One of my favorite things about soapmakers is that they come to soapmaking with so many different backgrounds and experiences. Today, I wanted to chat with Corey, a talented soapmaker who is taking her culinary background and applying it to beautiful bath treats that look good enough to eat!
I came across Corey on Instagram, and loved seeing her colorful creations with hints of decorative touches you expect to see from artisan chocolates and five star restaurant dessert plates. She went from wanting her own bakery or restaurant, to finding her path in owning a bath & body business. Let’s dive in:
MS: How were you introduced to handcrafted soapmaking?
Corey: I was looking through a Martha Stewart craft book one day while my son was taking a nap (he was about 6 mo old then). I was looking for something to do that would satisfy my creative itch that I hadn’t been able to satisfy since I stopped working to take care of my son. I saw a picture of a melt and pour soap tutorial where she used a lot of different food additives. I was instantly drawn into the idea of using food to create something non-edible. I had been satisfying my creative itch before by baking and making artisan bread and my thighs were showing the fruits of my labor! Hahah!
MS: What was your favorite resource as a beginning soapmaker?
Corey: YOUTUBE!!! I watched everything I could find on soapmaking and was shocked that there was such a big culture of soapmaking out there and that it was such a great art form. I was instantly drawn to watching people like Ms. Cathy on Soaping 101, Edens Secret, Arianne from La Fille de la Mer, all of Kenna’s fabulous rainbow soap tutorials, and the lovely Katie White! I would make my mom watch videos with me and my mind just started swirling with possibilities.
People thought I was so crazy for watching people make soap for hours on end but I soaked it up like a sponge.
MS: What was the biggest nightmare batch you ever made?
Corey: I have made a few extremely ugly batches of soap, but the worst disaster was when I was making some chocolate avocado soap. I had just finished making a really pretty swirly gold top, turned off my phone camera (I was making a soaping video for my own YouTube channel) and walked away to clean up. Then, I heard a plop. My phone decided to unhook itself from the tripod and plop into the middle of the soap!!!! Soap splatters were everywhere and my whole phone was covered in raw soap batter. I cleaned everything up and thank god, my phone worked after that! Though, I could hardly hear anything out of my phone until I got a new one a year later!
MS: Are you a by the book soaper or do you wing it?
Corey: I am a wing it kind of lady. When I was a chef, I used to love going into the refrigerator at work and seeing what was fresh and what talked to me and just let the ingredients guide me. In soapmaking, I let the fragrance speak to me, most of the time. That is when I decide to add different ingredients, colors, etc. I don’t really go into it with a clear picture of what I want something to look like. I attack soapmaking like a chef, I guess – a little bit of this, a little bit of that.
MS: What is your soapmaking philosophy?
Corey: I guess if I were to say that I had a soapmaking philosophy, it would be to make someone smile. I have always loved happy movies, sparkly things, and always loved the idea that there was magic in the world. I want to make people feel like they can escape their everyday life for a few minutes in the shower or bath and have a smile on their face. Sort of like how a good meal makes your heart happy, I want my bath products to nourish the soul with some sparkly magical whimsy.
MS: Besides a stick blender, what is one soapmaking tool you couldn’t live without?
Corey: Spoonula!!!! A regular flat spatula doesn’t get all of the soap out of the container like a spoonula (a curved sided spatula.)
MS: What inspired you to start your company, Willow & Honey?
Corey: I had my son, Noah in 2012, 3 months after my husband and I moved back to Los Angeles (my home town) from Maui (where we lived for almost 5 years.) We both were working as cooks at the Ritz Carlton, and I decided not to go back to work for awhile. Two parents in the food industry really doesn’t work with having a child – 12-20 hr days 10 days in a row, no weekends or holidays off!
I always needed a creative outlet so when I was staying home with my son, I kept searching for something that would really satisfy that without making my butt bigger. I have always needed to have some artistic outlet in my life.
My son had eczema when he was little and I realized that it was because he was allergic to fragrance. At the same time, I had found that picture of a melt and pour of beautiful soaps with lots of food additives (poppy seeds, lemon peel, tea.) I thought “It’s just like cooking!!!!!!! But I can’t eat it!”
So, Willow & Honey was born out of the fact that I could express myself artistically, use my cooking skills (mixing, stick blending, adding ingredients found in the kitchen) and make a soap that would take care of my son’s finicky skin. I was hooked!!!!!!
MS: What is the biggest change you’ve made to your brand from inception to where it stands today?
Corey: When I first started, I thought that I was going to do soaps that were only colored with plant and clay based ingredients, and only scented with essential oils. I grew up in a very crunchy hippie house. I have never had cough syrup in my life, or any cane sugar in my house growing up.
I realized after making some natural soaps that they were fun and great but that they limited my creative expression (like an artist without all of the colors of paint.) I needed some sparkle. So I took those limitations off of myself, it really made my mind soar with the possibilities.
MS: What is your favorite part of being a small business owner?
Corey: I’ve come from a long line of entrepreneurs so I have always been drawn to owning my own business. Before making soap, I wanted to have my own restaurant or bakery, but this suits me so much better. I get to make whatever I like, have fun, and show my son that you can make your dreams come true with hard work and dedication.
MS: If you could offer one piece of advice to a soapmaker starting their business, what would it be?
Corey: Don’t be discouraged when you see people who are successful. I know that it can be really overwhelming when you first get started knowing that so many people are ahead of you. this saying really helped me out: Oprah wasn’t made in a day. It takes time, and it will happen when you least expect it. Just have fun!!!!
MS: What is your biggest motivator to continue to drive your brand to success?
Corey: My son and the drive I have to express myself creatively in a way that makes people happy. I want to show my son that you can be whatever you want to be when you put your mind to it and looooooots of elbow grease into it. I really want to instill that artistic and entrepreneurial spirit into him (like my dad and mom did to me and his parents before him and so on and so on — I come from a a long line of artists). That it will be hard, it’s not instant success, but it will be the most satisfying thing that will ever happen to you, except having children.