Maker of the Month: Willow Bella Soaps

About nine years ago, Sharon with Willow Bella Soaps was looking for a way to make some extra income for her family. She bought 50 pounds of sugar to try candy making before realizing that wasn't going to work. So instead, she made sugar scrubs. Sharon fell in love and now sells her beautiful bath bombs, lotions, soaps, and more. Get to know her below!

sharon with willow bella soaps | bramble berry

How long have you been making bath products, and how did you get started? 
I've been making bath and body products for what seems like forever. I remember experimenting with different ingredients around the house as a kid and as a teenager. My mom was a nurse when I was growing up, but when she was younger she had gone to cosmetology school and she had kept her textbooks. They were so fascinating to me and I still remember different treatments in them like, "buttermilk will help get rid of dark spots on your skin." Why I remember those details I don't know, but I do. A lot of those older books had things that you could use, like buttermilk, that could be found in the grocery store or at home. To me, that was just so intriguing. 

Fast forward to about nine years ago, I decided to find something I could do to help bring in some extra income for our family. I love to create so I tried woodworking, cake baking, and then decided to make candy to sell at a fall festival. I bought 50 pounds of sugar without doing the research first. It soon became apparent that it was going to cost me a whole lot more to buy the ingredients than I could sell the candy for. A casual conversation with a family member brought up making sugar scrubs instead. It wasn't long before I was making and then selling sugar scrubs. And I was back to experimenting and making and creating - all of those passions just came bubbling up to the surface.

How long have you been selling your products? 
Willow Bella Soaps was born in 2015. It is a combination of the names of my daughter, Willow, and my granddaughter, Emma Isabella. I wanted to create something that wasn't just mine but theirs as well. They, along with my husband Paul, are my business partners. I sold mainly sugar scrubs and soap in the beginning. 

sugar scrubs by willow bella soaps | bramble berry

Mermaid Lagoon Sugar Scrubs

What do you love most about making bath and body products?
There are so many things I love about creating, planning, and executing all the things we make! Picking one thing is so hard, but top of that list is the satisfaction of our customers. Knowing how much they love what we make and knowing that even though it is all wrapped up in as much pretty as I can throw at them, it is still luxury products with the best ingredients I can source for them. It is a true sense of pride and passion. Right behind this is the joy of working with my family.

What inspires you to create?
So much inspires me! It could be a trip to a theme park, a favorite book, tree bark, or the leggings on a lovable character in a movie. I also find inspiration in YouTube videos with other makers; both bath and body as well as baking. Or it can be a scent or a color that builds inspiration, or talking ideas out with friends. I think one of the biggest things for me is to allow myself the time for inspiration. I get so busy with life that I forget how important it is to take that time.

fall leaves bath bombs by willow bella soaps | bramble berry

Hand painted bath bombs

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get started?
Some of the best advice I think I could give someone would be to do lots of research, lean into your strengths, find mentors and friends who understand your passion, and find your own voice so you stand out from the crowd. And learn to ignore those who bring doubt and negativity to the table.

Bath bombs can be tricky. Do you have any tips for beginners? 
Bath bombs are extremely tricky! It honestly took me years to make ones I'm happy with. I wanted to make the perfect bath bomb each and every time. I wanted it to make your skin feel amazing, I wanted it to float, to spin, to dance across the water. It took me lots of experiments and recipes. Great friends who were struggling with the same problem as me and many late night talks about how do we get them to do that? In the end, I made peace with myself that not every batch or every bath bomb would. I hope that each one will. I put all the skill, energy, and passion into each batch that I can and just hope they do their part.

Here are some great tips that have been shared with me or have found out for myself. Measuring with a scale is the very best way to ensure batches will behave the same way every time. I live in a very humid environment, so the adage of don't make bath bombs in the rain isn't always true for us, sometimes there's less humidity when it rains. A dehumidifier is worth the investment. Add the citric acid after you've mixed all of your other ingredients including all the liquid ones. And the best one is a back up plan of bath bomb dust (or your version) if they just won't work. A lot less waste this way. Wish I had known that tip early on.

bath truffles by willow bella soaps | bramble berry

Nightfall Bath Truffles

Who's another maker you admire? What do you love about their work?
When it comes to bath bombs, it is hands down Samantha D'Lima Lakhani, owner and creator at L'Apothicaire Plush. She was the first one that ever painted in detail on bath bombs to my knowledge. I was in a bath bomb group on Facebook and she shared a picture of her hand painted Serengeti bath bomb and there was so much chatter in the group. It was the fastest I've ever seen likes and comments climb in any Facebook group. Everyone was wanting to know how she did it. She is very innovative and isn't afraid to try new things. I also admire Michelle at The Untamed Daisy Soap Company. Her soaps and bath bomb art are so pretty! And I'd be remiss not to mention Bee at Sorcery Soap and Whit over at Cheeky Goat Soapery. They both make such beautiful and different soaps that it is hard not to find inspiration in what they create. Truthfully, there are so many I admire, like Anne-Marie, that I'd be writing for days. I am so thankful for each creative soul who shares what she/he creates with not only me but the world.

Have you experienced a fail? How did you work through it, and what did you learn?
Oh yes! I've had many setbacks and failures. Bath bombs would be at the top of that list, as I've said. I kept trying and then trying again. I gave up, created a recipe for something else that I felt would be just as good as bath bombs, or at least a good substitute. Those were my Bath Truffles. I made those for several years and then decided to try bath bombs again. I did a ton of research, had many long and detailed conversations with others, and then started experimenting again. And finally I came up with a recipe that really works for me.

What I learned along the way was that if you really want to make something, don't give up. And also don't be too hard on yourself. And take lots of baths! That's all part of the experimental process. And every failure is one step closer to success.

soap by willow bella soaps | bramble berry

Cold process soap

What plans do you have for your business moving forward?
This is actually a tough question. I am not much of a planner. Most of our business has grown naturally by word of mouth and doing the groundwork. Lately we've been discussing where we need to go from here. We tried a brick and mortar shop a few years back, but I create mostly at night and we were constantly bringing things back and forth, so it didn't make sense for us. At the moment, we are in a few different shops, mainly local here in coastal South Carolina. We have a website and I would love to see us grow in that direction, as well as an online platform like YouTube. We also have someone who helps us with our online presence from time to time, and we would love to bring Kayla on board in a larger role than she is currently playing. She is such an asset to the company. 

Sharon's top Bramble Berry picks

Now how am I supposed to limit it to just 4?

  • The front runner would be the fragrances for me; like Sensuous Sandalwood, Espresso, and Sugar Plum Fairy. We do a lot of our own scent blending in-house, but we love these and many other Bramble Berry scents just the way they are.
  • Buckthorn extract - It's such a hidden jewel! Buckthorn extract feels amazing on the skin and is a luxury ingredient in anything I add it to. 
  • Cocoa butter pastilles - They're easy to use and feel great.
  • Aloe vera liquid - I love the aloe vera liquid because it is so wonderful in lotions and other water-based products. 

What's your favorite Bramble Berry project?
One of my favorites to make is the cold process pumpkin pie. It is so much fun to not only make, but to see the expressions on people's faces when they find out it is soap. And the soap itself is a joy to use, it's an amazing recipe.

bath bombs by willow bella soaps | bramble berry

Lavender Bath Bombs

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