From the author: I am a writer at The Global Gazette, Hult MBA alumna, MSc. International Marketing Candidate, Hult House resident, foodie, music lover. To find out more, contact me on LinkedIn.
In this two-part article, Shari speaks to Mrs. Maridonna Welch, the founder of Truly Naked Soaps, Hult MBA alumna, lover of fashion and beauty, wife and so much more. She is happy to connect on LinkedIn and Instagram.
It is a sunny November afternoon in Cambridge, MA. I am in front of my laptop screen staring at the screen, Zoom opened. Within seconds, she appears, sitting in her apartment, wearing an Urban Air Market T-shirt and a cardigan. I immediately realize that she would have gotten that about a year ago, at Urban Air Market, where she volunteered as event supporter to learn about sustainable brands in the Bay Area.
It also occurs to me that I have not seen my friend in person for around 3 months, although she now lives in Massachusetts and works in EF's Enrollment team. Back in time, we would have met in a quiet restaurant in Boston for good food and drinks, and the TikTok demo, a hilarious starting point for our interview.
We are from islands that are less than 200 miles apart in the Caribbean Sea, with Maridonna even living in my native Barbados for a few years. However, we met for the first time on the first day of our MBA program.
In this interview, we discuss life during a pandemic and building soap empire.
What are you loving right now? What are you reading, listening to, or watching these days?
I now like Massachusetts more than California. And I had my first experience with snow. I'm watching a new Amazon Prime Video series called The Collection. It follows two brothers in fashion after World War II - one is the businessman and other is the designer who is gay and was recently attacked. They create amazing clothing and the psychology behind his droughts is so interesting.
I am also listening to a podcast called Skincare Secrets and really enjoying this science, I learn more about skin.
And also, I made some soaps this morning. I wanted to experiment and get my creative juices flowing as I want to create a new collection. And this Black Friday, Truly Naked Soaps is giving away $1,000 in soap. Use the discount code BLAFRI20 to get yours!
Where do you get inspiration?
Well, to be honest, on Pinterest. I visit the social media accounts of more advanced soap-making companies. One should never try to replicate the work of others, but I look at different effects and ingredients. I have started drawing in my soap book.
You have a soap book! Like a fashion designer?
Yes, and that is why The Collection appealed to me. But the foundation of my inspiration is the credibility of the ingredients, every time. My soaps are all natural, made with plants and oils from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It's important to me that when people use the soaps, they are getting healthier. Recently, I have been thinking about a beauty bar as I have been washing my face with one of the soaps that I made recently. Along with a mixture of oils, I have been blown away by my skin.
Take me back to the beginning of Truly Naked Soaps
I am originally from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. One of these 32 islands is Mustique where Truly Naked Soaps is registered. While I was there, I had a skin situation - my skin was really dry, and it wasn't due to the amount of water, or vitamins in my diet. I became interested in soap-making because I wanted to know what was going on with my skin, and I wanted to nurture it in the best possible way. I made my first batch of soap from coconut and olive oil, water and lye, and it was just amazing. I couldn't believe how good it felt on my skin. I couldn't believe it was just four ingredients. And it was really easy.
Truly Naked Soaps is now in Massachusetts and products are available worldwide.
And returning to the present, what about the soaps you are making this weekend?
I whipped up some soap today and it was not a good trace - out of soap lingo - it was not a good thickness. It was really thin, and I was getting really nervous. I'm like, "No, just push through, just do it." Of course, I googled "Why is my trace so thin?" It was because the temperature of the lye was not high enough. I also had some soap mixture remaining and decided to make some soaps for Father's Day. They will be in wooden boxes with brushes, very manly. Nic [her supportive husband, partner in business and in life] is in charge of that project where my job is to make the soap. Back to my soaping experiment this weekend, I wanted to try my first pencil line. I put coffee exfoliants in the center of the soap, and just played around with a chopstick.
The first one looked like a heart. I thought that I had made a mistake and it turned into a hot mess, but it looks so pretty. I recorded the entire process and I use the clips for inspiration and social media content.
You are already thinking about Father's Day! What else excites you in the future of Truly Naked Soaps?
The endless possibilities! Mother's Day is my next big project. I want to do a box, similar to the limited-edition boxes that I just put out. The box would promote self-care for women who want to invest in themselves. I never put anything in the boxes that I do not try myself or then test on my husband. I want to include new products such as a rose quartz roller which will promote a daily skincare regimen.
Also, I get really excited when we start talking about bath salts. Truly Naked Soaps will be offering "Let It Snow" bath salts for December.
Let's talk about your recent limited-edition box
The first one was released in the 4th quarter of 2020. I was really excited. I have been dabbling with this thought for a few months. Then one of our electives in summer called Luxury Marketing seemed to cement every single thing I was thinking about before. So, in my box there are Limited Edition bars, infused with more than the usual amount of Vitamin E. I have been doing a lot of research on vitamin E and it has so many benefits for our skin. Those bars were the highlight of the box, but I also included one of our Classic Collection bars, which was an exfoliating bar and a coffee scrub to be used with it. There were also coconut oil and floral-infused bath salts, and a travel pack. Each soap was hand wrapped in burlap and string by me rather than in the usual non-biodegradable packaging.
Everything is compostable or recyclable and was meticulously chosen and packed by me. A lot of people did not know that burlap can be used as a soap dish. If you place soap on a ceramic tile, it melts and gets very soft quickly. The burlap does an excellent job of ensuring that the water gets out.
In my ideal world, Truly Naked Soaps would be delivered this way all the time. It would be a premium experience where a Truly Naked Soaps lady is coming to your door to introduce herself and deliver the soaps. She can talk to customers throughout unboxing and trying the products if desired.
Also, I try to support black and women-owned sustainability-focused businesses. I put a lot of money back into raw materials, but I try to put money where it can benefit others. There was also a candle in the limited-edition box by Bright Black. The owner, Tiffany, is lovely and has taken candle-making from a hobby to a business over the past 2 years but was negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The candle adds to the vibe while soaking with the bath salts.
How can we support Tiffany further?
To be continued…