What's Brewing?

Three Tips To A Successful Trade Show October 24, 2018 15:07

My Three Take Aways From My First Trade Show...  (they're pretty good ones!)

three tips to a successful trade show

Our First Bulk Order - What That Means For You October 01, 2018 00:00

It’s a big day for our little soap company! Yep… we bought in bulk.  You may be asking yourself, “why is that important?”  Well,  It translate into lower pricing for you, our customers!

bulk pricing, low price beer soap, coffee soap, wine soap



I've been asked by many people what my favorite motivational resources are, so here they are.

My all time favorite motivational goal-setting book is Do You: 12 Laws Access The Power In You To Achieve Happiness And Success by Russell Simmons.  This book offers practical steps to live a life that you want, whether it be in your business, your health, or your family. The bottom line is be you and don't apologize for being you. It takes a lot of work and perseverance  to reach your dreams. As long as you stay true to yourself, follow your path, and work hard, you'll get there!

Big Magic: Create A Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert Klein, is my second favorite book. The author talks about creativity as a living entity. Elizabeth discusses how to tackle what we most love and how to get rid of the stuff that we fear. She shows habits and approaches to following your dreams. Most importantly, we learn how to embrace our curiosity on a daily basis.

Living Forward: A Proven Plan To Stop Drifting And Get The Life You Want by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkhavy, is a resource that provides a roadmap for you to achieve your goals.  Interestingly enough, the first exercise the authors asks you to do is to write your eulogy as you would want to be remembered. Then you ask yourself are you living that life that you described.  From there, they provide you with tools to plan how to get there. It's very powerful.

If reading and audiobooks are not your thing, I highly recommend an online class that also provides a roadmap for achieving your goals.  Danielle Vincent's, 2017 Goal Workshop, provides a series of videos and activities that create an action plan for you to reach your goals and dreams.  I found her plan works best for me.  I especially appreciate how she discusses the importance of affirmations to achieving goals. 

So that's it!  Those are my go-to resources for the year. Let me know what you’re reading and again happy 2017th.

Buy 3 Soaps Get An Additional 1 FREE!!! November 27, 2016 07:16

Free Soap you say?  Hells YAAAAA! 

November 28 is the day. All. Day.  For every three soaps you buy, you get an additional bar of soap for FREE.  All you have to do is tell us your choices in the special instructions at checkout!  It's that easy!

So you may be asking yourself...  if I buy a three bar gift set, will I get an extra free bar? YUP.  If I order a six pack of soap, will I get 2 additional bars for free?  YUP, again.  The bottom line is: if you buy gift sets or single bars, we just add the total amount of bars in your order and give you an additional free bar for every 3 bars purchased.  It's that simple!

So rack up those free bars of soap, think multiples of 3!

3 Reasons Why A Blog Is Important To A Small Business July 10, 2016 15:39

3 Reasons to Blog

Today marks the beginning of another 30 -Day Blog Challenge. I did one last year (didn’t finish, but I WILL this year!), and learned so much. If you are looking for a fun summer challenge such as this one, I recommend joining the group of us that is doing this. The group is called Blog Your Brand. It is an affiliate of the Indie Business Network. It’s free to join, and you get tons of support. You even get prizes along the way (and who doesn’t like prizes?) Each post has to be a minimum of 300 words, you share your blogs on various social media platforms, and read some of the great posts others are doing. It’s a lot of fun and definitely a lot of work, but you learn a lot! Here are 3 things I’ve learned from last years 30-day blog challenge about why blogging is important to any small business:

  • Blogging Helps You Discover Your Voice- If you are anything like me, you may be hesitant to share on social media. By blogging however, the more I wrote, the more I learned how to tell a story. And the more I wrote, the more my confidence increased. As a result, I became less ‘afraid’ to share things on social media and telling my story became easier and easier.

  • Blogging Increases Traffic To Your Website (AKA MARKETING!!!)- The more new content you add to your website, the higher your rankings go up on browsers which ultimately ‘up’s’ the all important SEO! Hence, your website becomes more visible and translates into more visits and brand awareness.

  • Blogging Helps Find Your Tribe – Blog posts are a great way to show what you are about. You can share behind the scenes, the day in the life, tutorials etc. As you share your blog on various social media platforms, those that are interested in it will engage with you by leaving comments, sharing your posts etc. By their engagement, you can REALLY see what your target audience is interested in. Blog posts that aren’t as engaging, help you realize they might not be interested in that topic and you can rethink if future posts on similar topics are necessary.

