents per bar produced.

Now we really like this approach. For one, it makes more sense for a social entrepreneur to first build marketing and distribution, so they know what size production unit to set up. This way you can produce to an existing market where you are familiar with demand.There is nothing worse for a small business than to sit with excess capacity, where all your money is tied up in production while your stock is not moving. Of course our production method: making soap one pot at a time using very basic energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, is much cheaper to set up (and more adaptable to scale)  then the fossil-fuel ‘make it big’ approach. It is like the difference between organic farming and chemical farming. The first allows you to choose your scale while the second imposes scale. Still,  I have researched entrepreneurship for a good decade and a half and spent the last three years trying to run a soap business, so I know whereof I speak. I have never met a small business owner who does not complain of stranded assets in the context of an unexpected fall in demand. We constructed a business precisely to address this problem. To begin with marketing and distribution means we carry the production overhead for you until you are strong enough to stand on your own.

For two this has the added advantage for the start-up business that we do not charge you for training. We make our money back from licence fees over time. So if we teach you to make soap it means we believe in you enough to invest our time and knowledge without asking any up-front payment.

For three, this means that you are on your own but not alone. The trainee in a social franchise system is a way of making sure that you have somebody to call at any time. I have been making soap for 19 years and I still get horribly failed batches. One of my most comforting things to do at that moment is to watch Youtube where friendly and courageous soap-makers actually post their soap failures. It makes me realize I am not alone. Natural cold-process soap can be easy, but it can also go horribly wrong. So it makes sense for everybody to work with a consistent approach over a period of time.

For four, from our side it is advantageous because we do not want to grow too big. To expand horizontally rather than vertically makes sense to us. Having lots of co-ops producing under licence while we can focus on supply issues and quality control, works.  Not least because it would give me more time to relax and produce hand-made specialty soaps or work on new recipes 🙂

This approach allows us to really get to know an organization or individual. When you have been a distributor for a couple of years, it means we have worked with you long enough to know that you can be trusted to produce under the Khoelife label. Quality control is a BIG issue with us. We do not let a product go out with our name on it unless we are 100% happy with it. So it is a huge gesture of trust for us to teach other people to make Khoelife soap and it is not unreasonable of us to want to do so in a system with checks and balances.

The interesting thing, though, is that lately we have been getting lots of enquiries from people who want to learn to make soap. When we present our standard offer,  they tend to want to enter into long negotiations with us.  When we explain politely that we are in the business of selling soap, not training the competition and that no, we are really not going to close our workshop down for the day to come teach you to make soap unless you fulfill the terms and conditions required to make soap under licence and even then we expect you to come to us, people can get quite intense. When we then  even more politely explain that if you did not call us to buy soap then we really don’t know why we are having this conversation, people can get quite excited.   Now this astounds me. Is it because we are small? Is it because we are female? Is it because we are Black?

I mean, who phones Unilever and says ‘can you teach me how to make soap’? If Toyota refused to close down their plant for the day in order to teach Volkswagen to make cars, nobody would be surprised. So why do people expect us to want to teach them to make soap? It baffles me. I would love to hear your comments about what this is about…

And it is worth repeating that we are committed to training. We do not believe it is right to keep knowledge to yourself. All we are saying is that there is a system and we will train people who adhere to the system.

I am pleased for the compliment. Every one of the people who have come asking for soap workshops have prefaced their request with: “I really love your soap”. Great! Then buy it! And if you love it enough to want to sell to your networks then go for it. When we can see tangible results we will be only too happy to offer training. But we do not offer once-off workshops and no, wanting to pay us for it is not going to make us want to do it.

Now, some natural soap-makers do offer workshops.  Often this occurs when they are in the business of selling soap-making supplies. It makes sense for them to teach people to make soap so people can order more stuff from them. Or just possibly they are not selling enough soap and so teaching other people becomes a necessary source of income for them.  It is not for us to speculate. Nor are we going to comment on the approach that says it is possible to teach people to make soap in a day or two. That may do very well for some, and if that is what you want, then we suggest you approach http://www.howtomakesoap.co.za   or  http://www.nakedsoap.co.za

There is Bev Missing’s The rain book of natural soapmaking Bev used to run rain soap company but has since sold it to American interests and retired. So of course she would write a book. Which is a fantastic read and available at Exclusive Books.

The Queen of Soap, Anne Marie Fabiola of Brambleberry fame, has a new book also at Exclusive. Brambleberry are the people from whom I order some of my natural soap colorants, and have so far found them of a high quality.  The Soap Queen blog  http://www.soapqueen.com/ has lots of tutorials and you can also order their e-books online: http://www.brambleberry.com

I love the wonderful world of internet! When I started making colour soaps Youtube came to my assistance and there are any number of videos on any kind of soap from the basic to the most complex.  Big ups to the kind and sharing soap-making community!! There are also innumerable blogs, Facebook pages and online soap-maker’s forums.

So we appreciate the people wanting to learn to make soap and are only too happy that they are so enthusiastic about the virtues of natural soap.  We hope they have found this blog helpful. But if all you are wanting is a workshop or two, please don’t call us! Should you want to become a serious distributor with an eye to becoming a social franchisee one day, do please contact us at enquiries@khoelife.co.za