GMP and Ingredients

“Good Manufacturing Practices” (GMP) are the practices and procedures used in manufacturing that ensure a good finished product.  The ingredients you select and use are obviously key to a high-quality finished product;  therefore how you specify, purchase, approve, handle, store, track and use your ingredients is an integral part of Good Manufacturing Practices.  

The following guidelines outline best practices for your ingredients.  Whether you work out of your kitchen and store your ingredients in a designated shelf or cupboard, or have a dedicated shop, with a little thought and planning  these guidelines can easily be adapted for any situation. 

1.  Specify the ingredient criteria fully.
Often the ingredients listed in a recipe are somewhat generalized and when it comes to actually purchasing the item, you are faced with options.  For example, your recipe calls for “Lavender Fragrance”.  Is that Lavender 40/42 essential oil? Bulgarian Lavender essential oil? Lavender fragrance oil?  A combination?  Obviously the end product changes based on which “lavender” you choose.

Having exactly specified criteria is especially important when an ingredient can come in several different forms under the same name.  Cornstarch, for example, comes in various grades, particle sizes and treatments (all of which are called “cornstarch”).  Which one you use can drastically change your product.  You wouldn’t want a coarse or rough particle size for face or body powders, but it might be okay for bath products or as a thickening agent.

GMP Guidelines call for defining the following for every ingredient (or packaging material) you use:
Description.  What does the ingredient/material look like? Feel like? Smell like? What color should it be? How big or small are the particles? A detailed description is especially essential when dealing with botanicals.
Critical Criteria.  What criteria MUST be met in order to use the item at all?  This is generally criteria that if not met would make the product unsafe or unusable, or which are legally required.  Example: negative for eColi and Salmonella. 
Major Criteria.  What is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT criteria? This would be criteria that if not met could affect product quality or result in a lower quality product.  Examples:  Cornstarch particle size, purity of lye for soap, or whether a botanical is fresh or dried.
Minor Criteria.  What criteria SHOULD be met? These are things that should be met, but won’t adversely affect product quality.  Example:  Whiteness level of cornstarch.

Setting  exact criteria ensures that when you select an item to purchase, you know exactly what you need and can make sure you get the same ingredient every time, regardless of the supplier you purchase from.  

2.  Select a qualified supplier.
Select and approve suppliers for that ingredient in advance, and only purchase that ingredient from suppliers who have been approved  for that particular ingredient.

While price is an important factor, also consider customer service, return policy, shipping policy, and the information provided by the supplier (including technical specifications, quality assurance, usage information and MSDS sheets) when approving a supplier for an ingredient.

3.  Assign a lot number to every ingredient/material received.
When you receive an ingredient or packaging material, assign it a lot number. It can be anything that will uniquely identify the EXACT order you received. Keep in mind that if you receive 4 oz. of Lavender essential oil on Monday and another 4 oz of Lavender essential oil on Friday, they are two different lots and should have different lot numbers assigned to them.

Be sure to record the supplier invoice number and date as well as the supplier lot number (if any) so you can trace your lot number back to the exact order from the supplier.

4.  Check and approve each incoming lot before using.
Every time an order is received, check the ingredient/material carefully to ensure it meets your specifications.  Look at the shipping box – is it damaged at all?  Did you receive what you ordered?  Does the ingredient meet your critical, major and minor criteria?  Keep a written record of what you find.

If the ingredient is acceptable, approve it for use.  If not, set it aside – away from approved ingredients – and appropriately handle.

5.  Organize Stored Ingredients.
Keep all your approved ingredients stored in such a way that you can easily identify what they are, the lot number and the expiration date (if any).  If the ingredient is repackaged into a different container, label it clearly.  Don’t combine different lots of the same ingredient!  

6. Record the ingredient Lot Number when used in a product batch.
When you make a batch of product, make sure to record the Lot Number of every ingredient used in the batch. 

By implementing these steps, you will have certainty that every ingredient you use in your products has met your quality standards and you will have taken a significant step toward making sure your end products are of the highest quality – every batch, every bar or bottle, every time.

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 ( 

Hobbies That Make Money

Some people are fortunate to work in jobs they really enjoy.  Others spend a lifetime doing what they do strictly for the money.  They may have hobbies that are potential moneymakers, especially for those who need extra income after they retire from their full-time careers.

Many have taken their hobbies and made them into giant businesses.  Alexandra Ferguson started by making a couple of custom throw pillows for a friend’s birthday.  She made around 30 more to give as Christmas presents that year.  Just a few years later, she ditched her old job and is predicting annual revenues of a million dollars.  Niche products have an advantage because you can focus on specific markets and demographics.

Most of us have hobbies and some of them have the potential to bring in cash at some point in our lives.  In all cases, do thorough research on your local laws, zoning restrictions, licensing and insurance requirements, and tax implications before getting started.  Out of hundreds of options, here’s a short list that may stimulate ideas for other possibilities.

