Keeping Batch Records

You have a terrific new recipe to make and are all set to go.  Looks like the product is just what you want and the scent you’ve picked smells divine.  Paperwork and record-keeping is probably the last thing on your mind at the moment … but NOW is the time to get out your notebook or file!

The recipe that you are following, whether it is new or a tried-and-true favorite, is generally referred to as a Master Formula or Master Recipe.  In a perfect world, it should contain not only the amounts or percentages of the ingredients, but also the exact step-by-step directions on how to make the product. It is what should be done.

The records you keep when actually making a batch of product from a Master Formula are called your Batch Record.  It should contain the details of the batch, what ingredients were used, the amount of each, and how you made the product.  It is a record of what was actually done.

So, what sort of information should be included in your Batch Record?

1.  Batch Number
Every batch should be assigned a unique number.  You could use the date or a sequential numbering system – whatever works for you, just so long as it is a unique identifier for that batch.  Putting the batch number on the label of the finished product is a good idea so you can look at a finished, labeled bottle or jar and know which batch it came from.  Keep in mind that while putting the batch number on the finished product is required as part of good manufacturing practices, it is not required to comply with product labeling regulations.

2.  General Information
Somewhere (usually at the top) of the Batch Record, note down the general information about the batch.  That should include things like the name of the product, the batch size, how the product is packaged, date the batch is being made, etc.

3.  Ingredients
Since the ingredients used in your batch are a key component of the success of the product, keeping accurate information about the ingredients is very important.   Several different types of information about the ingredients used should be noted:

A. Ingredient Required.  Your Master Formula should have the name of the ingredients.  Each one should be recorded on the Batch Record. 
B. Amount Required.  If your Master Formula is in terms of percentages, you’ll need to calculate the amount of each ingredient and note that down (otherwise record the amount specified in the recipe).
C. Ingredient Actually Used.  This is the place to record what ingredient was actually used.  If the Master Formula called for “fragrance,” this is where you note down exactly what fragrance you used.  If you have details to more closely identify the ingredient used in the batch, write them down.  That might include:
Name of the supplier.
Supplier’s lot or product number
Date of purchase
The lot number that you assigned to that particular purchase of that ingredient (if any)
D. Amount Actually Used.  Write down the amount of the ingredient that was actually measured out and used in the product.  Of course, it should be exactly what’s called for in the Master Formula, but if it ends up being a little under or a little over (by choice or by accident), this is the place to write it down.  Be honest here, even if it’s hard.  

4.  Production Details
Record how you followed each step of the Master Formula, and keep track of any specifics.  For example, if the Master Formula says to “Warm the oils to 100° – 120°,” make a note of the actual temperature of the oils when the step is completed.  

If anything unusual happened while you were making the batch, it’s important to note that as well.  If you were interrupted for some reason, or if there was anything odd about the way the product acted, record that in your Batch Record.

5.  Quality Checks
The Master Formula may contain checks (or you may have developed ways to check the product) to verify quality of the finished product.  For example, you might check the color, scent, texture or consistency of the product to make sure it’s right.  Note down what you find, so you have a record. 

6.  Packaging
Keep a record of what packaging was used for the batch (bottles, caps, wraps, etc).  If you know where you purchased the packaging items, record it.  Attaching a copy of the label to the Batch Record is often helpful when you refer back to it later, especially if you created a new or revised label for the batch.

Keeping a record of your product batches is more than just a log that lists that the product was made.  It should include all of the details listed above so you have an accurate records of what was actually done

If, heaven forbid, later on there is a problem with the batch, you’ll be able to go back and review your batch record and see what might have gone wrong.  

Maybe even more importantly, if you discover that the batch was even better than expected, you’ll be able to determine why and improve your product accordingly.  After all, some of the greatest discoveries were accidents … and the only way they could be reproduced because accurate records were kept of what was actually done.

Marie Gale ( is the author of Soap and Cosmetic Labeling; How to Follow the Rules and Regs Explained in Plain English and Good Manufacturing Practices for Soap and Cosmetic HandCrafter’s.  She has been actively involved in the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry for over 10 years and is Past President (2004-2009) of the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild ( 

Trends in Men's Skincare

Made-for-men skin care products and cosmetics are expected to hit more than three billion dollars by 2016, a more than 15% jump from this year. If your skincare company isn’t already catering to men, you’re leaving money on the table.

