...and we would occasionally wake up to this.....
Really, there’s no excuse that we can justifiably use to pardon our lack of blog updates. We know a little bit about social media strategies, effective digital communications, the importance of fresh, continually evolving websites, and all the blah-de-blah other stuff about the care and keeping of customers for a small business. We know this stuff, but getting a blog post written these past few months (seriously, it’s been since August) just never seemed to happen. I’ve actually composed many pages of cute little updates, must-know-soap-facts, and posts about silly-nothingness, but the words and photos never left my head to land on the blog page. So, dear wonderful Kumbha Moon Soap Company customers, friends, and peers, here is our express update of all the exciting things that have occurred in our world since our last post…...
First this happened........
Then it began to look a little like this.....
Okay folks, we know that was sort of a cheap little way of getting you updated, but hey, sometimes pictures are a quicker way to tell it all. So we love our new, crooked, 1890 farmhouse, especially watching all of the surprises unfold outdoors as the seasons change and perennials poke up, trees bud, and the former pasture springs alive with an orchestra of changing wildflower colors and boisterous birds. Our farmhouse and our little plot of land have spurred our creativity, forged a closer connection to the rhythm of the natural world, and wrapped us in the history of the valley and the family that settled our piece of land. Thanks dear loves, for sticking with us as we upheaved our lives and small business and resettled into our new home. We are so thrilled to continue making our signature all-nature soap and body care and household products for you in our new home and hope that you can feel a little bit of our happiness and love in everything that we make.
If there's one thing that an impending household move will do, it will create chaos. Physical chaos; emotional chaos; financial chaos; career chaos; family chaos; friend chaos, and even furry animal family member chaos. From the moment just a few weeks ago when we found the perfect farmhouse, our life has been turned upside down in ways that we had forgotten happen when you purchase a house and try to sell your current home simultaneously. Chaos, however, isn't necessarily a bad thing. An initial state of chaos can instigate responses and reactions which can then produce some pretty terrific outcomes. Sometimes you just have to welcome chaos in order to just get beyond it and to keep moving forward.
When the present determines the future,
but the approximate present does not
approximately determine the future.
"Bring it on," we said, and it came. The fast moving nature of our house purchase brought on a flurry of confusion about where we should even start to get our home ready for sale. We blended our houses 6 years ago and both of us still have things in boxes and totes and bags that haven't been touched since. And of course we've accumulated more stuff, more junk, more items that we couldn't part with. And then just two months ago when our daughter moved to Washington, DC and to an uber small room in an uber small shared apartment, we inherited at least 12 large totes filled with her items that we've packed into the convenient cubby spaces in the dormer areas of our cottage style home. We're filled to the brim in this house and the prospect of moving all that stuff became paralyzing last week. This is the first time that we will both move together and we realize that each of us approaches moving in very different ways. Do we pack things now? Do we declutter now? What stays? What goes? Do we panic now?
So while we will be upsizing in living space in our new home, we are drastically downsizing in our current home, both to have it show better to prospective buyers and also so that we don't have to move all the unnecessary junk. In just one week, we have done a deep clean of each room and have been pretty ruthless determining what stays and what goes. We've made countless trips to the dump, to the thrift store, to the clothing drop off kiosks, and have filled the curb high on our garbage pickup days - all this before having our realtor go through the house and draw up the listing paperwork. And you know what??? It feels liberating!!!
From within the sense of panic and overwhelming pressure, we have come through the initial chaos to find a sense of positive reinforcement, freedom, and even sense of adventure. We've made it a competition between the two of us to see who can get rid of the most stuff...and we are both winning. We've found things that we thought we'd lost forever. We've found things that we didn't know we had. We've found things that we had borrowed from other people (years and years ago borrowed) and forgotten to return...until last week. We've found things that represented happy times in each of our lives, and of course, we've found things that triggered the whole range of emotions known on the spectrum.
