Saturday, October 23, 2021

A Long Time Coming - Journey to Lathering Shampoo

I started Fancy Free Hair & Skin with one product, whipped shea butter that could be used on both hair and skin, because I couldn't find products heavy enough to keep my thick, kinky hair moisturized. It was a common problem with newly naturals back then. Dry hair. Brittle hair. After a few years, I realized that it started with "wash day". So many of us were using products that dried out hair out and then we were trying to put the moisture back in. That seemed kind of dumb, so I formulated the Clay Wash for Hair & Skin. I specifically created that product for thick, kinky hair that dries out as wash day approaches. The Clay Wash works wonders for people like me who don't use a lot of styling products in their hair but I quickly realized that we all needed a little lather from time to time. 

The same goes for conditioners. There are a lot of reasons to need a little extra moisture, vitamins and protein on your hair. To help detangle after taking your hair down from a protective style. To prevent breakage from damaged hair as you await your appointment for a good trim. To prepare your hair for a protective style. I had always really liked the Sacha Inci oil from when I used a sacha inci oil Shea Moisture product back in 2016 when I colored my hair. Putting together a deep conditioner formula really wasn't as challenging as it was to formulate the shampoo. But back to lathering shampoo...

Shampoo Bar
Our scalps need to be cleansed of all the gunk so that the hair follicle can move freely. We need to remove product build up from our hair strands because too much product can cause breakage. But a good lathering shampoo is easier said than done. There is sooooo much to consider. Sooooooo much to figure out. Then once I figured it out, I had to execute the considerations. And there's the conflict.  

I started with a shampoo bar but it smelled bad and dried my hair out. Then I tried to make liquid soap out of oils (saponification) and that was a disaster. Turns out that the saponification process requires lye, a basic pH, but hair and skin likes an acidic pH. However, if you add an acid to the saponified oils, you will lose the lather. No easy feat. LOL! So, I took a few breaks. I even considered cheating by ordering shampoo from another private label manufacturer but the ones I tried just didn't live up to my standards.

Then, in January 2020, I got a product development client who wanted a beard shampoo and he was very specific with the ingredients he wanted in it. While the standards for beard shampoo is usually a little different than that of a naturalista approaching wash day, I had renewed hope that I could create an amazing lathering shampoo. So, I picked it back up and tried again. Because that's the first lesson I learned from Aaliyah. LOL!

After about 20 tries I was ready to send it out to my Fancy Friends for feedback. Mainly to decide on the scent because I knew that the product was bomb. Surprisingly, selecting the fragrance of a new product is always difficult for me. Probably more difficult than developing the actual product. I'm just not really into fragrances. I like what I like but I know that this is not about me so I have to consider what's popular. Sometimes I will choose a  fragrance and it smells amazing in the bottle but doesn't do well with the formula. Like, the smell of all the ingredients react with the fragrance or essential oil and the product ends up stinking.

I love that my Fancy Friends keep it 100% with me. The feedback was very helpful because I didn't know that the shampoo was super thick. Too thick to easily pour from the bottle. Mainly because I package it while it's warm and it pours just fine then. I also didn't realize that the conditioner was leaving a waxy residue on the hair. Back to the lab with about 5 more variations and then, BOOM, she got it. Had a few manufacturing practice runs because shampoo has 3 phases and I've never had to have 3 pots going at once to make a product. By July 2021, I was ready. Labels were in. Packaging had been decided. I snuck and put it on the website but decided I needed a huge launch campaign. Photoshoot with models. The whole shabang. Even decided on a date that would coincide with a new look on my website. 
Shampoo and Conditioner
Photoshoot went amazingly well. Products were all ready to go but then.....the website. *le sigh* Let's just say that I will write another blog, do a YouTube video, IG Live & Reel, Facebook posts and tweets about that little experience. Any. Way. When we realized that the website was not going to ready anywhere near our projected launch date, we decided to give the people what they wanted. And the people wanted the Lavish Lathering Shampoo and Deep Conditioner. There are several morals to this story....   
  • Don't give up on finding a solution even if the process is way more challenging than you anticipated.
  • Take a break but don't quit.
  • Impossible could take a week, like Jay-Z said, or 3 years.
  • Always have your business contracts reviewed by an attorney and have the suggested updates made prior to signing.

Thank you for believing in me when I didn't think I could do it. It's only up from here, baby!

