Just a note: This post contains references to drug use and addiction.
Jennifer Turner’s bustling soap business didn’t start with a fairytale. Frankly, it started with a lot of personal pain and turmoil. But that’s the beautiful thing about her story – she found a way to connect her passion and her pain and become a beacon of hope for countless families.
Her unique goat milk soaps originally started as a hobby, a way to distract herself from the grief of watching her three children struggling with addiction. It was a secret she kept from everyone but her immediate family for a long time, trapped in feelings of guilt and shame as she worked on her hobby day in and day out.
But something happened when she decided to tell her story and go on a mission to put her hope that her children – and everyone struggling with addiction – would get clean in the hands of eager buyers at a local Farmers Market.
She built relationships, and a successful business, and realized that the secret she was keeping was one that so very many people in the world struggle with. And now, Jennifer is a mentor and a trusted friend to families all over who found themselves in her shoes. (And, of course, she makes a great soap!)
You won’t want to miss this story. It will give you a new appreciation for goats, natural skincare, humans, and most importantly, hope that things will get better.
“I had this one lady come up to my booth and she was looking at the soaps and I told her what the mission was, and she just started crying. And I said, “You have someone involved in addiction, don’t you?”
She said, “my daughter died last year from addiction” and it just broke my heart. Then we had a good cry together.
So you know, it’s those moments that just make the business all worth it.”Jennifer Turner, Soap Addiction
In your company’s mission statement, you mention that soap is a metaphor for people getting clean from addiction. What did your life feel like before starting this business versus after?
Jennifer: Well, I was doing soap making more as a hobby while I was dealing with very stressful things with my children. It was more of just a distraction for me. It felt good to do something positive that I had fun doing, and it took my mind off of all the problems that I was dealing with.
But once I actually decided to turn it into a business and get serious about it, then I realized that I was making soap for a different reason. It put a flame under me and I became much more passionate about it, and I started coming up with all these ideas of how I could try to connect with families in the midst of dealing with a loved one’s addiction.
So my life beforehand, it was just kind of going through the motions – and once I had the mission of making the soaps for a reason, then my desire to do it was just so much more. I’ve done many hobbies before, so many different things to pass the time – but this, I’ve been doing this for 14 years.
How are your children doing now?
Jennifer: They are all completely in recovery. So my life was dealing with constant phone calls – whether the police to say they’ve been arrested for public intoxication or the hospital to say they’d overdosed and had been resuscitated or that they’d been picked up for this or that…that constant worry and fear and dread in my life that totally consumed me made me not want to go out and do things with other people and talk about my family.
But now they’re in recovery, and really before they were in recovery, once I learned how to try to take the focus off my children and not try to fix them, because you cannot fix them, and deal with my own grief and guilt and all the different feelings that come from it. I was able to go beyond that and use my story in my business.
But, they are all totally recovered now. One of my children is involved in construction, my other son works for an airline, and then my daughter is working for a financial company. They’re all doing really well, and life is so much different now, not having to constantly worry about what’s going on in their life.
What made the biggest difference for them, or how did they make that shift into getting better?
Jennifer: My two sons were out living on their own together, so they were partners in crime. Once my husband and I got to that point where we would not help them anymore, and we convinced the rest of the family that it was not in their best interest to help them anymore – that they had to figure it out on their own, whether they were going to buy drugs or pay rent. If they were going to have to walk or take the bus. When they got to where they had zero money, they were getting evicted, the car was broken down, they had nowhere else to go. That’s when they called me up and said we’re ready to get help.
It had to be them to initiate. You cannot threaten, bribe, or coerce anybody in addiction to have sobriety.
Then, my daughter got locked up for doing drugs in a McDonald’s and was court-mandated to go into a program and that finally did it for her. She did relapse a couple of times after that, but she quickly got back on the wagon and said I don’t want to go back to that.
You know, you have so many negative memories that you just want to disappear, but now that things are good, you celebrate each and every day for the victory that it is.
What advice would you give someone who also has a loved one struggling with addiction?
