Giving a thoughtful, handcrafted gift led this Cedar Rapids woman to start a business that has now been picked up by a national retailer.
Angie Handeland is a mom of two children, with her youngest child about to graduate high-school. She’s an avid gardener, an outdoor enthusiast, and has run an in-home daycare for the past 17 years. Angie also enjoys trying her hand at many crafts, and for Christmas she would hand-make gifts for her daycare families. Her gifts have ranged from handmade jams and jellies to crocheted items, and that’s how her business, Sunshine Soaps, was born.
“I wanted to do something different and was looking online for ideas when I came across a video for making soap. I’ve always loved handmade soaps but had never made it. I did some research and bought a kit and jumped in. I had so much fun making that plain soap that I had to try making some with color. The soaps were such a big hit with the families”, says Handeland.
It wasn’t until people started asking if she had more soaps and offered to pay, until she thought that she could maybe start a small soap business on the side. She dove head first into research, testing her own recipes, and taking lots of notes.
“It really took off when I made a breast cancer soap in honor of my mom who is a two times breast cancer survivor. That one soap was so popular. It caught the eye of Corridor Radiology and I was asked to make mini bars for them to hand out for October Breast Cancer Awareness month. That’s when I really felt that I had a business.”
There’s a lot that goes into making a bar of soap. Picking oils, calculating a recipe, colors, fragrance, and more. Working with sodium hydroxide can be scary, but Angie says knowing how to use it is so important. “Doing it wrong or miscalculating a recipe can leave you and a customer very unhappy. We test all our soaps before offering them for sale”.
Handmade soaps are simply amazing. They don’t have harmful ingredients you may find in other soaps, and the oils used are always use skin loving oils. Angie admits that she doesn’t have a favorite part when making soaps, she enjoys it all. “I love the whole process, from picking the fragrance, colors and design. I always smell a fragrance first with my eyes closed and work from whatever colors pop into my head. I love to play with color and see all the gorgeous colors swirled into our soaps. The hardest part of soap making for me, is waiting for the soap to cure. You have to allow the soap a proper cure time to let the excess liquid evaporate out giving you a hard mild bar”, she says.
Angie also loves to create custom orders for customers. If they have a specific fragrance or colors in mind, she’s happy to work with them making a product they will love. “I had a customer ask me to create a chemo soap. Chemo is so hard on our bodies and can leave our skin so sensitive. So I sat down and created a soap recipe that was conditioning and would help the skin maintain its natural oils,” she notes.
In addition to her bar soaps, she also makes salt spa bars, goat milk soaps, lip balm, and wooden wick soy candles. Sunshine Soaps has grown from what started as gifts for friends and family has now evolved into an online store with several wholesale accounts. Last year, the regional marketing director from Younkers Stores contacted Angie about their Close to Home department that features local artisans. “They wanted to put my soaps and scrubs in their stores. We started out with 6 Younkers stores across Iowa and are now in 11.”
What’s next for Sunshine Soaps? Angie says she’s looking forward to expanding their wholesale accounts, and moving production from her kitchen into its own space. A “soap studio” is her next big goal.
We’re so happy to represent Sunshine Soaps on the Cedar Rapids Marketplace. You can shop her current styles/scents in stock here. Already a fan of Sunshine Soaps? Share the love with someone else and share this article or comment below!