Shameless Plug Alert:
Fancy Free Hair & Skin manufactures quality products for hair and skin, as well as provides natural hair consults for women who would like assistance on their natural hair journey. Our motto is "Keeping you fancy and free of chemicals." Visit our website,, to see a full range of our products and services. Sign up for our mailing list to receive natural hair tips and stay up to date on sales and the latest happenings with Fancy Free.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

How Bath Bombs Changed My Life

Ok. So, that might be a little dramatic but maybe not. 

Let me paint the picture. I've been a solopreneur since March 2020. I'm used to operating with a staff of at least 2 part-time employees. Sometimes 3. Since March 2020, my volume has increased by 60% and is showing no signs of slowing down. I am stressed. Yes, I am ready to hire but I want to get the Fancy Factory expansion completed first. It's in the works with lots of delays due to COVID and increased demand on contractors. What's happening in the meantime? 

Current operations are in complete disarray. Well, organized chaos. There's stuff everywhere. I know where stuff is, for the most part, but I'm constantly moving things around and reorganizing to make space for incoming inventory, supplies and large manufacturing runs. But sometimes, when I'm really moving fast, it's a shit show. I don't know where a dayum thing is and I can walk in circles for 5-10 minutes at a time looking for something that's right in my face. I distinctly remember my previous employees constantly asking me where things were and that was before this increased demands, so I just don't feel like hiring someone right now would be the most productive move.

If you read my previous blog, you know that Black Friday Cyber Monday 2020 almost took me out. I don't think I fully recovered until like February 2021. Well. almost recovered. At the end of February 2021, I took on the mother load of all private label manufacturing contracts. A hemp farm. Based on our agreement, I would development CBD infused products for them to sell wholesale to start ups looking to get into the CBD industry. Some of product development was just me tweeking existing formulas. Others were custom formulas specifically designed for the company. I saved what I thought was going to be the easiest formula for last....bath bombs.

Now, I've never gotten into bath bombs because I'm a shower person. Quick and efficient. Even when I do soak in the tub, I still shower before or afterward. I've seen a lot of my apothecary colleagues host "Bath Bomb" making workshops. Everyone I've heard talking about bath bombs says "Bath bombs are easy." After spending 8 weeks formulating and scaling to manufacture bath bombs in bulk, I will say that bath bombs are the equivalent to that "Easy A" class you registered for in college and earned a B. Let me explain.....

The formula to bath bombs is simple. The procedure to manufacture is straight forward. No heat. No emulsifying. No immersion blenders. Just the powders and the liquids. But then there is the art of mixing and molding and drying. Very simple. But not easy. Not easy at all. It really is an art that takes time to perfect. 

I bought a pneumatic bath bomb press in preparation for high volume bath bomb orders. To put things into perspective, the hemp farm has only done a soft launch private label manufacturing and I've already processed over 400 bath bombs. After spending 3 weeks trying to figure out what I was doing wrong with this bath bomb press, I realized that there was something wrong with the design. I wasn't doing anything wrong. But I had a pending order with a deadline quickly approaching. I did what I had to do. I hand pressed 100 bath bombs while dealing with second COVID vaccine symptoms. No small feat.

Whole time, I'm still running Fancy Free Hair and Skin as a solopreneur. My Fancy Friends are ordering, other private label manufacturing clients need their stuff and product development requests from other clients are rolling in. STRESSED!! Not complaining. I'm just saying. Also, I haven't figured out this bath bomb press but I know for SURE that I was not going to be hand pressing another 300 bath bombs. Stress starts to take it's toll on me, physically.

I'm noticing that even though I'm running 15-20 miles/week, lifting weights, eating right, drinking water and minding my business, the scale stuck and sometimes my weight is increasing. I'm even gaining a little girth on my waist again. How Sway? My feet are starting to smell bad at the end of the day. I'm constipated. My period is 3 days late for 4 months in a row. Although, I am not a total nutcase, my body is telling me that I need to slow down. Then, like a sign from Jehovah Himself, my sister friend posted a passage from a book she was reading called Sabbath by Wayne Muller, and a light bulb went off. The passage essentially said that by being busy, pushing my limits, not getting enough sleep, I was choosing violence because there is no way I could be at peace living this way. Profound. I took a step back and did some self assessments. Not just my work life but also my personal life.

