If it’s a soap-making day at the Sullentrup house in Union, you’ll know it from the time you cross the front doorstep. The aroma is both powerful and delicious.
Shawn Sullentrup, who creates original recipes for her entire soap collection, uses only natural ingredients in her products, which means the orange and lemon soap has actual ground orange peel along with sweet orange and lemon essential oils; the peppermint soap has peppermint essential oils, as well as ground peppermint and spearmint; and the french clay and oatmeal soup has freshly ground organic steel cut oats and green French clay.
And those are just three of the more than a dozen soaps Sullentrup sells under the brand good. clean. soap.
Her line also includes body scrubs, lip balms, lotions, even a laundry detergent with fabric softener — all of the products are made with very few ingredients that are all natural, Sullentrup stresses.
“They are super rich and super nourishing to the skin,” she said.
“They’re all plant-based, all vegan . . . I only use essential oils because they are all natural.”
When other soap-makers list “fragrance” in their ingredients, that’s a man-made chemical, Sullentrup pointed out.
Searching for a Better Soap
The story behind good. clean. soap begins with Sullentrup’s daughters, Alex and Courtney, both of whom have skin conditions that involved treatment with steroid creams laden with heavy chemicals.
Courtney has eczema and psoriasis and Alex has keratosis pilaris, which looks like goose bumps on her upper arms.
When Courtney also was diagnosed with celiac disease, a digestive condition that can cause abdominal pain, that was the last straw. Sullentrup decided it was time for a new approach.
“After spending lots of time bathing her in special soaps that were for the treatment of eczema and psoriasis, not to mention the heavy creams and chemical-filled ointments that were not providing her with the relief that she needed, I decided to research alternative methods to treating her,” Sullentrup notes on her website, www.goodcleansoap.com.
She read soap-making books and herbal books, even went to yard sales in search of old books on the subject.
“I researched what the different (essential) oils do for the skin and formulated my own recipes,” said Sullentrup.
Six months after her research began, Sullentrup had created a recipe that she liked.
Her first soap is what the family affectionately called “Court’s soap.” Today is sells under the label “Plain Jane Soap,” because that what it is, said Sullentrup.
It has just five ingredients — coconut, soy and olive oils, distilled water and sodium hydroxide (or lye).
The list of common soap ingredients that you won’t find in good. clean. soap is longer — parabens, petrochemicals, phthalates, synthetic preservatives, artificial colors and synthetic fragrances.
Although Sullentrup is careful to say that her soaps do not have any definitive healing properties, her daughters have seen improvement in their skin conditions after using her soaps.
Courtney’s eczema has improved, and she doesn’t need to use any ointments, Sullentrup noted.
Open for Business
For the last several years, Sullentrup has been making her soaps exclusively for family and a few friends, who have long encouraged her to make it a business. At the start of this year, she did just that, and good.clean.soap was born.
The name comes from her husband Jason’s description of the product one day as they were trying to summarize it for marketing purposes.
“ ‘It’s just good, clean soap,’ he said. So that’s what we called it,” Sullentrup recalled.
Her husband has been a critical part of making the new company successful, too. He created several of the tools Sullentrup uses in producing her soaps, which are all round — a rarity in the soap industry.
Not only are the ingredients Sullentrup uses all natural, many of the are home-grown.
“I grow my own aloe,” she said. “And in the past I have grown my own lemon grass, peppermint, spearmint and lavender.”
For her pink grapefruit soap, Sullentrup buys fresh grapefruit, purees it and infuses it into the soap. She does the same with Clementines and lemons for her Clementines and lemon soap.
She even makes a line of beer soaps using actual beer. She marketed those for Father’s Day.
In the six months since good. clean. soap debuted, Sullentrup has been pleasantly surprised by its popularity.
Back when she was making soap just for family and friends, Sullentrup was only working at it once every few months. Now sales are so strong, she’s making soap about three days a week.
Currently sales average about 100 bars a week.
Sullentrup makes the soaps and other products in her line in her basement, which she calls the soap studio. She would like someday to see sales grow to the point that she will need a bigger space.
Good. clean. soap is available locally at Natural Healing Centers in Union, Hillermann Nursery & Florist in Washington. It also can be purchased at Fusion in Chesterfield, the Farmers Market in Ellisville and I Am What I Am in St. Charles, as well as online at www.goodcleansoap.com.
Her online sales have come from as far away as Scandinavia. She gets lots of emails from satisfied customers.
“My goal is to get into more mainstream, big box stores,” said Sullentrup, who spends a lot of time sending pitches to magazines.
“My dream is to be in Martha Stewart’s magazine,” she added, with a big grin, “ . . . in editorial, on a favorite’s list, that kind of exposure.”
Going to the Emmys
A solid endorsement from a big-name celebrity could go a long way toward making that dream a reality, and Sullentrup already has had a few opportunities.
Through contacts she has made over the last several months, Sullentrup was able to present her soaps to Ty Pennington of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” (she gave him her beer collection); and to Trista Rehn Sutter from the TV shows, “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” to whom she sent some of her rosemary and lavender skin nourishment (lotion) and soap.
Sullentrup also had the opportunity to send some of her soaps to actor Ryan Gosling (she gave him her peppermint soap and body scrub).
And a friend has put Sullentrup in the position of gifting some of her soaps to reality TV star Melissa Gorga of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.”
The hope, Sullentrup admits, is that one of these celebrities will like the soap enough to Tweet about it or in some way, spread a positive word.
One of Sullentrup’s biggest opportunities will be this fall when she will have her good.clean.soap products included in the swag bags at the GBK Gift Lounge in honor of the 64th annual Emmy Awards.
Those soaps will be infused with pink champagne and fresh strawberries, said Sullentrup, noting she may make more bars available as a limited edition soap on her website.
For a Good Cause
In addition to being good. clean. soap, Sullentrup’s products also support a couple of good causes.
A portion of all sales is donated to water.org, to help bring clean drinking water to people around the world.
And good. clean. soap also donates financially, as well as in time, to the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis.