Tell us a bit about yourself (name, location, affiliations, personal stuff).
My name is Jean-Marie and I live in sunny, crowded South Miami with my best friend/professor husband and 3 sweet kids. I have a BS in journalism/photojournalism from Boston University and an MSW from Tulane.
I loved Tulane and identify most with Louisiana. I lived and worked there as a young person, a student, then as a social worker. My first real successes with Daisycakes were in Baton Rouge and New Orleans at monthly arts markets. It didn’t take long for me to realize I wanted to make & sell soap full-time. Eventually, when we buy our own house, I envision learning more about social entrepreneurship and blend social work and soap making.
What is the first thing you can remember making by hand? How and why did you make it?
Scrambled eggs. I cracked them, poured them into a pan with a plastic spatula and turned the heat on high without stirring until it became a solid egg/plastic mass that my sweet, late father ate with a smile. I remember so distinctly being so excited at making something on my own and thinking “How cool is this?!!” I’m pretty sure I drew a menu to accompany this meal;)
What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
The tip of a fresh slice of pizza inspires me. Every slice is delicious but the first tip of the first slice of pizza is unlike any other bite. I want my soap to inspire the same feeling. The first waft of a peppermint facial bar, the first back rub with a spearmint poppy seed bar, baby’s first bath with Ylang Ylang and Goat’s Milk….I want these experiences to lift my customers to a place a little better than this world, if only momentarily. My goal is for every bar to have it’s own “tip of the slice moment.”
The way people on Etsy work together on projects inspires me. I just finished working with Noelle from http://pinkbathtub.etsy.com on Java-Grams—note cards with a tiny mug of soap-coffee attached so you can share a cup of coffee with a friend—no matter how far apart you are! The cards will be listed in both our shops, and it was great to have 2 heads thinking instead of one!
Books definitely inspire my ideas. When I first started in 1999 I bought and borrowed every soap book I could get my hands on. I read them all, read them again; cross referenced them, and then made a dozen batches of very yucky soap. Soap making is not rocket science, but understanding the chemistry is important. It helps to make all the mistakes, so I’m in good shape! There are many amazing soap makers to learn from—Sandy Maine and Susan Miller Cavitch are my 2 favorites.
What are your favorite materials?
I love olive oil most of all, it is the perfect oil for making soap from scratch. Natural cocoa butter is a favorite too, amazing skin-friendliness. I have greatly expanded my scent horizons since joining Etsy. I have always loved pure essential oils, but giving up my bias against synthetic fragrance oils was a breakthrough for my business. The quality of fragrance oils has increased dramatically since I started. I love the Chai Tea soap in my shop right now, fragrance oil or not!
What is your favorite color?
What are your most and least two favorite films?
Network is my favorite movie–—the world needs Howard Beale more than ever.
My least favorite movie is any movie that contains these 3 lines: “My uncle has a barn….I have an idea!… We can put on a show!”
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Simply Pottery. Soap dishes are on the way!
Any tips on selling handmade stuff?
Celebrate the small milestones, but don’t be afraid to think big. Don’t get bogged down with the cost of that ad or that show or that material….decide what you want your business to become in the big picture and then make the choices you have to make now to get there. There will be income gaps, huge visa bills, downtimes with technology, and gigantic investments of time with little immediate results. Count on it, so you don’t lose sight of the big picture when they happen.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
We take our kids swimming and to the beaches around Miami and the Keys as much as possible. I spend lots of time on our trampoline and feeding the fish and turtles off our dock with my 5-year-old daughter. My boys are old enough to crack up at MST3K movies with me now—hooray for Netflix!
How can Etsy be improved? Any feature requests?
I would like to have a heading in each category, a place to describe the category above the pictures. Etsy is a great site, and I am so grateful for it and all the warm, talented people here. It was exactly the right thing at exactly the right time for me.