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Local soap companies extend healthy living movement

BY KAYLAN THOMPSON kthompson@paducahsun.com

A

s increasingly more Americans give product ingredients a closer look, the movement toward all-natural body care spreads beyond the aisles of larger retailers and to small businesses in downtown Paducah.

Paducah now boasts two new soap companies, each focused on sharing its secret to clean and healthy skin.

Ashley Graham began making soap as a natural alternative to steroid creams for her daughter a few years ago. Now, her hobby is a blossoming, sweet-smelling business located downtown at 104 Broadway, The Farmer's Daughter Soap Company.

"I started doing research, and I developed a recipe that helped my daughter. I never meant to sell soap, that wasn't on my radar. I just wanted to help my kid," Graham said. "Then we started getting busy, then busier, and then busier. If we continue to grow at this rate, we're going to have to get a separate production facility. It's amazing."

The one-year-old business caters to both local and out-of-state customers, boasting wholesale accounts from Florida all the way up the eastern coast of the nation.

The store features shelves, baskets and crates of handmade soaps, sugar scrubs, body sprays, candles, bath bombs, beard oils, shave creams, pet soaps and more, all made with natural, safe ingredients.

"There's no chemicals and it's all-natural. It's not your grandma's soap," Graham said. "We super-fat our soaps with oils and butters. Your skin is your largest organ, why would you not take care of that? You're putting all these chemicals on your skin every day. Read the back of a commercial brand and Google those ingredients, see what propylene glycol is. It's antifreeze, and it's in a ton of products. People are becoming much more cautious and much more aware of that."

Since the business's official opening July of 2015, Graham's company has grown from one to eight employees, and now she's talking about online expansion, new products, the addition of a production facility, and the possibility of franchising.

"If you would have told me a year and a half ago, when I was selling off my kitchen table, that we would be where we are today, I would have told you that you are very sweet and thoughtful but there's no way that was going to happen," Graham said, laughing. "Now I'm hoping to grow more online and expanding my wholesale, which will put us in a different level of production.

"We're already growing every day locally because of friends of friends of friends. Our soaps make a difference, so once they try it, they don't stop coming back."

Her favorite part of the job, she said, is connecting with the community she loves and its many visitors.

"When people visit Paducah and they come see the floodwall, we're often the first store they come to," she said. "When they come off those boats, and they come to Paducah and they want to see what the city offers, we're the first store they visit. So, we're often the first face of Paducah that a lot of these people see, so being welcoming and inviting is a good mission to have because we're like Paducah Ambassadors down here, telling people where to go, where to eat. I love it."

On the other end of Broadway sits a small building radiating with the smell of lavender, sage and other herbs.

Herbane Naturals, a Paducah soap company that started in February, may not have a storefront, but founders Matthew Curtis and Erica Harding are using social media and online marketing as their primary avenues for selling their products.

"We want to provide products to Paducah, but also from Paducah," Curtis said. "Right now we have an Etsy set up, and we're in the development of a website to support our wholesale program. We want to approach larger accounts, larger retailers, and have them engage with us that way."

For Curtis and Harding, soap making is all about changing mindsets locally and around the world by showing people just how good their skin can feel.

"The fragrance oil that you put in your candle, that doesn't go in your soap. That's not something I wanted to put in my body," Harding said. "Some people have never even used essential oils, so then it becomes an educational opportunity as well. People have been happy to find something that is accountable where you know exactly what's going in it. For me, it's about converting people to natural products, because it's important and people don't realize it."

Herbane ingredients include an oil or butter base like coconut oil, hemp oil or shea butter. Soap additives include essential oils, honey, locally grown herbs, and ingredients unique to Paducah like Etcetera coffee, Piper's teas, and hops from Paducah Beer Werks or Dry Ground Brewing.

"We live in Lower Town and it's beautiful, we love this city," Harding said. "I like it when I see local businesses using the hashtag #communitynotcompetition, because everything is connected."

"We do love Paducah," Curtis added. "Getting to go to the places that we've frequented for the past year in our life, take their idea, use it and brand it with their name on it, it feels good. It's cool to take their ideas and see how they complement your own. There's so much more access in a smaller town, too. You can sit down and meet an owner, you can tell them what you're doing and talk about what they're doing. I'm excited to see where we go with this and what the next couple of months hold."

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