After making cheese, yogurt, and ice cream with the milk from her goats, Shayna with Bearfoot Gypsy Soap Co. decided it was time to try soap. She makes beautiful bars with natural ingredients like clays and essential oils. Learn more about how Shayna got started, what inspires her, and her soapmaking tips.
How long have you been making soap and how did you get started?
I have a small herd of goats and soapmaking was always on my “to-do” list of uses for their milk. I originally bought goats because my youngest son was highly allergic to cow’s milk and I wanted to give him a good alternative. I made him yogurts, cheeses, and ice cream with the milk, and my family and I drink it as well. I made my first batch of soap in April 2017, so about a year and a few months ago. I remember because I wanted to make something special for my dad for Father’s Day. It was a batch of Sandalwood (goats milk) soap with an in-the-pot swirl made from cacao powder and walnut shell. I didn’t realize until much later that learning to make soap with milk instead of water was not the norm. Once I made my first batch of soap, I was hooked. I wanted to try every soaping technique. I was mesmerized by soaping tutorials from experienced soapers. I tried recipe after recipe until I felt confident in creating my own. I guess I just kept creating and never looked back.
What advice would you give to those soapmakers just starting their businesses?
I have always found it hard to find a balance between the desire to create and good business planning. This is something I am still working on. But it is so important to set a clear plan for your business. While I feel that the most important part of being a handmade artisan is enjoying what you do; you need to set goals and have a written plan for your business to run smoothly. Sit down, pour a cup of coffee, and figure out your pricing, your product line, where you want to sell, etc. Once you figure out what you would like to achieve, go for it! We all do this because it is something we love! Let that show, pour your heart into your products, give it your all. Your customers will see the love and care you put in and they will appreciate your products even more because of it.
What is your favorite type of product to make?
Cold process soap! While I enjoy making bath bombs, candles, and lotions, my love for soapmaking is what keeps me going. I am always dreaming up new patterns, color combinations, and scents. I love creating a usable piece of art that someone will enjoy. I’m still excited every time I get to cut into a loaf of soap.
What inspires you to create?
I am inspired by so many things, it could be a memory, the colors in a garden, a pattern on a dress, a scent, or even a loved one. My mind is always buzzing with a million ideas. I think I have always been that way actually. But I get my best ideas when I am not even thinking about it. When I am relaxed and in a quiet area where my head can clear. Which, unfortunately, is usually while I’m trying to sleep. Most days I’m up at 2 a.m., writing down ideas and drawing sketches of soap. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love every part of the creative process.
How did you come up with the name for your business?
The name of my business is actually based on my childhood. The first part, “Bear,” is based on Baby Bear. When I was about 4 years old, my favorite book was Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I made my dad read it to me every night (several times). He read it to me so much that he started calling me Baby Bear and to this day he still does. It was one of those nicknames that stuck, even my friends called me BB for short.
I was a very free-spirited wild child. I hated to brush my hair, and preferred running around in the nude; much to my parents’ dismay. I grew up on a farm and spent most of my days running barefoot through the woods, catching frogs and climbing trees. I wouldn’t come home until I could hear my mother calling me for dinner. Even now you can rarely catch me wearing shoes, unless of course I’m out in public. And, don’t worry – the nude thing was only a phase. I am fully clothed nowadays. So when it came time to pick a name for my business, I didn’t really have to think about it, it is just what best describes me. Barefoot, free spirited, and still a little wild.
What is your favorite Bramble Berry product and why?
That would have to be the natural colorants. I have used clays available from other soapmaking suppliers but, Bramble Berry by far has the best quality. I especially love the Brazilian purple clay and the indigo powder. I love all of the plant-based colorants Bramble Berry offers. I just love the earthy natural colors they give. It’s hard to find such a nice variety and quality anywhere else.
What are some of your other hobbies and interests?
When I’m not making soap I enjoy painting, redoing old furniture, and baking. I love working around my small farm and caring for my goats. I’ve just started growing a small orchard, I have a veggie garden and a small herb garden as well. I work from home and am a mom to two amazing little boys. Watching them learn and grow is by far my favorite thing to do.
Tell us something unusual or unique about yourself.
I was homeschooled until high school and I just started homeschooling my kids this last year. We’ve only just started, next year my eldest will be in 1st grade. At times it’s hard to balance being a mom, being a teacher, and running a small business from home. But I feel so blessed to be able to stay home with them and watch their little minds grow. I have so many wonderful memories of learning from my mother. From poetry to science, from baking to math, she taught me so much and I hope that my children will one day look back and remember me the same way I do my mother.
What is your number one soapmaking tip?
Patience, something that took me a while to learn. From planning out your soap, taking the time to make an intricate design, waiting to cut the soap, and then the curing time. It all takes a ton of patience! But, the more you learn to be patient, the better you will be as a soaper.
Have you ever experienced a soapy fail? How did you work through it, and what did you learn?
Yes, plenty of times! Usually the culprit is a misbehaving essential oil or fragrance. More than a few times, all was going well with a batch of soap, I add the scent in and bam! Soap on a stick. The best way I’ve found to avoid this is soaping at a cooler temperature and whisking in your essential oil instead of stick blending. I also like to add a well-behaved essential oil in with one I know will move fast to give me some extra time to work. It can definitely be frustrating when a batch of soap doesn’t turn out the way you planned. But with every failure there is knowledge to be gained. Take some notes and try again.
If you were to give one of your products to a stranger, what would you choose and why?
That’s a hard one but, it would have to be one of my Salt Bars. Most people I meet have never tried salt soap, which is a shame because it feels so amazing to use. The best way I can describe it is that it feels like a bubbly exfoliating stone. If I could pick one more, it would be the Bee Magic bar. It is so soothing, the shea butter and raw honey give it such a nice creamy lather. It is one of my top choices for anyone with sensitive or dry skin.
What do you love most about creating bath and body products?
I love experimenting and trying new soaping techniques. When I first started making soap, with each batch I tried a new technique. I love to challenge myself and try new things.
Soapmaking has given me a wonderful creative outlet. There are so many possibilities, I don’t think I will ever get tired of it.