We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa and Aaron Brooks and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Melissa and Aaron, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?

When Aaron decided to make soap, he did not start so with the intention of starting a small business. Aaron, my husband, has used handmade soap for a little over 25 years and had an interest in learning how to make it himself. He never could quite find the bar that was exactly what he wanted. He wanted a bar that lathered well and didn’t feel slimy. He wanted a bar that felt good in his hand as far as the size of the bar, and he wanted a bar that looked nice and that was easy on the environment and his skin.

He started to acquire the oils and pots and pans and other equipment needed to make soap as well as read many books and articles. He finally gave soapmaking a try with only the intention of making it for our family. He continued to tweak his recipe 11 times before he settled on the recipe he was happy with. Every oil has a different property in soap. Some oils make the bar harder, some improve lather, some change the stability of the lather.  Balancing that all out took lots of tweaking.  In that time he posted pictures on his social media accounts and people started to ask if they could purchase the soap from us.

We had to decide if we wanted to turn this into a business or keep it as a hobby. So we decided to go ahead and give it a go as a business because it provided an opportunity for us to make a little bit more income while choosing to homeschool our oldest son.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?

So when we started our small business, we started out in our kitchen and dining room. We started out with one small table to set the soap on and that eventually evolved into buying a couple of racks which evolved into more racks that took up the entire length of our dining room. Eventually we had to acquire things for shipping products such as a scale and boxes and tape and packing paper. All of this was still in our dining room and kitchen. As demand increased, we had to increase soap production.  This meant that we had to buy and eventually build bigger molds. This booming soap business continued to consume the dining room and kitchen space. Meanwhile we still had two teenage boys to kept fed which sometimes it was tricky to manage while also making soap pretty regularly. Eventually it got to the point that we realized we needed to get out of that space for our own sanity. Thankfully when we built our home we had a workshop space as part of our garage. That was cleared out of tools and bikes and garbage cans, we hired a painter, my husband laid flooring, and we transformed the space into a soap workshop. This space is always evolving as well. We’re always looking for more efficient use of our space in the workshop because it’s truly not that big of a space, but we are thankful for it since it’s out of the house now. We are pretty proud of the fact that we managed to run a very successful business out of our dining room and kitchen for as long as we did. But we are also very thankful for this space.  We are now able to walk away from it when we need a break and not have it always in our face.  I can cook food for the family while Aaron makes product.  We can work in the shop, stop to eat, and go back to work. And, now our food doesn’t taste like soap anymore.

We have also enjoyed the opportunity for our two teenage sons, Ethan and Emmett, to see the process of growing a small business and what’s really involved with the reality of that. They see all of the behind-the-scenes and they help work the business as well. It’s been very cool to see them understand the importance of putting out a quality product. They do most of the labeling of our products and are very concerned about how the label looks when they put it on the bar of soap. They don’t want it to look less than perfect.  They are also part of brainstorming better ways to make the business run.  We are always looking to improve the efficiency of our business.  The boys also remove the soap from the molds, cut them, shelve them to cure, date them, and reline the molds for the next soaping session.

I think one of the coolest things that I can say about our transformation from 2018 to present is that we used to just go to the store and buy the oils that we needed in normal household size containers. As our demand increased, we started ordering from an oil supplier where we were getting 50 pounds of each oil at a time. We had to measure out the oils every time we made soap, which got to be tedious, especially when having to scoop hard coconut oil out of a bucket every time we wanted to make soap. Now, we are getting our own oil recipe mixed together at a facility and shipped to us on pallets with 6-55 gallon drums at a time a couple times a year. When we first started to see growth, we ordered 25 gallon buckets of coconut oil and I was in freak out mode wondering how we were going to ever use that much oil. Thinking about all of the granola bars I would have to make if we didn’t use it. We use those two buckets of oils faster than we could’ve ever expected because the business was just growing so fast. And now when we get shipments of our oil mix in barrels it doesn’t even phase me, in fact, it’s a relief when I see those come because I know that we’re not going to have to hand mix our recipe which just saves so much time.

I am very proud of this business! It started from literally nothing and we have grown it into a very successful, very well respected, reputable brand that people love people are addicted to—in their own words—people just cannot get enough of it and love to gift it.

The other really amazing thing about this business is that people see changes in their skin. We have so many people who have skin issues and they can’t figure out how to find relief.  They use our products and everything calms down and feels better, their skin doesn’t itch anymore, isn’t dry anymore, isn’t red anymore, or isn’t inflamed anymore. It just blows our mind! Our philosophy is to just keep it simple and keep it natural and it turns out this really serves people’s skin well. When we get weary with the business, when it feels heavy, when we feel like we can’t keep going on, when I wonder what we’re doing and why were doing it, it is these kinds of testimonial stories that propel us forward because we know we are making an impact on people’s lives.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
So we are actually based in Wisconsin, but we visit Arizona every year to get away from the Wisconsin Winter and enjoy The Arizona heat and sunshine. We always come with our family. The things that we most enjoy about Arizona is the sunshine and hiking in the mountains. Our favorite place to hike is lost Dutchman State Park. We enjoy tackling Flat Iron. After a long hike it’s always great to have pizza from Oregano’s. We also enjoy the ambience of a game at Topgolf in the evening where you get to enjoy the open air and the beautiful temperatures. You think it’s pretty fun to head to Goldfield and watch a gun fight and just imagine life in the old days. We also enjoy the Olive Mill in Queen Creek.  We would love to go back again and enjoy some of their food.  They have an amazing philosophy that aligns very close to our business and lifestyle.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband wanted this business to be plastic-free. He wanted the fragrance in the soap to be easy on the environment. He wanted our products to be like the way soap used to be made. He dedicated this business and the name of it to his grandfather, Orville, who was born in 1924. He looks at the man his grandfather was with just and 8th grade education and all he was able to build and accomplish as his inspiration to learn and conquer new ventures in his life, like soap making. Though his grandfather wasn’t a soap maker, Aaron is sure he could have succeeded even at that if he put his mind to it.  He just has such admiration for this man who “just had an 8th grade education.” He also utilized knowledge from his full-time job in manufacturing and production management at Mathews Inc. to scale our business as it boomed. We find inspiration from other soap makers we follow on Instagram and other small business owners in our community. And the book Smart SoapMaking by Anne Watson.

Website: 1924customsoapery@gmail.com

Instagram: 1924customsoapery

Facebook: 1924customsoapery

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