A few years ago I stumbled across a fantastic soapmaking tutorial that was presented in a high quality format, with lots of photos to explain each step. It showed how to make a flower pattern on soap – and the instructions looked so easy, I wasn’t afraid to give it a try. The quality of writing and photography was just head and shoulders above anything else I’d ever seen before to teach about soapmaking. The name of the writer of this tutorial kept popping up, here and there, as she started churning out more and more innovative techniques and well-written tutorials. Soon, a publication of hers emerged, something I had never heard of before: an “eZine” or electronic magazine.
About a year later, I signed up for a seminar for soapmakers and was thrilled to learn that the author of these spectacular tutorials would be speaking at the seminar: the eZine queen, Amanda Gail. At that seminar she did a demo of her now-legendary Peacock Swirl, and along with all the other seminar attendants, I was in awe of the technique and the person who created it.
By now I was an avid follower of Amanda’s blog and eZines. I read about her first trip to Haiti, where she traveled to teach soapmaking to a group of women in Port-au-Prince. These women and their families were still living in tents after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti and left over a million Haitians homeless. Out of this trip, Lovin’ Soap Project was birthed. More trips to Haiti would follow, as more instruction would be needed to teach the women how to turn their new soapmaking skills into profitable businesses that would provide food and shelter for their families.
Lovin’ Soap Project was incorporated and filed for non-profit status in 2013 – and also gained a new team member, Benjamin Aaron, who joined Amanda in her soap-teaching adventures to remote places. As a successful soapmaker and entrepreneur, Benjamin’s focus is teaching the business side to their students.
In 2014, non-profit status was approved, and the Soap Collaborative was born – a new version of the earlier eZines, with a variety of writers, offering all sorts of information in the form of articles about entrepreneurship, practical business advice, industry news, social media, and more tutorials. The “how-to’s” were not just for soap, but a wide variety of products, including candles, scrubs, lotions, lip balms, and so forth. But the most exciting part of the Soap Collaborative is that the revenue generated from it would go towards providing supplies and funds for more trips. More trips meant that Amanda and Benjamin could go to teach women in other places around the globe, having now traveled to Uganda, Senegal, Tibet, and India, to empowering women through the economic opportunity of a soapmaking micro-business.
When Amanda asked for volunteers to write for the Soap Collaborative, I jumped on the opportunity to help. Soon I was writing articles and tutorials on a monthly basis, and I was having a lot of fun with it. Writing was an early passion of mine, starting with a journalism class in high school, where I learned so much about publishing. The journalism staff didn’t just write articles, but we learned how to proofread using the proper proofreading symbols, did the page layout and paste-up (this was before the digital era), and sent each issue to our own print shop.
I must confess that I still have a proofreader’s eye and can spot typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors even when I’m not trying. This led to my offer to Amanda to proofread the Soap Collaborative for her, which she was more than eager to accept. And then around the end of 2015, I got an email from Amanda. With all her new and ongoing responsibilities, she was looking for someone to take over the job of editor of the Soap Collaborative, and would I be interested? After several emails and conversations, I accepted, and started with the issue that was published in March, 2016.
Being the editor of the Soap Collaborative has been a joyous task – it’s work that brings a tremendous amount of satisfaction. Each issue has an update on what the Lovin’ Soap Project has been doing, and it’s always my favorite article. Seeing the photos of the classes and the local environment makes it all very real and tangible; reading about the successes (and struggles) tells me that our work is important. Each writer, each article, each subscription all come together to stretch our hands across oceans and continents, teaching the art of soapmaking and micro-business ownership, to those who need it most.
Want to learn more about Lovin’ Soap Project? Do you want to become a subscriber or learn more about the Soap Collaborative magazine? Check it out here. We'd love for you to join us!