We are honored to be this months Member Spotlight on the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic guild. It is the only international non-profit trade association promoting the benefits of handcrafted soap and cosmetics.
Ed. Note: When we asked Maryclaire Mayes, founder of Alabu Skin Care, for Alabu’s founding story, her response was so nicely put we decided to publish it in its entirety. Grab a mug of tea, sit back, and enjoy!
“People always ask me how we got into the adventure of our natural skin care business. I always thought I was born a century too late. I always liked the old fashion way of doing things and sometimes doubted that “progress” was going in the right direction. I longed for the horse and buggy days when life was slower and people lived with the rhythms of the earth. Maybe my way of thinking about living is a bit unconventional…I’m ok with that. Listening to my folks and helping in our family garden, I learned about organic gardening – before it was called that. We helped mom preserve what we grew and enjoyed the profits of our hard work long after the harvest. I tried to learn from my parents’ wise ways. I developed a lifelong interest in keeping life simple, happy and clean.
I grew up, met my husband, and had two wonderful children, still dreaming of the simple self-sufficient lifestyle. As the children grew, we got our son chickens and our daughter two milk goats. She really wanted a horse but my practical side said they don’t give milk or eggs, pretty as they are, they just eat. So our days were filled with taking care of animals, gardening, preserving, maple sugaring, and sewing. We became deeply rooted in our rich but simple life.
On a sunny winter day in 1997, a friend, my goat mentor, recruited my help on a soap-making project. She had nine milking does and was drowning in goat milk. She was selling it, freezing it, making cheese and yogurt, but she had gallons more and was hoping she could use it up to make soap too. Her first attempt was a nasty mess and she said she needed my moral support to try it again. She added that it would be a good chemistry lesson for our homeschooled children. I jumped at the chance to see my friend, try something new and have a science field trip for the kids. As we crowded into her kitchen equipped with goggles and gloves, she explained how lye combines with oils to make soap.
We waited weeks for the soap to cure. At first, I was a little afraid to try it, remembering some harsh handmade soap my great Uncle used to bring us when we were kids. But trusting my friend’s explanation on how handcrafted soaps today have really progressed and why old fashion soaps tended to be harsh (they were making their own lye from wood ashes and could never be sure about the strength of it), I put it in the shower. I was so surprised; I had never realized how drying commercial “soaps” (most are actually detergents) were to my skin. No more coming out of the shower and having your skin feel like it shrank. No more flaking and itching. I was definitely hooked on making my own soaps. I was hooked on this unconventional way to be clean. I made it for my family and started giving it away as gifts. The response was overwhelming. Everybody loved my soap.
I am a natural researcher and I was curious if all handmade soaps were as wonderful as mine or was it something about the goat milk that made my skin feel so soft and nice. I started buying other handmade soaps and found that goat milk was a superior soap to any other soap I had tried.
My husband Dean convinced (nagged) me that we should go into business selling my soap. And that’s how Alabu was born. I soon was researching and trying to learn all I could about making the best soap possible. The more I learned, the more I was sure I never wanted to use commercial “soaps” again. I started to read soap labels. I found that most of the ingredients had nothing to do with cleansing, and could be irritating to your skin and really didn’t fit my philosophy of the simple life and avoiding unnecessary chemicals.
Alabu has always been a family effort. First our daughter Nell helped out milking the goats and then with wrapping and fragrance choices for soaps. Our son Hal was not as excited. You can imagine how thrilled a 10-year-old boy (who loved to dig tunnels and play in the dirt) was that his mom was making soap. But Hal had also inherited his dad’s geeky side. When he wasn’t getting dirty he was sitting on his dad’s lap infatuated with the computer. Remarkable as it seems he started helping his dad with our webpage around 11 years old. He went on to do all our graphic design work too. Time went on and children grow up. Nell went off to college and got married. Hal went to college but continued his involvement via the Internet. When he came home he became an integral part of Alabu’s growth. Over the next 6 years, he spearheaded our expansion with many new ideas, growing our offering of natural skin care products and all things Alabu. His friends even called him Halabu! Then it happened. Hal met the love of his life and planned to get married. He could see his departure coming and we worked out a plan for this new transition. Now Hal is happily married and we couldn’t be happier for him and his bride. Hal hasn’t forgotten us. He still helps us out when he can.
Dean and I are still here and natural has continued to be at the forefront of our business and lifestyle. Our lives have always been filled with unconventional ways of living naturally. We go to extraordinary lengths to use quality; clean ingredients to bring you effective natural skin care products. As someone who cares a lot about being healthy and clean, I can assure you that you’ll love these products. Visit our blog for more stories of our unconventional adventures.”
In business for 14 years (and an HSCG member for 13!), find Alabu Skin Care’s goat milk soap, natural moisturizers, lotions and lip balms online and in stores around the country. For sweet happenings on the farm, funny musings, and the occasional soap-related update, follow Alabu Skin Care on Facebook and Twitter.