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Daily Inspiration: Meet Milan Mixson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Milan Mixson.

Milan, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I’ve always had an interest in body care, and while attending Gainesville’s Florida School of Massage in 2004, I encountered Ariale Lewis and her Stinky Lewis’ Soap booth at the Downtown Gainesville Farmers’ Market. I loved the rich lather, the essential oil scents, and the earthy packaging.

At that time, I kept a scrapbook of anything that I found inspirational on my journey to creating my future: quotes, magazine cutouts of gardens and home decor, recipes, lists of potential products I might make in order to start a small business, and a few special labels from products I would be very proud to have created. Stinky Lewis’ Patchouli & Hemp Seed Oil soap label was quickly added.

Ten years later, I grew to know Ariale Lewis a bit better during my time working at a natural foods store where her soap was sold. She would say that she was tired of making soap, tired of the physical strain and the space it took up in her house. She’d say that she wanted to retire, but that people kept calling her and wanting more soap, and she hated to let them down. After hearing this several times over the course of a year or two, I finally acknowledged the nudge that fate was giving me, and asked her if I could apprentice with her and take over the business instead of just letting it end.

To my amazement, we made a plan and began. I trained with her in various forms of soapmaking including cold-process, which is what we use almost exclusively at Stinky Lewis’ today. Because soapmaking involves chemical reactions and concentrated ingredients, it can be quite dangerous, so I also took classes from another soapmaker, as I felt the need to have as much comprehension and hands-on experience as possible before setting out on my own. I also studied everything I could get my hands on in print and on the internet. By Summer 2016, I was the official owner and soapmaker of Stinky Lewis’ Soap.

It’s been eighteen years since I used my first bar of Stinky Lewis’ Soap, and every now and then, usually when hunting for an old beloved food recipe or quote, I open that old scrapbook and grin with pleasure and gratitude at the little soap label that I once pasted there with such wistfulness and intention. The wheels that small action set in motion will always impress us, and we are excited about a future brimming over with creative opportunities.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Our situation is uncommon because we took over a 14-year-old business. It was tiny, and still is very small, but it already had a loyal local following. Once people use our soap, they almost always want more, so we are growing steadily through our website and more wholesale accounts in addition to setting up our booth at a handful of local festivals each year.

As you say, of course there are challenges, such as being very certain to fulfill all of our responsibilities as a business, keeping active and inspired on social media, and needing to increase our workspace every now and then as needed, but in general, we are very grateful for the relative smoothness of this experience so far and look forward to further growth.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Our base soap formula that we use for all bars is still Ariale’s original formula, and upon taking the helm, I immediately upgraded the oils of that base formula to 100% organic, and also certified sustainably sourced where possible.

We’re inspired by our other interests and experiences, especially cookery, herbalism, and gardening, so you’ll notice hints of those themes throughout our line. We choose to color our products with nothing more than natural clays and organic botanicals like ground herbs, flowers, & spices. Over 90% of our offerings are scented with pure essential oils, and we are careful to clarify the few products that have a bit of synthetic fragrance in the blend. Our line is primarily vegan, with only two out of nearly 30 products containing local goat milk and local wildflower honey.

All of our bar soap varieties are naturally packed full of skin-loving glycerin and are great for hands, face, and body. They are well-balanced, providing an excellent lather that rinses away cleanly, neither leaving behind residue nor overly stripping the skin’s natural protective barrier.

And while we can’t make any claims about our soap’s effects other than being great at cleaning (because we don’t have a cosmetic manufacturer’s license, and anything that alters the skin in any way besides cleaning it is a cosmetic), we truly feel that there is plenty to be gained just from the pleasure of knowing that our soap is enriched with these pure, simple ingredients, and from noticing the ways they affect the washing experience, whether it be via color, scent, and/or texture. It truly is stinkin’ good soap.

I’m proud of every aspect of this business, because although I didn’t start it, I work hard on its evolution in every way I can. I’m proud of the soap first and foremost, but also of the updated logo and packaging that I designed, the website I built and maintain, the social media accounts I operate, the sources of the excellent ingredients I’ve discovered, the wholesale accounts I’ve secured, etc. It’s cliche, but I really put my heart into this little company, and the many compliments we receive on our soap warm my heart every single time.

How do you think about happiness?
I think happiness is a very simple noun, and most of life’s experiences are better described otherwise, but to feel genuinely inspired provides a sense of meaning and a desire for involvement that can create an overall backdrop of happiness, regardless of the ups and downs life is guaranteed to bring. So I think the key is to focus on seeking and finding things that inspire.

Pricing:

  • All of our bars are 5oz and cost $8 on our website. Prices may vary in stores.

Contact Info:

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