So as I start another 30-Day Blog Challenge, I look forward to not only finishing it this time, but having fun while I continue learning about myself, my business, and my audience. To me, this exercise is like reading a book for the second or third time… I’m gaining a new perspective every time I do this!

How has blogging helped your small business?

Behind The Brew: The Building of the Handbrewed Soaps Studios May 26, 2016 22:40

Handbrewed Soaps Studio - Sheds

Sometimes there needs to be a separation between soap and family. In 2014, my awesome Father came up with a brilliant idea.  This idea was spurred by the fact that he couldn’t distinguish where my kitchen and living room began and where my soaping ventures ended.  Everything was mixed together.  “Hey Alyson, have you ever though of getting a soap studio?”           

 Of course I had, but our business was not making enough money to pay Bay Area rent.  Though we had an extra bedroom, our family was expanding, and we needed it for a bedroom! Instantly, we both looked out into the backyard, which at the time was filled with weeds (aka a blank slate to build and grow things on!)    To make a REALLLY long story short, by the following Fall, I had my soap studio, empty, but a studio!  We went with Casita Shed of Castro Valley,CA to construct the studio. If you look at their prices, it beats the price on any Home Depot / Lowe’s shed by square footage and the labor was included in the cost.  The fact that it went up in two days was AWESOME. I recommend them to anyone who has the ability to add one to their backyard!  It was so affordable, that we built two…  his and her studios… now everyone’s happy!  I highly recommend this Bay Area Company.  We had a great experience! 

Last Minute Mother's Day Gift Guide 2016 May 02, 2016 21:48

Handbrewedsoaps Mother's Day gift guideIf you are anything like me, you just realized Mother's Day is next weekend and you got nothing. Now it's Monday and it's getting down to the last minute gifts.   Shopping local is important to you, and supporting indie businesses is even better! Why shop indie you ask? Well, shopping at a small business is saying yes to the one of a kind and the custom-made.   You know that the owner of a small business is not using your money on their third mansion, but is using it to put food on the table for their family. Most importantly, money spent at a small business tends to stay in the local economy. This ultimately uplifts the entire community! So here is who Handbrewed Soaps is supporting this year for Mother’s Day. I hope you do too!  

Hey Hey Gourmet – Some DAMN good spices! My all time fav is the Lemon Mary Rose. I added it to olive oil and dipped my artichoke in it! Yum! I also just made amazing lavender tea from this small biz. The lavender is grown in the owner’s own backyard!!! So refreshing!

Leading Lady Delights- Incredible morsels of delight!!! I’ve been ordering from this wonderful small biz for the past two years. I strongly recommend the English Toffee. If you’re local to Oakland, you can pick up your order!!! Yeah, save on shipping!!! 

Gracious Goats- Let's be honest, all of their lotions and creams are amazing!! This once Oakland biz, relocated to Portland, and they are finally back in business!!! I strongly believe all mom’s need their feet to be pampered. What better way to do this than with their Rosemary Foot Cream!

This is my short but sweet Mother’s Day Gift Guide. These are amazing businesses with amazing products. Please support them!

Stay tune to learn more about each of these businesses in future blog posts!



Handbrewedsoaps Logo  Bathtub BeerWhen you first think of the bathtub and soap you kind of go, “Yea right! Soap gets you clean so of course they have a bathtub for a logo.” But that wasn't exactly what we were going for. OUR bathtub stands for ‘bad-ass-ness’, innovation, and a ‘sock it to the man’ attitude!!! We’re not a pamper yourself kind of soap company; we’re a get your hands dirty, DIY kind of people. We find solutions and ‘work arounds’ when we are told you can’t do something.

Our logo pays homage to the original innovators, ‘the forefathers and foremothers’ of the liquor movement. They were the innovators of the Prohibition Era  (otherwise know as bootleggers) that brewed beer, wine, whiskey, and gin in their bathtubs.

The bathtub had two important rolls in the Prohibition Era. Many times water was added to grain alcohol to produce liquor. The bottles that needed to be filled with water were often too big to be filled from the kitchen sink; so many bootleggers used the bathtub tap. As bootleggers grew their operations, the bathtub was used to mix grain alcohol, flavoring, and water. The bathtub was one of the biggest vessels large enough to make brew for consumer demands, but created a small enough operation to go undetected by law enforcement.

Though Prohibition ended on December 5, 1933, brewing homebrew beer didn't actually become legal until 1978. This law's basically says that any person can legally ferment 200 gallons of beer or wine each year tax-free! Cheers to US!

