• Caroline King

Updated: Apr 19, 2021

If you are reading this, I hope it is because you are already a customer of mine at Stepping Stones Emporium. If not, then perhaps after reading today`s blog it will help you undertsand a bit more about how, where and why I make all the products. Grab yourself a brew, get comfy and be prepared to find a little bit more about where it all started and where the magic happens.

Introductions: Hi, my name is Caroline I am a total beauty geek, music lover and flower fairy. Originally from Liverpool moved to Suffolk when I was a teen. I`m very partial to a chocolate bar (milk not dark) and love nothing more than a large mug of coffee accompanied by a good dunking biscuit. It`s still up for debate which is the best dunking biscuit mind you. I`m a Mumma to Connor, wife to Vince and a crazy cat Mumma to William aka Mr Wills, who is our family cat. In my spare time I like to craft whilst listening to my tunes creating little gifts and treasures for friends and family. I am a novice runner. Food and nutrition are important to me as I suffer with IBS. Due to this I became vegetarian many moons ago. I have always favoured the gift of giving a present, over recieving a gift. I love making and packaging my gifts with that special person in mind. It`s no different when I package any items for my business. To me, there is no greater gift than one that has come from the heart and has taken someones precious time to make. I guess that`s one of the reasons I love creating and designing products so much.

By trade: I left school and knew straight away what I wanted to do. I went to college and trained in hair and beauty full time for 3 years. I then went on to work in several salons and spas working my way up to manager level before opening my own high street salon which I had for five years. At that point my career took a bit of a turn and I began teaching nails for a well known nail company. I was lucky enough to work backstage on ITVs X Factor, that was the year One Direction were on. Yes, I was loved by all the teen fans! Yes, I got to meet the judges too. It was here, I got the teaching bug and decided that was the road I wanted to focus on moving forward. So I took myself off to evening college, studied hard after running the salon all day and qualified to become an assesor and teacher. This was when my business baby "Stepping Stones" was first born. I opened a training academy and began teaching all aspects of beauty therapy from massage, tanning, nails, waxing and lots more. I then gained a teaching role in a local high school and local charities and began teaching GCSE hair and beauty. Part of the curiculum was teaching GCSE Cosmetic Science and this is when I discovered how much I loved learning all about the chemistry elements and the ingredients. We had some fun sessions at school making lovely bath and body products and make up. The students really grasped the learning more so, when they got to see the products come to life. When the dark clouds came: During this busy period of teaching and working part-time still doing mobile beauty treatments. Still creating and building my brand. My Mum took very ill and went downhill very rapidly and resulted in her being admitted to hospital. The tough decision was made to put her in a home where she only lasted a couple of weeks. On March 3rd 2016 she gained her wings. This time, like it is for most, was a very dark difficult time for me. It sounds a real cliche but I really looked at my life and the importance of all the stressful situations, juggling work and life and just trying to find the balance. My Mum was a huge part of my daily life and that hole was really hard to fill. I just kept ploughing on the rat race of work, home and life trying to keep everything turning and everyone happy. Secretly I was drowning and wasnt looking after myself and wasn`t happy. My IBS was through the roof and I was just struggling to keep up. So something had to give! Leave the light on: One day I just had that light bulb moment were you just have a serious chat to yourself and realise YOU are the only person who can change things. So I did... I made the big step to leave my teaching job after my contract was up for renewal. The money I had saved from that I ploughed into landscaping my back garden and buying in a log cabin that was soon to become my workshop. I self funded lots of courses in cosmetic science and product making to get more of an understanding on where I wanted my business to go. I began making very small batches of products from my tiny little kitchen at home. I made lots and lots of mistakes. Wasted so many ingredients and ended up throwing so much away. I`d really get hung up on the fact I was wasting my money. What I soon came to realise was that for every failure came a lesson learned. It was indeed all a learning curve. You cant be perfect at everything, even if you have been doing it for a long time, mistakes are made. We are all only human and its what makes us all different and unique.

