When you’re motivated by cost, soap isn’t something that you think about too often. You just go out and buy what’s on sale, debating on whether you want that woodsy, just chopped down a pine tree scent or more of a burst of citrus aroma. Except a good bar of soap isn’t strictly about cost. Yes, cost plays an integral role but it’s also about the nutrients we pump into our skin and how supple it feels post lather and rise. And of course, the attractive scents. I mean it is our largest and protective organ; it’s OK to splurge just a little. A point Jaclyn Rosell of Sakura Soap Co. was keen to point out.
A true labor of love, Sakura Soap started as souvenir bars for owner Rosell’s baby shower over three years ago and has flourished into a full-time business that still focuses on the main reason it got started in the first place, a mother’s love of her child. It’s that principle that motivates the artisan soap maker to handcraft soap, balms, and body butters using the best ingredients and scent pairings that would appeal to every member of the family, even the furry, four-legged ones.
Why did you pursue soap making?
When you have a baby you start reading labels, and you start seeing all these harsh products that you use on a daily basis. So I started to become more conscience. Compared to before. But now I’m concern about my daughter’s health and started looking at the ingredients. What is this? I can’t pronounce it. Where does it come from? Why is this in my soap?
For so long, we were accustomed to relying on big brands to provide everything that we need but once you stop drinking the Kool-Aid and do the research you realize that you can sustain and rely on yourself.
Exactly. I call that the de-commoditizing. That’s truly what it is. Soap is a commodity. People don’t think about where it comes from, they just buy it. Like gas, you don’t care where your gas comes from; you just go to where they have the cheapest. Same with produce. We’re not thinking about where it’s coming from. It’s just recently that people started thinking about the carbon footing of the food that [their] buying. What kind of impact is it having on the environment? What is the impact that it has on the people that grow it? This is a huge shift to what I call conscious consumerism. So with that, you see the rise of the soap maker and the woodworker. It’s happening relatively fast here, [but] in other parts of the country, this is old news.
So when did you transition from doing this on the side to it being a full-time thing?
I decided right before Christmas time in November of last year that I wanted to do soap full time. I was kind of faced with the decision of ‘I either work harder at making someone else’s business do better or work harder in building my own. It was kind of a no-brainer. Yeah, this paycheck pays my bills, but ultimately this is not where I want to be.
[And] I just got swept up in how simple some things can be, and yet the cosmetic industry makes it so complicated. And I fell in love with the process. It’s a mixture of science and art.
How did you decide on your combinations? Is it based on scent pairings or the properties effect on the body?
It’s mostly scent pairings. Since it’s soap it doesn’t stay on your body as much, so I do it based on the characteristics: do they smell good together? I get a lot of inspiration from other soap makers and candle makers. One of my favorites is P.F. Candle Company. They have this one called Amber and Moss, so from there, I got the idea to do Amber and Oak Moss. Others are by accident. I use to do grapefruit and peppermint. One day when I was making it, the peppermint essential oil was opened next to a bottle of pomegranate and the two smelt well together. I experimented with the two and that one became a huge hit. So sometimes it’s trial and error, and other times it’s me being curious. That’s how the mad scientist thing comes into play.
Lately, my big thing has been collaborations. Right now I’m working with Brothers & Brawlers and creating signature scents for them. So I’m doing one called Brother, another Brawler and one called Sister, and it’s going to be their signature scents. The Brawler will be using their coffee and it’s going to be rugged like leather, bourbon, and tobacco, while Brother will be more refined. It’s figuring out how to match the scent with the vision.
What’s your favorite pairing?
I actually have two favorites. One is a holiday favorite, it smells like Christmas trees but the best of Christmas trees. The other is sandalwood and vanilla. It has a warm, woody scent that is comforting to me.
What about your daughter, Lia?
She doesn’t really have a favorite. I have around six different soaps in the shower at any given time, so she likes them all, as long as it doesn’t have peppermint. My husband’s favorite though is the shavings of all the different soaps that I combine to make one bar. It’s a confetti soap of all the scents mingled into one unique smell. It’s pretty neat.
You’ve started teaching some classes as well, right?
I was actually approached by Miami Flower Market because they do a lot of workshops. So that’s where I got my start. By the end of the class I almost passed out, I was so exhausted. So that was my first time, and I stumbled through it. And it’s funny because as a kid I wanted to be a teacher.
What would you say is your philosophy?
Let me pour some coffee before I answer that question. I may not be a creative, but I’m definitely a maker. I love to make things with my hands and I’m always trying to improve and simplify. I’m always trying to simplify my life, and that carries into my soap making. My first motto when I started was, “simple, pure and lovely.” And I guess that’s still true. I make soaps that are simple but they have their own beauty in that simplicity.
Why is it important to support local businesses?
Why is it not? In Miami, it’s really hard, even though it’s an entrepreneurial city. It’s hard. The prospects of having a brick and mortar here are little. I see colleagues of mine all over the country that start off in their kitchen at the same time I started, and their all opening stores and I don’t think I’m anywhere near a brick and mortar. I’m barely paying my bills because everything is so expensive here. Everyone needs all the help they can get. And as makers, we need all the support we can get. It just makes business sense. You shout out your friends and fellow makers, you’re reaching a wider audience that you might not have reached otherwise. I don’t get why people don’t get that. It just makes sense.
For more information on Sakura Soaps follow them: @sakurasoapco
This is a piece in our series spotlighting small businesses part of our Support Local initiative.