Leona and Jim Douglass, owners of Brown Bag Soap Co., pose in front of their creations at the Van Wert County Fair. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Leona and Jim Douglass, owners of Brown Bag Soap Co., pose in front of their creations at the Van Wert County Fair. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – For Leona Douglass, traveling to area fairs and events to sell her specialty made soap products is so much fun because of the people she is able to meet.

“It’s fun meeting the different people and talking with them and hearing their stories too,” Douglass said from her booth in the Van Wert County Fair Commercial Building earlier this week. “The other vendors are awesome; you get to meet a lot of really cool people.”

Douglass and her husband Jim own Brown Bag Soap Co. Douglass began making her soap recipe in 2008.

“I didn’t ever plan to sell soap, but when you make soap, you end up with a lot of soap,” said Douglass. “I would give it to friends and family, and they came back and said they wanted more soap. I’d tell them I’d bring them a bar, but they said they wanted more than a bar.”

In 2010, Douglass began selling her products. When she first began, she knew she wanted something simple that could be used for many hair and skin types.

“I wash my hair with it; I wash my face with it,” said Douglass who noted she’s had customers who have told her it helped to clear up their eczema and other skin conditions. “I was buying handmade soap whenever I could find it at a festival. Some of it I really liked, some of it I didn’t like. Sometimes they wanted you to have a bar for your hair, a bar for your face, a bar for oily skin, a bar for dry skin… they all look alike in the shower.”

“I told my husband, ‘it’s got to get easier than this,’” continued Douglass. “So I bought books and read and through trial and error, I created this soap.”

Douglass currently sells 50 different scented soaps, each with the same basic ingredients. Each soap is labeled with the ingredients, so people know exactly what they are putting on their bodies.

“You can’t make soap without lye,” said Douglass. “If somebody tells you they are making a bar of soap and not using lye they are maybe using a ‘melt and pour’ product which isn’t a hand-made soap. Ours is made from scratch. We weigh out the lye, the water, the oils, and everything individually.”

In addition to traveling to sell their products, Douglass and husband Jim have a store next to their home in Union City on State Route 47. Douglass also sells her products online and through their Facebook account: Brown Bag Soap Co.

“Last year we made 11,000 bars of soap,” said Douglass.

In addition to the hand-made soaps, Douglass also creates signs and wax melts.

“My husband cuts the boards, and I paint them; he frames the ones that need frames,” said Douglass. “With our wax melts, I put as much scent as I can in those without the scent floating.”

“I never thought I’d be selling soap,” said Douglass. “I made a lot of good soap, and I made a lot of really bad soap in the process because I wanted it to be this soap.”

Douglass plans to bring Brown Bag Soap Co. to the Van Wert County Apple Festival on Oct. 18 and 19.