Nowadays I have learned to laugh at myself a lot when I make mistakes. Sometimes they are stupid, silly mistakes. Other times, its a new recipe or new product that I am using and its not quite performed how I planned. Yes, its still a waste of products and my time. But it happens... Womens Work Being a women in business comes with its brick walls. I had many many people laugh in my face when I told them I was going to launch my own brand. Being a Beauty Therapist by trade came with the sterotype of not being clever enough or having the right business attributes. Yes it`s hard runnning a business as a sole trader because you are having to make all the decisions. The planning, marketing, ordering, not to mention making the actual products then designing the packaging and sorting the labeling. But I do all that with a huge sense of pride that my Stepping Stones baby has grown up so fast in nearly 5 years look how far its come. So who in fact, who has the last laugh now? Over 80 products and four new product collections launched during a global pandemic. Now I never in my life thought I`d ever say those words!

Cabin Fever: These days you will find me in my log cabin sitauted at the rear of my garden amongst the trees and the birds singing. This is where all the magic happens. I like to think of myself as the modern day Snow White. I take a lot of my inspiration from nature and my surroundings. I try to keep my home life seperate from my work, sometimes that doesnt happen as easy as others. I have built a very loyal customer base whom I listen to and take on board their feedback. Knowing that they chose my products to gift to friends and family or to cheer someone up when they are feeling a bit down. Still, to this day, overwhelms me. I honestly, never ever take that for granted. So, from a very dark period in my life when if someone was to tell me this would be the making of me, I would have laughed in their face. I made and designed some of my best products when I was at a low point and needed to express my feeling in a creative way as an escape. On the otherhand, it can be very difficult being creative when the world is messed up and in need of healing with COVID and a global pandemic. Some days you just hit a creative mind block and I am learning to embrace that still today. Luckily, I have been able to continue making and creating beautiful products to give you all your very own small part of escapism during these difficult trying times. Whilst you still love and want to buy them, I will continue to make them and create new ideas. Final thoughts: The brand and the range of products has grown from bath bombs to shower therapy, body, hair and scalp, soap and home fragrance. That was never my plan to launch with bath bombs. I always had a focus on make up and skin care. Funny how life can change your course and lead you off on a different path you never thought you would walk off from. I have a plan in mind but if I`m honest, I am just grateful to be here writing this story to you, the reader, with a happy ending that hasnt ended and still thrives. I wont lie and say it`s been easy, it hasn`t. I have invested hours and hours of my time and money into it. Made many, many sacrifices. But, it`s mine. The moral to this story is: Don`t just follow your them hard! Keep believing, Keep driving. Just because its not the same as someone elses ideas. Doesn`t make it wrong, it makes it YOU. There is only one YOU. Dedication I would like to dedicate this blog post in loving memory of my Mum angel, Annette. She never got to see me fulfil this dream. But she was very much part of the beginning of my dream with my beauty career and my salon. This is for you Mum, keep shining on us, keeping dancing with the stars. I hope I am making you proud?

Thank you all for taking the time to read this blog post. Please leave me your comments if you can spare some time? I love to read them.

Love & Sparkles Caroline Founder, formulater & creator of all things beautiful.

116 views5 comments
  • Caroline King

Its the final countdown to Christmas 2020, the year the world was broken and needed healing. For artisan crafters Christmas would have been planned and prepared for much earlier in the year. For me personally, I have been planning, designing and formulating my Christmas range since June 2020. Yes, when the sun was shining, I was thinking Winter, Snowmen, Father Christmas and what would be popular and sell well around Christmas time.

Of course, none of us knew or dreamed, we would still be living in a pandemic. A lot of product design is about prediction and trying to work on designs you hope that your customers will love as much as you have creating them.

