Emma Zuercher, a junior ASL interpreting major, has kept her hands busy this semester creating products for the soap business she co-owns with her sister.Zuercher and her sister Rowena started the business HomeSaponified last year after discovering a passion for soapmaking. Rowena Zuercher got interested in soapmaking about four years ago, and Emma joined her in 2019.
“She did a lot of research on recipes and developing our formula for soapmaking,” said Zuercher, “and then in early 2020, we finally opened an Etsy shop after selling soap to friends and family.”
HomeSaponified makes cold process soap with plant-based fragrances that are safe for sensitive skin, compared to other detergent soaps that are made with synthetic ingredients. While detergents can clog waterways, HomeSaponified’s soap is biodegradable. In addition to soap, the business sells face masks, face cloths and other related products.
Zuercher says that she and her sister have very different roles as business partners. The business is based in Bloomington, Ind. where Rowena Zuercher lives, so Zuercher’s role is from a distance.
Rowena Zuercher handles most of the soapmaking process and business logistics, and Zuercher does the product photography and design consulting.
“I have more of an eye for design, and she’s more into the research and trial-and-error,” said Zuercher.
There’s a lot of teamwork involved in the business decisions, though. “We bounce ideas off each other about different business strategies,” Zuercher said.
HomeSaponified’s name refers to saponification, the chemical process of the lye and oils turning into soap. The name also alludes to the homey, meaningful feeling the Zuercher sisters want their business to exemplify.
This semester, Zuercher has put her ceramics skills and art minor to good use by creating 24 soap dishes for the business. HomeSaponified commissioned them after a dozen of Zuercher’s dishes sold well last spring at the student art sale.
The dishes’ design consists of a rolled tube with a flat slab on top that angles down into the sink to drain. She created the design in the spring for the student art sale and refined it for the commissions.
According to Zuercher, the most rewarding part of creating the soap dishes was “being pleasantly surprised by my glaze choices. I’ve been making ceramics in college for three years, and glazing is always my least favorite part of my projects.”
One challenge from the project was time management to know the dishes’ wholesale cost.
“I like creating and taking a really long time on one thing,” said Zuercher, “but that’s a different kind of art than it is when you’re going to sell it.”
HomeSaponified’s products are currently being sold in-person at the Bloomington Farmers Market and the Bloomington Mall and online through the Etsy shop HomeSaponified.