By Carol Cowan
Soaps, salves and salt scrubs by Made on Acorn Hill are selling like virtual hotcakes online as well as finding their way into shops and boutiques throughout Tennessee and beyond. The two women who started the company just two years ago say they are so busy keeping up with demand – spreading strictly through word-of-mouth – that they haven’t had time to actually try to grow their business yet. Imagine what will happen when they do.
It all started one day in October 2010, when close friends and Madison County Farm Bureau members Ashley Bausch and Mandy Holmes met for lunch. Ashley and her husband Eric Bausch, a counselor at a drug and alcohol treatment center for boys, have a small farm in Jackson where they raise goats and chickens, keep bees, and have plenty of dogs, cats and children running around. Mandy and her husband Jacob Holmes, a real estate attorney, live with their children in a neighborhood in town. The two busy young moms, who at that time had nine children between them (now they have 11), chatted about how they both longed to create handmade Christmas gifts for family and friends.
“We talked about candles, and I don’t remember what all,” Holmes says. “We had a long list, just dreaming of things we could make. We ended up deciding on goat milk soap, mostly because Ashley had the milk and the goats, and she had made soap one time before.”
The two friends pooled their money and bought supplies. They made three different types of soap, using cardboard boxes as molds. They cut the big blocks into bars with a kitchen knife, wrapped each bar in muslin and tied it with jute, and gave it away.
Soon, Bausch and Holmes started getting phone calls asking if they had more.
“People started asking, ‘Do you sell it? I’ll buy some.’ I remember telling people, ‘No, we don’t sell it.’ I was turning people down,” Holmes recalls.
But folks kept asking, and the pair decided to make another batch – 180 bars – to sell.
“We thought, if nobody buys it, we’ll just have soap for the rest of our lives,” Holmes says.
And buy it they did. The soap was gone in two weeks, and Bausch and Holmes used the money to double their next batch. It sold within a week of being finished.
“That’s when I remember a moment, standing in my driveway, and Ashley said, ‘So, what do you think about starting a business?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know …’ We considered ourselves pretty busy without adding a business to it. But that’s kind of the nature of our friendship. Ashley’s the we-can-do-anything friend,” Holmes says.
With that, Made on Acorn Hill was born.
Amid their soap making, Bausch and Holmes were also busy developing herbal skin care salves for their own use. When the soap business began to take off, it seemed only natural to market their skin care products as well.
“Inspiration comes from the most curious of places sometimes,” Bausch notes. “Everything we make is an overflow of something in our own lives.”
For instance, Bausch’s son Josiah was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease that causes a sticky mucus to clog certain organs, particularly the lungs. Helping her son breathe more easily provided the impetus to create Breathe Easy salve.
“We wanted to infuse thyme as the herbal oil, for its known bacteria-fighting properties, and the essential oils (peppermint, eucalyptus and menthol crystals) to help open congested sinuses and soothe airways,” she explains. “It works wonderfully on adults and is still gentle enough that we put it on our babies (just not on faces or near eyes). It has been such a great seller that we have added a Breathe Easy soap and a Breathe Easy Salt Soak to sprinkle in the tub or on the floor of a hot shower. It has become one of our best-selling products.
“We constantly marvel at how something positive always seems to come from something hard. Josiah is such a dear, wonderful blessing, even though CF is hard. And who knows if we ever would have been inspired to create Breathe Easy if it weren’t for one mama’s heart-cry to help her child.”
Necessity being the mother of invention, these two mothers likewise formulated a diaper cream called Little Bums and a first aid salve they call Mama’s Kiss. Their “real jobs,” as they call their mothering, provide the perfect test market for their products, right down to the packaging.
“We really wanted a metal tin that had a screw top, so all our metal tins have screw tops. If your hands are greasy or slick, you can get it open. The vapor rub and the diaper cream we wanted in a tube,” Holmes says.
Balancing a fledgling business and their “real jobs” is a trick the two say they are still learning. Some parts of their venture invite family involvement: For example, Bausch’s husband milks the goats; Holmes’s husband designed the company logo and labels, and built new wooden soap molds; little ones help ready tins, wrap packages and affix labels. A local printer prints their labels, and beeswax comes from a local keeper. But Bausch and Holmes remain Made on Acorn Hill’s chief creators, researchers, chemists, and cooks – as well as principal dispensers of mama’s kisses.
Get the Goods
Made on Acorn Hill soaps are handcrafted the old-fashioned way, using goat’s milk, lye, and a combination of olive, coconut and palm oils. Saponification – the chemical reaction that turns the ingredients into soap – consumes the lye, leaving behind super-emollient, luxuriously lathering, gentle cleansing bars. They contain only pure essential oils for scents, and colors are derived naturally from plants, herbs, and spices.
Made on Acorn Hill salves contain herbal infusions – made from organic healing herbs and extra virgin olive oil – and beeswax from a local beekeeper. Vitamin E acts as a natural preservative and promotes skin healing.
Other products that are Made on Acorn Hill include Hard Lotion Bars, Lip Balm, and Sea Salt Scrubs and Soaks.
Order online directly from madeonacornhill.com, or find them at these retail outlets:
Be Blessed Fashions, Henderson
Botbyl Pottery & Companion Gallery, Humboldt
GG’s Got Gifts, Hixson (Chattanooga)
Green Wagon, Nashville
Hatcher Family Dairy, College Grove
Leigh Nants, Milan
Mags and Lulu, Jackson
The Merchants at Cokers, Tullahoma
Miller’s General Store, Christiana (Murfreesboro)
Nest 30A, Grayton Beach, Fla.
The Paper Place, Memphis
The Shoppes on Main, Humboldt
South of New York Salon, Jackson
Thress Nursery Gardens, Knoxville
Village Gifts, Alamo
You’re Invited Too, Paris
Note: Our giveaway of Made on Acorn Hill products is now closed.
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