The Best of Home Grown, Home Baked and Hand Crafted by Local Farmers, Gardeners and Artisans.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Q&A with Debra Arb, of Waite & Allenby Soap Company

Q:   How did you get started making soap? Waite & Allanby
A:   My sister bought a book and loaned it to me. That was in 2003. I was intrigued with the beautiful soap pictures and started collecting ingredients and tools at once. My first soaps were made from beef tallow and were definitely not the quality they are now!

Q:   How did you get started at the Emporia Farmer's Market?
A:   In 2010, my husband and I went to a beekeeper's fun day in Lawrence, KS and they had soap, lotion and lip balm classes as well as classes for beekeepers. I picked up some more tips about soap making that helped me improve my skills, as well as gave me ideas about marketing my soaps. When I suggested selling them, my husband was skeptical, but he paid the fee and built an awesome vendor stand for me.

Q:   What makes your soap different from what we can buy at the grocery store?
A:   We use natural base oils like extra virgin olive, coconut, sustainable palm and castor oil and then we add different botanicals, clays, essential oils, skin-safe phthalate-free fragrance oils and other natural ingredients to make a really gentle bar of soap. We don't add artificial colorants, preservatives, hardeners, latherers, or petro-chemicals. Most commercial soap manufacturers remove the glycerin that is produced during the saponification process. Glycerin is a highly profitable substance sold to other companies for use in lotions and moisturizers. Then these companies add synthetic lathering agents and harsh chemicals so that the resulting bar is now a detergent bar that can be purchased cheaply; it is bad for your skin and bad for the planet. If you have noticed, the vast majority of bars on store shelves say "beauty bar," "moisturizing bar," or "body bar" because they cannot legally be called "soap".

Q:   How long does it take to make a bar of soap?
A:   The process of making soap can take me anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes depending on the type being made; that's not counting the time it takes to get the molds and ingredients ready. Then, when the soap loaf is unmolded the next day, it has to be cut and set to cure at least 4 weeks.

Q:   In the three years that you've been selling at the market, your selection has grown quite a bit. How many soaps do you now make?
A:   Well, I currently make 30 different kinds of soap. A few of those are seasonal and a few I haven't marketed yet. The different types of soap I now have are: body soap (of course), bug repellent soap, seaweed soap, sea salt soap, gritty soap for deep dirt, shampoo bars and dog shampoo bars.

Q:   What do your customers say? What makes them repeat customers?
A.   I get a lot of positive feedback from customers on the soaps. They comment on the scent, the beauty of each bar and the way it makes their skin or hair feel. We have had people come back and buy after receiving a free sample or some became customers after receiving our soaps as a gift. I think there is just something fascinating about a bar of handmade soap that makes people want to use it.

Q:   How has your participation at the market enhanced or helped grow your business?
A:   Selling at Emporia Farmers Market has given me confidence in my product through the one-on-one conversations with the customer. I get customer-input directly regarding my product as well as my service. I have seen my business evolve over the last 3 years due to customer opinion and, as a result, I now have my product in Studio 11 and Nature's Paradise.