So how does a design of a new soap begin? When I create a new product or collection I try always to go bigger and better than anything I have created previously. By that, I mean I try to always push my boundaries. Learn new techniques that push and test me in my making skills. I also research into product ingredients and fragrances that would work well with the product and the collection I am designing. When I do this I have to be mindful that the ingredients all fit in line with my brand ethos of being vegan,cruelty free and eco-friendly. This has is always slightly difficult and more costly. But sadly more so, since we have been in a pandemic. Prices have risen on many ingredients. Or I have found lead times on getting product ingredients from suppliers, has proven tough.

Sketch and design

Once I have my ingredients sourced and an idea of the design in my head. Its then time to put that design on paper to visualise it all coming together. Often, this is a really great way having a reality check on the design you had in your mind. Once on paper, it can look very different. Remember, at the end of all this, I have to be able to make it. Just because its on paper doesnt mean its set in stone either. Things can still be shifted and changed. It just helps me personally, to see my idea clearer.

My ideas:

The next stage was the testing my own abilities using techniques I hadnt tried before. I wanted the snow globe to look like it has snowflakes falling inside. For that I decided I would grate up some white soap (again that I would have previously made) and add this during the making of the snow globe. I also had the idea that a nice festive tree would sit inside the globe, with the snowflakes falling around it. Then I would try a very new technique to me, which is piping a soap "high top". This would mimic fluffy snow sitting on my usual sized soap slice. Decorations would then be added to the top of the piped soap such as tiny stars and baubles and maybe stars made from soap. I decided I would add the festive tree to the globe after I had sliced it. I would stick the trees on afterwards. So I needed to make the baubles, trees and stars plus the base to the snow globe, and the actual snow globe, prior to even making the main soap base.

In conclusion You now can hopefully understand how preparation is the key. A soap can take many hours of planning and preparation to make all the decorations etc. Once it is time to make the full finished soap, you still have no idea whether your design on paper and in your mind, will infact come to life? So, prepare to have to adjust and plan your design again and go back to the drawing board many times over until you are happy with the final soap slice. The Final Design: It took me 3 attempts to get my snow globe how I wanted it plus the black base it sat on. A day to make all the soap decorations. Bare in mind also, that once the soap is made it takes 4-6 weeks to cure off ready to be able to retail. So you can understand why I started this design quest back in June! The finished soap: "Christmas Snow Globe"

Reflection on the design: I ended up amending the soap tree idea. Once I stuck the trees onto the soap I found it just took away all the design element I had put into the soap globe. So I did some more research and sourced a soap stamp in a snowflake design and used that and added a little bit of silver festive bio-degradable glitter over the top. The main colour of the soap was a challenge I didnt expect to have. The fragrance I used which was "Cherry on the Snow" seemed to turn my green pigment a grey colour in the first few tests. So it took a lot to gain this green tone in the end. The fragrance held really well after curing which I was pleased with. The piping went better than I expected. The soap itself is a really lovely rich creamy soap and smells divine. Why it didnt make 2020 final Christmas Collection? Many of you may not be aware that every product I design and wish to sell, must be sent off to be tested by a cosmetic chemist. This is not just for me. This is a legal requirement for anyone selling artisan products in the EU. This is a mission in itself to find a chemist you trust, you feel you can work with and that charges the best price. Trust me, it really isnt cheap. The cheapest, like most things isnt always the best. But then, you have the assurance that your product is truly safe to use on the skin and body and is legal to sell. To me, thats worth the fee that you get charged. I have to do this with every single product I currently make and sell. That 6-8 weeks wait is very nerve wrecking. So although this soap took a lot of my time and money to create. It didnt make my Festive Collection 2020. Sadly I just ran out of time to input all the information to send it off in time for the cosmetic chemist to test and return it to me in time for me to make it. Time was against me with the making and designing of all my other products for the festive launch. So I had to make the difficult decision to leave it for another year. As sad as it makes me. Id rather send all the information off correctly, than rush it and miss something off. Its designed and I have tested it myself throughly. So 2021 it is for this little soap. That my friends is why this is the soap that got away....(for now). Festive wishes to you all! Stay safe. Heres to a better 2021 for us all. Caroline Founder & Formulator Stepping Stones Emporium

61 views1 comment