How I Overcame Some Challenges In My Business And Started An After School Workshop

Published: February 12th, 2020
Angela Carillo
Founder, Alegna Soap
Alegna Soap
from New York, USA
started September 2009
market size
avg revenue (monthly)
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
210 days
growth channels
business model
best tools
Quickbooks, Instagram, Klaviyo
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
35 Pros & Cons
11 Tips
Discover what tools Angela recommends to grow your business!
web hosting
social media
Discover what books Angela recommends to grow your business!
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Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hi! I’m Angela Carillo and I started a company called Alegna Soap 11 years ago. I started out making soap and a few other bath and body products and selling online and at craft fairs on Long Island. After a few years, I started to offer private label custom soap, children's birthday parties and workshops, and adult soap making classes. I’ve spoken at Soap conferences in Las Vegas, Cleveland, and Chattanooga.

My best selling soap is Peppermint Scrub followed very closely by my favorite, Lavender Lemongrass.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?

The past six months have been challenging for me. In May, my husband had some health issues and spent 8 days in the neurological ICU. Being self-employed, I was able to cancel events and rearrange my schedule to spend time with him. He is doing remarkably well and is back at work. Because of this, my business declined this past year. But it was worth it to be able to be with him.

Listen to your customers more than you talk to them. Find out what their problems are so you can solve them.

Something I’ve recently started is an after school workshop I call Bath Bonanza. It’s a 6-8 week program and each week, the students do a different craft. While we do the craft, we talk about how it’s important to be beautiful on the inside, not the outside. I like the idea of encouraging children to be kind to others. We make lip balm, melt and pour soap, lotion, sugar scrub, perfume, room spray, bath fizzes, bath geodes, and lip scrubs. One of the things we do at the end of each class is sit in a circle and everyone shares something they’re grateful for. I believe it’s a good habit for all of us to get into at the end of each day.

I’ve also started writing a book for my fellow craftsmen on how to organize and run the Bath Bonanza program. I believe if we can teach children to get along and respect one another, the world will be a better place. We need more kindness, don’t you think?

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

The biggest lesson I learned this year is to be yourself with your customers. When my husband was in the hospital, I put it out on social media and the love and support I got back helped me deal with all I was going through. I had customers offering to fill in at events for me and emailing and asking what they could do to help. I read him their comments and cards. I’m not saying you need to share everything, just be real and don’t be afraid to show your vulnerabilities. Show your weaknesses and strengths. Show that you are a person, just like everyone else.

My biggest challenge over the past few years has been finding the time to do everything that needs to be done. Especially the stuff I don’t like to do. The soap making is easy, I love it and always seem to have the time. But the other stuff? The marketing, social media, blogging, bookkeeping, it gets overwhelming. I try to keep a schedule and get the hard things done first. Some days I’m better at it than others. Let’s just say there’s room for growth.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

I love working with other makers, even those others might view as competition. The way I see it, the more we can get the word out that handcrafted is better, the better business is for all of us. I’ve been collaborating with my friend Roberta at Scrubz in Farmingdale. We’ve put Alegna Soap® in her sugar scrub for a product in her line called Scrubblez. We also host “Soapy and Scrubby Camp” to children in her store during school vacations and the summer and we want to open it up to adults. Why should the kids have all the fun?

I’m planning more soap making classes this year. I think it’s a skill that anyone can learn. You just need to be careful when working with lye. Goggles, gloves and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. Yes, you get dirty making soap! The oils can splash, and so can the lye. Soap making is creative and fun.

My plan this year includes getting more private label accounts. I enjoy the soap-making more than the soap-selling. Right now I have 8 accounts that order regularly, and 10 that order occasionally. I work with craft beer makers (beer soap), independent coffee shop owners (coffee soap) and wineries (wine soap). Two of the companies I make soap for sell their products in Anthropologie.

Have you read any good books in the last year?

I love Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo, and Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis. Both books are like boosters for my soul. I have the information, but I need to keep hearing it over and over again. Running your own business is like riding a roller coaster, up and down with a lot of twists and turns. You don’t know what’s going to happen next and you can start to doubt yourself. When that happens I re-read a few chapters and I’m back on track.

Mel Robbins The 5 Second Rule is another book I read last year and loved. If I waited to “feel” like doing something, it’d never get done. Especially, the hard things. (I know I need to blog but I’d rather watch Blue Blood reruns. I really should make that phone call, but I’ll have a cup of tea first.) So many times during the day I will say “5 4 3 2 1” and just get up and do it. Saying those numbers drowns out the excuses in my head. Read the book and you’ll understand.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

Don’t be afraid to trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. I’ve always followed my gut. It’s been right 99% of the time and that’s good enough for me.

Say thank you to your customers. Every time you see them. Even better, write them a handwritten thank-you note. You’d be surprised how much business I’ve gotten from one of those.

Listen to your customers more than you talk to them. Find out what their problems are so you can solve them.

Have a positive attitude. I know we all like to complain but never do it in public. One of my first events was a church fair where I sold two bars of soap. Literally. The fair had plenty of people attending, it just wasn’t the place my customer would be shopping. I kept a smile on my face (yes, it was hard and I felt defeated). A few months later, I got an email from one of the women who purchased a bar of soap. She was placed in charge of getting the favor for an event and wanted to know my price for 300 bars. Even better, eleven years later, she is still a customer of mine. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have thought of me if I had been complaining or desperate. The day of the fair I was bummed, but I didn’t let it show.


Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

No, right now I’m still a one-woman show, if you don’t count the help I get from my family.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Want to start a soap business? Learn more ➜