The ‘Vanilla’ Homemade Way of Life

Thrifty Mom = Resourceful Skills

Raising four boys and being thrifty went hand in hand for an Eastern Iowa mom turned grandmother. Nita Janssen admits that while raising up her boys, money would get tight at times. In order to save costs on the everyday items her family used, she learned to make many of them herself. Now that her boys are all grown, she’s taken her love of homemade and turned it into a side business.

Nita’s grandma may have some “homemade” influence on Nita. The above photo Soda Pop Jelly (made by Nita) was what her grandma called “Depression Jelly” when Nita was young. Fruit was very sparse and expensive during the Great Depression, so many folks made jelly using pop/soda or even flowers from their garden. Nita couldn’t help but make some of her own.

As the Owner of Vanilla Bear Soap Co., Nita says she’s always been interested in making things from scratch. “It’s fun for me to find a product that I like, and then try to make it myself. I have made all sorts of things from wet wipes to dryer sheets, and cleaners to candles.”

Turning a Passion Into a Business

Vanilla Bear Soap Co

Vanilla Bear Soap Co Booth

Nita started making fresh homemade food when she was a young mom in Colorado. “I loved to prepare delicious homemade meals from scratch, along with bread, cookies, and other treats,” Nita said. “Having family and friends that had skin issues, I also learned to develop recipes that they could use on their delicate skin, using only ingredients that were natural and mild.”

Nita’s homemade lifestyle is what lead into her passion of today- making homemade bath and body items and homemade edible goodies.

After her boys grew into men, Nita turned it into an official business and named it Vanilla Bear Soap Company, LLC. Soon, she began selling her products at small local farmers’ markets and craft shows. After her initial efforts, she then added bigger farmers’ markets and selling online, as well.

It’s All Vanilla… Well Mostly

“I use vanilla in almost every recipe”, says Nita. “It’s very good for the skin and it smells heavenly!” Vanilla Bear customers will also find many of these ingredients (often in both the edible and body care lines)- pumpkin, chai, coconut oil/milk, essential oils, and goat milk. All Vanilla Bear products made with care, in small batches, with lots of love added in.

I use vanilla in almost every recipe. It’s very good for the skin and it smells heavenly!”

Nita says, “I believe there is something quaint and intimate about the personal connection you experience when you buy a product from someone who loves and believes in what they do. You sense their passion and you appreciate their attention to detail. You get the feeling that you’ve got your hands on something that was truly meant for you. That is how I want customers to feel every time they purchase and use a Vanilla Bear product!”

Finding Balance in Selling Online

After many years of attending several markets and fairs, Nita has developed a more manageable system. “I love farmers’ markets and craft shows, but the logistics just didn’t work as well for me,” said Nita. “It was too much because I also work outside the home. I also had too many products which involved lots of hauling back and forth to shows, and long hours redoing items that got damaged in transit. I have since learned to scale down. I concentrate my business mostly online, and focus on my best selling products and repeat customers.”

Vanilla Bear Soap Co. Pantry

Nita’s pantry full of canned items from her garden

Vanilla Bear Soap Co. Garden

Nita’s garden

One of Nita’s other passions is her garden, which gets bigger and bigger each year. Nita and her husband Chad spend a lot of time tending to it, and harvesting and canning all the excess. “Because I also garden heavily in the summer, selling online still allows me to do what I love, without spending so much time on the road.

I am partial to buying local products and selling to local customers. The Cedar Rapids Marketplace is perfect for me!”

To learn more about Vanilla Bear and purchase Nita’s products, check out her shop on the Cedar Rapids Marketplace.


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