By April Miller | Photo by Doug Khrenovsky
Concerned about the harsh chemicals in skin care products, “I began by making products I believed in for the people I love,” she says, adding that, after two weeks of using the goat milk soap, her husband’s eczema disappeared. “And then I decided to share them with the world.”
Today her Solon-based business, Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve Co., ships products to more than 80 countries. In addition to the line of natural soap bars — bamboo charcoal, chamomile and calendula, sea buckthorn and tea tree, and more than 40 others — shoppers will also find shampoo bars, moisturizers, healing balms, deodorants, natural products for pets and more. All products are made without the use of artificial colors, fragrances or synthetic ingredients. Items are biodegradable and minimally packaged with recycled and recyclable materials.
“I believe what makes us different, makes us better,” Friedman Kasdan says. While there is no retail shop, visitors are welcomed to visit the workshop by appointment. Most sales come through the company’s website, and products can also be found in such retailers as Mustard Seed Markets, Whole Foods, Sustainable Roots, and Rising Star Coffee Roasters.
A former nurse and middle school science teacher, Friedman Kasdan didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur, but the success of her soap-making hobby propelled her from her kitchen to the company’s current 30,000-square-foot building on Aurora Road. The company currently has nine employees, including two of her three children — son Sam and his wife Lindsey and daughter Sarah and her husband David. “Our shop is full of laughter and creative energy that inspires and motivates,” Friedman Kasdan says.
Although not an employee, her husband Howard, she notes, has been a trusted advisor, and it was he who convinced her to apply to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program in 2012. She was accepted, and by the end of the course had a business growth plan; learned valuable information about marketing, branding, and finance; and honed in on the company’s vision and mission.
“They help the small-business owner learn to work on their business instead of just in their business. That is one part,” she says, “I am still struggling to accomplish.”
She’s also found Keep It Local Cleveland, COSE, the Solon Chamber of Commerce, and The Gorilla Group to be valuable places to network with other small business owners.
To those considering taking the plunge into their own entrepreneurial endeavor, Friedman Kasdan advises setting realistic goals, learning to delegate, choosing to surround yourself with positive people, and making time to brainstorm.
“It is so easy to get lost in the minutia and lose sight of the real goals of the company,” she says. “As a business owner, your role is not to come up with all of the great ideas. It is to inspire and create an environment in which great ideas are born and nurtured.”
For more information: chagrinvalleysoap.com
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