Like so many other handcrafted businesses, Willow Way began in a kitchen. Debi, my mate and partner found a little book called “The Soap Book”, written by Sandy Maine of SunFeather Natural Soaps; a book on making cold processed soap.
We made our first batch of soap and loved it. Because we both love nature, herbal crafts and of course, health and well being, we were naturally drawn, to this clean art. There were many reasons for creating a soap making business. It is good for the Earth and contributes to humanity in a very positive way. Of course, we would also be helping ourselves, to gain further independence and freedom from corporate America.
It wasn’t long until we had out grown the space in our kitchen and moved our soap making operation into the barn. Having 20 years of previous hard won, business experience in construction, retail, and various art forms, we had a knack for finding the “easier way” to work. Finding a way of cutting soap, evenly and consistently, became a crusade. Finding a way to pour more soap efficiently, and meet demand was a constant problem. Since 1996, we have not met a soapmaker yet that ever anticipated their rate of growth and growing need for space.
After numerous trials and tribulations, failed experiments and frustrations, we finally came up with a < sort of soap cutter > that worked. Our next challenge was developing the perfect soap mold. We knew that a block mold was the way; larger pours, less space, better saponification and conversion, better quality. We tried them all, cardboard boxes, plywood boxes, acrylic, stainless steel, and the molds grew and grew in size. Finally, we reached 95 lb pours, using the ultimate mold material, and found the ideal balance of efficiency, economy, and size.
In late 1996, we develop what was to be called the “Air Cutter”. As soon as we cut the first 95 lb block of soap, we knew this was something that other soap makers would want, and that this would be a wonderful service”, helping others to create and grow their own handcrafted body care business. We have been through a lot of ups and downs in manufacturing soapmaking equipment, and body care manufacturing equipment, sometimes thinking; “Why don’t we find something easier to make a living at?” but……it always came down to, there is nothing we would rather be doing as this is a true and rewarding service.
In our website, you will find the fruits of many years of trial and error, love and care, perseverance and discipline. When we started, there was nothing out there in equipment for Handcrafted Soapmakers. We went on to develop full systems where one person could literally produce thousands upon thousands of bars per month. Then came the first of many systems for the handcrafter, liquid soap systems, lip balm trays, bath bomb presses, lotion systems, M&P loaf systems, lots more.
We love this industry and will never quit. Our customers are truly amazing, from every walk of life, every nationality, culture and religion. In the average week we help, dozens of people from all around the world. We have seen this industry go from a few hundred to many thousands. It is never dull, so many different ideas, ways that people see things, and it is amazing sometimes, what they ask for! A large portion of our work ends up being a custom fit.
The one thing that we did not want to do, is forget the Newbie, and that has been our goal all along to provide the person, couple, business just starting out, a pathway all the way up as far as they want to go. And….this is the industry to do it in. The more people become aware; < and that evolution is on right now >, the more they turn to what is right and good, healthy and wholesome, rewarding and joyful. So, those of you questioning “Can I make it?” remember; the only thing holding you back is you.
So…..after getting ourselves set up to make lots of soap, we went on to build a wholesale business doing mostly private label. We had over 450 retail accounts, coast to coast with up to 40 reps at one time, carrying our products as one of their lines. In 2002 we sold our accounts and went in to making equipment full time.
Along the way we have worked with some amazing people in our industry, people who’s advice and efforts have brought this industry to what it is today. We have tried over the years to reciprocate by having had a small part in starting the Soap Guild, supporting every soap gathering we could find and helping where we could.
I would like to say that we would not be who we are today, without the help of all the people who work in the company. We have an amazing team, scattered in several towns, states and of varied talents and interests. We are truly a modern company, using all the latest technologies but with time honored values.
This is and will continue to be a wonderful adventure.
From all of us at SoapEquipment.com