According to a new study from The NPD Group, Inc. titled Men’s Grooming Consumer Report, more than nine in 10 men (ages 18+) are using some sort of grooming product today. [1] This includes lotions, shaving products and hair care. However, only one-quarter of men are currently using facial skin care products such as facial cleansers and moisturizers, lip and eye products, and anti-aging treatments. This is attributed to a general belief that facial skincare products are not needed unless you have a specific skin problem such as acne.

Even though the interest in cosmetic products has skyrocketed, men want to remain discreet to preserve their masculinity. It is clear, however, that men today are joining women in the fight against aging. If big box stores are any indication, you can now find entire departments devoted to beauty products for men. You can even find subscription based beauty services like Birchbox that deliver the latest and greatest men’s products directly to your doorstep, hassle-free. [2,3]

Although the segment appears to be growing at a steady pace, there is a learning curve. Some men still have to unlearn the concept that their body care products, such as bar soap and body lotion, work just as well for facial skin. There is still difficulty accepting products that require multiple steps such as separate cleanser, moisturizer and toner. So the trend is towards multi-functional products like blemish balms (BB creams) and dynamic do-all creams (DD creams) which are proving popular in today’s market.

Women’s expectations are changing too. More women expect the man in their life to take care of his skin and to be well-groomed. So there is some “peer pressure” to look good and that in turn translates into acceptance of men’s grooming products intended to “boost” a man’s appearance. The cosmetics market, or makeup for men, is the fastest growing segment of the beauty industry. This includes “foundation” type products that even skin tone, concealer products, tinted moisturizers, bronzers, sunless tanners and lip products. In a recent survey of men in the United Kingdom, 71% of men surveyed admitted to using concealer to hide blemishes, dark circles and uneven skin tone.  In addition, a whopping 64% used lip gloss and 49%, eyeliner to enhance their appearance. [4]

There is a huge opportunity for men with skincare, and now that so many men are already involved and engaged, it is up to brands to maintain that interest. Tips for marketing to men include more masculine or unisex product names and descriptors like “camouflage”, “beard lube”, “turbo wash”, “power peel”, “refueling wash” or “facial tonic”. Packaging should have a clean, professional look in neutral colors or colors that allude to “prestige”. Black, blue or grey packaging and matte metal accents translate well to differentiate your men’s products from your regular product line. [5] Aim for more of an apothecary or laboratory appearance in labeling these products as men tend to lean towards products that look “clinical” in appearance. This gives the illusion of purchasing a product to “treat” skin rather than to “beautify”. Men are less comfortable buying a feminine looking product or a unisex version of an overtly feminine product. [6] 

If there were any lingering doubts that men’s skin care products have truly gone mainstream, households in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco received a newspaper insert comic book featuring Marvel’s Captain America hawking Kiehl’s new men’s anti-aging moisturizer, appropriately named, “Heavy Lifting.” [7]

Allison B. Kontur is an inventive scientist and educator specializing in natural cosmetic formulation and short-run, private label skincare. Since 2005, she has worked as chief cosmetic formulator, business consultant and CEO of various skin care companies. Allison is the co-founder of AliMar Labs, LLC, ( ) a private label manufacturer specializing in ultra-low minimums, as well as co-founder of the Vegan skincare line, Sydni Monique (

3 Reasons That Too Many Home Businesses Fail

Many outstanding business ideas are born from a spark of passion; that moment when a daydream stretches the confines of its world to become a true possibility. When a hobbyist, or someone who creates a product out of necessity says, “Hey, I might be able to make a little money with this idea.”  

But even the most creative, promising ideas are nearly impossible to fully bring to life. It’s true, we don’t know what we don’t know, but wanna-be entrepreneurs can easily get lost in the excitement and hope of building their dream and they fail (miserably) at doing their homework first. 

Here are the most common mistakes that I see newbie entrepreneurs make when taking their “kitchen table idea” to the market. Go ahead, build your dream. But do it the smart way!