Jennifer: Connect with people who know what you’re going through. If you can just find one other person that you can talk to and be honest with, then that’s it right there. Not feeling alone, which was such an overbearing feeling for me for years, because I kept it hidden. My husband and I both kept it hidden from everybody except the immediate family.
Nobody knew in church, none of our friends knew what we were going through and it was just like, take off the one mask and put on the other mask to go out into society and function.
And if people need to connect with me, please call me, email me, text me. I don’t care, I’ll be glad to talk to you.
How did you get started making goat milk soap?
Jennifer: We bought a farm of about 14 acres and it was a lot to manage. We kept asking people if they wanted to come up and cut hay for their horses or cows, and nobody ever took us up on it!
So we didn’t have the means to be able to roll hay and sell it, so we decided to get some goats to do more pasture management.
We were having so much milk that we couldn’t drink enough, and I couldn’t make enough goat cheese. I was making mozzarella and got fed up. It was like, “I’ve got cheese everywhere. I’ve got milk everywhere. What am I going to do with all this milk?”
And someone suggested we make soap. That was something I had done with my children back when they were in elementary years, so I already had the basics down of how to make old-fashioned lye soap.
I started researching how you did it, and did probably a year’s worth of experiments with different recipes, and then came up with my own recipe that came out consistently good. I really loved how it made my skin feel, I was like, I’m never going back to store-bought soaps again!
When did your hobby shift into a business?
Jennifer: Eventually I just found myself there, knowing we didn’t need any more soap, and I still wanted to go make so more! It was sitting around, curing everywhere. So then I started doing Farmer’s Markets and did that for a few years.
At first, those bars looked pretty pathetic. They were plain, no color, not very well-scented, but I’d sell $75 worth of stuff in a four-hour period! And from there, the more stressed I was, the more painful events I was going through in my life, the more I found myself wanting to be more creative with the soaps, learning how to add colors and designs.
That took a lot of time, experimenting with stuff, and all the experimenting added up to a lot of stuff so I thought maybe I need to go to several Farmer’s Markets.
Then I finally got the nerve to ask our local grocery store, would they carry my stuff? That was the big change for me. I thought if I’m really going to get on this bandwagon, I want to take a business course and I hired a marketing person to kind of tell me the ropes.
She covered everything from email marketing to social media, to your whole mindset.
Between my mindset changing and all of a sudden having an a-ha moment of I am making soaps as a desire for my children to get clean, it was just like, it all came together and I’m like ah, now I’ve got it figured out.
I felt like God was really talking to me and saying, use your soaps as a vessel. It’s a tool to connect with people. And I was very resistant at first because I was like, everybody’s going to know. If I tell people they’re all going to know that I’m a – a big thing for a lot of parents with children in addiction is that you feel like a failure.
I didn’t want to reveal my inner deep secrets to the world and put that out on a plate for everybody to look at. But once I realized that by doing that, so many people went “yeah, I know what that’s like. My parent, my sister, my brother, my aunt, my uncle…”
I don’t know that there’s a family out there that hasn’t been touched, whether it’s alcoholism, drug addiction, or whatever.
What have been some of your own personal benefits from following your passion and starting Soap Addiction?
Jennifer: I think one of the best things that has happened is all of the relationships that I’ve made with people along the way as I’ve opened up about my part in [my childrens] addiction. Because even though the motto is ‘you didn’t cause it, you can’t fix it” everybody has their part of what they play in their loved one’s addiction, whether its enabling or codependency and things like that.
Once I learned about those aspects of what I brought to the table, it helped me to be able to talk to other families who were going through the same thing and didn’t know where to begin. I’ve had a lot of random emails from people that are going through that, and they asked if they could call and talk to me.
So I’ve been a little bit of a counselor and a little bit of a mentor to several families along the way. They just need to know that there’s somebody out there that understands what they’re going through.
So that, the personal strength to be able to share, learning how to be real, learning how to share and not have that fear of rejection or judgment or guilt and shame, or whatever feelings people want to put to it.
What are the benefits of homemade goat soap compared to store-bought soap?
