Soapmaker partners with area businessesBy Deanne Winslett | 09/15/2013 11:00pm
The Left Hand Soap Company began as a crafting venture for Christmas gifts but quickly gained momentum as creator “Soapy” Jones took her wares to the Tuscaloosa arts community.
“An old college friend of mine and I got together and made soap for everyone for Christmas one year when we were broke,” Jones said.
The soaps may have been created out of a desperate need for Christmas gifts, but Jones’ friends came back to her afterward and requested she make them more of the soaps. She was all for it, as long as there was a profit to be made.
“It grew out of demand and has [continued growing] ever since,” Jones said.
As her soaps gathered a following, Jones decided to stick with her nickname “Soapy” because she wanted her name to represent her company and add to its story. Jones said that only a handful of people in the Tuscaloosa community have been trusted with her real name and she refuses to reveal it unless absolutely necessary.
Jones’ initial product line contained the basics: soaps, lotions and salves, but since then she has added more variety to the product line.
“We tried a lot of different things that were sort of stabs in the dark,” Jones said. “We did glycerin bars, we did lotions, we did lip salves – that was one of the first things that we did that we originally made that we still have, although we’ve tweaked the recipe a bit as we’ve gone along.”
Jones said it is important for the community to be invested in itself. She turned to the Bama Theatre and began to fund events there. She also began to invest in WellThatsCool.com, a local podcast. From there she continued to reach out and tried to invest not only in Tuscaloosa arts but in other local, small businesses as well.
“It really seemed like an obvious thing to me. Once you’ve opened the door, you start to see all of the things that can be done with just a little bit of effort,” Jones said. “And it’s where most of our profits go.”
Her partnership with WellThatsCool.com inspired Jones to create a soap that represented not only her company but the podcast as well. The podcast was a very social thing, she said, and involved a lot of discussion about beer. From this, she was inspired to reach out to Good People Brewing in Birmingham, Ala. about creating a beer soap product.
“At the time, Good People Brewing was the only brewery in Birmingham and had also shown themselves to be very invested in the community, and we fit in this nice niche together,” Jones said.
She said beer soaps are incredibly nutritive, and beer can also be used to make shampoos and other health care products. Jones further explored the concept of beer soaps when Druid City Brewing opened in Tuscaloosa. She reached out to Druid City Brewing co-owner Bo Hicks, who had become a good friend of hers and who helped found the WellThatsCool.com podcast.
“I’d had a personal relationship with Soapy from my time at WellThatsCool.com, which was a local podcast and she sponsored us, and the Left Hand is so local-driven and sponsored so many local, cool things that when she asked us if we’d be interested in partnering, we were exceptionally happy to partner with a company that is as cool as Left Hand and that does as much for the city,” Hicks said.
Jones got to work creating a Druid City Brewing beer soap. She said each beer soap she designed was made to be representative of each beer company involved.
“When Druid City Brewing opened up, it seemed like an obvious fit. It’s great beer,” Jones said. “It’s really well-made and the people who do it are really invested; they’re really passionate about what they do.”
Jones has created soaps from other local businesses outside of the beer brewing industry. She has partnered with local farms to develop soaps from fresh, locally grown fruits.
“The idea is to get as many Alabama breweries on board so that we can help promote their products and use Alabama goods to make Alabama goods,” Jones said.
Hicks said Left Hand Soap Company’s interest in local business stems from the type of person that its founder is.
“I think that it is really refreshing to see somebody not just playing a token card of being invested; they are very locally invested and really want to see other small business thrive as well as arts and music,” Hicks said.
To learn more about the Left Hand Soap Company and its investment in the community as well as its growing beer soap line, visit lefthandsoapcompany.com. Its products are also sold in local stores such as Manna Grocery and Grace Aberdean, as well as Kentuck Arts Center and the beer brewing companies with which she’s currently involved.