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An inspirational story of two Michigan mom entrepreneurs: Part II

August 18th, 2009 · No Comments

Today I’d like to share with you part II of my interview with Jessica Clark, co-founder of Suds Homemade Soap.

If you haven’t read part I, please read “We have lost our beautiful home, our new cars, and in some respect, our dignity, but … “ an inspirational story of two Michigan mom entrepreneurs first.

GeekMBA360: After you came up with the business idea, how did get started?

We actually did write a business plan. At the top, we wrote to "Glorify Christ in all we do". When I tell you that our faith has increased through all of this, it is no exaggeration. There have been countless times when there was no way for us to make it, and He made a way.

We had no cars and my husband needed to get to school. We were feeling hopeless, and then suddenly we were given a used van for free. Not just a car, but a van that fit all 6 of us! Pretty coincidental, eh? My husband hasn’t had work in a very long time, and yet, we are together, comfortable, and doing well. The Lord is carrying us and we are trusting him. I guess that for some people, like myself, it takes being knocked on your butt, to wake you up and realize that you can’t do it all yourself. It was only when there was nowhere else to turn and I was filled with fear and desperation, that I turned to Him. I am so happy that I did.

There was no initial funding for SUDS. We used a portion of our grocery budget to buy the ingredients that we needed. It was a gamble, but we are prepared to work hard and make it pay off. I already had background knowledge into the beneficial qualities of specific butters and oils from before. So we started with ingredients from the grocery store. We made our first test bars with Olive, Coconut, Safflower and Palm Oils.

We started thinking about scents that we love and the colors and designs that would coordinate with them. Samantha and I are all about style, so we have found this to be very exciting. We made a few batches in every scent, until we found the recipe and design that we were looking for. We want SUDS bars to feel good, smell good, and look good. It is also important to note, we never test on animals……. only friends and family :-)

GeekMBA360: You take care four kids full-time. How is your day like to joggle kids and starting a business

Hectic, crazy and wonderful!

I am very aware of how quickly time flies. Before I know it, the kids will have moved on and it will just be Chris and I. That thought is always with me and it helps me to treasure even the most hectic of days.

I try to wake up a couple hours before anyone else in the house and I do my soaping in the kitchen. I can usually get a batch done before anyone wakes up and then another batch when the baby is napping, or after he goes to bed in the early evening. I tend to the kids all day and check the website and my emails off and on throughout the day.

Samantha is juggling the business and a family of 4 as well, so she operates very much the same way that I do. The only difference is that she is much more of a night owl. Where as I love to soap before dawn, she is up soaping very late into the night. Between the two of us, we have SUDS operating nearly 24 hours a day! I am not going to lie though, with everyone home, working during their summer break is difficult. I am admittedly looking forward to school starting!

GeekMBA360: What’s going to happen next for SUDS Handmade Soap? Where can we buy it?

The most important thing for SUDS now, is getting our name out there. We have a unique and beneficial handmade product, but we do not have the funds to pay for marketing. We will be attending craft shows throughout Michigan and we are open for business on our website www.shopsuds.com. We are also really excited to be building up a fan base now on Facebook.

Our ultimate goal is to have a brick and mortar SUDS shop as well as be operating online. We would love to meet our customers face to face and be able to make our soap in the same building that we are selling in. It is a dream of ours to be set up in a way that allows our customers to see our soap making process from start to finish.

Consumers believe that they are buying soap at the grocery store but, more often than not, they are actually purchasing what the FDA considers beauty bars. Unlike soap, these bars are actually detergents, made up of synthetic chemical and petroleum products. The ingredient lists are often quite difficult for any normal person to pronounce.

When real soap is made from scratch, a natural occurrence takes place. Glycerin is created. It is a wonderful, natural, and healthy moisturizer. It is a necessary component of healthy, elastic skin. Glycerin naturally moisturizes the skin and keeps it’s healthy glow. Everyone wants their skin to feel soft, smooth and moist and it is glycerin that makes it happen.

Here is the thing…..the big commercial soap manufactures know all of this about glycerin also. During their manufacturing process, they actually extract the glycerin from the soap and replace it with detergents and chemicals. Why do they do this? Because they can then process the glycerin into other products like hand and body lotion, creams, balms, and other moisturizers. That’s right… they actually remove it from their soaps just so they can sell you an additional product. They then sell you a second product that contains what you should have had in the bar of soap you used in the first place! Now that you are out of your bath or shower, you must apply their additional product to make your skin feel soft, or suffer dry and itchy skin. This is pretty sneaky on their part, but it has worked, and they have the profits to prove it.

I do not want to bash other companies, but I think it is very important that consumers are educated about the products they are buying. If handmade soap is what you are looking for, it is important to understand the difference between melt and pour and cold process soaping. The difference is that while it, technically, can be considered handmade, or handcrafted, this is a misleading term. Melt and pour soap base is not made from scratch. The soap base is purchased, then melted down and the fragrance and color is added. The soap base is then poured into molds and cooled. It can then be sold immediately upon cooling. It takes much less time and much less skill to make melt and pour soap. This is the great attraction and the reason that I, originally, started out making melt and pour soap myself. On the other hand, real soap, made from scratch, is made with fresh butters and oils. Upon pouring, it must continue to cure for weeks to reach it’s peak. It is a true exercise in both skill and patience and, in my opinion, it is in a totally different league. That is why I am willing to work so much harder to do soap from scratch instead.

GeekMBA360: A lot of folks are struggling in this economy. Some of them are thinking about starting their own businesses. What advice do you have for them?

My advice is the same advice that rang in my ears when I initially decided to become an entrepreneur.

Use what you know and do something that you love. Beyond that, I would like to say something to all of the families that are struggling in today’s economy. You are not alone. Hang on to each other, support one another and have faith. We can all get through this.

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