Today we’d like to introduce you to Simi Khabra.
Simi, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started my work-life as a software developer in Boulder, but after having my son in 2006, I decided to leave my job so I could stay home with him. Over the years I tried various types of work from home, including accounting and real estate, but eventually I ended up turning to the arts. I quickly became obsessed with researching how to make things with my hands.
My first love was knitting and crochet and later I discovered jewelry making and took some metalsmithing classes. This led me to opening my first shop on Etsy, Fiber & Shine. It took me three months to sell my first item, but that shop grew to become pretty successful (and time-consuming!). As I became more immersed in the maker community, I started shopping on Etsy more and more. One of the things I bought was handmade soap, and I immediately fell in love. It made my skin feel so much better in the dry Colorado winters and every shower felt like a trip to the spa!
I made it my goal to learn how to make cold process soap, so I researched how to do it on YouTube (of course!). Because soapmaking is a fairly complicated process, using a dangerous chemical (sodium hydroxide or lye), I spent a lot of time looking into it before finally taking the plunge. I made my first soap in May of 2016. I spent all summer trying different recipes and having friends and family try it and give me feedback. I also joined Instagram, which was a huge source of inspiration and support.
I opened my second Etsy shop, Muddy Mint, in August of 2016. Thanks to my fancy camera and my previous experience with Etsy, it wasn’t long before I was selling soap! Somehow, making and selling soap felt more authentic to me than making and selling jewelry. I like that it’s a consumable, relatively low-cost, and that I control every single ingredient that I put into it. If feels truly handmade. I also have so many wonderful repeat customers that I’ve gotten to know over the years. And, the soapmaking community is so friendly, giving, and encouraging. I feel like I’ve found a wonderful little home.
Over time, my soapmaking evolved and I discovered that I love making simple, all-natural soaps. All my soaps are palm-oil free and either unscented or scented with pure essential oils. But, I also want to take some of the fun of soapmaking (colors, designs, etc) and infuse it into my natural soaps.
Today, I sell my soap and other all-natural skincare products on Etsy and do most of my marketing via Instagram.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road hasn’t always been smooth… because soapmaking is a science at its heart (the lye reacts with oils to make soap), there are plenty of unpredictable results. After three and a half years of making soap, I’m still learning a lot. I recently had an experience where my soap was becoming incredibly brittle after only a short time in the mold… I’d never experienced that before! It turns out that the warmer temperatures in my studio were causing it, but it took me a very long time to figure that out.
I also had a brief stint with a brick and mortar shop in downtown Longmont. It was so much fun, but also full of different challenges. I learned a lot from that experience and hope to own another small shop one day. The best thing to come out of that experience was meeting local makers in town. The maker community in Longmont is really wonderful and I’m happy for all the friendships I made!
Finally, what started out as a hobby, has now become a full-time business, so in the last year I’ve been simplifying my product line, making sure I keep soaps in stock, and learning to scale everything up by making larger batches of soap. This has been a big learning curve, as larger batches lead to more soapy disasters! But, I’m at a point now where I can keep up with demand, thanks to the investments I’ve made in my business.
The next goal is to get myself set up with a wholesale line, which I know will present plenty of struggles and challenges. But, that’s what makes it fun and interesting!
Please tell us about Muddy Mint.
Muddy Mint was named after my mother’s garden, referring to the mint lying in the mud after a long hard rain. To me it signifies a natural and wholesome way of living, and that’s what I strive for in my business.
All my products are 100% natural and palm-oil free. Many soapmakers use palm oil in their soaps (you can get sustainable palm oil!), but I decided to cut it out entirely due to environmental concerns. That led me on a year long journey to come up with a recipe that is palm-oil free, yet still moisturizing and bubbly and creamy and all that good stuff!
I’m really proud of that journey, because it took a long time and was completely my own. I experimented with a lot of different ingredients until I came up with a soap that I loved on my dry skin. In fact, I came up with several base recipes that I loved for different reasons. A lot of my customers tell me that they’ve never used a soap that didn’t leave their skin feeling dry before… it makes me so happy to hear that other folks are enjoying my soap as much as I do.
I’m also quite proud of my instagram community and growth (@muddymint)! It’s such a fun place for me and I’ve made so many great online friendships with other soapmakers, customers, and followers. Photography is something I really enjoy, so it’s fun to have that be such a big part of my business. I’m even thinking of trying out YouTube videos! We’ll see what happens… 🙂
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memory is sitting with my grandmother on the floor and playing cards. My grandmother lived with us from the time I was born, and was like a second mother to me. She died when I was 11, but she was such an important part of my life. We used to sit on the floor in a straddle and put the cards between us, so my little brother didn’t come wreck our game! She loved working with her hands and my mom often tells me that we’re like two peas in a pod. We recently found her partially completed knitting project in a bag, over 30 years later! It was like opening a time capsule…
- All Natural, Palm Free, Cold Process Soap, $8 per bar
- Website: muddymint.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @muddymint
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/muddymint
- Other: muddymint.etsy.com