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December 26, 2010

Shop Talk: Chicken Hill Farm Handmade Soap

Chicken Hill Farm Handmade Soap County Route 10, Delhi Owner: Quinn Kelley Established: 2006 Employees: One part-time assistant

Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Quinn Kelley of Chicken Hill Farm Handmade Soap in Delhi.

How long have you lived in the area?

I moved to this area in 2003.

Tell me about your business:

Chicken Hill Farm Soap is a handmade soap business. I create a variety of natural glycerin soaps that I sell at craft fairs, community events, in several local shops and through e-mail. I make custom soaps in molds, using different colors and fragrances.

Describe a typical day in your business:

There are two types of typical days in my business. On craft fair days, my assistant and I usually have to get going early to travel to wherever the event is taking place in plenty of time to set up. Setup can take more than an hour, and I like to be ready. The day is spent explaining to people how beneficial glycerin is for the skin, talking about the fragrances and selling product. Tear-down takes longer, and when I get home, there are things to restock and get ready for the next sale day.

On a typical soap-making day, I look over what products I have sold out of and plan to replenish those best-selling items. Also I make sure that I have a list of my e-mail customer orders. Each bar can take up to a half-hour, but I am usually working on several at a time.

How did you get started in this line of work?

Several years ago, my mother gave me a soap-making book, and it sat on my bookshelf for months. When I decided to look through the book and order some initial soap-making supplies, it didn't take long after that to decide I wanted to try making this a business.

Where do you see this business in five years?

I would like the business to have grown even more with more e-mail sales and a website for customers to see the products and order online. I may create shampoo products as well.

Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:

I have two really memorable moments with my soap business. Recently I addressed the Delhi Women's Club, and the presentation was memorable to me because I was talking about starting and running a business rather than explaining how to make soap, which is what most of my public presentations are about.

Another memorable event for me was being contacted by the Dolphin Conservatory in Florida with a request for me to make my dolphin-themed soap to sell at their research center shop.

What have you learned from your work?

I have learned many lessons on how to run and maintain a business and the finances of doing so. Learning how to make soap, new techniques, ordering new scents and molds is so much fun that it doesn't feel like learning or work.

What is the most challenging part of what you do?

For me, the most challenging part of this business is the sheer amount of preparation it takes to get ready for a craft fair or sales event.

The most enjoyable?

Almost all of my business is enjoyable, but maybe my favorite part is when I have friends over and we make soap. It is fun, and I feel like I have taught them something.

How do you define success for your business?

There are a lot of ways that I can define success, and certainly selling lots of soap is great, but maybe having return customers, those who have tried my soap and want to buy more is definitely a sign of success for me.

What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?

Advantages would be that this is a small area, so word spreads quickly. For my business, this means that one happy customer can lead to more customers. A disadvantage to doing business in this area is that my pricing needs to stay close to the same to keep selling and keep my customers.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

My soaps are different because I make more whimsical types with natural glycerin. I have fun color combinations and scents at reasonable prices.

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

Don't expect a lot from the business initially. It takes a lot of work and time, so there should be pleasure in making the product, and that you are happy with the outcome. Profits may have to wait while you get established.

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