It was a thoughtful Christmas gift from her partner — and then friends and family spurring her on — that led Kylie Callander to follow her passion for soap making and establish Tin Shed Soap Co. Today, like many business owners, Kylie is building her burgeoning business around her full time job and home responsibilities.
So, Kylie, tell us about your business…
Tin Shed Soap Co. was established in 2014. We create handmade soap, bath and body products using milks, essential oils, botanicals, clays, butters and raw oils. Our natural skin products are palm oil free and light on packaging. We believe in transparency and put the ingredient list right on the front of the label.
Our name comes from the environment in which we live and work – a rural property with tin sheds, farm machinery, agricultural paddocks and working the land.
Tin Shed Soap Co. is my passion, which I continue to grow alongside a full time job as a senior manager and home farm responsibilities. Yes, I keep pretty busy!
Who are your clients?
My customers are wellbeing conscious and seek natural or organic products as part of a healthy lifestyle. They may also have skin problems like dryness, eczema or medical conditions which require special attention.
What prompted you to start your own business?
Originally, my own sensitive skin led me to soap making but once I started researching soap and skin care, I realised just how much I didn’t know about what we put on our skin. I began experimenting with different recipes and ingredients — keeping to organic, raw and natural. I shared my products with family and friends who also experienced skin problems and they were amazed by the results.
I knew that my soap was good but a soap making business also involved several of my other interests: aromatherapy, photography, social media marketing, wellness and complementary therapies – these were the reasons for starting Tin Shed Soap Co.
Did you identify a gap in the market?
There is a lack of local Australian makers of specialty soap who can provide an alternative to commercial and overseas brands. Customers wanted handmade local natural soap and skin products they could trust which were authentic and reduced their overall chemical load.
What’s special about your business?
Each product is handmade and the ingredients are upfront on the label — in plain English. We source our supplies from other local small businesses and support community events.
What’s your ‘Point of Difference’?
Our soaps, bath and body products are all handmade in small batches. Each bar of soap is unique, from being hand cut to the color and pattern in each. They are individually attractive but also good for your skin. Feedback from my customers also suggests they are attracted to our branding, which aims to convey an old fashioned back to basics approach.
Who are your competitors?
Our main competitors are large retail brands such as Lush and The Body Shop. There are many soap makers in Australia, however I don’t see them as my competitors, more as my peers. There is enough room in our market for quality soap makers.
What was your first major achievement in the business?
Getting my first large event order (and then wondering how I was going to make so many soaps on my own!)
What has been your biggest challenge?
Being able to devote the time needed to make, sell, administer and promote my business around a full time job
What obstacles have you overcome?
Learning about social media promotion, website analytics and content creation. It was (and still is) a steep learning curve and a whole new field of expertise to master!
What is your marketing strategy?
Being predominately an online business, our marketing strategy is to promote the wellness and ‘back to basics’ aspects of our products via social and online media (features, blogs etc). We provide our customers with personal touches, such as a handwritten note or sample, which has brought about significant word of mouth business.
‘I love my business because…’… it is a wonderful mix of chemistry, wellness and creativity.
Who is/was your business inspiration?
The inspiration for the soap business and branding has come from history – old English apothecary stores, country lifestyle, natural remedies and homemade/handcrafted traditions.
People who have inspired me to start a business include my partner, Lisa Messenger, Naomi Simson and several women leaders I have met in the world of business and government over the past 15 years.
What is one thing you could be doing better in your business?
Bookwork and record keeping. It always seems to be one of those tasks you think you can get to later and before you know it, ‘later’ was last month!
What’s your opportunity?
I have many opportunities and for that I am grateful. My biggest decision is choosing which opportunity to progress… wholesale/reselling, expanding product lines, exporting to China, teaching soap making to others, the list is almost endless!
Do you have a mentor? (Or did you have a mentor during your business-building phase?)
I don’t have a business building mentor but I would love to be in contact with one!
What business book would you recommend that others read? Why? What advice resonated with you?
Money and Mindfulness by Lisa Messenger. I have to overcome my gracious nature and run my business like a business. How else can the business grow and thrive!
What’s your best business tip that you can share with our readers?
Some days, it will just be about problem solving — be flexible enough in your approach and take it in your stride.
‘I love my business because…’
… it is a wonderful mix of chemistry, wellness and creativity.
Are you among the first in your family and friendship group to run your own business?
If so, were you supported or discouraged?
I am definitely supported by my partner, family and friends. In fact, they were the ones encouraging me to sell my products after using my soap themselves.
My partner has his own business and is responsible for starting my soap obsession in the first place. He gave me a soap making kit for Christmas one year and I haven’t stopped making it since! He also helped me summon the courage to hold my first market stall and even made my soap stall displays.
Is this your first business? If not, what other businesses have you owned/do you own?
I was the co-owner of a landscape business in the mid 2000s. This taught me a lot about the administrative side of small business and the time commitment required.
What do you do to relax?
Take a bath with Tin Shed Soap Co. bath salts (of course!)
At A Glance
Business name: Tin Shed Soap Co.
Business structure: Individual
Location: Pearcedale, VIC
Your position: Owner
Year business established: 2014
Number of employees: 1 (and some willing volunteers!)
Industry: Health & Beauty
Do you export? No
Full name: Kylie Callander
Lives: Pearcedale, VIC
Do you work from home, the office, or a combination of both? Home, which is currently overrun with soap supplies and curing racks!
Typical work week: Around 25 hours per week on my soap business – on top of a full time job.
Typical work schedule: An hour or three each weeknight and most Saturdays and Sundays.
- National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS)
- Member Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI)
Career timeline before starting your own business:
2010-current – Business/Corporate Services Manager at Victorian Government
2008-10 – Program Manager, Customer Service Transformation at VicRoads
2007-08 – Manager Service Delivery, Registration & Licensing at VicRoads
2000-07 – Business Manager Operations & Incident Management roles at the Country Fire Authority (CFA)
1997-2000 – Office Manager for a lamb export company
1990-1997 – Various finance, administration and sales roles for small businesses – a cabinet maker, a catering supply company, electronics and computer retailer, and a solicitor.
Visit Tin Shed Soap Co.
First published March 2016.