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Local soap maker 'grateful' for community's support (7 photos)

Carma Soap Co. has been in business supplying soaps to wholesale and local clients since 2008

Carolyn Penrose is the owner, maker and creator behind Bradford company, Carma Soap Co. 

It was around this time eleven years ago, Penrose was visiting her parents during the holidays when she found herself scrolling through the artisan selling website, Etsy and found something that piqued her interest. 

“It was the soap that fascinated me,” she recalled. 

When she returned home to Bradford in the new year, she was determined to try her hand at making soap. She went to the local pharmacy to pick up some ingredients to try and experiment with at home. 

“And I failed miserably, I didn’t know what I was doing,” she admitted. 

So for the rest of the year, she continued to study and research the art of soap making, joining and consulting various soap making groups online. 

After a lot of trial and error, she had found a technique that worked for her, and in the summer of 2008 started selling her homemade soap bars at the local farmers’ market. 

“It kind of took off from there,” she explained of the company’s humble beginnings. 

Penrose continued to work her full-time job with York Region while dedicating her weekends to soap making with her partner. 

“He’d come down with coffee and we’d make soap,” she reminisced. 

Making soap has always been a side business for Penrose, until June of this year when she was able to retire from her job of 33 years with York Region to make soap full time. 

“Now he (her partner) can have his life back and I can have my weekends back,” she explained. 

Penrose says she was able to retire thanks to her wholesale clients who order thousands of bars of soap a month from her, as well as her recent hire of a part-time employee. 

Carma Soap Co. sells in retail locations including Nancy’s Nifty Nook in town, Daylyn inside Nature’s Emporium in Newmarket, and Tea, Earth, Sky in St. Jacob’s. 

Penrose has lived in Bradford for 25 years and says she is "grateful" for all the support she has received from her local customers and followers. She sells soaps to many Bradford residents who pick up right from her home. 

Over the years, her line has expanded from soap to oils, balms, soaks and sprays.

One of her most popular items, Calendula & Camelilia Herbal Balm, was inspired by a friend’s mother who has Alzheimer’s and was looking for something to help soothe her eczema. 

In an effort to help, Penrose created her own recipe for the balm which has helped with the woman's irritated, itchy skin. As a thank you for the inspiration, Penrose continues to supply her with the balm free of charge and donates a portion of the sales to Alzheimer’s research.  

“That’s what I like to hear when people say to me, ‘the stuff that you have is great’,” she said. 

Penrose is an animal lover and has three chihuahuas dogs of her own, ages nine, six and four.  Every year, she donates to three animal rescues as a way to give back. 

This year alone she has donated $2,000 to animal rescue organizations, the most recent being to Tyson N' Friends Dog Rescue, where she created bags of mixed soap ends and sold them for $5 each, with 100 percent of the proceeds going towards the non-profit organization. 

Other rescues she has supported include Procyon Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Centre, Speaking of Dogs Rescue, Button Noses, and Uxbridge Cat Rescue. 

With all her soapmaking experience, Penrose has been able to perfect the process of her craft, allowing her to increase productivity. Her soap cutting machine, which she says is “worth its weight in gold” allows her to cut 10 bars at a time, with the blades made out of ‘G’ guitar strings. 

She has converted her garage into her soap making facility, where she keeps all her equipment and stockpiles tubs of lye from Home Hardware in town, as well as bottles of olive oil and fats. 

“We buy everything in bulk,” she described, noting in one soap making session she will go through five bottles of olive oil. 

“We keep Costco in business,” she laughed. 

To make the soap, she mixes all her natural ingredients together, which she proudly sources locally from locations across Canada, including "our very own garden." 

After the making of the soap, she lets it sit for 24 hours and cure for about six to eight weeks. She noted, the longer the cure time “the better the bar.” This is why, for custom orders, she says she needs at least two months' lead time. 

Her busiest time of the year is naturally during the holidays, and for the first time since she started the business, is able to take some much needed time off this year.

“I've never done that before,” she explained how she is usually cutting bars right up until Christmas Eve. 

But thanks to her loyal clients and her newly hired help, she is able to take some time off to enjoy the holidays with her son, stepson, and partner. 

The name Carma Soap is a hybrid between Penrose’s first name, Carolyn and her Mother ‘Ma’, who she says is her "biggest supporter.” 

To learn more about Carma Soap Co., check out their website here.

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Natasha Philpott

About the Author: Natasha Philpott

Natasha is the Editor for BradfordToday and InnisfilToday. She graduated from the Media Studies program at The University of Guelph-Humber. She lives in Bradford with her husband, two boys and two cats.
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