I admire people who pursue their goals and follow their passion. I recently met this amazing woman, Angela Stewart who creates Artisan soap, body polish, body frosting, bath teas, and so much more. Her products are unique because she puts her personal touches on her products, that no company can compete with. I was excited when I learned about her products because as a woman it can be difficult finding what you want to do with your passion. Especially when you don’t know how to market yourself. Angelina figured out how to make her craft a business. This is a story we can all learn from and to know that if we think outside the box we can conquer anything.
What inspired you to create the Artisan soap, body polish, and other products?
AS: I really wanted to have control over what I was using. I used to love Bath and Body Works sugar and salt body scrubs and would shell out $18 for a jar. One day I decided to take a look at the ingredients just out of curiosity. Before then I never looked and assumed it was made with quality ingredients solely based on the price. Now, this is going back about 15-20 years, and at a time “natural” bath and body products weren’t exactly a “thing” yet.
After realizing the dominate two ingredients listed were first sugar (no surprise) and the second was mineral oil! Seriously mineral oil? The same super cheap oil my mom used to remove makeup? The same stuff that I would layer with my lotion during the cold New England winters? The stuff that is at most $2 for a bottle! Talk about feeling like I got got lol. From that moment I decided to start whipping up my own body polishes with oils that I actually wanted and that I knew were a better option for my skin.
Soap making is the perfect craft for equally left and right brained people like me. Science has been my main interest and love since I was very young. Everything about it was just fascinating and awesome, but I was also an artist. I learned the science of soap making over 20 years ago and found it to be the coolest thing. To be able to take some oils and turn it into a functioning bar of soap through science was so dope.
Fast forward a few years and I found myself needing a creative outlet to feel fulfilled artistically, and soap making was the answer. And with the shift in natural products about a decade ago it produced an increase in herbal shops both in brick and mortar and online. This opened an entire world to me. I begin experimenting with new ingredients, trying new techniques and formulations. This craft has inspired me to continuously use science and art as a useable form of expression.
How did you come up with the name?
AS: I have no fun or quirky story to tell with this lol the name Polish & Lather was picked because I was becoming knowing for my sugar polishes and soaps lol. It was just that simple.
What was the first step you took when you realize you wanted to make this a business?
AS: The very first step that I took was to trademark my name and to snatch up all the social media that I could think of in that name. I would also continue to sell to friends and family but didn’t officially launch and put my business name out there until I was awarded my TM. I really dig the name for its simplicity, and I know how cutthroat the internet business world can be and I sure wasn’t about to let someone slide in and take my name from up under me.
Who is your target market?
AS: How about I tell you about my woman; her name is Jovy. She enjoys city living, brunch, and happy hours. Loves to take time out for pampering and understands the importance of little splurges on oneself. Pretty things catch her eye and quality matters. She spends her weekends shopping at farmers and artisan markets, and friends and family come to expect handcrafted gifts from her for special occasions. But, she unapologetically loves Anthropology. A foodie at heart with an appreciation for a well-crafted cocktail; she loves exploring the world through food, drinks, and ingredients.
Wanderlust is her middle name.
How did you learn about skin care and how has it improved for you? Have you had bad skincare in the past?
AS: I learned about skin care from research and through conversations with my esthetician and dermatologist. I have always had oily skin and even had to deal with acne as an adult, and realized all the advice from television commercials, friends and family just wouldn’t work for me. All the potions and elixirs could not get my skin under control. I was always told that I needed to dry the oil from my skin, not to eat sugar, no oily pizzas, etc. and that was the only way for me to rid myself of breakouts. Not true.
Through research and just a simple understanding of science; I was able to formulate an oil to effectively cleanse my oily skin without any breakouts. It felt like the heavens had opened and I was running in a field of daisies and twirling like the Sound of Music I was so happy with the vast improvement of my skin. 7 years down the road and I still haven’t had a full breakout. A pimple here or there, but that’s about it.
How long does it take for you to create a product?
AS: They all vary, but soap is the longest and most involved of all the products that I make. Before I create a new soap I will take some time and conceptualize how I want to incorporate and additives, the design, and the fragrance. From there it’s the active part of soap making. Taking the oils and the sodium hydroxide and turning it into soap. This process can sometimes take an hour and a half to two hours depending on prep time and design intricacy. But the longest part of the soap making process is the inactive cure time. I cure my soaps for 6 weeks minimum; unless it’s a castile soap which I cure for 12 months. Because of the curing times, soaps have to be properly planned and timed for holidays, events and such. I just can’t make it today and have it ready to sell by next week. But everything else that I make takes considerably less time from start to ready for the consumer.
Do you provide samples, and do you do showcases where people can come to meet you and try your products?
AS: I put a sample in each order that is placed as a little extra thank you. And I do vend around the Philadelphia area. It’s a blast being out there and being able to talk to and meet my customers face to face, and seeing their faces as I tell them that little rosebud on top of their soap I hand selected myself while in Thailand.
What makes your products different than other companies? Have you come across any other products that were similar to yours?
AS: My company is different because I incorporate my love of travel into my products. I physically travel to countries, meet other artisans and even visited a women-owned co-op in Morocco to learn how to make Argan oil the traditional way and to purchase directly from this small business.
My products included Rhassoul clay from the Atlas Mountains, volcanic ash from Iceland, salt from the Salinas in Cape Verde, Coffee from Cuba, and safflower petals from Thailand. I know everyone can’t travel the way that I do, so I bring a little element from the world to them.
And no, I have not come across any other soap makers doing what I do.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
AS: I am proud of being able to carve out my little niche in this creative world, and being on the path to creating a brand that is a little outside of the box in my industry. I can’t wait to take it to the next level and see exactly what I can accomplish.
How long have you been in this industry?
AS: I officially launched Polish & Lather midnight on 1 January 2014.
What have you learned while creating and managing this business?
AS: I am not just a soap maker. I am a traveler, learner a culture lover who happens to make soap. I’ve learned that soap making allows me to be a vehicle to fully and authentically express myself in every way possible.
If there were anything you can change about the skincare industry what would it be?
AS: I don’t think there is anything that I would change right now; we are on the right path. The skincare industry is changing fast and small artisan companies are driving that change in the right direction.
Do you have children, spouse, if so how do you manage business and time with your family?
AS: I have no children, but my husband helps out where he can. He’s there with me at all of my events, and he’s also the cameraman of my videos that I shoot while out on my sourcing trips. He hasn’t made soap yet, but hopefully, soon I can get him in the studio to give it a try.
How can we locate and purchase your products?
AS: You can purchase through my website at Polish & Lather
What is your favorite product, and what are your customer favorite products?
AS: My favorite product that I offer is our Elements Box. They are so much fun for me and I absolutely love seeing everyone’s photos and the amazing things they make with the ingredients. My customers love the soaps!
I also have a Facebook group called The Curing Rack that you can join where we discuss ingredients for both bath & body and cooking. This group focuses on the ingredients not necessary the soap. So, we have mostly soap makers but there are also chefs in there too. And those group members have the ability to get in on special mystery boxes full of ingredients that I bring back from my travels. You can join us here: The Curing Rack Group
Check out behind the scenes and what I do on my sourcing trips on YouTube: The Curing Rack Polish and Lather
Community Convo: What questions do you have for Angelina? Have your experience skin care issues? If so what did you do about it? Let’s start a conversation!