But as the Lorenz quote notes, "the approximate present does not approximately determine the future." While Duke Street is our current home, home will always be defined where the two of us live together. At this moment in time right now, our home is oddly organized, orderly, clean, and suspended in time until its new family decides it should be their home. Right now at this moment, the chaos has subsided but we know that there will be repeated waves of it, much of it out of our control. And we know that we have to go through it, just get through it, to get to the other side where the reality and the adventure and the life we share wait for us in our new home.
Peace and love - Kimberly and Kellie
Seriously, it can't be nearly 3 months since our last blog post??!!! But it has, and we are ashamed to admit it! We can make all the excuses in the world but the reality is that there usually aren't enough hours in the day to attend to our two full-time career jobs before we can devote attention to family, furry family critters, our backyard farmstead, and of course to Kumbha Moon Soap Company. Whew! Just thinking about all that we try to do during the course of each loooong day, is overwhelming but, hey, we wouldn't keep doing this crazy thing called life if we didn't love each other and all that we do.
We've had great times on a few Saturdays this summer selling at the local farmers market and have met so many new friends and customers and also reacquainted ourselves with friends that we haven't seen in years (okay, decades in some cases). That's an advantage of remaining in one's hometown, especially when it's your 35 year high school reunion weekend! We have also had several outstanding festival weekends that kept us busy for hours on end in our tent. We love to set up at events because we get to meet with people in person and there are always great questions about our products. We've noticed that many people are very concerned about what they put on and into their bodies and we are thrilled when someone asks us to explain an ingredient that's listed on our label or asks us to elaborate on the methods we use to make our products. We love inquisitive customers and we proudly disclose all of our ingredients, sizes, weights, and production, curing, and storage methods - all to assure that each and every product is truly all natural and safe to use.
It has been nothing short of a whirlwind during our first year and few months of business and we have worked almost nonstop during evenings and weekends to formulate new recipes, make hundreds of batches of soap, load our curing racks, and hand label each and every bar. Even though we are a little more exhausted than usual, we love every minute of it. We should be busier than ever in August to build our inventory for holiday sales and we had mentally braced ourselves for the busy batching schedule that we'd have this month. We even calculated how much time we could devote to our garden balanced with the amount of time needed to tend to Kumbha Moon Soap Company. But as you know, things in our life often take a complete change of course, and this is just about as much of a change as we've ever experienced because......
We are moving.....
Yep - it's not a big move, just a mere 6 miles away, but no matter how close or how far, moving a household (both physically and emotionally) and a home-based business to a new location means life drastically changes for a few months. It wasn't an easy decision, especially since we just undertook a major home renovation to create a dedicated studio and production space for Kumbha Moon Soap Company, but we have fallen in love with a restored 1890 farmhouse with a few acres of land. We love our modest cottage home and have efficiently and creatively used every inch of space indoors and outside, but we've yearned for a bigger home to comfortably host our friends and family and a small tract of land that we can do more homesteading (think bees, goats, chickens, berries, and loads of veggie production!). We never think small or practical, you know! There is still some paperwork that we need to finalize and closing on the house is still about 4 weeks away so we can't share all the wonderful things about our new little farmstead until we can actually call it our own, but we can tease you with this:
So dear friends and customers, it seems that the Kumbha girlz have to stand still with soap production for a short time while we pack up our life in this wonderful little house and reopen our boxes and treasure in a new home. And NO! We are not going out of business, we are just abbreviated our production schedule during this big life change! We are planning on carving out a special space for Kumbha Moon Soap Company in our new home and ramping back up to speed shortly after we settle in. In the meantime, we will make soap and natural body and household products in between packing and trying to keep all the pieces of our chaotic life together. Please check back to our Facebook page and to our blog as we chronicle our transition and to learn about which products we have available. If you are interested in a custom order for holiday gifting, please contact us as soon as possible so that we have plenty of time to make and cure your special items.