Before you head down the trail blazed by people like Debbi Fields, check your local health laws that regulate the sale and distribution of food items.  While there are lots of stories about people who started businesses in their home kitchens, many jurisdictions now require a separate kitchen before you can open for business.

If you’ve got the skills, enjoy cooking and have some secret recipes that have been handed down in your family, this is a way to turn all that into cash with a small initial investment.  Stick with just a few specialty products and make yourself known.  Local farmers’ markets and food fairs are a good way to get started.

Dance Instructor
Television shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have popularized and rekindled interest in all types of dancing.  If you enjoy dancing and have taken lessons in the past, you may be able to parlay that into a steady income.  You don’t have to be an expert to teach beginners, and you don’t have to own a dance studio.  Some existing studios will rent their dance floor during their downtime to help pay their own bills.  If that option isn’t available, you might convert a room in your home or part of your garage.

The opportunities for photography are almost limitless, but you’ll have to invest in high-quality equipment.  Freelance photographers can earn $2,000 and up doing weddings, depending on the specific package and photos desired.  The internet has created a huge market for stock photos that can be placed with stock agencies for a contracted period and specified commission.

Some photographers choose to fund their own shoots to give them the flexibility to select the subjects they like best.  They do their own marketing for the images they produce.  Others work with agencies on assigned shoots and are paid fees and expenses.  You can also sell your photos directly to the public through art fairs, boutiques, and flea markets.  It’s wise to understand copyright laws to ensure you’ve protected your legal interests.

People will pay for quality handmade items of solid wood.  If you’ve got a shop in the garage and the necessary tools, there’s a ready made market for wood furniture and custom-designed wooden objects.  There’s also a sizable need for the refinishing and restoration of all things made of wood including antique boats and furniture.  If you’re a woodcarver with a good imagination, you can create all sorts of things to sell at craft shows and online at websites like eBay.

You don’t have to coach a professional sports team to make some serious money in a sport that you love.  If you’re qualified, you can work year-round coaching seasonal sports.  The requirements at public and private schools vary by location, but there are also opportunities at country clubs and youth clubs such as the YMCA.  These include sports that aren’t continuously in the limelight such as volleyball, swimming, badminton, and track.  You can also freelance as a personal coach to athletes who want one-on-one training.  Depending on the sport, you may need access to an appropriate training facility and equipment.

Other Ideas
The best idea is a hobby that you love and are very good at.  Here are a few others that may spark some interest: personal shopper, blogger, sewing/knitting, web designer, dog walker, teacher/tutor, party planner, gardener, handyman, music teacher, musician, and homemade crafts of all types.

What to do
Turning your hobby into money takes some planning and marketing.  While the creative part can be lots of fun, it’s important that the business side is locked down before you get yourself in too deep.  Put together a system for tracking your expenses and sales, and devise a method for setting your pricing structure.  Design a creative logo and packaging scheme to attract maximum attention.

Social media and online advertising have made it easier and cheaper to get the word out.  Join online discussion groups that are interested in your products and use those to promote your work.  Professional photos also go a long way in showcasing your products and driving sales.  Personally interact with the local media, volunteer some of your services, and engage the chamber of commerce.  Word-of-mouth goes a long way to help get you started.

Websites such as eBay offer great platforms to sell products with minimal overhead cost to you.  The website of choice for crafts is Etsy, essentially the handmade version of eBay.  Craft fairs, galleries, flea markets, and state and county fairs rent space where you can set up a sales booth.  You can also host home-based fairs for friends and acquaintances who can spread the word.

At some point you may think of taking your hobby full time.  Most have found the best way to do that is by easing into it.  Test the waters and put together a business plan before making the final leap.

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.

4 Ways to Lower Your Business Costs

Though you need to invest in your business to fuel growth to some degree, you’ll generally uncover the path to profitability by quicker by lowering your business costs. Here are four ways to do it.

1. Test your ideas before you invest in them fully.  
Given that financing and business loans are so hard to come by for many small businesses, it’s no surprise that “The Lean Startup” by Eric Reis (which began as a book but launched into a full blown movement) has generated such entrepreneurial enthusiasm.  Though there are many different aspects to the Lean Start Up theory, it includes common sense ideas that you can apply to any small business—that can start to slash your business costs now. For starters, test your product and service ideas before you invest fully in them, or put your business at risk by making change you didn’t solicit customer feedback about. By putting your ideas in front of a customer focus group, which can be done informally, in person, or online, the idea is to test and learn about what your customers want—long before you bring a product or service to market. Even if your ideas get a big “thumbs down,”  little failures early on provide the necessary knowledge to make course corrections before they are too costly.  

