Interview with Handmade Soap Maker Tony Laudicina
Sometimes deciding to start a new business is just as simple as… running out of soap. Or at least that’s what happened to Tony Laudicina of Rocky Top Soap Shop. The shop just opened in June of this year, and is stocked with such wholesome-sounding, mild soaps as Goat’s Milk, Fuller’s Earth, and Simple Soap. “It sounds funny, but it’s true. One day I ran out of soap,” Tony tells. “I was tired of spending money on soap that I knew wasn’t good for my skin, so I decided to start researching what it would take to make a bar of handmade soap that would be good for me and my family.”
Apparently, Tony found out what it would take, because his shop offers over 18 varieties of soap with more being introduced. His customers receive the benefits of his obsession with quality. “I experimented with melt and pour soap bases at first, and continued to research and experiment with cold process soaps. I am still in pursuit of that perfect bar of soap.”
Perfection, to Tony is a bar that is totally handmade and natural, with only the healthiest ingredients. “I develop recipes, grow the ingredients in the garden, and build the soap molds and cutters; my soaps are as handmade as I can possibly make them.”
I asked Tony where he gets his inspiration for his sophisticated, yet simple recipes. “My inspiration comes from nature, my love of gardening, and my own personal preferences. I feel as though in most cases, simple is better. I always keep that in mind when I am considering new recipes or ingredients.”
Tony also likes to educate his customers about the differences between the soap he sells and what is commercially available in stores, and why his are better. “In most cases, what you find on the shelf at the store, the commercial stuff, isn’t actually soap, it’s detergent. So the advantage to using handmade soap is that it is actual soap.
“Handmade soap not only cleans, but will rehydrate and nourish your skin. It will help replace and balance the natural oils in your skin. Commercial soaps strip the skin, leaving it dry and itchy. Healthier skin helps you become a happier person. Increased personal happiness, great skin and knowing your supporting a small business are all advantages to using handmade soap. Store your soaps in a place that’s cool and dry, like a linen closet, or the root cellar if you have one.”
For anyone who has been thinking about making and selling their own soaps, Tony has these words of advice, “I would say do your research. Learn as much as you can about the soap making process. An understanding of the materials, their individual attributes, and how they work together is paramount to making a good bar of soap. Experiment, then use your soap and share it with family and friends.
“Get to know the state and federal laws. Each state is different, and the federal laws are currently being written. Also, before you launch your business, don’t forget to buy an insurance policy. Most of all have fun with it. Soap making can be a very creative process. It all depends how far you choose to take it.”
It seems Tony’s quest for the perfect bar of soap has taken him, and his customers, quite far already and he shows no signs of slowing down.