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  • Writer's pictureAshley Wenger

The Power of the Side Hustle

The “side hustle” has always been an integral part of any entrepreneurial ecosystem. Whether it’s a skill you use just to supplement your income or a passion you hope to one day scale into a business, a side hustle can take off at the most unexpected times. During the 2020 pandemic, a lot of people found they had extra time on their hands to venture into entrepreneurship and try out different side hustles. For one entrepreneur, her pandemic hobby, soap-crafting, became a business that helped save her dog’s life.

Kaylee Ramsey, from New Market, Virginia, started her animal soap business as a fun hobby in 2020. Kaylee learned about soap crafting and began teaching herself how to make handmade soap. Her research sparked her curiosity in the chemistry aspect of soap making, and she discovered there are harmful ingredients that soap is often made with, “You can only use .5mm of essential oils in soap. If you add too much it can burn a person’s skin. I’m looking into more natural options to make soap”. After learning about natural skin ingredients, she focused her business on creating safer, natural soap products.

The necessity of Kaylee’s hobby took a turn when she discovered her dog had a mass on its paw and the surgery was going to cost $1,000. At the time, she couldn’t afford the life-saving surgery for her beloved pet, so she began listing her soaps on Facebook Marketplace, “I was very surprised to get 10 messages on the first day. I didn’t think soap would be so popular, but it was! Customers began asking for custom orders and wanted their soap to look like their dog.” Her presence on Facebook Marketplace was so successful that she eventually sold enough soap to be able to afford the surgery that her dog needed. Now, with a healthy pup by her side, Kaylee’s business is steadily growing, “I recently filled a bulk soap order that came all the way from New York!”

Soap crafting is a very creative process, but creating soap that represents people’s pets is on another level. We were curious about what Kaylee’s process is for fulfilling an order. “First, customers send me a picture of their pet. Then, they can submit their own custom scent mixture. A lot of people love to include activated charcoal (charcoal acts as a great detoxifier). After the order is submitted, I pour the mixture into a custom mold and let it cure for a week. Once the soap has cured, it has to recure for two days before it’s ready to be shipped.”

“My greatest challenge was figuring out how to get the soap out of the mold. The soap would break because the paws or tail would come off.” After further research, she discovered that she could spray rubbing alcohol in the mold before filling it and it would act as a release agent for the mixture. This helped refine her process and ensure the soap could be removed from the mold smoothly. Kaylee’s advice to other crafters in the Valley is, “No matter what happens don’t give up. There’s always a solution, you just have to find it. If there's no solution to your problem, you just have to change the way you do it.”

Kaylee dreams for her business to be a one-stop soap shop (say that three times fast!), including a mixture menu and mold options. Today, she’s working on creating a Facebook store for her business, to streamline her order process so people can easily receive and enjoy her custom soaps!

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