2. Prioritize the skills you pay for. 
Time is money when you are running a small business, and while you can’t expect to expertly handle every aspect of business on your own, you’ll save loads of energy, time and money, by recognizing what you do well, and what is worth spending money for someone else to handle. To that end, evaluate the tasks that require an actual human against those that might be made quite do-able with the help of technology. For example, you may need to work with an accountant to handle your quarterly tax payments, tax strategy, and returns, but a simple web-based accounting system like Wave or QuickBooks might be a more cost-effective way to manage your basic monthly bookkeeping duties. If you love building relationships, for example, but know nothing about online commerce and web analytics, invest in a freelance web designer who can give you exactly the site you want—but take advantage of technology that makes user data easy to understand. For example, CrazyEgg starts at as low as $9 a month, and can show you where people click on your site. With that data, you’ll have actionable information you need to relay back to your designer, at a fraction of the cost you’d pay an online marketing consultant.

3. Minimize hard copy costs.  
If you’re hesitant to ditch your paper trail because you deal with contracts that require signatures and hard copies, you can streamline processes (and cut the costs of paper, printing and postage) by taking advantage of mobile technology.  For example, SignEasy, an app, available on both Apple and Android platforms, allows users to sign download, sign, save and return contracts and other paperwork sent by email, or from other cloud-based sharing apps like Evernote, Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive (formerly Google Docs). Try the basic app for free, or $19.99 for a year of unlimited use. If you tend to mark up package or product design documents and transfer them by mail, Skitch is a free app that helps you mark up your screen captures and images with shapes and comments, and transmit them to another person by email.

4. Ensure your products and policies are clear. 
Returns and chargebacks eat into your bottom line—and cost you money. According to payment processing firm e-onlinedata, a customer who disputes a charge with Visa or MasterCard can cost a small business at least $25 per event. Interestingly, all of the primary reasons such disputes arise (customers don’t recognize the merchant name on a credit card statement, expectations weren’t met, or the refund policy was unclear), are easily prevented. Review your product and service descriptions in your marketing materials and website and ensure you’ve done your due diligence: Are product functions, features, materials, colors and services named, described and depicted accurately?  Do you clearly state the process for returns, exchanges, and price adjustments at checkout-- before the customer completes the purchase? Lastly, is the name you’ve registered with your credit card processor congruent with your business name? If it’s not, add language on the checkout page so the customer knows how the purchase will be reflected on the credit card statement.

Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer turned stay at home working mom, yoga instructor and freelance writer covering personal finance, small business,consumer issues, work-life balance and health/wellness topics for ForbesWoman, Minyanville , SheKnows, Mint , Intuit Small Business, Investopedia and several other online properties. She is also the founder of Wellness On Less and Om for Mom prenatal yoga. Stephanie wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

How to Hire the Perfect Employee

If I suggested that you hire two new employees this week what would your response be? Let me guess: “I can’t afford it,” or “it’s more trouble than it’s worth”. Those are the two most frequent responses I hear from my business clients. And I’m here to tell you that neither is true.

Today we’re going to take a look at the latter: why does it feel like hiring and training employees causes so much pain? In most cases it’s because the entrepreneur is using a poor model for the hiring process. In fact, many business owners have no model at all. These new hires usually don’t work out if they are determined solely by skills and experience. This not only cost time and money, it’s frustrating to the entrepreneur, leaving them with the belief that employees simply are not worth the effort. 

But nothing is farther from the truth. The problem is that hiring managers (that’s probably you) are basing their decisions on what they see on the resume. But skills can often be trained. Emotional intelligence and personality type come from an innate ability coupled with life experience.  You cannot train for emotional intelligence!  If you hire an account manager with the hard skills necessary to manage your clients’ accounts but he is adverse to deadlines and has a limited ability to handle a conflict, it’s a recipe for disaster.   As another example, if you hire a customer service representative who can flawlessly enter one hundred orders in an hour but has no patience or tolerance for “difficult” customers, you won’t have to worry about order entry mistakes! 

To hire the right person for the right job, begin by assessing the personal qualities that your ideal employee would possess. If you are hiring a coder, you want this person to be focused, analytical, and creative. Yes, creative! The best coders are problem-solvers and that takes creativity!

If you are hiring for a sales position you’ll want someone who is a connector. They are personable, driven, and a great communicator. 

What are some fun questions you can ask your candidates to find out more about their personality and work ethic? Here are a few of my favorites. Adding this piece to your hiring puzzle will bring you much closer to your dream team!

Question 1. 
“Using your imagination, create your ideal co-worker. Tell me about that person. What would they be like?”

What’s interesting about this question is that your candidate is very likely to describe themselves! This will give you great insight to their work ethic and personal characteristics. 

Question 2. 
“If you came with a warning label what would it say?”

This question catches people so off guard that they blurt out the most honest responses, including those they would never admit to in an interview!

Question 3. 
“How would people communicate in a perfect world?”

If your candidate responds by saying, “by email only” and you are hiring for a sales position, you know this won’t work! Or if you require this position to report weekly to and about the client and they prefer texting, you will have a problem. Communication is key to success. Understanding how your employees’ best learn and communicate is a must. If your candidate’s style is not a match, move on to the next. 

Go ahead; make up a few of your own questions. Make the process fun and challenging. This will give your candidates an inside look at your fun and creative company culture, they may love it—or they may not. Either way upfront knowledge is the golden ticket to hiring success!

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