Historical excavations show that soap making dates back to Babylon circa 2,800 B.C., according to the American Cleaning Institute. Today, soap-making enthusiasts use traditional methods -- rather than commercial, machine-based ones -- to create natural soaps made with ingredients that may include essential oils, seeds, herbs, flowers and even oatmeal. Handmade soaps are generally made in small batches that require curing for 2 to 6 weeks. Farmers’ markets are an effective venue to sell handmade soaps when you do not have the finances or product volume for a retail store presence.
Package your handmade soap. Wrap the soap in packaging, such as art paper or recycled paper, that attracts interest. You may also wrap handmade soaps in clear plastic wrap to retain moisture, if necessary. Tie the packages with twine or ribbons. You can also sell your handmade soaps unpackaged and cut into shapes.
Print marketing materials that tell customers about your soap. Design and write detailed brochures about your soap-making process or make postcards that feature attractive photos of your handmade soap products. Print brochures on a color printer or have them printed at a local print shop for a more professional look.
Purchase product liability insurance. Although you do not have to adhere to a long list of federal regulations to sell handmade soap at farmers’ markets, you must have product liability insurance to lease vendor space there. Product liability insurance policies protect you and the farmers’ market if anything happens to a customer as a result of using your product. The website Original Soap Dish says that such insurance policies generally cost around $400 a year, as of 2011.
Apply to rent a vendor table or booth at your local farmers’ market. Farmers’ markets generally review applications prior to the beginning of the season, which is the summer months in most states. The application process at some markets can be competitive, depending on their popularity in your area. In such cases, some farmers’ markets could require you to submit sample products and brochures as part of the application process. Because farmers’ markets are generally sponsored by local governments, you usually can find applications on the websites of the sponsoring local government agency. Applications fees vary.
Set up your market table or booth. Farmers’ market tables that are laid out well generally draw more customers. Display your product brochures prominently on the table. Arrange handmade soaps by color, scent or ingredients. Generate further interest by cutting a bar of your best handmade soap into small squares to offer as free samples.
Adhere to your farmers’ market’s attendance policy to remain in good standing. Market masters, those responsible for running farmers’ markets, require vendors to attend all sessions, so as to avoid empty tables. Set up your handmade soap booth or table even when business is slow. Some farmers’ markets allow you to purchase vendor space on select days, which keeps you from having to attend every session of the season.
Maya Black has been covering business, food, travel, cultural topics and decorating since 1992. She has bachelor's degree in art and a master's degree in cultural studies from University of Texas, a culinary arts certificate and a real estate license. Her articles appear in magazines such as Virginia Living and Albemarle.