1. They Don’t Do Real Product Research.
Come on, admit it. Your neighbor, friend—or mom—told you that your idea is the best one this side of paradise, right? And why shouldn’t you believe them? Everyone you know has jumped on the bandwagon with praise and encouragement, so they must be right. 

I’m going to be blunt. These folks have to tell you all of these good things. They love and care for you and want to support your dream. But they are not necessarily your ideal customer. 
You must test your idea. One of the best ways to do that is to take a simpler, less expensive version of your product to market. If you have created a full line of bath products, for instance, don’t wait until all of the branding, production, and packaging is done before you roll it out. Take just ONE of your products to every mini-expo, school fundraising event, and distribution opportunity you can think of. Create a dashboard that reveals trends, sales history, and any other critical information. Most importantly, get feedback from strangers! I know that’s scary, but you have to do it. Offer incentives for feedback on every aspect of your product. Then adjust as necessary.

2. They Aren’t Fully Informed.
I once coached, albeit briefly, an inventor who had a wonderful product ready to bring to market. Sadly, she invested her nest egg, mortgaged her house, and spent every waking moment for 2 years just to create a prototype, branding, and packaging. And her product idea was a good one. She even had purchase orders from two major retail outlets. But the days of a purchase order providing collateral for a loan are long gone. So here she was with a good invention and the interest of these mega stores, but with absolutely no funding to take her product to market. 

Too many entrepreneurs believe that if they can get the interest of a major distributor or retailer that it’s smooth sailing from there. But that’s just the beginning. Do you have any idea what it costs to manufacture and package a product? Do you know the minimums required by most factories? Can you even grasp the reality of the landed cost of your product? Costs of customs duties, tariffs, taxes, insurance, currency conversion, crating costs, and handling fees associated with importing are enormous! These are the things you may run into if your product is promising. Do your homework before you take your first big steps. 

3. They Lack Support
So you’ve done your planning, estimated your costs, and gotten product sales rolling. Hurray! Now you have a business, but why? Every entrepreneur I’ve ever spoken to is in business for themselves for one reason: freedom. Now, freedom has many definitions, but it’s at the core of nearly every small business.  Yet, these solopreneurs work 60-80 hours a week. What kind of freedom is that? Sure, this may be the reality in the beginning, but it has to change as your company grows. 

How do you fill your days? Do you do your own accounting, website management, packaging and shipping, and basic administrative work? If you spend 20 hours a week doing these things imagine the opportunities for growth that you are missing. If you could “buy back” those 20 hours how long would it take you to grow your company to the next level? Most people are shocked at how quickly this could be done if they outsourced the “little stuff” or the things they are not experts at. Find your passion, highest skill level, and key growth strategies. This is where you need to spend your time.

Can’t afford help? Think again. I promise that you are spending--wasting really--more money by trying to be an expert at all things, including the things you absolutely abhor doing. Stop the madness! Save every penny until you can afford one month’s pay for a helper. Then get to work and increase your sales so that you can afford to keep them on. 

Marla Tabaka is an entrepreneurial coach who inspires entrepreneurs around the world to attain what she calls, The Million-Dollar Mindset. As a result, many of her clients have achieved – even surpassed – the million dollar mark in annual revenues and are living the life of their dreams. In addition to running a thriving practice, Marla is a columnist for Inc. Magazine on-line, and hosts two international on-line radio shows, The Million Dollar Mindset and Million Dollar Mindset Tapping. Marla wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed. If you would like to consult with Marla to learn how she can help you grow your business and better your life, contact her at

Protecting Confidential Information

You may have business secrets that you want to hide from the general public and your competitors.  Some of the legal mechanisms offering protection are trademarks, patents, and copyrights.  All are forms of protective licenses granted by the government, but they take time and money to obtain.

Not all secrets fall neatly into a category that can get such a license.  There may also be legitimate reasons for not seeking a license, but there are still ways to limit who knows about your valuable secrets.  Two terms often used to identify them are “proprietary information” and “trade secrets.”

