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Frustrated Farmgirl Hand-Made Organic Fair Trade Soap

I started Frustrated Farmgirl organic, fair trade soap company in 2011.  I've always loved to create.  I loved hanging with my grandfather in the kitchen when I was little.  If it involved paint, glitter or glue, I was in.  But, cooking was even better.  I discovered soap making through geeking out with cooking, beekeeping and organic gardening.  Kombucha led to fermented kraut, which led to baking old world sour dough bread with my own levain.  Soap making was just a stretch from all my other geeky food kitchen endeavors.  I enjoyed soap making and started toying with the idea of starting a small business. 

In 2010, I began learning about human trafficking.   It stopped me in my tracks.  As I started reading books on human trafficking, I found myself unable to sleep.  I have two children.  As I learned about trafficking, the problem became very personal for me.  Children just like my own are enslaved all over the world right this very minute.  30 million of them.  My own littles are in the next room playing with their toys.  I couldn't stop thinking about it.  But, what could I do?  I'm not an attorney who can prosecute traffickers.  I'm not a police officer who can do investigations.  I'm not a social worker who can help people once they come out of trafficking.  I kept chewing on the question of what I could do.  As I learned more, I learned that, with few exceptions, the common denominator for trafficking victims was poverty.  If you can provide your family with basic food, clothing and shelter, your whole family is way less vulnerable to being trafficked.  Traffickers prey on people who are so poor that they have few choices.  I was already a fan of the fair trade movement.  So, I started researching fair trade, organic suppliers for soap ingredients.  It took over two years to find truly ethical suppliers who were actually addressing poverty in a meaningful way. 

Along the way, I began to tweak my soap recipe.  As I started to investigate the environmental impact of soap ingredients, I discovered that one of the main soap ingredients (palm oil) is really hard on the planet.  In fact, palm oil production is a significant contributor to deforestation in the Amazon River valley.  So, I created a wonderful recipe that didn't use palm oil.  I started sending out soap to friends and family so that they could test it to see how they liked it.  I got such a great response that I continued to press ahead. 

We launched an Etsy website, and now we have our own webstore.  We're trying to do three things.  1.  We're trying to create a sustainable business that is a business in it's own right.  It's not charity.  My heart is that we give people in the developing world an honest job so that they can pull themselves out of poverty.  2.  In doing this, we want to be involved in preventing people from being trafficked.  3.  We're trying to create the very best fair trade, organic soap that we can.  We're leaning into how we can delight our customers more and more.  With our ethical backbone as a non-negotiable, how can we best leave our customers wanting more?   We're trying to figure out the best way to reach our customers on a shoe string.  We're also tweaking the business model as we go with the goal of making it profitable sooner rather than later.  With that, I'm very grateful for this class. 

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