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  • Viroqua Plastic Free

A Conversation with 1924 Custom Soapery




Businesses committed to developing products that are natural and respectful of the environment are becoming more plentiful and we are delighted to have a conversation with Missy Brooks of 1924 Custom Soapery in rural Sparta.  Missy and her husband, Aaron, have been in the soap making business since March 2018.  Their business has grown from offering handmade, cold-process soap to including lip lotions, body lotions, hair care products, laundry detergents and more.  Their website says it all, “Having great skin shouldn’t compromise our environment.” 

 

What prompted you to start your business? 

Our business, 1924 Custom Soapery was born out of my husband, Aaron’s, desire to formulate the “perfect” bar of soap.  He has used handmade, cold-process soap since he was 14 years old.  He would try bars whenever he had the opportunity, but every soap maker’s recipe is different so the bars perform differently.  Aaron gathered some tools and ingredients and very cautiously made his first loaf of soap in our kitchen while I sat on the couch doing my own thing.  We laugh about this now, because, oh, how the times have changed.  Aaron posted a picture of his soap on his social media and people went crazy asking if they could buy some.  Aaron and I had a long discussion about what this could mean, to take this hobby and turn it to a business.  This was never Aaron’s intent when he first made soap.  However, it seemed like it could be a good fit to supplement some income for our family as our eldest son wanted to homeschool at the time.  So, we decided to give it a go. 


When building your business, did you always have a goal of using natural ingredients and reducing waste? 

Aaron has always desired to make available to our customers the best of the best.  He doesn’t want to sell a subpar product.  So, he continued to tweak his soap recipe eleven times with different oils and ratios until he settled on our current recipe.  Different oils give soap different properties.  He wanted a soap that was hard, lathered well, smelled amazing, was aesthetically pleasing, and fit “just right” in your hand. 



As people fell in love with our soap and the natural nature of it, they asked us to expand to other products.  Someone offered us beeswax at a Farmer’s Market, and we declined it at first, not sure what we’d do with it.  They offered it to us again, and we took it assuming we would find good use for it.  I have to laugh about this, because we use SO much beeswax now.  We took that beeswax and made Lotion Bars.  Our customer base was very interested in this product because it contains only three natural ingredients (shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax).  We decided early on that we wanted to use only the most natural ingredients.  We also decided to wrap this product in a coffee filter with a paper sticker for a label. 

 

This lotion bar was the catalyst for Lip Lotions (a/k/a lip balms).  When customers asked us to make lip balms, Aaron said to me, “Can you imagine how many plastic lip balm tubes are in the landfills?  I don’t want to contribute to that problem.”  Aaron sourced some cardboard tubes of various sizes and we eventually settled on the ones we use now.  When you make lip balms in a plastic tube, there is a really quick-filling contraption.  Cardboard tubes, not so much.  Each tube is individually filled.  It’s rather tedious, but worth it to us for the low environmental impact.  We again were faced with the label dilemma.  A vinyl or plastic label would have been easy, but we made a rule to not use those components in our labels.  We have spent so much time on choosing our lip lotion label and sourcing paper to make it the best it can be. 

 

Our product line grew to Lotion Sticks (also in cardboard tubes) to Body Butter and then to Body Oil.  Body Oil was another “plastic dilemma” for us.  We needed something to stifle the flow of oil from the bottle.  We had to opt for a plastic orifice reducer.  We really wrestled with this, but knew people were making better choices for the environment overall by choosing our natural ingredients and glass bottle even with the small orifice reducer in the bottle.

 

Have you encountered any surprises along the way? 

Aaron had a soaping session go a little awry one time and we ended up with lye-heavy soap.  We have many checks and balances in place to make sure to catch errors if they arise.  Lye-heavy soap is no good for our skin but it’s EXCELLENT for laundry detergent.  We decided to use that soap to make laundry detergent.  We figured once it was gone, we’d just stop making it.  But our customers decided otherwise.  Everyone fell in love with this new product.  We offer some essential oil scents and some fragrance scents.  When sourcing fragrances, we always ensure they are phthalate-free.  Phthalates are hormone disrupters and are in almost everything.  We pride ourselves in keeping our ingredients clean.

 

What pitfalls have you run into when working to reduce your waste? 

Our customer base was asking for more new products.  Products that required spray tops.  We said no for a long time.  We didn’t want to have plastic on our products.  When Aaron named the business 1924 Custom Soapery, he named it in honor of his grandfather who was born in 1924.  He also wanted the business to reflect a time when life was simpler and free of the toxic ingredients we are exposed to now.  As much as we tried to say no to the spray tops, we also knew that our customers wanted these products from us to avoid buying similar products elsewhere with more toxic ingredients.  So, we decided to offer Laundry/Dryer Ball Sprays with a spray top as well as an option for them to choose a metal cap the next time they reordered.  We asked our customers to swap out their spray tops so together we could eliminate single-use plastic.  They have really taken to this, and we are grateful.  We also allow our customers to return their used glass bottles and body butter jars to us to wash and reuse.  It would be so much easier and cheaper for us to use plastic bottles for our oils and plastic jars for our butters, but again, we can’t do it with a clear conscience. 

 

As we have grown, we have stopped sourcing our individual soap oils and have our recipe mixed in bulk in barrels.  This has allowed us eliminate waste from those individual oil packages.  Nevertheless, sometimes we are dismayed by the packaging of the raw materials we receive.  We try to reuse as much of it as possible.  For example, our oils come to us inside of large Ziplock bags for added leakage protection.  We save these and use them for our own storage and shipping needs. 

 

We are very transparent on social media with the “behind the scenes” of our business.  We keep customers informed with the “why” behind all these decisions and it is why so many people choose our products over other options out there. 

 

Have there been any changes that were easier than you expected? 

I feel that because we know what our non-negotiables are (such as no single-use plastic, no vinyl, no phthalates, etc.) it’s just easy to be as sustainable as we are.  We aren’t going to compromise on those things, so it’s one less thing to think about.  Yes, it’s harder work to find the alternative, but there’s freedom in knowing our boundaries. 

 

The 1924 Custom Soapery team includes Aaron and Missy, their sons Ethan and Emmett, Deb Kaduc, Shianne Hayden, Mateya Kaduc and Zandrea Mason. 



1924 Custom Soapery products are available in many area communities including The Daily Brew and Blush Roots Boutique in Westby, and on their website:  www.shop1924.com.

 

 

Do you have a favorite business you would like to see featured on our blog?

Let us know by emailing viroquaplasticfree@gmail.com.




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