In my ongoing quest to bring inspiration to your day; Sparklefly Candle Company has reached out to some other amazing entrepreneurs to share their stories and products. As always, I encourage you to explore these small business owners with me and remember to shop small this holiday season and all year round.
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”
― Helen Keller
This week I deliver to you, Angela Carillo of Alegna Soap. She is the gratitude woman. She always brings the positive side to everything and brightens everyone's day. She is knowledgeable and intelligent and GENUINE. I absolutely ADORE this woman and I am crazy about her soap. Check out her story!
Q: Tell me about Alegna Soaps and how you got started?
I’m a scent and soap snob. Always loved anything smelly and soapy. When I was young my favorite gift (besides books) was a perfume making kit. As I got older I studied Chemistry and was curious about making soap. I went to the library, took out a book and taught myself. My first batch of soap was made with beef fat. I rendered the fat into tallow and made soap by hand, stirring forever. (Now I have a few stick blenders to speed things along) My whole house stunk but I was hooked. Watching the caustic lye and the greasy oil become another substance was magic. Soon I learned about using different oils and butters and made soap a few times a year for myself and friends. This went on for about 10 years. One day I received a catalog in the mail for the Open Center in NYC. I glanced through and saw there was someone giving a soapmaking class. My first thought was “I have to take this class and meet her” so I met La Shonda Tyree. I enjoyed her class so much I took it again! Then I found Marla Bosworth and took her soap making classes. I started networking with other soap makers and making soap every spare minute I had. I found some natural perfuming classes and took those to help me blend fragrances. About five years ago, there was soap curing on every flat surface of my house except for the floor. My daughter came by to visit and told me I had enough soap in the house to clean the state of NY. I thought for a long time about starting my own business. I knew nothing about business and had a lot to learn. With some encouragement from my family and friends, I decided I was up for it. I’ve been selling soap for 5 years now and about two years ago started teaching soap making classes myself.
"My daughter came by to visit and told me I had enough soap in the house to clean the state of NY."
Q: What is your favorite aspect about being a small business owner?
My favorite aspect of being a small business owner is also the part that scares me the most. I make all the decisions. The success (or failure) of Alegna Soap falls on me. I can ask for advice, but in the end, I decide what direction I want Alegna Soap to go. I want to be able to support charities I believe in. I had a close friend who went through some financial difficulties when her husband left her with 2 young children. People from St. Vincent de Paul food pantry called her each week and made sure she and the kids had enough to eat. They never made her feel bad about taking food. Even when she got back up on her feet, they called making sure things were ok. So now I send them a check every month to help someone else. Another organization I love is The Lovin’ Soap Project. I flew to Haiti to teach local women in tent camps how to make perfumes. Seeing how they live, in shacks with no running water, truly made me grateful for my hot shower every morning. They also get a monthly check. I know some of my decisions aren’t “business savvy”. I have been following my intuition and common sense, and so far I’m happy with where Alegna Soap is.
Q: What should a customer expect when they purchase from you?
My customers expect a moisturizing soap made with high quality organic oils and butters, scented with essential oils. If purchasing at a fair or event, they get a warm welcome, a smile and a thank you. Online customers get a handwritten thank you note and a free sample. I appreciate every one of my customers. Without them, I wouldn’t have a company. Many of my customers have become friends. I’ve helped them with science projects (yes, we made soap), school fundraisers (yes, we sold soap), bridal and baby shower favors (yes, cute bags of soap) and raffle baskets (yes, filled with soap). When Maddie wanted an activated charcoal soap for her, I made one for her. Seth needed a shaving soap and after some research I had one for him. I really try to go the extra mile for my customers.
"I really try to go the extra mile for my customers."
Q. What are some of your best selling products?
My Peppermint Scrub Soap is my best seller, but my personal favorite soap (and second best seller) is my Lavender Lemongrass Soap. I find it very interesting since they are such different soaps. The Peppermint Scrub is a real “wake me up” soap and the Lavender Lemongrass is a calming soap with a spa-like scent.
Q: Who or what has been the biggest inspiration for you?
My parents are by biggest inspiration. When I look at them I see the extraordinary in an ordinary life. They lived a simple life. Take care of your responsibilities, appreciate what you have, and show your loved ones that you love them. They taught me how to live my life by example. They taught me how to raise my children by the way they raised me. I watched them and learned. My dad always told me that if I could read, I could do anything because I could learn by reading. And he was right. I taught myself how to make soap by reading a book.
Q: Do you have any special events or offers coming up?
In November and May, I have an Open House. It’s hard at a craft fair to get to know someone, there is so much noise and there are so many people. Also, so many of my customers wanted to see my soap studio. I decided to invite them to my home. I put out some food, make special soaps and products I don’t usually sell and since this is my party I make goodie bags for everyone to bring home. I get to show off my studio and I have fun, really getting to know everyone. It’s a relaxed and lay-back kind of time. My next Open House is in Bethpage on November 15th from 11am to 4pm. I ask my customers to email me for directions. Your readers are welcome to do the same.
You can find Alegna here:
Make sure to say hello and leave Angela a comment!