By Christin Ocasio
Wyndham Soapworks is a small family owned and operated cottage business in the Tampa, Florida area. Our cocoabutter soaps are"manufactured" in small batches right in our kitchen by hand stirring, pouring into small slab molds, and individually cutting each bar. Our "distribution center" is the dining room table. Our soaps are in several local shops and are shipped across the globe to several international clients via website orders.
Wyndham Soapworks was created after I decided to stop using cheap corporate soap that made my skin dry and itchy. After being diagnosed with eczema and enduring steroid shots, I wanted to treat my skin better and prevent further discomfort.
A kind person gave me a bar of handcrafted goatmilk soap, and showering became a joy rather than test of endurance and I set out to find out why the storebought soap had caused me such grief for so long.
My hunt for answers brought me to the following conclusion;
Commercially produced soaps are usually made with tallow (beef fat), lard (pork fat), and a lot of inexpensive coconut oil to fill up the bulk of the recipe. Along with that they add dye, fragrance, surfactants, sudsing agents, water softeners, and detergents.
I found that those additives are what irritated my skin. Worse, the manufacturers salt out the naturally occuring glycerin to sell elsewhere. The glycerin is what would have made the soap humectant. To replace the glycerin, they then add mineral oil and then call it a Beauty Bar which coats your skin with a non absorbable grease.
I decided it was time to stop using that garbage on my skin. I'm the type of person that likes to learn how to do interesting things just for the sake of having the knowledge and the skill, so I decided soapmaking would be very interesting indeed.
I purchased just about every book on soapmaking. Many are poorly written and have bad recipes that ended up being tossed down the garbage. Then I found all the soapmaking mailing lists and began to actively participate in discussion with other soapmakers who had more experience under their belts. From there I learned why certain combinations of oils made a soft bar of soap, while other combinations made a hard bar. I learned the alchemy behind the chemical reaction that turned oil into soap. I was completely addicted and once I had some successful batches, set out to create my own from scratch recipe.
I practiced and experimented until I came up with the perfect recipe to suit my taste and I began giving bars away at family gatherings and at some places where I volunteer. Of course some folks looked at me funny as if I might be trying to communicate something by giving them soap, but others took it in the spirit it was offered and appreciated a handmade gift. Finally, my child's godfather, after using a ton of my soap urged me to start selling it and Wyndham Soapworks was born.
Through all of this I was homeschooling a young child and a SAHM. Occasionally it was challenging to keep the little one from being underfoot while working with slippery oils and butters. I would restrict myself to making batches when she went to bed. When I need to service a wholesale account, I arrange for her to go to a friend's house to play so that I can conduct business in a professional manner. I do, however bring her along when I am delivering orders as it lets people see that I'm a struggling mother too and not some corporate robot.
Marketing my product seems to be as challenging as coming up with the recipe and packaging it in a suitable manner. I give out samples wherever I can along with catalogs, business cards, and coupons. I give discounts for referral sales and ask all my customers to pass along materials to anyone they know who might be interested in my product. I was just recently interviewed by an author and will appear in the newly released book, "Soapmaking For Fun and Profit". Whenever invited, I submit my business story for publication to get the word out that I am here and why someone should use my product rather than Proctor & Gamble, and Colgate.
Promoting is very time consuming and challenging, but it's something that must be done constantly to build up customer loyalty and repeat business.
Christin Ocasio, Proprietress
810-279-4308 Fax to email