It's no secret to anyone who knows me that soapmaking and cooking are two passions that fight for my attention. So, it's not a surprise that I'm smitten by a soapmaking team that incorporates a culinary background into a thriving soap business. A big thank you to Daniel of Taproot Organics for agreeing to let me interview him regarding the biz he co-founded with his wife, Zaida. And, I hope y'all enjoy the latest of our Soapmaker Success Stories!
Modern Soapmaking: First of all, how long have you been making soap?
Daniel: My first batches were Jan and Feb 2012.
Photo by Mike DeMoya
Modern Soapmaking: And, what was your favorite resource as a beginner?
Daniel: First, we bought a bunch of books, both print, and digital. Then, we went to YouTube University. But, it finally clicked that soapmaking was just like baking with a different end result. When my perspective changed, the whole thing took off!
Modern Soapmaking: Have you ever made your own lye or grown your own ingredients?
Daniel: Yes! We have grown floral and botanical ingredients in our organic container garden (great use for upcycling large barrels).
Modern Soapmaking: What is your soapmaking philosophy?
Daniel: My philosophy is to, "Clean yourself with clean ingredients." By starting out with only food grade and organic ingredients we can be assured that Taproot Organic's products don't contain pesticides, poisons, or potentially harmful compounds.
Modern Soapmaking: So, are you a by the book soaper or do you wing it?
Daniel: I totally wing it for development. But, I rewrite the recipe by the book for manufacturing for Taproot Organics.
Modern Soapmaking: If you could make soap alongside any soapmaker in the world, who would it be?
Daniel: Kenna Cote. She has such great energy. And it comes through in her work. (MS: Kenna's totally going to blush when she reads this.)
Modern Soapmaking: Besides a stick blender, what is one soapmaking tool you couldn’t live without?
Daniel: My induction unit. It plays a part in every product I make. Also, it lowers the potential of fire or burns.
Modern Soapmaking: What inspired you to start your Taproot Organics?
Daniel: As with every good story, it starts with a gift between partners. I made a small batch of soap for my wife Zaida, and it grew organically from there into Taproot Organics.
Photo by Andy Mac
Modern Soapmaking: If you could offer one piece of advice to a soapmaker struggling with their own business, what would it be?
Daniel: If you find yourself struggling and doubting your passion, take a step back and make something else that you've always wanted to try. It doesn't matter if its macrame, bread, souffle, or shoes. Just try it. Get out and make other things to keep your creative spark alive. If you keep coming back to wanting to make (and sell) soap then it is for you!
Modern Soapmaking: I see food industry influences throughout Taproot Organics, everything from labels that would look at home in a high-end deli to stainless steel and butcher block surfaces in your product photos. Was incorporating that into the business intentional?
Daniel: Restaurant life runs in my blood. My vision for the products has always been utilizing food grade and organic ingredients. And Zaida has gone next level by creating labeling and a brand image that portrays that.
Modern Soapmaking: A lot of soap companies, with varying success, use being handmade as a selling point. But, Taproot Organics stands out from the crowd. Do you target a specific niche of customers or are *you* what customers have in common?
Daniel: We are not only the makers but also a small family, mom and pop with 3 kids, kind of business. So, our customers can interact with us on different levels and feel like an intimate part of the process.
Modern Soapmaking: Your Instagram is a frenzy of activity. What's your posting methodology?
Daniel: Instagram is absolutely our favorite social channel. For Taproot Organic's Instagram feed, Zaida posts photos live-on-the-spot. And local clients know we are accessible as regular people doing something we really love each day. We are not striving for perfection.
What's missing right now on Instagram is energy and grit. We use our phones to snap pictures and use the Instagram app to slightly tweak images with a consistent, natural filter. Most days it's, "Quick grab the camera. Our clients would love this!"
Photo by Mike DeMoya
Modern Soapmaking: What is the craziest thing you've ever done for your business?
Daniel: We started the second Taproot Organics store. It required us to split our time, staff, and income over the course of two months. Consequently, the grand opening party was actually our sigh of relief!
Modern Soapmaking: Congrats on the second Taproots Organic store! Do you still do markets?
Daniel: We have 2 stores open in 2 cities, the website operating 24/7, hand-delivery service, and we offer private label. Markets are a great way of meeting new people and getting immediate feedback on our recipes and branding. So, we're excited to get back on the road when we can.
Did you incorporate something "in your blood" into your brand, the way Daniel did with his cooking and Taproot Organics? We want to hear about it!
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