That’s My Story And I’m Sticking To It
Today I’m going behind the scenes to share how Penns Hill Organic Soap started. I promise I won’t break into song. Truth be told, I’m much better at making soap than singing. I’ll leave “That’s My Story And I’m Sticking To It” to the country singer that made it famous!
Customers often ask me how I came up with the idea to start a soap company. We just celebrated our six year anniversay. So here’s my trip down memory lane!
“When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade”
Well, in my case instead of making lemonade, I made castile soap. The lemon I was handed was a layoff from the biotech field. As a way to take my mind off the frustration of job hunting, I looked for a way to express my creativity. By combining my natural curiosity for how things are made and my background as a biochemist, I began searching for recipes for household products I could make at home. Somehow, my research led me to an article about making castile soap. Intrigued, I thought, “why not”!
My first batch produced the best soap I’ve ever used. Ironically, I noticed my usual dry winter skin patches vanished. I gave samples to friends and family and their response was “this soap is great, where can I get more?” When my wife used the soap as a bridal shower favor, the guests raved about it. I started to see the potential for a business.
My Next Big Surprise
So, my next thought was “how do I make this even better?” And the answer came from my biochemist background. It’s simple. “Use high quality ingredients, don’t cut corners, and develop a process that is consistent and repeatable.” As the company grew, customers asked me to expand my product line. The original line up consisted of bar soap that was either unscented or made with organic essential oils for a subtle, natural fragrance. “How about liquid soap?” Great question, I’d answer. So, after many requests for liquid soap, I searched for a recipe, but struck out. So, back to the drawing board. After about 18 months of testing, my formula for liquid organic olive oil castile soap met the quality standards of Penns Hill Soap. Today our liquid soap is by far our most popular product.
We only use the very best ingredients in our soap – certified organic extra virgin olive oil, certified organic essential oils instead of “fragrance” for a subtle scent (in our scented soaps) and water. That’s it – pure, clean and natural. No fillers, surprises or ingredients you cannot pronounce. If you read the labels of other soaps, you will find they are usually made with a blend of oils. We find olive oil gives the soap a silky finish that pampers your skin. The original recipes used olive and laurel oil. We decided to follow the centuries old original formula for our liquid and bar soap. So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Enjoy reading the following excerpt on the history of castile soap (see history below taken from Wikipedia).
Castile soap is a name used in English-speaking countries for olive oil based soap made in a style similar to that originating in the Castile region of Spain.
History of Castile Olive Oil Soap
The origins of Castile Soap can be traced back to The Levant where Aleppo soap artisans have been making an olive and laurel oil based hard soap for millennia. However, early soap makers in Europe did not have easy access to laurel oil and and therefore dropped it from their formulations thereby creating an olive oil soap now known as castile soap.
It is commonly believed that the Crusaders brought Aleppo Soap back to Europe with them in the 11th century. Following the Crusades, production of this soap was extended to the whole Mediterranean area. The first European soap-making factories were created in the 12th century in Spain (Alicante, Malaga, Carthagene and Castile) and in Italy (Naples, Savone, Genoa, Bologna and Venice) and then, in the middle of the 15th century, in Marseille France, giving birth to Marseille soap . References
. Retrieved September 2011.
Garzena, Patrizia & Tadiello, Marina (2004). Soap Naturally : Ingredients, methods and recipes for natural handmade soap (1st ed.). Programmer Publishing. ISBN 0-9756764-0-7
Dietz, Brian (editor) 1972. The port and trade of early Elizabethan London: documents (London Record Society).