4-H soap experiment turns into a business handcrafted at home


January 24, 2002|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

TEN YEARS AGO, RJ Caulder was helping her children with a 4-H project. Casey, now 23, and Jason, now 26, were raising dairy goats. Looking for ways to use extra milk, she and her children made a few bars of goat's milk soap.

The experiment became the basis for an interesting business for this enterprising West Friendship woman.

A few years later, while trying to help Casey find a natural soap for her sensitive skin, Caulder became discouraged.

"I was looking for products without artificial colors and chemicals, which are irritating to sensitive skin," she said. "I had been searching for a year trying to find natural soap. I would bring a new soap home, and the next day she would break out."

She said she remembered her soap-making attempt years before and said to herself, "I did it before and I'll try it again." She began researching soap-making on the Internet. And she tried out what she learned.

"It really wasn't the best," Caulder said. "I had to perfect the recipe. It's a little bit tricky to make milk soap."

She began to develop recipes, giving bars of soap to friends and relatives. "With all the positive response, I decided to start my business," she said.

Eight years after the 4-H project, she began selling her wares as Handcrafted Soap by RJ Caulder. She uses no preservatives or chemicals in her soaps and other products, only natural ingredients.

Caulder said most commercial soaps are detergent. "They take the glycerin out of soap and sell it separately," she said, noting that glycerin is a humectant (a substance that promotes retention of moisture) and an emollient. "It draws moisture to your skin," she said.

Her handcrafted soaps retain the natural glycerin and are vegetable-oil based. She still uses goat milk, along with buttermilk, whole milk, cream and coconut milk. And she adds moisturizing ingredients such as jojoba oil, hazelnut oil, avocado oil and shea butter. She adds herbs and flowers she grows to provide color, texture and fragrance.

Caulder is happy to offer recommendations to customers seeking the right soap for their skin type.

"I'm really picky about what I put in the soaps because I'm catering to a lot of people with sensitive and dry skin," she said. "I use the highest quality oils and ingredients I can get."

She makes other products such as milk bath, oils, creams and lotion, and sells her products at local shows such as the Baltimore Herb Festival, to be held May 26 at Leakin Park. Customers also can purchase her products by telephone or through her Web site. Caulder has a few wholesale accounts, but she says she is more interested in building up a local market. Most of her sales have been through word of mouth.

She said she likes to help others when she can. She offers fund-raisers for youth groups and has proposed - as a money-maker for the Humane Society - making soap for dogs. She plans to add a natural flea repellent for dogs with skin problems. "Some dogs have sensitive skin, too," she said.

Caulder is working full time at her soap-making business. After raising two children and working jobs that permitted her to be home with them, she has time to devote to her business.

"My goal is to make a living from it," she said.

In a few years, when her husband, Ken, retires, the Caulders plan to move to Amelia Island, Fla., to open a bed-and-breakfast. Caulder said she would continue to create handcrafted natural soaps, selling them in a shop attached to the B&B. "I have enjoyed this more than anything I have worked at," she said.

Information: 410-442-1807 or www.rjcaulder.com.

Parents forum

The Glenelg High School PTSA is continuing its speaker series for high school parents.

"Teen Issues: Driving, Drug Awareness, Sports and Alcohol" will be discussed at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the media center. The school is at 14025 Burntwoods Road.

Howard County police Detective Martin Johnson, Sgt. Mark Joyce of the vice and narcotics unit and Mike Williams, athletic director at Glenelg, will speak.

Parents will have an opportunity to talk to other parents and find out what's happening on the teen scene in the community.

Information: Brenda von Rautenkranz, 301-854-5582.

Celestial searchers

Celestial Searchers will hold its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Bushy Park Elementary School.

Michael Hall of the Howard Astro League (HAL) will speak. The topic is "All About Telescopes."

Suzy Sullivan will present "Love in the Heavens" in honor of Valentine's Day.

Information: 410-531-6600, or Stardoc@Goodteeth.com.

Old-fashioned meal

An old-fashioned, all-you-can-eat country breakfast will be served from 8 a.m. to noon Sunday in the Ten Oaks Ballroom.

Sponsored by the Fifth District Volunteer Fire Department, the breakfast will have a menu that includes pancakes, eggs, sausage, gravy and potatoes.

Members of Clarksville Boy Scout Troop 737 are scheduled to help out.

The ballroom is at Routes 108 and 32 in Clarksville.

The breakfast costs $6 for adults and $3 for children ages 4 to 10.

Information: 410-313-7215.

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