How I started Making Soap: Saponify's Story

When I was 16, I took a high school chemistry class and learned that you could mix two liquids and end up with one solid. I didn't really believe it, so I decided to try it myself. 

Although I had made melt-and-pour soap with a kit as a kid, I really wanted to do the process from the start. According to a soap-making website, all I needed was some sort of oil, water, and sodium hydroxide (lye). I bought some lye at the hardware store, found some coconut oil, stole my mom's old stick blender, and got to work! 

That first soap I ever made was absolutely hideous 😂 I only used coconut oil, tried to add food coloring, and mixed for way too long. But it didn't matter: the next morning I woke up to a rock-solid brick of soap. I had successfully turned two liquids into a solid! 

Since that day I have been in love with soap-making. I gradually took over my parents' basement with new oils, molds, scents, bowls, soap bases, cutters... you get the idea.

By the winter of my 17th birthday I was selling cute handmade soaps at local holiday markets and school fundraisers. My friends and family like to say that I started a business. In reality, I made so much soap that I didn't know what to do with it, and sold it so I could buy more oils for soap! 

By my junior year of high school, I knew I wanted to do something bigger. I loved making soap but didn't always love the materials I used. Palm oil, in particular, was starting to create a deforestation problem, and finding small amounts of certified palm was difficult and super expensive. I started having that oil shipped to me for my cold process soaps, but I could never find a melt and pour base that I was satisfied with.

Making a melt-and-pour soap base is not like cold-process soap making, and more advanced than most hot-process recipes. It took me almost another year of trial and error tests and experiments before I had a recipe I was satisfied with.

Some customers actually noticed a difference when I started using my own soap base, and I got a few rave reviews from friends and family. At one holiday show, another vendor actually asked where I got my soap base, and when I wouldn't tell her the recipe, she placed an order for 20 pounds!

In my last year of high school, I wasn't sure I wanted to go to college, but I was positive I wanted to keep making soap. My teachers challenged me to think bigger, and I realized that there were thousands of people making soap, whether it was just once as a fun project with kids, or as a small business.

I researched sources for every ingredient before I found a partner that could make my recipe perfectly. The week before final exams I was on a plane to visit farms as far as Malaysia: I wanted to see the sustainable palm oil myself! My first week of college, I used every penny I had earned at craft shows to start Saponify. I haven't looked back since. 

-Natalie A


My ever-supportive sister, preparing for the holiday season in our ever-messy basement