Christmas is right around the corner. Wouldn’t it be lovely to receive something as thoughtful as handmade vegan soaps, lip balms and facial masks? Enter Naomi Murray, founder of Mountain Girl Soap, and creator of some of the most eco friendly and beautifully packaged products I’ve ever seen. She runs every aspect of her business as evidenced by the artistic touches you’ll see in everything from the photographs to the scent combinations. Naomi’s passion for Nature fuels her business. Her Etsy site says, “The name ‘Mountain Girl’ was inspired by real women, it embodies the spirit of women who are strong, Earth wise, and who nurture the connective relationship between the mind, body, spirit, and environment.”
What is your name?
My name is Naomi Murray; I am an artisan soap maker and proprietress of Mountain Girl Soap. I live in Oak Run, California with my husband, Don, and our two Boston Terriers Rogue and Raven. I received my Soap Maker’s Certification from the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild and my Associate’s Degree in Business from Shasta College.
Describe your products.
Tag Lines: Handmade in the foothills of Northern California. Inspired by mountain living. Soap for the Mountain Girl’s soul. I hand make each batch completely from scratch, using the traditional cold process method. I never use sodium laurel sulfate, detergents, dyes, or parabens. And my soap never contains animal-derived ingredients, animal by-products, nor ingredients tested on animals. Because every batch is hand stirred, hand cut, and hand wrapped, each bar is characteristically unique and will vary slightly in shape, size and weight. The charm of my soaps is that they are left natural; no trimming, no polishing.
How and why did you open an Etsy store? Is your Etsy shop your full time job?
Sharing my creations with others makes me happy. I love connecting with my customers and filling special soap needs for them. I also like the challenges of being a small business owner. I’m a make-and-do person; I love doing everything myself from product photography to logo and label design, to balancing my own books, so it just followed that I would manage my own shop. In addition to running my Etsy shop I work full-time at a garbage and recycling company.
What inspires your creations? Are you working on any new products?
I find inspiration from the outdoors; my Native California Plant Series of soaps was inspired by local flora. I also take inspiration from my customers and I fill special requests often. The next creation on my to-do list is body lotion. I also have plans to make a body wash and shampoo.
Why did you begin making soap?
How I got started in making soap. About 8 years ago I was helping my husband slaughter a steer that we raised on our 11 acres which we do about once every couple of years to feed our family. I looked down with disappointment at this large pile of waste (head, hooves, hide, organs, fat, etc.). My thoughts went to the Native Americans and how they never wasted any part of the buffalo. And I remembered how in the “old days” people used to make soap from animal fat. Desiring to live even just a little more sustainably I was curious to learn how this could be done. I purchased a book on soap making and asked my husband to save me the fat off the next steer. And so then I rendered my own tallow from the fat off the kidneys (suet) which is known to produce the best soap. The stench in my kitchen from rendering the fat was really bad, but I’ll never forget my very first batch of earthy Oatmeal Soap. It was a chunky dingy gray rectangle of the smoothest, hardest, longest lasting soap I’d ever used and it was my creation! Because of health reasons I later became a vegan and I no longer use animal derived materials. I now use high quality vegetable oils and non-animal ingredients.
Describe a typical day.
I spend my time researching new ingredients, wild harvesting plant materials, formulating, and designing new soaps. The endless color and scent variations provide an array that is ever exciting and new.
What are 3 fun things we should know about you?
I am an advanced certified scuba diver. Pearl Jam is my favorite band. I played the clarinet in school.
What advice would you give to others beginning their own businesses?
My advice to others beginning their own business is define your brand, keep a narrow focus, and know your target audience. Always use the best materials, strive for quality rather than quantity, and learn to trust yourself.