So there you have it! We aren’t just your average soap company, with a bathtub as a logo… We are Handbrewed Soaps… a soap company that honors those that think outside the box, that understands the importance of getting good beer out to the masses, and the importance of getting clean after a dirty job!  Cheers!

Keep a look out for our Famous Bootlegger Series!

(Photo credit goes to our awesome friend Shamir! Thanks for letting us use your picture!)


Running your own business and watching children at the same time definitely DO NOT go hand-in-hand. However, many of us business owners do because we are BADASSES. The reality is that by the end of the day, we are frustrated because we did not accomplish our work goals or we did not spend quality time with our children. So I want to let you in on a few ‘creative’ secrets I use to get the quality time I need for both my business and my children.

1) PANDORA RADIO IS YOUR FRIEND! Turn on the ‘Kids Bop’ station on Pandora and throw a dance party for your hellions… I mean angels. Quickly run to your bathroom (or any other place that you have a lock on the door) and lock yourself inside. Post a picture of your product or service on Instagram and don't forget to link it back to your website. Most importantly, make sure you are not publishing a picture of you sitting on the toilet trying to do said task.
2) SCAVENGER HUNTS AREN'T JUST FOR BIRTHDAY PARTIES! Have the kids go on a scavenger hunt either inside your house or preferably outside in the backyard. While they are searching for anything (think pinecones, pieces of paper, picking up the dog poop) whatever they are searching for, this is YOUR TIME to blog. You can write it on the computer or dictate it into your phone (that’s how I got this post written.) When I’m done talking into my phone, I send the dictation to myself via email for editing/posting on my blog.

3) MATH IS EVERYWHERE! Have your children help count your inventory and then graph it on a piece of paper. It is a friggin’ awesome math lesson and for toddlers they're learning how to count 1 – 30. Inventory is a mundane task that you have to do anyway, so why not include them in the family business.
4) BECOME A HUMAN BALANCE BEAM FOR YOUR KIDS! If you're lifting a lot of boxes like I am, have your kids walk on your back. Lie on the ground and then have your kids (depending on their size) walk on your back and your calves. It provides a massage for you and provides them with the fine motor skill of balance.
5) SKETCH IT OUT! If your kids like to do art, have them draw a design that THEY think your business should have. For example, I gave my daughter the assignment of drawing the new box for our wine soaps (something I’ve been brainstorming for months.) Not only did this keep her busy for a good 20 minutes, but she sparked the idea of using organza bags instead of boxes. (Nice one Ayla!)

If all else fails, and nothing got done (business /kids), it's OK to crack open the wine and have a whole bag of chocolate chips. Shoot, I just did this the other night and it was well worth it!
Hope these sparked ideas for you. I’d love to hear your tips… I’m always looking for some! Cheers

Tips for Creating Your Own Business February 29, 2016 14:06

Business tips handbrewedsoaps

It takes a lot of courage to create your own path in life. Oftentimes the people most closest to us will be the first to call you crazy, "You want to do what? You can't make money doing that! How are you going to support your family?" But that's the thing... Sometimes it's not about the money, sometimes it's about what makes you happy! And when you are happy, money CAN follow! Here is what we learned (and are still learning) as we dove into Handbrewed Soaps. 


 PLAN: I was a classroom teacher in Oakland for 8 years. Then I became a teacher's coach for 4 years before I left my 9-5 job a year ago. Why did I leave a stable, ten-yeared position? Because I was anxious, overwhelmed, and depressed. If the words, "No Child Left Behind," "Common Core,"  "Rubrics," or "Assessment" came up in conversation, my blood pressure would rise to unhealthy levels. I argued with my husband and yelled at my kids all the time.  With the pressures of work, I couldn't think, I was drained. I had nothing to give to my family, let alone myself.  A change had to happen.

I didn't just quit all of a sudden. I saw this move coming two years earlier, and slowly decreased my hours as an educator in order to increase hours in a more creative endeavor of starting my own soap business. My soap business infused hope into my life. I felt sane while designing and creating soap. I enjoyed hearing instant feedback from customers because I new immediately the impact my soap had on others.  (In my old profession, I never knew the impact on a child's life unless they told me years later.) Eventually, I started to feel motivated when I got up in the mornings, and the relationships with my family improved dramatically.  

NETWORK: In some regards owning my own business is harder than teaching. I don't always know where my next check is coming from. I was not formally trained to own a business like I was becoming a teacher, so I've had to learn about sales tax, city codes, marketing etc. on my own. Finding supports like the Indie Business Network (IBN) have been instrumental in my learning. Most importantly, I am blessed with the support of my husband as he is the main bread winner while I get Handbrewed Soaps up and running.

