Self-expression, one bar at a time: An interview with Sarah Albrecht of Sea Essentials Soap Company
MANAGING MOSAIC EDITOR
Some time in 2014, Sarah Albrecht searched online for a dinner recipe, and instead found a new passion. After stumbling upon a recipe for a bath bomb and realizing she had the ingredients lying around the house, she gave the project a try.
When it was a success, she began to wonder what other things she could make at home, rather than purchase from big companies. She began experimenting with soap-making and friends encouraged her to sell her products.
Now, Albrecht has a business called Sea Essentials Soap Company and says creating unique soaps and bath bombs is a means of self-expression. She says that is one of the most gratifying aspects of her business.
“Definitely showing myself through my soaps, it’s rewarding to myself to see what I can do,” she says.
Someday, Albrecht would like to sell soap out of a small store, full time. For now, she is focused on growing her store on the online marketplace Etsy and making YouTube videos to expand her online presence and market her products.
Albrecht graduated from the university in 2015 with a degree in English and a theater minor. She works part-time at Wilmington’s Delaware Theater Company.
A patron experience consultant, she does administrative work. She says her employers are supportive of her schedule, which allows her to work at craft fairs.
Whether she is reading about business or the FDA regulations on homemade soaps, Albrecht says the research skills she gained from her major have helped with business. Passion, she says, also makes the research easier.
During a class called “Written Communication in Business,” Albrecht started a Tumblr blog about her company, “ Sea Essentials,” for her final project. She says the class helped her consider her hobby from a business standpoint and to mix business and English.
Currently, Albrecht does not profit from Sea Essentials. To make her long-term goal a reality, she says she will need money and space, among other things. She feels she still has much to learn.
Finding an audience has been challenging, Albrecht says. Although she has her online store, the bulk of her audience comes from various craft fairs, which some Sea Essentials regulars attend for her products. Albrecht says the support is rewarding.
At one craft fair, a cupcake-shaped soap caught a passing toddler’s eye. The boy and his father came over to ask Albrecht about buying it. As his father and Albrecht talked, the child grabbed the soap and took a bite.
For her part, Albrecht is glad her product looks realistic.
Albrecht says the idea for cupcake-shaped soap came from the Internet. However, she says she always puts a different spin on others’ soap molds by using her own recipes and color schemes.
Albrecht has always deviated from online recipes, although beginner soap-makers are usually encouraged to follow them exactly.
To make soap, one mixes water, lye and oils. The lye dissolves and the final product, Albrecht says, is soap. Prior to the dissolution of the lye, one can also add color or fragrance to their mixture.
Albrecht says soap must cure for about a month to ensure that the lye has fully dispersed. Additionally, older soap is drier, and therefore better and longer lasting.
Bath bombs provide more instant gratification, Albrecht says. Although they are ready to use faster than soaps, she still finds that soap making allows greater creativity: a color scheme inspires a fragrance or vice-versa.
On Etsy and Facebook, there is a community of soap-makers, or “soapers.” On Facebook, they share recipes or photos of their final products, and Albrecht says the community has been a major influence and source of support for her. She can post time-lapse videos of her process and receive feedback or get quick answers to questions about a project.
She often uses handmade soaps by other soapers whose work she enjoys, rather than viewing them strictly as competition.
“It’s cool to see what other people can do and how their minds and creativity are different than mine,” Albrecht says.