We had the good fortune of connecting with Amber Hughes and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Amber, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I started Vero Sapone Natural Products because I was having a hard time finding products that my hair and skin really liked. I have a scalp condition called Seborrhea, which is an excessive discharge of sebum from the sebaceous glands on my scalp. I had a terrible time finding anything that would work and after going to dermatologists, hair salons, and trying every shampoo on the market, including tar shampoo, I decided to make my own. I figured it couldn’t be worse than what was already happening to my head, back of my neck and the skin around my hairline on my face. I also had excessive dry skin problems where my skin would crack and bleed. It was gross. I went to a First Friday and there was a woman selling soap. I bought 3 bars and those 3 bars of hand made natural soap changed my skin. I would have just continued to buy from her but she eventually disappeared. She did not respond to email or calls and never came back to First Friday. I decided it was time to go from soap buyer to soap maker.

I wasn’t trying to start a business but I wasn’t considering that 1 batch of soap makes 9-11 bars. Pretty soon I had 100 bars of soap and started giving it away to family, friends and coworkers. Someone said “if you keep making this I’ll pay you!” and there it was, the start of my business. I now make 15 different soaps, 2 different shampoo bars, 1 dog shampoo bar, several different lotion bars and hair conditioner that I do not sell yet, but make for family and friends. I also make a face serum, 5-clay face masks and an oil spray for the hair. I use all of my own products, my seborrhea cleared up and my skin no longer cracks and bleeds. My hair has also thickened up and now grows!

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am still not where I want to be professionally. Always striving to be better! Covid shut down several stores I was selling in and I now have to start over getting back into more stores and I was close to giving up when I got a call from a friend and loyal customer asking me for soaps for her entire family! I am most proud about my ability to keep trying, keep researching ingredients and to keep making products to help people’s skin. That is why I started this, I wanted to help people’s skin. The more I saw how much my products made people happy, the more I wanted to make them happy!

I have had many challenges and the road has not been easy. I have learned about business licenses, business insurance, state and federal business taxes, how to secure a trade name, open a business bank account, and how to approach a business owner to get my product into their store. My goal one day is to be in natural markets all over the southwest and eventually people will be able to get my products online (maybe even in stores) anywhere in the world.
I have to give my customers credit for helping me overcome my challenges. They love my product and keep my spirits up and keep me going when I want to quit. Running a small business is expensive and time consuming, but at least my house smells fantastic!

My brand: I pride myself on researching ingredients and what they do for skin and in soaps and natural products. I also have a number of faithful people that volunteer to test new products on their own skin and give me feedback. I could not do this without my testers. I want to make a great skin product and I strive to do just that. I also want people to know that I use my own products and I am a Botanist and Environmental Scientist and will not use skin harming synthetic ingredients in my products. If I cannot put it on my own skin, the recipe gets remade or trashed.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In the evening we would start off at The Churchill in downtown Phoenix, make our way to The Duce and end up at Little Rituals or Melinda’s Alley to bring in the early morning hours. For breakfast we would go to Nami Vegan Sweets and make our way to the Phoenix Art Museum to take in some amazing art. The next day we would get coffee at Elevate Coffee at Norterra and go to the Desert Botanical Gardens for a lovely morning garden adventure. If it was too hot we would do the gardens in the evening.

We would have to go to Thursday night Latin Night at Blue Martini and dance until our feet hurt and that Saturday morning go to the downtown farmers market.. While we were there we would go to Roosevelt street for some coffee at Lola’s and check out some small shops and art studios. Sunday we could take it easy at the High Street Farmers Market and buy some wonderful stuff to cook a great dinner at home and invite friends.

One of the days I would have to plan a day trip to take a wine tour of Arizona’s amazing wine country in Sedona or Cornville and perhaps get in a hike while we are there. Sedona has some beautiful hiking trails!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have to thank everyone who supported me in my journey into soap making. The first person who let me sell my products in their store was Sandy at Veggie Rebellion Vegan Market in Old Town Glendale. She took a chance on me and my products and I was very successful there. Unfortunately her store is no longer there. Other stores that really helped me out were Yoga Pura and Cresent Moon. Thank you to my family who let me turn our kitchen into a science lab and to my friends for allowing me to test my products on you and always giving me honest feedback, a good bar of soap cannot be made great without people being honest!

Instagram: @verosapone

Facebook: Vero Sapone @JustBTru

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutArizona is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.