Standing still so that we can move forward is a great way to describe this place and time where we are and we look forward to sharing our story with you.
Love and peace - Kimberly and Kellie
We turned the calendar to May and realized that Kumbha Moon Soap Company celebrates its one year anniversary on May 3! It’s been an incredible year and we’d like to share a few thoughts and loads of thanks to all of you for giving Kumbha Moon Soap Company an unbelievable start and for hanging in there with us as we learned how to run a small business.
We were artisanal craft soap makers who made soap for our own use and to gift or barter with friends. Homemade, all natural soap aligns with our desire to keep as many chemicals out and off our bodies and with our values toward environmental sustainability. And we just like the way our skin feels when we bathe with a real natural soap. We learned the art of soap making from our dear friends, Archie and Robin, and then let our creative muses take hold and began experimenting with original recipes, essential oils, and various botanicals. While we were having fun with our soap experiments, we found ourselves with an abundance of bars on curing racks, more bars than we could ever use, barter, or gift. So as we patiently watched our soap cure for months on end (hyperlink) we knew we had to figure out either how to get more friends to give our soap to or begin to make a little money back on our growing investment of high-quality ingredients. One year later, it seems that we’ve done both!
We’ve learned so much in just one year when we nervously awaited to see if anyone would show up at our very first “soapen house” and actually pay for a bar of our handmade soap. While most of our “customers” during that weekend launch of Kumbha Moon Soap Company were family and friends, we were so lifted by their nice comments and support that we just kept going (and we really hoped like heck that they weren’t just telling us what they thought we wanted to hear!). We experimented with new original recipes and formulations and gradually understood that in order to keep up with the growing demand that we were experiencing we would need to scale up our production. Soap making is a long process that can’t be hurried so we had to learn how to make bigger batches in bigger handmade molds (thanks to friend Dan Brown for craftsmanship!) all the while making every batch from scratch, hand cutting each and every bar, and never sacrificing our values or high-quality plant-based ingredients. We knew we were in this whacky business model thing when we started to use words like “production schedule” and “pallet pricing” and “market development plan” instead of “Hey, I think I’ll run to the store to pick up a bottle of olive oil so that we can whip up a batch of soap this afternoon because one of our friends would like a few bars to give as a gift to someone.”
Our artisanal craft has now transformed to a real business and we now find ourselves having to think about exciting elements like an inventory control system that goes beyond us manually counting soap bars and body products and weighing hundreds of pounds of oil to calculate value of ingredients on our shelves. Or the logistics of having a tractor trailer back down our dead end street to drop off a pallet of coconut oil, shea butter, castor oil, and lye in our tiny residential neighborhood. And receipts….we need to be better about keeping those pesky scraps of paper (or so our very patient income tax preparer tells us). And we can tell you first hand that any website editing platform that claims to be easy, simple, and WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get), is probably wrong on all accounts. We’ve learned, we’ve made a few mistakes, and we’ve learned from those mistakes. But we strive to continually stay true to our values, create safe all-natural products, and always try to give back more than we use or take.
The absolute best part of this roller coaster learning curve and the reason we’ve decided to keep buying a ticket for repeat rides? Our customers, our friends, our families. Kumbha Moon Soap Company could not have risen and succeeded so quickly if it wasn’t for the unprecedented support and encouragement of everyone who has given us such real and honest feedback about our products, suggested new products, and has encouraged us to keep going. One year ago Kumbha Moon Soap Company seemed like a distant part of us, but as our little business has grown and evolved this crazy first year, it truly has become an extension of each of us and an extension of the unit that is us…it is a true representation of Kimberly and Kellie, two creative, unpredictable, stubborn Aquarians who always have too many things going all at once but who are also very dedicated, passionate, and grateful for all that we are blessed with. Thank you dear customers, friends, and family!!! Namaste....and keep on lathering!
