Products from Simply Making It are sold locally in such locations as Mark’s Mart in Selma and Black Belt Treasures in Camden. -- Photos by Sarah Cook
Products from Simply Making It are sold locally in such locations as Mark’s Mart in Selma and Black Belt Treasures in Camden. -- Photos by Sarah Cook

Simply Making It a brand built from simple beginnings, ingredients

Published 2:43pm Monday, July 29, 2013

While standing over a pot of fresh goats milk on the stove, churning it into mozzarella cheese, Laura Spencer said she never envisioned herself and her family of four leading an almost completely sustainable lifestyle.

And while she enjoys spending her days on the family farm in Marion Junction tending to her animals and plants, Spencer said if she could, she would devote all of her time to Simply Making It — a homemade soap business she started in 2009.

simply_forweb_02“My husband and daughter have always been interested in music, so they were taking music classes at Camp McDowell,” Spencer explained as she slowly stirred the mozzarella in her modest kitchen. “At the time, McDowell was also offering a soap-making class, and they convinced me to take it.”

After submersing herself in the class, which was held five days a week with only three students, Spencer said she was immediately hooked on the soap-making process. Using fresh milk from her goats, Spencer learned how to convert all natural ingredients into soap bars and other scrubs.

“I use mango butter, cocoa butter, sweet almond oil — stuff that’s just pure and good for you,” she said.

Soap making, Spencer explained, is simply a process in which you mix and blend several natural ingredients. Using the correct amount of each ingredient at the right temperature is paramount to yielding “the perfect bar of soap,” she said.

Adjacent to her dining room, where several bars of soap wrapped in burlap ribbons line the cabinets, Spencer walks into what she calls her “soap making shop.”

simply_forweb_04In the long sunroom, large white jars line a small fold-up table, all adorning natural and organic titles such as shea butter, coconut oil, vanilla extract and olive oil. By mixing fats, butters, chilled goats milk, and a lye mix, Spencer said the basic mixture for soap is formed.

“I wanted to learn how to make soap because that just eliminates one more thing we have to buy,” Spencer said while mixing several ingredients, preparing to make a fresh batch of soap. “We call it the Walmart list. We try to permanently mark off everything we would buy at Walmart and raise it ourselves on the farm.”

After initially making soap to meet family needs, Spencer said her hobby began to flourish as she gave the soap bars as gifts.

“We only need so much soap here, so it kind of became my hobby to make it and sell it, especially during the holiday season” she said while measuring out each ingredient in the soap mixture. “So one thing led to another and I started Simply Making It — it was something I never saw coming.”

simply_forweb_03Soap made from goat’s milk is somewhat of a novelty, Spencer explained, because it offers more natural nutrients like vitamins, creams and minerals. Rich in Vitamin A, goat’s milk can help repair dry and damaged skin. With a rich, creamy texture, goat’s milk also keeps skin naturally moisturized and healthy.

“When we started using it, we actually started noticing differences in our skin. My husband, Chip, even commented on it — and you know if a man notices then it really is something,” Spencer said with a laugh.

With so many benefits and people willing to purchase her product, Spencer said she saw no reason to end her soap-making hobby. Adding to the many chickens, pigs, and sheep already on the farm, Spencer added a few goats.

“They’re like pets, they really are,” Spencer said of the farm’s new animal addition. “We raise a lot of animals that we use for meat, but the goats are off limits.”

Currently, Spencer has five goats, but only uses two for milking. Spending time early in the morning milking the goats has become such a treasured activity for Spencer that the goats have earned names.

“Gertrude is my main milker,” Spencer said with a laugh as she checked on her mozzarella. “Then I have Jewel, Blackjack, Pier and Jaja. My other little one that I have now, I haven’t named her yet, but I’m sure it’s coming.”

From start to finish, the soap-making process takes about 30 minutes, Spencer said. After making the mixture, she pours it into a long wooden mold, which her husband made.

“It’s a really simple process,” she said. “When the soap is liquid, you pour it into the mold and then you have to let it sit for about 24 hours. I’ll test it after that and if it’s still soft, I’ll let it harden a little bit longer before I cut it into bars.”

To make her products extra special, Spencer said she enjoys experimenting with fragrances — which are all natural, of course. Tea tree, lemon grass, sweet orange and rosemary mint are just a few scents Spencer incorporates into her soaps.

“Rosemary mint is the most popular scent, without a doubt,” Spencer admitted. “Tea tree and lemon grass are the biggest sellers though because they have anti-acne qualities.”

And while her soap may not look like what you find on the shelves of Bath & Body Works, Spencer said the benefits of her product often outweigh their lack of bright colored packaging.

“Most people when they want soap, they want what I call the ‘foo-foo soap’ and I am not a ‘foo-foo person,’” Spencer said, pouring the soap mixture into its wooden mold. “But once they start using the soap and see its benefits, they realize how great it is for you.”

Since beginning her soap-making hobby in 2009, Simply Making It products have appeared on the shelves of several local shops such as Mark’s Mart and Black Belt Treasures. Cuticle cream, lotion bars and sugar scrubs are just a few other items Spencer makes other than soap. And although her products have gained popularity, Spencer said she doesn’t foresee her hobby growing much larger.

“I don’t ever see it becoming a huge business,” she said. “It’s right where I want it to be right now. It’s something I do to relax and unwind and I want it to stay that way. Really, it’s exactly what the name suggests — it’s simply making it.”

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