Interview composed by Lydia Krupinski

I discovered Soaphappy! this past November when selling my Pierogi Picnic goodies in a local craft show. Desperate for a stick of natural lip balm, I promptly snatched up a stick of their ultra hydrating Vanilla blend. This one product made me an instant convert. I now covet my stick not letting even my beloved husband snag a use.

Hanah and Nellie are the dynamic duo behind this local soap racket. Their delicious and down-to-earth products blend natural vegan ingredients with exotic spice combinations that will jazz up even the weariest Chicagoan’s winter morning ritual. With soaps like Jazz+Beet boasting ingredients like ginger, rose, beets and jasmine – it’s no wonder this fiesty pair is stirring up trouble at local craft fairs like the DIY Trunk Show.

To spice up your chilly holiday week Sprout Chicago brings you an exclusive interview with these two soap divas:

Q. Tell us a little about yourselves.
We both currently live in Chicago, two blocks away from each other.  Hanah was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV and is first generation Palestinian-American. Nellie is white :). She was born in Cincinnati, OH and raised in Owenton, KY. We work together at a custom frame shop.  Nellie also makes beautiful folded paper dresses called fashionellies, studies Italian, is a master knitter, and fabulous cook.  Hanah is a studio artist, a committee member for the Chicago Palestine Film Festival, a master of the blow torch, and is an even more fabulous cook.

Q. What drew you to making vegan body products?
We started soaphappy! for ourselves. We were interested in self-sufficiency and all-natural beauty products.  We are concerned about preservatives and other chemicals that are so prevalent in body products. We intend to make more products, but soap seemed like a great starting point and we just made what we really wanted to have for ourselves and families and our friends.

Q. How do your business practices reflect your dedication to sustainablity?
We make an effort to source sustainable and ethically harvested materials.  We buy organic whenever available. Also, the fact that we don’t use artificial fragrances, chemical colorants, or preservatives means that we are not contributing to the problem of environmental toxins.

Q. Where’s your favorite place to source ingredients?
Indian markets on Devon, the Asian Markets on Argyle and the Arabic Markets on Kedzie.

Q. What do you think sets your pieces apart from other eco-friendly soap sellers?
I think our soap is beautiful.  Not only do we pay attention to the soap and scent, but we also pay a lot of attention to the aesthetics as well. All of our soaps have some kind of design, many of which are hand carved.  I think you can tell that our soap is made by people who love what they are doing and care a lot about each bar.
 

Q. Do you have any flopped product stories?
We definitely had a learning curve, but we also have an amazing ability to turn a mistake into a positive feature.

Q. What does ecological “sustainablity” mean to you? Respecting the world that we live in and respecting our bodies are one and the same thing for us.

Q. What advice would you offer for others looking to live a greener lifestyle?
Recycle, and read labels: don’t buy products with ingredients that you can’t understand.

Q. Where do you find inspiration?
Oh, uh, everywhere.  Nature, craft, cookbooks.  Designs come from everyday objects, traditional arabic patterns, and jazz music. Scents can be nostalgic from our childhoods (Sweet Sage) or brand new combos (Gypsy Summer: Rosemary and Cinnamon).

Q. Are you part of any area groups, organizations, or crafting communities?
Chicago Craft mafia

Q. What do you love most about where you currently live in the city?
The diversity of Albany Park is so great. The ethnic grocery stores are a great place to go for inspiration.

Q. If you could change one thing about Chicago, what would it be?
Less Winter, more Spring.

Q. What words of wisdom do you have for individuals looking to start an eco-biz?
Go For it! Make something you love.
Q. Where can we scope out some Soaphappy! for ourselves?
Delicious Cafe in Chicago, www.soaphappy.etsy.com, and in person.

Q. If you could be any vegetable, what would you be and why?
Nellie: “Can I be fruit? I’d a pineapple, it’s a symbol of hospitality.”
Hanah “I thought you’d be a beet.”
Nellie “I don’t want to be a beet, because I want to eat them.  I don’t want to be the vegetable that I want to eat.”
To learn more about Soaphappy! and to scoop up some of their latest goodies for yourself visit their Etsy shop here.

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