Jennifer: Well, if you look at the ingredients on the back of a bar of soap, or even on shower gel, I can pretty much guarantee you might know what one ingredient is in the whole mixture.
Most people don’t realize that store-bought soap is actually not soap. If you look at the bar, it says beauty bar or cleansing bar, it typically does not even use the word soap. It uses shower gel because it’s a detergent. All of those are detergents, which strip away the outer layer of the skin. It takes the dirt with it, but it also strips away all the oils and moisturizers in your skin as well.
Another big thing that people don’t realize is that when you make handmade soap, glycerin is a natural byproduct of soap. It’s naturally got that glycerin that helps to moisturize your skin and draw moisture into your skin, whereas store-bought companies remove the glycerin to sell to the lotion companies. So now you have to buy two products to replace one.
When you’ve got goat milk, you’ve got lactic acid, which breaks the bond between a dead skin cell and an alive skin cell, so it washes away the dead skin cells. It has cream, it has minerals, selenium, and vitamin A which helps fight skin cancer.
Outside of that, I ventured out into making lotions and lip balms, and I use a lot of herbal oils in my product from herbs we grow on the farm. So I like putting that all-natural aspect into my product.
Do you have anybody to help you or do you just do it all yourself?
Jennifer: Up until last year I did it all myself, but I finally got to that point where I said things are growing too big and I cannot maintain the farm, the business – plus, I’m also a registered nurse.
So I let my husband retire from his truck-driving job where he was gone 50, 60 hours a week and now he always does the farm work, the weed-eating, harvesting the crops, all of those types of things.
And then if I need help with labeling or delivering, or I’ll tell him the trash needs to go out and the soap dishes have to be done. And he’s like okay boss! He doesn’t have to get out and drive a truck anymore, so he’s okay. He’s like, this is easy!
What Are Some of Your Favorite Scent Combinations You’ve Found?
Jennifer: I’m very fond of herbal scents. Like I love Rosemary, Mint and Tea Tree, and Spearmint Eucalyptus. I’m a big fan of mint, so I’ve got one that’s called Minty Mint and it’s spearmint and peppermint.
It was surprising, I never really cared for patchouli, I always associated it with an old-fashioned hippie scent. But as I started learning how to blend those will lavender and orange and peppermint, it was like, I really like that. It’s very nice. And patchouli essential oil is really good for fine lines and wrinkles!
Has learning to set boundaries in relationships helped you set boundaries with your business?
Jennifer: Absolutely. I come from a long family of workaholics. If I slept in, I felt like I was being a bum. If I took the day off to do something else, it’s like, I’m a slacker.
That’s kind of what was portrayed to me from family members growing up, always feeling like you had to be productive, doing something. Otherwise, life is passing you by. I would find myself working from the time I got up until 8 pm. And then I finally realized I was following in my parent’s footsteps and I needed to stop. My husband would say, please just put the stuff down and come sit and watch TV, come eat dinner, come outside and enjoy the sunset.
I really looked at and re-evaluated what truly is important to me. Now I typically stop between 4 and 5 in the evening. It’s like everybody else has work hours. It’s time to call it quits. That stuff will wait for me until the next day.
I’ve also learned to have more grace on myself, not to push, to be a people pleaser. I’ve learned to just say no to people and give them more realistic expectations of time limits to get things done, especially now with COVID it’s taking so long to get some of my materials.
But yeah, I try to treat it more like a job and I have a quitting time. I also try not to work on Sundays. I need to have that day off. Not doing, and just enjoying my family, enjoying doing whatever. I don’t care if I just stay in my pajamas. After I get home from church, put my pajamas back on and go outside and play with my goats!
What boundaries do you have with your business in order to avoid burnout?
Jennifer: I think asking people for help is one thing. I know that I have a certain way of doing things, for example, gift boxes. When I’m putting together gift boxes, I like for them to look a certain way. I like the paper to be folded a certain way, and the crinkly stuff to go in a certain way.
