|Soap-Making Hobby Turns Into Family Business||| Print ||
|Thursday, 20 October 2011 15:30|
By Linda Sandsmark
San Leandro Times
What started as a fun hobby has blossomed into an unexpectedly popular product line, created in the San Leandro home of Laurie and Patrick Mahoney. Their constantly-evolving natural bath and body products have grown from class projects to a new career for the couple.
Freelance writer Laurie Mahoney decided to try soap-making classes three years ago when her sons were nearing college age and she had more time on her hands.
“I took a lot of soap-making classes at the Nova Studio in Point Richmond, which is devoted to bath and body products,” she says. “I started making them primarily for myself because I have asthma. I want to know exactly what’s in the products I use, and couldn’t find anything on the market that was all natural and hydrating enough for someone over 40.”
Laurie also liked making her own Christmas presents. Last year she created 48 gift baskets of her soaps for friends, relatives and clients, and found a surprising number of recipients asking to re-order the items inside.
Meanwhile, Patrick’s job with JC Paper on Doolittle Drive ended when the company closed his store. He joined Laurie in her fledgling endeavor of making all-natural, chemical-free, biodegradable vegan soaps, salts and body scrubs on a larger scale.
“It’s something I can develop and he can produce,” says Laurie.
The Mahoneys tried their hand at selling the soaps at the Castro Valley Farmer’s Market this past fall, and found that many nurses, who wash their hands repeatedly, became repeat customers because they love the gentleness and protective sheen the products provide.
Laurie became a “class junkie,” taking more courses in making holiday-themed and kid-friendly soaps. She and Patrick have created soap Pop Tarts, Creamsicles, cupcakes, and S’mores, and completely sold out of glow-in-the-dark alien and eyeball soaps for Halloween. They’re making hundreds of gift baskets in advance for upcoming boutiques in Half Moon Bay and Alameda.
“Special requests like that are welcome, although I never anticipated them,” says Laurie.
The venture has had its challenges. For one thing, neither Laurie nor Patrick wanted to invest their life savings. As their sales increase, they re-invest as they go. Their high-quality ingredients are expensive, so they’re learning how to produce items more efficiently. Glass containers in the bathroom (for scrubs) are not a good idea, but some early alternatives leaked. And soap-making can be a hot (125-130 degrees), dangerous process. Using safety equipment, including goggles, is essential.
Though the Mahoneys make their products (which will soon include organic pet products containing aloe vera) at their home in San Leandro, they decided on the name “San Francisco Bath Company” after researching and finding the domain name wasn’t taken.
Their website, sfbathcompany.com, should be up and running soon.
CAPTION: San Leandro Resident Laurie Mahoney of San Francisco Bath Company sells her handmade soaps at special events like the Castro Valley Farmer’s Market. Here her brother-in-law Jerry Mahoney helps demonstrate how the products are used.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MAHONEYS