Blog #10 | What I've Been Up To

Hi everyone!

It’s been several weeks and I want to apologize for the prolonged absence. Sometimes we’re just busy creatures aren’t we? So at the risk of sounding self-absorbed, I thought this might be a good time to take a moment today to give you an idea of how West of Olympia fits into my life. I always enjoy feeling that I have a connection to the person making the products I buy, so hopefully I can provide you a version of that experience with this blog today.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m just a hobbyist. I enjoy formulating and making soap because I have a passion for the creativity and science. But from a financial or common sense perspective, attempting to “make it big” as a shaving soap vendor is not a goal of mine; nor is it even a consideration. Though it’s impossible to determine exactly (for many reasons), the estimates I’ve read suggest that wet shaving accounts for about 0.25% to 0.5% of the larger North American shaving market. So if we assume that shaving products sold in North America account for half a billion dollars per year, that means the wet shaving market is worth about $1.25 million to $2.5 million annually. It seems like a lot, but that is a tiny market. That’s the amount that hundreds of artisans (and some commercial powerhouses) share and compete for. The fact is – unless something drastic changes in the market – there’s not going to be a multi-million dollar shaving soap company. This is why some of the bigger artisans expand their offerings to include fragrance, skin care, bath soap, and so on. They capture secondary and ancillary markets as a result. And I’m sure some of them make a comfortable living enjoying every moment of what they do – and more power to them. But for me personally, it’s just not a sustainable or wise life decision to make this a venture that’s any more serious than it currently is.

So what do I do for a living?

I currently work at a large paper and box manufacturer in corporate finance. I’m responsible for a lot of our company’s “top-line” internal reporting and analytics (meaning revenue as opposed to profit). Most of my day is spent meeting with people and manipulating and analyzing large data sets to help myself and others make informed decisions about the business. Another piece of that job is process improvement; taking a current administrative process and changing it to make it better, more efficient, and optimized. That all sounds very foggy I’m sure, but it’s a challenging role that makes me think – and I enjoy that!

This has (unfortunately) kept me from West of Olympia lately. The finance role is actually a new one for me. Prior to March 1, I actually worked in project management for the same company. This new position paid a little more and sounded like intriguing work, so I took it. But it sure has kept me busy! I’ve always traveled a bit for work, maybe like 3-ish times per year. But from only March to April of this year, I will have been on 4 trips. I think (and hope) that that will slow down a bit, because being away certainly impedes my ability to do much else at home.

It’s also been a bit of a busy season in my personal life! My sister got married the first weekend in March and one of my best friends is getting married in a few weeks. I’m naturally in both of those weddings, which means additional extracurriculars like bachelor parties, rehearsal dinners, hotel-night stays, etc. And that’s not to say that I’m not excited or honored to be a part of those things (I am), just that it’s one more thing on the calendar.

None of these things are excuses. They’re just items that have kept me from my usual time devoted to West of Olympia, and I apologize to those of you who have asked about restocks or seen the lag in general communication.

But when I’m not working or making soap, you’ll usually find me at home enjoying the peace of my downtime or invested in one of my other hobbies. I’m a bit of an introvert, so my hobbies are ones that allow me to be with my own thoughts. That time is very therapeutic and important to me. I think that’s why I like wet shaving so much!

Aside from scraping hair off my face, I really enjoy music. I’ve played piano and guitar since I was a little kid, and those are skills that you never really give up. I used to be a bit more serious with it, but music will always be a part of my life. I also enjoy detailing cars (nope, not kidding). My day job is very soft skills-focused and process-oriented, so I don’t really get to see material benefits of my work. There’s not a whole lot of meaningful gratification or satisfaction. So something like detailing a car scratches that itch for me I think. I can take something that’s dirty and make it clean and I can point to that and say, that’s a cool transformation. It’s actually a pretty fun thing when you know what you’re doing. There’s proper products, processes, specialized knowledge, etc. Kind of like wet shaving actually :)

Reading is always great, also. My wife and I often end the night reading our books in bed. It’s a great way to wind your brain down. I just finished The Emperor of Scent, which is a wonderfully-written, unconventional perfumery book, and I’m now reading a book called Thinking Fast and Slow, which examines how our brains process information and solve problems. (Speaking of perfumery, I naturally spend a lot of time with a bunch of different perfumes just as a matter of curiosity. Check out the list below for some recommendations of things I was wearing this week.)

Hopefully I don’t come off as too self-indulgent here. I just wanted to apologize for always being out of stock and share a little more about myself in an attempt to explain some of that. From here, The Original Collection will start to be restocked (I finally have a weekend home, so I got to make some today!). After that, I’ll be bringing Envy back for probably two more batched releases. After that, it will be gone forever.

As always, thank you so much for reading. I appreciate your support more than you know.



My picks this week:

  • Zoologist – Panda: a really well-crafted “green” fragrance. Some muted fruits, florals, and lots of damp green-ness.
  • Amouage – Jubiliation XXV: probably in my top 5 fragrances ever. A masterpiece with a little of everything. Intoxicating woods, delightful spice, and warm, sweet undertones.
  • Xerjoff – 40 Knots: a beautiful representation of its intent. Meant to evoke the atmosphere of yacht clubs and high-class regattas, it has such a unique salt note that I can almost taste the bitterness of salt water.

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