My name is Monica Carter – an entrepreneur and natural soap maker!
It all started in 1995, when I first realized that soap was irritating my children’s skin. Through extensive research, I discovered that soaps are really detergents that strip oils from the skin and leave behind irritating contaminants. In the search for more natural products, it became clear that none existed; although some might say “natural” on the label, a review of the main ingredients proved they were not. So began my endeavor to make natural soap for my family’s sensitive skin.
I discovered our problem – but had no solution other than to make my own soap at home. And that was a bit frightening (to say the least.) Using my experience as a home-school mom, I researched the history of soap: how it was first discovered and how it evolved. And I came across a very special soap – made famous in the 4th century by the Royal Castile family from Spain – so gentle, it was recommended for infants. Since I believe in doing everything the old-fashioned way, I began to try and re-create this soap.
Eventually, I convinced my family to let me sell our home-made soap at the little farmer’s market in downtown Gainesville. They agreed, purchased a tent and table, and rented a spot. Our first market day, we were overjoyed to sell $100 in soap! My husband Mike was so proud of me. Our family decided it was a worthwhile venture, and soon, our business grew from single 10-pound batches to 50-pound batches of soap.
I vividly remember the day we grew to 100 pounds of soap. I was terrified that our timing would be off. You see, making soap is a little like sending the shuttle into space: there is a small window of time in which everything must be just right. In cold process soap making, timing is everything because soap will set up fast like a batch of concrete!
Every family member plays a role: husband Michael is production engineer in charge of manufacturing, securing wholesale suppliers and creating our molds, cutters, labels, liquid soap and face wash. Daughter Kristine (21) designs our graphics and web presence. Son Billy (19) is our “heavy lifter” and customer service representative; and Jonathan (22 Kristine’s Boyfriend), is our web creator and “go to” guy who keeps deliveries on time!
Fast forward to today: we produce a mind blowing 400 pounds of 100 % Organic cold-processed soap! A small, family-owned business in East Gainesville, Florida, we have struggled through the recession’s economic hardships, and a 1999 drought, which made it impossible to rent a boat at our primary business – Kate’s Fish Camp on Newnan’s Lake. We are very proud to be American-made.
And the secret to the success we have achieved? Keeping our prices low and quality high. Listening to what our customers have to say, and always adjusting. Always learning, and trying to improve our products.
We are equally proud to have been selected as a “wild card” finalist in the 2014 Martha Stewart American Made competition, which “spotlights the maker, supports the local, and celebrates the handmade. The program is made up of people and communities that have turned their passion for quality craftsmanship and well-designed goods into a way of life.” It is our hope to inspire others in East Gainesville and surrounding areas to embrace their dreams, and follow their passion. We firmly believe that small, locally-owned businesses – always the backbone of America – can help to revitalize our communities.