Kimberly & Kellie
A few sunny morning rambling thoughts:
As we sit here this morning with mugs brimmed with coffee and the morning sun streaming in our east facing windows, we are mulling a reformulation of one of our first original soap bars: Summer Soother. When we launched Kumbha Moon Soap Company last May, the Summer Soother bar was a customer favorite. We intended it to help ease the sting of nasty summer bug bites and also provide effective cleaning of summer dirt and sweaty skin. We used calendula petals and poppy seeds for exfoliation and essential oils of citronella and lemongrass. We've had customers tell us that this is their "go to" soap when they go camping or as a itchy skin relief after hiking in the woods. It's made with our original essential soap base so it's also loaded with skin conditioning oils like pure imported Italian olive oil, shea butter, and castor oil.
But those poppy seeds...we've decided to tweak our original recipe and use a fantastic lemon essential oil that we were able to source recently in place of the citronella oil. We will continue to add calendula petals for light exfoliation and the soothing qualities of calendual oil that might come through the process, but customers are divided about those poppy seeds. Many have told us that they love them because they help clean summer grime and sweat and others have told us that they dislike them for a variety of reasons (ever find a stray poppy seed clinging to your hair?)
You might have noticed from our website updates that we are running low or are temporarily out of some of our soap varieties. Part of the reason for the lag in inventory right now is that we are still so new at the “business side” of making our all-natural soap products that we had no idea how much inventory to prepare for the holiday shopping season. We are still in the learning curve of this whole whacky business thing called Kumbha Moon Soap Company and are fairly novice at predicting the demand for our products for holidays and special occasion gift giving in addition to our regular sales...and we obviously underestimated! We had several customers ask us if we could make a new batch of soap for them to pick up in a day or two and we had to explain the other part of the reason why our inventory was low…the soap curing process. “What? Soap has to cure?” Yes, and the best way we could explain it was to compare the soap curing process to the way a good quality cheese has to age – slowly, carefully, and with great patience!
Handmade soap recipes use a fair amount of water or other liquids to help dissolve the lye and to create fluidity to the batch during the process of making it (believe us, the last thing you want is for a batch of soap to seize…that’s another blog post!). There are often other ingredients in a soap batch that have a water content too, such as pumpkin or carrot puree or goat milk. Experienced soap makers will know how to calculate a recipe and “discount” the amount of water to safe handling amounts. The less water that a batch of soap contains, the faster the bars will cure.
So please be patient with us as we rebuild our inventory and gently tend to our soaps during the curing process. When you purchase a handmade soap bar from us or another soap maker, feel free to ask how long the bar has cured or how old the soap is. The Kumbha Moon girlz are always happy to tell you exactly what you are purchasing, how we made the product, and the values and quality that we have infused each of our products with!
Now that you’ve purchased (or received!) what we think is the best all-natural soap on Earth, we want you to enjoy your Kumbha Moon Soap Company soap bar as long as possible. Our handmade soap bars will last just as long, or longer, than commercial bars of the same size if you take a few extra steps to give it some T.L.C. once you get it home. Here are a few of our suggestions!
Why store it, drain it, and cloth it?
Our soaps do not contain any chemical additives, chemical preservatives, or artificial hardening agents like commercial soaps. When we hand cut soap bars from our wooden molds, they are still quite soft and full of moisture so the bars take about a 2-month rest on our curing racks to naturally air dry and harden. Some bars with a high olive oil content will have to cure as long as 4 months until the bar is hard enough to meet our quality standards. In many ways, the curing process is the most important step in natural soap making since it will establish the longevity of your handmade soap. Your Kumbha Moon Soap Company soap bar will continue to age and harden when exposed to the air (more on that below) and a mature handmade soap bar will last a long time in your shower. Some of our favorite bars with the best lather are over one year old!
