TUMALO – Like many business owners, Dwight Johnson, founder of Bend Soap Company, said he started his business because of Chance.
But unlike most, Johnson was not talking about good luck. He’s referring to his son, who developed eczema, a type of skin inflammation, in 2011 at age 3.
“Chance was scratching until he bled at night,” Johnson said.
After looking to both natural and prescription medicines for a cure, Johnson realized the answer was in his own backyard. Johnson has been interested in goats since childhood, and he purchased some before moving to his current home on a 40-acre farm outside Tumalo. When he started manufacturing soap using milk from his goats, he found Chance’s eczema cleared up within a week.
By 2012, Johnson had turned his hobby into a business. The soap begins as goat’s milk, collected from the herd of 10 to 15 does the family keeps on the farm. From there, the milk is mixed with red palm oil, coconut oil and olive oil, the other three active ingredients, and left to cure in molds for 48 hours.
After that, it gets cut and then left to harden for around six weeks, creating a bar that helps clean and moisturize skin without the variety of chemicals that can be found in most commercial soap bars, Johnson said.
Although much of the advertising has occurred through word of mouth, Johnson said online sales tripled last year and are on pace to triple again in 2015.
“You can track milk baths all the way back to Cleopatra,” he said. “They’ve known for years that milk on the skin is beneficial.”
The secret, Johnson said, is the variety of enzymes and proteins in goat’s milk that can remove dead skin and repair damaged skin. These are combined with the other oils, which contain antioxidants and vitamins, including vitamin E, which might help strengthen the skin.
“We know vitamin E is fantastic for skin,” Johnson said. “They put it in sunscreens; they put it in all kinds of things.”
Goat’s milk soap has a reputation for helping with dry skin, but Johnson said his use of “raw” goat’s milk that comes directly from the udders of his herd helps set his product apart. Johnson said many of the other goat’s milk soaps on the market are made from powdered milk, which may not contain the enzymes and nutrients that make the milk special.
While Bend Soap Company soaps can be purchased from more than a dozen stores and online, Johnson said he hopes to break into the hotel and vacation-rental industry as a way of showing that even customers without eczema and psoriasis can see benefits from using goat’s milk soap.
“For us, those travel-sized bars are the best business card we could hand out,” Johnson said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7818, email@example.com
Q: Why isn’t goat’s milk in common usage by soap companies?
A: Cost is the main reason. They have machines that can make this stuff in Indonesia, with byproducts. I mean, a lot of these are products they’d have to pay hazmat fees to get rid of, and then they’re compressing it into this bar of soap. So their cost per bar is pennies.
Q: Where do you see the business in five years?
A: I see us being in a new location on the same farm. This farm can house 250 goats easily, which means we can stay on the farm and continue to grow this thing organically. What I want to see us be is the company that makes products for your skin that you can trust.