How it all came to be….
Our family has a pottery and art shop in an addition to our home. I was looking to expand to items that people would need to come back for - disposable items. You can only use so many bowls.
I developed the brand and name since all our products are 'touched by nature' in some way, therefore the circle and the leaves - representing earth and plant life.
We started with simple soaps and that did well through the holiday season, so we started to sell along with our pottery at local farmers markets. People really enjoyed the soaps and various scents. Being a baker/cook, I decided to work more on the recipes for soaps so that they would be totally handcrafted by us. Research and batches of soap later, we ended up with about 15 different scents and since people cannot live by soap alone, worked at adding various complimentary body products to our line. This included a line of men's products, SKEGG, for the man in the family. Then, COVID hit.
We had to close our shop in our home so no products would become contaminated or ourselves in our home. We still sold online and shipped and did porch pickup. This became a year of 'ok, what are we going to do'.
I looked at our process, supply chain, products, and how we would continue in the business. Before the holidays, we had tweaked the products to a selection of six soap scents based on the same recipe for each utilizing faire trade shea butter, non-gmo sunflower oil, and sustainable palm oil along with a few of our regular oils. We moved away from olive oil as our base because of the smaller plastic containers - it just did not fit with our ecological values.
For our complementary products, we ended up increasing our sugar scrubs variety and changed the recipe a bit, so we now have a total of eight scents for sugar and 4 for salt.
Our lotion is divine - rich and creamy but not greasy. We settled on four scents - one being unscented. The lotion is packaged in glass jars, is rich, lasts for hours and can be used from head to toe. We are working on a lighter one – basically hand repair which will be available late spring.
Our fragrance sprays moved to four scents also to match our soaps. These are made without irritants so people with asthma have no issues. I have asthma myself, so all our scents must pass my chemical intolerance which is found in many fragrances you would find in soaps, body products, and air fresheners.
Lip balms are our last item that has gone through an evaluation. We thought little tins would be best, but it brings the price up and sourcing the tins can be an issue. We hate to go back to plastic tubes but have tested the cardboard ones and they just do not have secure caps. Our packaging for this has gone through a lot of thought - can we get it reliably, is it sustainable, recyclable or reusable. I read that you could reuse your lip balm tubes for storing things like Q-tips or pins and things for when you travel so now, we feel there is still a use for the package after you have finished with it.
Other products coming this spring include facial masks and cleansers – not the wearable ones. These are in the packaging development phase.
We have now moved to just an online store and are selling in the wholesale market. We have some local stores that carry some of our product, but people can always order online and have porch pick up or items mailed. Right now, our SKEGG products are not online as they are going through a rebranding and review as we did for our regular line. This should be done early summer and will have a spot on our website, our wholesale marketplaces, and a site of their own.
How we choose what products we offer to our customers….
Well, everyone needs soap. That part was easy. I looked at items that people could use daily or once a week that did not cost a great deal and would give a bit of 'pleasure' to their day - self-care that was healthy, convenient, and not costly. I am not a fru-fru kind of girl and do not indulge in lots of makeup or things. I like to keep it simple, and I think this is what our line is. I believe that appeals to most women out there today. Life is a bit crazy and hectic, and we need things that are of value but not costly and time consuming.
How we choose what ingredients go into our products….
I believe that our bodies are an extension of nature and we should only put good things in and on our bodies. Does it have to be organic? I do not think so. BUT - it should be as close to nature as possible. All natural has many interpretations and each person sees it their own way. Our products use lots of oils from a variety of sources. We wanted to be sure we were being ethical in that sourcing and if we could help communities through fair trade, we would. I also wanted our oils to be non-gmo even though people are still unsure where they stand on it. Our palm oil is certified sustainable which really has made a difference in our soaps. I researched this because of palm oil use and deforestation. In my reading I found that with sustainable practices it helps the forests and that totally stopping would lead to damage. Our shea butter is really yummy and is a fair-trade product that we are proud to use in our soaps, lotions, and scrubs. We have a blog post about them on our site. The quality of our ingredients makes a difference in our product also. We purchase our oils to keep in pace with our production, so everything is fresh. We worked to find suppliers that can get us our major oils within a couple of days and the others we need to carefully monitor as they can take about a week to arrive. We moved to distilling our own water used in our soaps and lotions. Buying in plastic jugs just was not economical or good for the environment.
We do not use any chemicals except for the lye - I say chemical but lye is natural too. It is a necessary ingredient to make the soap and is all gone from a bar soon after it is made. We do use a preservative in our lotions, scrubs, and freshener to ensure there is no bacteria growth. When you combine water and oil, you are setting up for a potential bacterial growth that you do not want. These preservatives are as gentle as can be and in the smallest amount needed to still do the job. They do not have chemicals in them that have been proven unsafe.
How we create….
This is the fun and sometimes frustrating part.
It took a long time to tweak recipes that gave me the product that I wanted and were at the price point for our customers. I love to research, so enjoyed that. I belong to several groups that are soapers and body product makers so we can ask lots of questions and get guidance.
The actual process of making has evolved, especially these last 6 months. We have gone from making 10x7 molds to 24 x 17 molds that have enough oils in them to almost fill a 5-gallon pail. We now make each scent in 100 bar recipes. This means we also make soap once a week to restock supplies as needed. The process is a cold process, which gives us a nicer more consistent soap, but it does need to cure for 4-6 weeks before selling. Once soap is poured into the large mold, it sits overnight and then is cut on a slab cutter (thanks to my husband for making) and then sliced into individual bars on another cutter (another thanks to the hubby). We store these on trays for a week and then move them to storage shelves to continue curing.
Our other products we keep at a minimal inventory mainly to support our online retail store. For wholesale orders, we can make up the order in a day and ship it the next. This allows us to provide fresh product to all customers. I had to buy a bigger mixer for our sugar scrubs and some bigger bowls for our growth. The process process of making lotions and scrubs is like baking a cake in your kitchen.
And then there is cleanup - a soaper’s worst part of the day. Lots of pots and pans and bowls - I ended up getting a restaurant waterproof apron for doing these dishes. Before that I was wet from head to toe. Now, the process has become streamlined just like everything else.