WORK HARD: I am not 100% soaping, I still dabble in education by consulting for a music education non profit. I'm working at a level that doesn't give me a heart attack. I am doing what I love both in the soap and educational world, I spend time with my family. The interesting part is that I am working the same hours as I was as a full time teacher, but I’m lovin’ it. I’m am able to make my own rules, lead the life I want to lead, choosing my own path.  Yes I have times where I think all the odds are against me in this crazy world of entrepreneurship! What I've learned so far on this journey, is that if you are truly passionate about it, if you work hard for it, you'll figure it out. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I'd be owning my own soap company!

Dear Self Letters Really Do Inspire! January 06, 2016 12:36

   We are back at it this week! It feels so good to back in the soap studio! Today, we are putting some intentions down on paper for the 2016 year! I started by writing a letter to myself expressing how proud of myself I was ( how often do I do that? )
"Dear Self, Happy New Year!  You have accomplished most of the things you set out to do in the beginning of last year all while being pregnant and having a baby.  I know you have more things you want to do, but I just wanted to take a minute to tell you how proud I am of you!"   
   With just that little bit of self gratitude, I made a list of intentions that I'm excited to get started on! Don't forget that  by celebrating "you," inspiration is around the corner! How do you get started making goals? 

Meet the Team Behind Handbrewed Soaps November 18, 2015 00:00

Handbrewed Soaps is a family operation! As we have expanded, we've enlisted more family members and friends to help! As they say, to raise a business, it takes a village!

Beer Brewmaster: Eric Swihart: The talent behind the homebrewed beer.  When he's not brewing, you can find him teaching middle school band and orchestra here in Oakland!   Eric enjoys the outdoors, playing with his kids, and playing in his band Fast and Vengfully. He is also the mastermind behind many of our slogans, video ideas, and other Handbrewed Soaps shenanigans!

 Soap Brewmaster: Alyson Swihart:  That's me!  I'm the soap maker!! When I'm not making soap or any soap related activity, you can find me hiking, hangin' with the kids, or gardening.  As a former 4th and 5th grade teacher, I still dabble in education by consulting with a non-profit, Music In Schools Today, to bring music programs to public schools.  It's a pretty cool gig!                                           

Assistant Brewer- Fred Noel:  That's my dad!  He's the brains behind the expansion.  He's always into making things bigger.  For example: he's the dad that when you say you want a dog as a child, he thinks Mastiff or Great Dane when you ment Yorkie. Or as a child you want to decorate the outside of the house for Christmas, he's the Dad that makes a bigger than life size wooden Santa Claus to stand on your lawn, when you were thinking maybe just some lights on the porch. So, he's built bigger soap molds, a soap studio, and now helps make soap as I get bigger in my pregnancy.

Soap wrapper extraordinaire/ Daytime child overseer- Donna Noel:  That's my Mom!  Without her, soap production would slow WAY down! She watches the kids when soap needs to be made! And she's the person that wraps the majority of the soap! She is such a master of soap wrapping, that she goes into a zen like state reciting the mantra, "Peel, Wrap, Stick."



Soap testers- My kids:  They are the ones who are first to wash their hands with a newly made batch of soap! They are also marketing managers as I often find video on my ipad that they have made talking about Handbrewed Soaps: See recent video.

Promotion Guru- Friends, Family, You!  These are the people that have answered the call when we needed help with running a booth at a festival, needing homebrew because we have run out, mentioned us on social media, walked into stores and have talked to retail owners about our products both here in California and out of state.  Most importantly, it's the users of Handbrewed Soaps that enjoy and give feedback to what we do!! Thanks for all you do!


3 Effective Ways to Train an Intern September 04, 2015 12:43


Meet our newest intern, Matthew! We are excited to have him as our newest addition to the Handbrewed Soaps Team! Over the next few months, we will be training him in the ways of soaping. We are pretty hard-core around here, so we will definitely be watching him to see if he’s cut out for the soaping lifestyle. He’ll be going through some intense training that I can recommend for all businesses.

1) Find out what your intern is naturally interested in or wants to learn more about. You might find that he/she has strength in an area that you need to be filled.

2) Allow your intern to experience all responsibilities in your company. There will be days when you really need to make your product, but priorities have shifted. You need to get a large order out and write an article for a partner company. By having your intern educated on multiple aspects of your business, you can have he/she do tasks that will free you up to do what you need to do!