Trade Secrets
If you own your company, it’s your call on what information you want to protect.  Most trade secrets consist of a formula, design or process that’s unique to your business.  To qualify as a legally protected trade secret in most jurisdictions, the following three criteria must be met:
  • The information must enable a current or future financial benefit
  • The information is unknown to the general public, which makes the financial benefit possible
  • The information is protected by the owner using all reasonable means

There are significant differences between patents and trade secrets, and both have advantages and disadvantages.  One way to understand this is by taking a look at two of the most famous trade secrets in the United States – the formulas for Coca-Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

While some assume these formulas are patented, they aren’t.  A patent is disclosed to the world and has an expiration date.  During the effective period of the patent, you have exclusive rights to its benefits.  Once the patent expires, anyone can legally copy your product and sell it.  If Coke and KFC had patented their recipes, the patents would have expired long ago and there could be thousands of copycats profiting from them.

Trade secrets are never disclosed and never expire.  They remain secret as long as they are protected by the holder.  Unlike a patent, a trade secret carries no defined period of exclusive use.  So if a trade secret is discovered through legal means, anyone can use it.  In the case of Coke and KFC, their formulas could likely be discovered by chemical analysis and reproduced by other companies.

Legal Remedies
It’s a federal crime to steal a commercial trade secret, and penalties apply to two types of activity:
  1. Theft of a trade secret of a product in interstate or international commerce that harms the secret’s owner
  2. Theft of a trade secret that could benefit any foreign entity

The criminal penalties for violating the Economic Espionage Act include imprisonment and fines.  A conviction also results in the forfeiture of moneys gained from the crime and all property used in committing it.

In addition, most states allow a private cause of action under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.  Possible remedies imposed for civil liability include injunctions, as well as monetary and punitive damages.

Protecting Information
Do the easy things first.  Buy a heavy-duty, fireproof safe and lock up your important documents or put them in a safe deposit box.  Use a shredder whenever you need to destroy them.

If you have employees, there are several things you can do:
  • Exercise strict control over who has access to company keys, safe combinations, and computer passwords
  • Require employees to relinquish all rights to proprietary data and intellectual property created while working for you
  • Require employees to sign confidentiality agreements that prevent disclosure of company-sensitive information
  • For employees that leave their job, require a non-competition agreement that restricts disclosure of company-sensitive information, subject to reasonable time and location limitations
  • Meet with visitors in an area where exposure to confidential information is highly unlikely

Nondisclosure Agreements (NDA)
Sometimes you have to disclose secrets in order to do business.  This often occurs when you have suppliers who need to know your proprietary product specifications in order to accurately fulfill your orders.  The solution is to draft a NDA that specifies the nature and purpose of the information to be shared and how it will be protected.  It’s a legal contract that will remain in effect through whatever date you stipulate in the agreement.

NDAs can be implemented with suppliers, customers, and any other company or person with whom you have private business dealings.  NDAs are usually one-sided or unilateral where only one party to the transaction is disclosing sensitive information, and the other party is obligated to protect it.  The agreement can also be multilateral where the transaction involves multiple parties and some or all of them are disclosing information.

Bottom Line
It’s important to protect the data and information that make your company unique.  Many small businesses don’t have the need, or don’t want to spend the money and time to get patents.  That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t protect your secrets through other methods that provide legal remedies if violated.

While a patent protects you from someone duplicating what you’ve done and profiting from it, a trade secret does not.  The key point is to protect that secret so that competitors can’t figure out how you’re doing what you’re doing.  Coke and KFC have done this successfully for several decades without the benefit of patents.

We’re living in an age of digital data that’s easily tracked and hacked, so protecting it is more important than ever.  Be very selective of the type of information you include on your website, catalogs, brochures, and marketing materials.  Secure your computers with firewalls, virus protection, and foolproof backup systems.  Change your passwords like clockwork and whenever an employee leaves their job.  Caution and common sense are two of your best weapons against compromise of your hard work to build your business.

Geoffrey Michael ( is a freelance writer specializing in business, marketing, personal finance, law, science, aviation, sports, entertainment, travel, and political analysis.  He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and is also licensed to practice law in California and New Hampshire.  Geoffrey wrote this feature article exclusively for, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.