And then my husband will do it, and it’ll look a little more … disheveled. He does the job, it’s just not how I would do it. And I have to learn to say it’s still okay. Let somebody else do it – it’s done. I’m learning more about letting other people in my territory.
What have you found to be the best marketing strategies for your business that you’d consider non-negotiables for other small businesses?
Jennifer: the biggest thing is social media. Learning that, I always felt like I was bugging everybody if I put more than one post out in a day about something. When in reality, how many times have I gotten on social media and those same types of things are out there? And you know, if you don’t want to look at it, if it doesn’t talk to you, you just scroll on!
So hiring someone to teach me that it’s okay to be persistent and really you should be consistent in getting between four to six messages out there a day through the different avenues.
So get out there! It doesn’t always have to be about your product. For me, I’ll take pictures of the goats and I’ll put funny little captions about them. Or we just had one that was really sick and she couldn’t walk and we had to have the vet come out.
Sharing those personal stories on there about the different things that you’re going through with your business, or asking people, doing giveaways, asking people to share and those types of things.
And don’t feel like you’re bugging people because it doesn’t matter if they’ve seen five posts from you that day, it’s social media. As I said, you just move on.
Why did you start using Tailwind for Soap Addiction?
Jennifer: Well Pinterest was brought up as a good avenue, to try to sell my products on there. I’d never really done much with Pinterest and I found it to be fairly time-consuming to try to post on there. I still haven’t really mastered it at all, but I liked that I could post using Tailwind.
I could post to Pinterest and Instagram and Facebook, all posted at one time, the same message across all avenues. So that’s the big thing with Tailwind is being able to set it up, schedule it a week and a half ahead of time, and be done with it.
And I LOVE the whole Tailwind Create. I can pick pictures off of my website or from my computer and just create the different posts. And it gives me different color schemes, different photograph setups, and stuff like that. I like that it helps me with those things and I don’t have to think a lot about it!
What’s Next for Soap Addiction?
Jennifer: I think what I would like to do is get into a few more stores. I think right now I have my product in about seven stores, and then I do a couple of private labels. I would like to grow a little bit more to 10 stores. I’m at the age where I don’t want to spend more time working, I want to be able to do my thing and eventually get out of nursing altogether, do my thing at home and then go and enjoy retirement.
We have a plan where we purchased a freeze dryer and as we’re milking the goat we’re freezing some of the milk and freeze-drying the rest of it so that we can powder it. Then we can have it down the road because anything freeze-dried will last for almost 20 years. It’s a plan to get rid of all our animals in four to five years so that we can enjoy traveling, but I don’t have to give up the business because I’ll have all of that freeze-dried milk!
Then I can still use the milk from my animals on my farm years down the road, but not have all the constant work of attending to them. It gives us the freedom to say “hey everybody, we’re going to be out of town for the next two weeks, so if you need any merchandise for your stores let me know now, so I can get it to you.” And then we’re going to be gone, and we’ll just be free.
That’s a big thing with having a true farm where you have animals. Any farmer you talk to, say they can’t hardly ever go on vacation because it’s hard to find people who know how to come and take care of livestock. And then even if you have your vegetable garden – we have blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, you’ll come back and your gardens overrun with weeds and all the crops are falling off the branches. It’s just really hard to find somebody to come in and fit those shoes. We’ve got to plan for that future of not having to worry so much about that.
I think if you have a dream and a passion in your life, or something that has profoundly affected you, more than likely there’s a lot of other people out there that it’s also affected. Whether it’s cancer, or whatever it might be. Plug that passion into your business, come up with something that there’s a need for, and then you’re able to put those two things together. Regardless of how far you want to go with it, it’s still a win-win, cause you’re always connecting with that person that needs your insights of what has happened and what’s going to help them in their life. And thats what we’re all here for, to help each other. We need more peace and more love in this world for sure. Knowing that somebody else is there that can help you along, that’s very rewarding.
Where You Can Find Jennifer Turner and Soap Addiction
Want to get your hands on amazing soaps like Minty Mint and Magnolia Blossom? You can see the full Soap Addiction product line and learn more about Jennifer on her website!