How a Newark entrepreneur made soapmaking the new 'paint night' - Technical.ly Delaware

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Jan. 17, 2018 11:10 am

How a Newark entrepreneur made soapmaking the new ‘paint night’

Rocker Soaps offers an activity-based social event, and it's become a hit.

Forget painting parties. Hands-on soapmaking classes are in high demand.

(Photo courtesy of Rocker Soaps)

It all started with candles.

Self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur Rachel Binkley ordered candlemaking supplies a few years ago, looking for a creative outlet. As it turned out, she’s not a fan of candlemaking, but it led her to the craft she loves: soapmaking.

“I knew pretty much right away I was going to make a business out of it,” said Binkley, a full-time stay-at-home mom looking for work/life balance at the time. Once she honed her skills and decided on an all-natural, herbal-based product line, Rocker Soaps was born.

The product was a perfect fit with the Delaware Local Food Exchange (now HoneyBee Seasonal Kitchen & Market, located where Opa-Opa was before they moved a few doors down) in Trolley Square. It was there at the Food Exchange where she held her first soapmaking class not long after starting the business.

Getting the business off the ground wasn’t easy. “Soap is a saturated market,” Binkley said. “I started out selling on Etsy. I sold one bar.”

Determined, she started to barter to build the brand. The Rocker Soap logo came out of a barter with John Fusco of WhizBang Concepts. And instead of trying to compete in the crowded online marketplace, she decided to focus on selling locally, where it’s possible to coexist with competitors. She started using locally-sourced ingredients like Delaware beeswax and created local-niche soaps like Bellefonte Brewing Blonde and a Lemon Grass Ginger soap made with Liquid Alchemy’s mead. In addition to distributing in local shops like HoneyBee, Zahara International Food Market and Elements of Nutrition, she also sells at farmers markets and tabletop marketplaces, including, recently, the INtheSpririt Holiday Party at The Mill.

And she continued to hold classes occasionally, where up to 20 people would learn how to make their own handmade soap and take home a pound of it at the end. It was a side thing, mostly.

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Then, a couple of months ago, during the height of pumpkin spice season, a class — for pumpkin beer soap — sold out for the first time. And then the next one sold out, and the next one. Binkley says she isn’t sure exactly what set it off, but she started marketing them on Facebook as a “fun night out,” an alternative to played-out painting or pottery nights, and suddenly her classes were red hot.

A Rocker soapmaking class. (Courtesy photo)

A Rocker soapmaking class. (Courtesy photo)

“It’s something consumable that you can really use,” she said, adding that people are becoming more conscientious about what they put on their body. Couple that with the continued popularity of social media–ready DIY and the small luxury of unwinding with fresh homemade soap, it’s struck a chord.

“We just keep adding classes,” she said.

The scheduled classes are held at different venues, including The 3rd Place Lounge in Wilmington, Argilla Brewing in Newark and Finding Avalon in Camden. For a full schedule of upcoming events, click here. You can also hire Binkley to do a class for your group or organization at the location of your choice. Click here for all the info.

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