Interview with Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soap works

Today we are talking to Amy Warden, CEO and founder of Great Cakes Soap works.

photo of amy

Hi Amy ! Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to share your expertise with us. My first question is: 

Sir Soapy: What are some obstacles you faced as a beginner? 

Amy Warden : When I started making soap, it was 2002 and there was no Facebook, no YouTube, only Yahoo groups.  Digital photography was pretty poor quality, so there weren’t many resources to show what soaps could look like, or what the process looked like.  My first soaps were pretty ugly!!  I am shocked to this day that anyone bought them.

Sir Soapy: Do you remember any disasters when you first started? How did you handle this - did you ever feel like giving up?

Amy Warden : My very first soap was a disaster!  I used the full water amount and stirred it by hand.  I had no idea what trace looked like, so after hours of stirring by hand I figured it had to be done and poured it into the mold.  

When I turned it out the next day, it crumbled like wet sand!  I had to go to Kathy Miller’s site and read the troubleshooting section to figure out what to do next.

Fortunately, I was able to throw it back in my stainless soap pot, put it in the oven for a few hours, stirring a few times as it heated back up and squish it back into the mold.  It turned out perfectly and I was hooked ever since!  

The only time I have ever felt like giving up is when I get burned out.  After a break, I’m always ready to make more soap!

Sir Soapy: Do you have a favorite memorable moment in your soap making journey? 

Amy Warden : One of my favorite memories is the first time I made soap with Kenna of Modern Soap making. I had never made soap with another soap maker before, and we had a blast!!  

She was laughing at my quirks the entire time.  Honestly, she taught me to be a much more relaxed soap maker.

Sir Soapy: What inspired you to create soap when you started? Has your inspiration changed over time?

Amy Warden : I was looking for something to make for my friends for Christmas.  That’s how I got inspired to make my first batch of soap.  Now it’s because I love the chemistry and artistry of creating something that is both functional and beautiful!

Sir Soapy: Can you tell us a bit more about your Soap Challenge Club? 

photo of amy warden

Amy Warden : I started out doing weekly soap challenges on my blog in March 2013 to engage with other soap makers.  It was so much fun, I decided to start a monthly Soap Challenge Club in June 2013.  I asked several soap suppliers if they would be willing to sponsor the Club with prizes, and my husband helped me set up the technology end of things.  

There’s a small registration fee to join each month, which gives you access to the instructional videos, written instructions and guidelines for entering your soap to qualify for the prizes.

You can also interact with the other members from around the world and receive feedback for your work, and vote for the winners in the voted category.  It’s a great experience, and I’ve seen so many members improve their skills over the months and years!

Sir Soapy: Do you have any tips for beginners?

Amy Warden : Don’t get overwhelmed by all the fancy looking soaps you see on Facebook or YouTube. Start with something basic so you can get a feel for the process, and then go from there. Always document your batches and learn from your mistakes.  

I learn something new with nearly every batch as I observe how a fragrance behaves or a color changes, or the thickness of my batter influences the design.  Then if I want the soap to turn out differently next time, I figure out how I can make that happen. 

Sir Soapy: What are your hobbies other than soap making?

Amy Warden : I have dabbled in a lot of things over the years, but soapmaking is still my favorite!!  I taught myself to knit and crochet many years ago.  I’ve done a little bit of quilting, and thanks to my mother I know my way around a sewing machine.  

I love home decorating, growing zinnias in the summer, playing volleyball, reading a good book, and volunteering at my church.

Sir Soapy: Do you have favorite ingredients you like to use - a particular scent or oil? 

Amy Warden : I can’t say I’m partial to just one, but I love the creamy lather of a soap made with fresh goat milk.  I also love the feel of babassu oil and shea butter in soap, even though I don’t use babassu all that often.As for scents, I’ve learned to appreciate patchouli essential oil – especially in blends.  

I use it in four of my regular soaps.  I remember when someone at the farmer’s market requested it when I was just getting started.  The first time I smelled it, I wondered how anyone could like it!  It has definitely grown on me.

Sir Soapy:  What are your favorite aspects of your business? 

Amy Warden : Teaching is my favorite part right now.  I love being able to help other soap makers become better at what they do, and receiving feedback that the Challenge Club has made a difference in their lives is very rewarding!  Of course, I’m also still enthralled by new design techniques and being able to express myself creatively through the medium of handmade soap.

Sir Soapy:  What are your future plans for your business ventures? How about for you personally?

Amy Warden : I have a few things that I’m working on right now business-wise that I’m not quite ready to announce.  Personally, I am preparing myself for both of my girls to be in high school this fall, which is both exciting and sad as I realize how short the time is that I have left with them.  

Not only are they loving and caring daughters, they are really smart too and I’m very proud of them!  

My husband and I have a few home improvement projects we’re working on this year, which is always fun.  He’s refinishing a dining room table right now, hoping to get it done before my parents come to visit next weekend.  

After that, we’re planning to create a work/storage space in the breakfast room for my soap making supplies to replace the huge rack that is somewhat of an eyesore.  I’ll be sure to share before and after photos!

Thank you, Amy Warden, for sharing your most valuable time with us. Your answers are very helpful for beginners, and we can all learn a lot from you.

›Interview With Amy Warden

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