Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Misti Morningstar, Owner of Savage Soaps, located in Frederick, MD, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Savage Soaps is a body care company founded by Misti Morningstar that handcrafts olive oil-based soap and other related natural products for men and women of all ages, along with people who have sensitive skin needs. We produce our small batch products to the highest gourmet standard. It is our wish to make a difference in your bathing routine and bring more relaxation and rejuvenation into your everyday lives.

Tell us about yourself

My interest in making potions began in middle school. My mother is an avid gardener, and she has just about every kind of flower and plant imaginable. I remember sneaking outside after school, so she didn’t catch me picking her flowers, and I’d put different petals into bottles of rubbing alcohol to see if I could make perfume! They didn’t turn out very well, but I was creative, and I really enjoyed the process.

Our family also traveled quite a bit during this time, and wherever we went that had a gift store, we stopped in, and typically there were soaps that I would want. I put them into my clothing drawers, and if I decided to use them, I would save the packaging. I became fascinated with soaps.

When I became an adult of drinking age, one day, I was in a liquor store and noticed how artistic the micro-brewery beer labels were. Then I got the idea to create wonderful soaps with arty labels. I wanted the soap to be bigger and better than everything else that was out there on the market.

Commercial soap is manufactured using synthetic detergents and chemicals that can strip away the skin’s protective oils. Natural handmade soap retains all its natural glycerin, a major benefit. So I got to work researching and perfecting a cold process soap recipe. The ingredients had to be better as well, so I decided to use only vegan oils but decided against using Palm Oil which ultimately turned out to be the best choice because now it’s become taboo to use it. I also decided not to use colorants or preservatives. I initially made soap trials on my kitchen stove and cured them in the oven.

My first batch turned out pretty good, and that made me even more motivated to keep going. Small batch handcrafting is becoming more popular because people want more natural and organic options to use on their skin and body. I came up with ten different soap blends that I thought would be nice for men or women. And with my design background, I also created the logo brand ‘Savage Soaps,’ which represents raw and uncivilized ingredients.

I also created the label designs in-house and decided how they would be packaged - a kraft box that is also compostable. Savages Soaps are eco-friendly. I had first-floor space available in the building I owned, so I came up with a remodeling scheme and designed a boutique to sell the soaps. I remember the first day I opened during a downtown street fair, and when the first customers came in and complimented my creation, I was elated! So we remodeled more space in the building to include soap making and shipping areas. We still do everything in-house.

We’ve been organically growing since 2002 and what really keeps me motivated is when customers come back and tell me how much our soap has helped them. Whether it be dry skin or skin that has other issues that couldn’t be resolved using other products. I really love handcrafting products that help people!

A dermatologist from the Washington DC area has approved Savage Soaps, and she prescribes and sells them in her practice to her patients. We’ve grown our product line to include lotion, body butter, gel, salt scrubs, serums, and body sprays, all of which are made fresh daily and customizable upon request.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Our biggest accomplishment to date was the opportunity to be on ABC TV’s Steve Harvey’s Funderdome show. It was similar to Shark Tank, but the audience voted on the winner. It was high energy and so. Much fun, but we did not win the jackpot. However, we did win some cash and a lot of customers from brand awareness. When the show aired, our website crashed twice with people wanting to order!

To this day, we sell some of the soaps as fast as we can make them. We’ve also won global awards for our packaging and have been recognized as our region's top 50 legacy businesses for being in business for 20 years or more. I’m proud to be one of the many artisan small business owners in the USA. Small businesses are vital to our economy.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Some of the hardest things that come with being a business owner is not taking enough time for oneself. The gears of my mind are always churning up ideas. It’s kind of hard to shut things off sometimes, but I have gotten a lot better at it. Other challenges have been growing our audience and expanding the brand on social media.

My son, Grant, and a business partner have really helped make a difference in that area. His generation is one to keep the phone at arm's length at all times, so he understands it differently than I do. He has quite a knack for it and has many creative ideas. Because we’re family, sometimes we butt heads and get into arguments, but we eventually work it out.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

The top 3 tips I’d give to someone else would be:

  1. Do something you love doing, even if people think you should be doing something else.
  2. If you don’t have the money to start out the way you want, start small and grow. It’s easier to start small and grow than to spend a lot of money on a venture that doesn’t have the demand to pay for the return on investment.
  3. If you want to do something you know nothing about, purchase books, visit similar businesses, or find other people in your area who can mentor you. It’s also important to stay focused and not vary too widely in your offerings because one could end up spending too much by overextending.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Another thing I’m proud about is forging opportunities with other small businesses and being an advocate for women. When I started my business, I didn’t have anyone to ask for help. I learned everything on my own through trial and error. I’ve offered internships for many young women over the years. Some of them were from other countries like Estonia, Canada, and Costa Rica.

They learned to handcraft products, deal with and help customers, and handle day-to-day challenges. I’ve noticed more young people today are not as socially adept. Dealing with people one-on-one gives them an opportunity to connect socially. It’s my hope that they all learn something while here that they will carry forward to help them in their future careers.

Where can people find you and your business?


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