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Small batch manufacturing and Realize Beauty

February 13, 2013

I have quite a menagerie of customers here at Realize Beauty ranging from the big and bold to small and beautiful and everything in between and as such one has to be flexible about business.  Thankfully this isn’t a drama as I like nothing better than to switch my brain from one challenge to the next – it keeps my mind fresh and puts a spring in my step. Sometimes.  At other times its just a bit crazy but there you go.

Anyway, one thing that I do is help companies with their small batch manufacturing.  This has to be the most challenging and un-profitable side of my business and a part that I regularly think about giving up on.  But then something always stops me and that something is faith, hope and charity.

I have faith that the little fish I help today will become big fish tomorrow and no, that’s not so that I can cash in, that’s so trashy!  It is so that I say hand-on-heart that I did all I could to help them on their journey, that I believed and had faith in them.  That my small part made a difference.

I hope that the challenge will teach me more about cosmetic life than anything I could learn while keeping my hands clean or passing up on the hard stuff.  I hope that the experience will allow me to grow both in skills and in understanding of what it takes to make it in this business both for customers and my sake (and sanity).

my lab

And charity because I believe that while we are in business to make money (it’s true, we all are as my mortgage and school fees don’t accept love and good vibes as down payment) we are in life to make a difference and for me that comes first.

Now before you go thinking that I’ll do everything for free just hold your horses.  I didn’t say I was stupid 🙂

My cost per Kg for small lot mixing is high as I have to cover my time and my ingredients.  However, what I don’t do is charge for anything extra such as re-works, phone calls, emails, advise, formula info, ingredient info,  general chats (what packaging shall I buy, what colour looks good, which perfume do you like etc), product delivery costs (within reason) and excess stock fees (usually) which keeps everything very simple.

What I ask in return is that my customers realise that small batch manufacturing isn’t really manufacturing at all, it is still part of R&D and is more accurately described as ‘sampling’, ‘scale-up’ or ‘pilot batch manufacture’ and that comes with its own range of challenges, trials and tribulations.

  • Small batches are harder to get ‘perfectly consistent’ from batch to batch as any slight change in raw materials, measurements or temps can make a big difference as there is nowhere for them to hide.
  • Small batches take as long (and sometimes longer) to make than large batches which does tend to push up prices and can make some products un-economical.
  • It isn’t always possible to get all materials in stock for small batches and so formulations may have to change – ingredient suppliers rarely go below 1Kg packs for actives unless you use someone like New Directions which have a great range but of course don’t stock everything.
  • The cost of testing each small batch for micro and stability blows costs out of the water and so this has to be discussed and understood ahead of time.  Irradiation is a great option here but where not possible packaging changes may be necessary to ensure product integrity.
  • Batch systems tracking ingredients and products made are not going to be as sophisticated here as they would be in a large-scale factory as it is just not practical.

So basically what you are getting is a professionally made sample of between 5-20Kg with which you can kick-start your cosmetic brand’s life with.  Products are made with care using fresh ingredients (where required) that comply to cosmetic regulations and standards.  Manufacturing and weighing procedures are safe and equivalent to that which you would find in a standard cosmetic manufacturing facility.  However, what you are not getting is a full-scale product from a therapeutic grade manufacturing facility.

The reason that I say this is because it all matters.  Small batch manufacturing is a leap of faith for both parties, it is a partnership where things can and do go wrong but hopefully on a small and fixable scale so that loses and down-time are minimised.  This can be a valuable part of your journey that prepares you for the even bigger leap of faith that is full scale-up – this is where you go to 50Kg > 100Kg to 500kg and beyond but like all journeys it can throw up surprises.

The key to a successful small batch manufacturing relationship is an understanding of its strengths and weaknesses and a willingness to give it a go.  I have learned (from my mistakes) that while this process isn’t right for every brand or every product (there are some things you just can’t risk making this way) it is perfect for others.

If you think it might be right for you come and let’s have a chat.  I work with 5-20Kg batches of cosmetic products – rinse off and leave on, from your formulations or ones that I have developed.

From little things big things grow…..

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 24, 2013 10:16 am

    Hi RB — Are you still offering small/pilot batch services? If so, I would love to discuss the possibility of working together for the first steps of my product’s launch! Please reach out if so. Thank you!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      October 29, 2013 2:26 pm

      Hi there,
      We do some work in this area but it isn’t core business. It is best to email us with more details and we will let you know what we can do: amanda@realizebeauty.com

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