It is really important to keep your all natural handmade soap bar in a dry spot where excess water can drain away in between uses. A real handmade soap bar is nearly 1/3 natural glycerin which is a natural by-product of the saponification of the oils and lye. Glycerin is just one of the natural conditioning agents typically found in homemade soaps, but it is also a humectant which means it attracts moisture. If your handmade soap bar is left to sit in water or a goopy soap dish, the bar would eventually absorb the water and begin to break down (that’s the goop in the dish). In fact, most commercial soap companies chemically remove the natural glycerin from their products just for this reason but then infuse their products with more chemicals that act as artificial conditioners. You can be assured that Kumbha Moon Soap Company soap is all natural, chemical- and synthetic-free, and will last a long time if you give it a place to drain during uses.
Our handmade soap bars lather up with big foamy bubbles and we think they lather even more bubbly with a washcloth. A washcloth will also catch any stray larger exfolianting particles that we might have used such as oatmeal or ground herbs and spices. You will still get all of the conditioning and cleansing qualities from your Kumbha Moon Soap Bar through your washcloth and your bar will last longer than directly rubbing it on your body. Give it a try!
We are Kimberly and Kellie, the creative team behind Kumbha Moon Soap Company, and we are also a duo of Aquarians who are more oldish, than youngish, outdoorsy as well as indoorsy, impulsive as well as compulsive, scattered as well as collected, and friends and caretakers to many (too many!) furry friends. We met at a yoga class at Yoga Betsy’s studio nearly 20 years ago and since then, we’ve been trying to stay rooted and upright in tree pose ever since. When we fall down, we just get right back up, take a deep breath, and try it again. Yoga and the yogic-life philosophy have profoundly impacted many aspects of each of our lives and we just try to live simply and goodly (is goodly a word?) We are both initiates of the Himalayan tradition of yoga and ironically both of us were given the same mantra and charged with the same life work and purpose during each of our initiation rites: balance.
Say what? Balance? That’s what we two whacky, impulsive, moody, predictably unpredictable Aquarians are each supposed to work on for the rest of our lives, or until we attain enlightenment? Balance? Well, when each of us stops to think about what our guru charged us with during each of our initiations, it makes perfect sense. In many ways, each of us has struggled to find balance in almost every aspect of everything that we do because we both love to dive right in, head and feet first (when you are really flexible from yoga you can dive head and feet first!), and then often we end up feeling like we are in over our head, submerged, and can’t breathe. It’s pretty obvious why practicing yoga and trying to walk through life on the yogic path is a great strategy to help us achieve some sense of balance.
When we dove right in and decided to turn our soapmaking craft into a real grown up girl business, we knew that we'd have to find balance with our careers, our personal lives, and our new business without everything toppling over. We also found ourselves totally stumped in deciding on a name for our new company. We ran the gamut of names, some silly, one naughty, a few strong contenders, but none felt like it was “the name.” Our business is the extension of us, our values, our philosophies and it was challenging to find the balance between our personal sides and our business sides. So we turned to our yogic roots and there it was…..Kumbha Moon Soap Company.
The Hindu zodiac is known as the Rashichakra and each month has a zodiac name, known as a rashi, and a symbol – all very similar to the Western version of zodiac. The first rashi of the Hindu Rashichakra is Kumbha Rashi, which is the equivalent for Aquarius. The Sanskrit word Kumbha also means “pot” or “vessel” or “womb,” all of which correlate to the description of the water bearer for Aquarius. Kumbha. Kumbha. Kumbha. With both of us being Aquarians, Kumbha surely sounded like a good seed word to build our business name on. We doodled and scribbled the word Kumbha on everything and tried matching other words to it, but the one word that just felt right was “Moon.” We are both lovers of moon shadows and moonscapes and moonbeams and moonshine, and Moon just sounded like a good fit with Kumbha. So there it is - Kumbha Moon Soap Company - a name that blends both our personal attributes and values with the business side of starting a new company.
Our logo is also a personal reflection of us which Kellie (the artistic of the K2 duo) designed. The outline is the front of our house with 2 of our 3 gables showing and there is a content moon watching over us and a mischievous crow to symbolize life's magic and mystery as well as our personal transformation.