3) Provide feedback in a reflective way. Let’s be honest, no one likes to be yelled at when learning a new skill. So phrases like, “What the hell are you doing?” is probably not the best approach. I like to find about 10 -15 minutes at the end of each training session to talk to the intern about their learning. Most people know when they do not understand something and will most likely discuss it with you. If not, you can constructively add it to the conversation. Some questions I usually ask are:

So how did today go for you?

What are your 3 biggest takeaways or ‘ah-huh’ moments?

What are some things you would like to know more about?

What area’s do you think you need more practice?

What questions do you have for me?

If something that you want to point out doesn’t come out in the conversation, you might want to say, “I’ve noticed that ….. I suggest you try it this way, as it has worked best for me….”


So now you might be wondering were our newest member fits into this? We are pleased to report that Matthew is cut out for the life of soaping. He currently enjoys working as the supervisor in our packaging department. He serves as a great reminder not to drop the soap… or him!   lol

5 Lessons Dad Taught Me About Business, Family and Life June 21, 2015 00:00

Dad and Business

Today is Father's Day and what better day to tribute this blog post to one of the most important men in my life... my Dad!


Background:  My Dad was born in Chicago and moved to Oakland as a toddler.  He attended Oakland Unified School's from K-12 and then became a Coach, Teacher, VP, and Principal in the very same school district he was raised in. Currently he is retired.  This man has taught me, my brother, and many students in Oakland some key lessons about life, family, and business that I'd like to share with you!


1)  Go Big, or Go Home:  My dad is the king of doing things big.  Whether it be Christmas decorations (he is know for constructing a life size toy soldier!), dogs (we had a standard size poodle growing up!), or sports (taking Skyline High School to the OAL championships in 1985) he goes big on everything.  In my soap business he was the one to come up with the idea of building my soap studio, rebuilding my soap molds to increase production, and creating a schedule of soap making that increases not only soap production, but also increases time with my family.  He is always thinking 3-12 months out, which is why he goes big.  Leave an impression for yourself and others, think where you'll be in the future and figure out in the moment what you can do now to make that happen.  To explain this better, see point 2.


2) Set a Goal, Focus on it, then Actualize it:  When my dad gets an idea, there is nothing to distract him from it until it is complete.  This could take the form of a home project or setting up work projects with local companies for his students to give them real life experiences and a better understanding of the importance of staying in school. My dad has always been a great leader in motivating people to follow their dreams.  He often uses a target metaphor to call people to action, "Think of your dream/goal as a three ring target.  The inner circle (the bulls eye) is your goal; you are the only one that can affect that.  The second outer circle is the area that you can affect with others, but you can't do it alone. Either you may need help or you may need to help others.  Then there is the third ring.  In this ring, you can't do jack about.  Whether it's opinions of others, the weather, whatever...  there's no reason to worry about it because you can't do anything about it! If you spend time in the third ring, you won't get much done.  So, spend 80% of the time in the center circle and 20% in the second circle.  The inner circle will take you to where you want to go, the 20% is to better the community around you to help those that need the support you got.  Always give back."


3) Perseverance:  Sometimes your goals are harder to reach than you thought. Things don't always go the way you planned.  Actually most of the time they don't.  My dad never said, don’t give up.... But he taught that through his actions. If he got a "No!" to an idea, he'd take it to someone else or try another strategy.   He also taught us to identify when it was time to walk away from something with integrity when a "wall" maybe to strong or high to get through.  For example, if you are in a position to create positive change but a boss or higher up makes decisions that actual go against this change.  If it's affecting your health, your family, take a break...  let someone else lead the fight or do it a different way, but on your own terms. This leads to point 4.


4) Innovation/ Entrepreneurial Mind:  In the past, he and my mom owned a couple local / indie businesses.  Not only having full-time jobs, they also owned a fish store and their own woodwork business on the side. Why?  Sometimes the rug may be pulled out from underneath you and you need to have a back-up plan.  He believed that it is important to carve out a little something for yourself, that's yours, to have options.  And for him, his greatest motivation for an entrepreneurial mind was to support his family, which brings us to point number 5.


5) Sacrifice:  To follow you dreams you have to sacrifice and work hard.  What you define as success is not going to happen over night.  Over night successes really take years and decades to come to fruition.  My dad's goal was to make sure his family (including his students) thrived and leaves a legacy for others to follow. He worked multiple jobs to support the family. He coached basketball, skiing, and swim team (I know I'm forgetting something!) to motivate students to be their best.  Now he is a grandfather of 5, and he is family to many of his players that have gone on to play in the NBA and National Baseball League.  And I see the pride in his eyes when we are all together.


These are just a few lessons that my Dad has taught me!  I am grateful for him and wish him a fabulous Father's Day!


Love You DAD!!!