2007 - Volume #31, Issue #6, Page #07[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Goat Milk Soap Business
At first Keller sold goat milk, meat and soap at a farmers market. The soap sold the best so she focused on that.
"We have a 100 percent money-back guarantee on your first bar of soap," Keller says, but no one has ever requested a refund. At the end of 2006, the Kellers opened a store in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, 10 minutes from their 7 1/2-acre hobby farm. Keller homeschools her three daughters at the store, and the girls, ages 8 to 11, also help with customers and chores.
Keller anticipated attracting customers who want to use natural products. She was pleasantly surprised when people purchased her soaps for severe skin conditions.
"Skin is the largest body organ, so what you put on it goes into your system," Keller explains, adding that commercial soaps often contain synthetic, chemically-produced detergents that strip the skin's natural oils. "Our goat milk soap actually supplies nutrients to the body."
Keller's soap is 30 percent goat milk, plus vegetable oil and lye and optional essential and fragrant oils. She is careful not to make health claims about her soap, but has many repeat customers who have tried all kinds of dermatology treatments and lotions that didn't work. Keller recalls one man who had red, flaky alligator-like skin. She told him she didn't think she could help him, but she sold him a bar of her Shampoo Soap and a jar of Miracle Butter, told him not to use anything else, and said to bring it back if it didn't work.
"He came back in two weeks later, and I didn't recognize him," Keller recalls, because his skin had improved dramatically.
Keller, who has a bachelor's degree in microbiology and chemistry with the goal of one day being a doctor, finds satisfaction in her business because it helps people.
For people considering starting a similar business, she offers the following tips.
Research various methods of soap making through books and the internet. Keller selected a non-cooking method ù the lye heats the mixture. The internet is also a good place to shop for supplies, such as bulk vegetable oil and essential oils.
Be meticulous with measurements, cleanliness and record keeping. Keller's science background helps, but anyone who likes to experiment and is good with details can make soap, she says. Start with small batches.
Be safe. Lye is a caustic, but essential ingredient in soap. It must be used in the right proportion and handled carefully. Keller's soap is finished in 24 hours, and she tests a piece of soap from every batch on her own skin and with a pH test.
Be patient. Lye and oil must be mixed thoroughly. Adding fragrance and essential oils is tricky. Keller had a few batches harden before she could pour them in 20 to 30-lb. sheets.
Experiment. As customers express needs, Keller creates new products. Soap with Dead Sea mud for acne and other skin problems is one of Keller's most popular products, as is natural makeup. She sells shampoo bars, which include castor oil and extra conditioners for dry scalps and dandruff. She also makes fragrance soaps, facial scrubs, massage oils and lip balms.
Enjoy the goats. Besides the soap-making end of her job, there are chores. It takes about an hour to feed and milk her 24 goats, Keller says. It's a good family activity, because her daughters also like the goats and helping out.
There are few regulations for soaps, but entrepreneurs must comply with federal labeling regulations.
Keller packages her soaps in cardboard boxes to reduce shrinkage and maintain moisture. Cost is about $1/oz. plus shipping for most of her soaps. She sells by phone, through the business website, and at the store.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Pam Keller, The Golden Goat, LLC, 463 N. Washburn St., Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54904 (ph 920 420-2450; email@example.com; www.thegoldengoatllc.com).
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