So that's the story behind the name!
Introducing our Conditioning Shampoo Bar
Okay, so before you think that the Kumbha Moon girlz have totally lost it and are asking you to do something that absolutely defies your body's natural functions (we did say poo after all), what we are really talking about is shampoo, or the lack of it. So now that we are all on the same page (even if you are still giggling thinking that we really meant the other kind of poo), let's explain it.
We've seen all sorts of No 'Poo Challenges swarming around on social media and email chains and we've been curious about how not using commercial liquid shampoo could actually improve the health of our hair. People report amazing changes to their hair and scalp condition and swear they will never go back to using commercial liquid shampoo. There are many different shampoo alternatives, most of them relying on kitchen cupboard ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar. That approach sounded pretty good to us especially since we make our soap from food-grade ingredients and a lot of times from our own kitchen pantry. But it seems that while we are pretty picky about what we eat and put on our bodies, our values must have stopped at our heads since our shower is filled with name-brand shampoos, conditioners, and hair beautifiers. On top of that we would then liberally use hair spray, spikey stuff, tamer, curler, hot iron, hot dryer, pomade, oil therapy and more to either fight, tame, or change the way we wanted our hair to look and behave ( but we gave up highlighting and coloring over a year ago). Yikes! For two girls who strive to live simply, we have recently realized that the chemicals we have been adding to our hair and scalp probably could be eliminated and swapped out for more natural products and the No 'Poo Challenge was a great place to start.
Around this same time our hairstylist mentioned that she had been using our Citrus Castile soap bar instead of liquid commercial shampoo and had seen some really nice changes to her hair. We gave it a try and loved the results that we saw in our hair in just a few days and then decided that we wanted to make a shampoo soap bar recipe that would contain oils that would give hair extra special treatment and condition. As we do, we delved into loads of research and chatted with old-tyme soapmakers on the listservs and performed lots of recipe experimentation until we created a soap bar base with 6 oils that will gently cleanse and condition hair. We made an experimental batch, let it cure for a few months, and then took the shampoo bar for a test run. We tossed all remaining commercial shampoo and conditioner products out the door (but put the bottles in the curbside recycling bin of course) and only used the shampoo bar to wash our hair.
The results? After about one week, each of us noticed that our hair felt different....different in a way that is hard to describe but that is good, really good! Our hair became more like the hair that each of us had when we were younger. We noticed more flexibility, shine, less frizz, and natural movement. Seriously, it was like the hair we remember having when we were kids. It felt like we were reclaiming our natural hair. Our shampoo bar testers also reported seeing positive changes in their hair condition so we decided that it was time to put a label on it and add it to our product line.
And the winner is…drum roll please…..Tinge of Cinn. That’s the name that our customers and readers have voted as the favorite choice for the name of our new soap that is heady with the essence of 100% cinnamon bark essential oil. As hard as we pushed our creative thinking caps to work, we just couldn't come up with a name that seemed to fit this unique soap. So the Kumbha Moon girls relinquished control (something neither of us Aquarians do well) and let our customers choose the name for us. Just as many people have empowered us as we transformed our kitchen-based artisanal craft into a real grown-up kind of business, we empowered our customers and readers to be a part of this crazy process too. We are tickled all the name suggestions that were submitted and with the fierce voting as it came down to the final three name choices.
We think Tinge of Cinn fits our new bar perfectly! The first batch of Tinge of Cinn is still on our curing racks and should be ready for sale by mid-November, which is a perfect time to introduce this warm, sensual smelling soap. It is made from our homemade recipe for our essential soap base that is rich with pure imported Italian olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, castor oil, and vegetable oil - all perfect to soothe dry change-of-season skin. The winner of the naming contest has been notified and will receive her choice of 3 Kumbha Moon Soap Company soap bars.