Soap. Handmade soap. Made in small batches and full of nourishing ingredients. I love making it and I love the words that describe it. I make my soaps with local olive oil and local goats milk. They are delicate and creamy, full of lovely ingredients like shea butter and avocado oil, honey, cocoa butter and coconut milk, and they are a dream to use. With a bath scrunchie they foam up into a mass of creamy bubbles and when you step out of the shower you feel comfortable and clean. You don’t get that tight, itchy feeling that can occur after using shower gel.
The house is constantly perfumed with freshly cut soap. Eddies of orange, mint, rosemary and vanilla waft around the living room where kilos of new soaps are layed out to cure on every available surface. But as quick as I make them, they seem to vanish. One guy with dry skin problems now buys a kilo at a time and shares them with his two flatmates. I’ve started making him his own personalised bars, so that there is soap left for everybody else!
Inventing new recipes, adding different additives, coming up with new designs and fragrances keeps me busy day and night. I even dream about making soap! Deciding to sell my soaps was an easy decision but the process of getting everything legal has been really hard. The main problem being the Italian laws.
It seems that in the US there aren't any laws. YOu just make soap and sell it. (I might be wrong there, let me know if there is more to it that this.)In the UK you can make your soap at home and sell it, once it has been safety assessed and certified safe to sell by a qualified chemist. There are rules about keeping information files on each product you make, rules about labelling, rules about what may go into a product, and the paperwork can seem overwhelming at times, but it is all do-able.
Italy, of course, has a whole different set of rules that are so complicated, money consuming and downright frustrating that very few people have actually succeeded in setting up a soap business.
I have 'borrowed' and translated the Italian procedure of starting a soap business, as experienced by the owners of La Saponaria.
Start by opening a partita iva (like VAT), registering as a laboratory of production of cosmetics. Then it is necessary to enlist yourself with the register of commerce (which will cost from €70 - €150) for which it is necessary to have various authorisations including:
the local council,
local sanitary controllers etc etc…
Each of these authorisations will take at least a month and will involve lots of paperwork and added questions and problems, because nobody really knows what to do or how to go about it.
To pass these controls it is obligatory to have a room or premises for the commerce or craft that is completely washable, walls completely tiled, a bathroom with shower, adequate ventilation, washable floors, steel tables, cupboards, shelves, steel sinks, and whatever else the sanitary inspectors think of in the moment. It must be obviously destined to be used as a laboratory and will be seperately inspected by variouls inspectors from the above list
Once you have this authorisation you have to proceed with the ministerial certification and the pharmacutical certification which consists of producing a series of worrying documents which will end up in the archives of the ministry for a few hundred years, and which you are obligated to keep for 10 years after the production of every soap or cream.
You will need to hire a commercialista (a business consultant) to do the paperwork for you. This will cost you at the very least €300.
You will have to pay the social security service INPS €2300 per year, which is when you realise that this won’t be just a hobby, and another €1000 to INAIL the state company that provides sickness benefit in the event of accidents at work.
You are advised to only go ahead with this if you have:
1. Created a business plan
and 2. Have at least 4 or 5000 euro in case it doesn't work out, in order to pay the business consultant, taxes, INPS etc which are obligatory.
It seemed impossible. There was no way that I would ever even find a laboratory in or around this small but expensive town that I live in. I was crushed, but not to be defeated I have slowly put together a different plan.