First, my daily "self-care" routine. I had to ask myself if this is really self-care. #MorningsAreForMoms is what I call it. Waking up at 5a, no matter what I time I went to bed, so that I could meditate and exercise. Only to have to rush to make morning snack, lunch, aftercare snack and prepare breakfast for my children and rush out the door to try to make it to the carpool line before 8:45a. Chaos. Violence. And for what? To say I run 5 out of 7 days per week? Then I had 2 separate fitness coaches explain that sometimes rest and sleeping will help more with my fitness goals than actual exercise. And since I had only been getting, on average, 4-5 hours of sleep for the past 3 months, the physical stress of exercise was counterproductive.

Then business, I have a thing where I will work and work until I get tired. I stop working when I start making mistakes. Why? I don't know why I do this. There's always more to do. There is no finish line. I had to tell myself to make sure focused work time is focused work time. No need to stay up all night to get something done, then be tired and unproductive the next day. That's where the bath bombs come in. Let's get back to that.

I had a great formula and I was ready to scale. I thought I was going to be using my big industrial 20 qt. mixer to mix everything in, pop it in the bath bomb press and BOOM! bath bombs galore. But that's not how it worked:

  • I couldn't use the mixer
    • Mixing powders without liquid is an asthma attack waiting to happen with all the dust that kicks up.
    • The mixer whips do not break up the fine clumps you find in baking soda and you do not want clumps in your bath bomb mix.
  • The bath bomb press took lots of practice to get it right.
  • The mix has to stay damp enough to hold form but dry enough not to activate the fizzing.
  • Bath bombs really are an artform.
After an entire batch of about 75 bath bombs dried very crumbly and unstable, not suitable for sale, I realized that I would have to make the mix in smaller batches.  
Got it. Small batches mixed by hand. No. Really, by hand. You gotta put them hands in there and mix it
up good. Think of making crab cakes. There's no utensil that will be able to pull the residual crab shells from the crab meat. Only your hands. That's what making bath bombs is like. Lots and lots of hand mixing. Gotta break up all those baking soda clumps. And mixing, you gotta mix it like when your auntie makes potato salad for the family reunion. Ain't no spoon gonna mix that up good enough. Can't keep re-wetting the mix when you're ready to press them out or they will end up cracked or not firm enough.

Moral to the story: Mixing bath bombs cannot be rushed. It has to be done by hand if you want them to turn out right. 

And if you know anything about the Fancy Factory, they've gotta be right or they will not be released.

How did this change my life? With the theme of "Sabbath" and being intentional about rest fresh in my mind, I chose to listen to the audiobook "The Unhurried Life" by Alan Fadling while hand mixing and perfecting my bath bomb pressing skills. It's a spiritual book. And if I've learned nothing else in these 4 years of full-time entrepreneurship, it's that entrepreneurship is a spiritual journey. While the "Sabbath" talks about a period of rest, "The Unhurried Life" discusses work pace. The book reinforces God's timing and how being hurried and rushed often leads us to making costly mistakes that could have been prevented had we just taken our time. *looks at bin of 75 blooper CBD-infused bath bombs shaking my head*

Everything always works out as it should. The beauty is in the journey, not the destination. Bath bombs FORCED me to slow down. In order to get a quality end product, I had to use a slow, manual process. Unhurried. 

I've applied this to my life by taking a break from my weekday morning workouts if I'm not in bed by 10p. Sleep is more important than miles. If I'm not outside by 6a, I already know the whole morning is going to be rushed and violent. So, I'll skip it. Five days in to this slowing down and I'm down 2 pounds. SMH. I'll keep this up indefinitely and adjust my wake up time according to my bedtime, instead of being so set in my rigid routine. Violence.

As far as Fancy Free Hair & Skin is concerned, sometimes order processing times are longer than some of my Fancy Friends are accustomed to. And that's ok. I will say that even when orders take longer than usual to process, I'm still at a 3-5 day window. Which isn't bad considering what I'm up against. 

I will say that I am enjoying this journey. Having "ah ha" moments about myself, science, business, my family, all of it. I'm constantly having revelations. It's a beautiful thing. I am so thankful for this life. I am full. I give thanks because this is the life that I prayed for. 

Shameless Plug Alert:
Fancy Free Hair & Skin manufactures quality products for hair and skin, as well as provides natural hair consults for women who would like assistance on their natural hair journey. Our motto is "Keeping you fancy and free of chemicals." Visit our website,, to see a full range of our products and services. Sign up for our mailing list to receive natural hair tips and stay up to date on sales and the latest happenings with Fancy Free.