Get to know Tracy Wells, owner of Santa Barbara Soaps, a little bit better!
Q: When and where did you start your business?
A: I officially started Santa Barbara Soaps back in 2010. I had been making soaps for friends & family for fun for several years before and people kept coming back for more. I was getting requests from people who wanted to give them as gifts, buy them for themselves or have them as wedding favors. Around that time, I met Amy Cooper who had just opened Plum Goods on State Street. She took a chance on me and started selling my soaps in her store. Everything really grew from there.
Q: Why did you choose the field you are in?
A: I love cooking, chemistry and art. For a while I was even a chemistry major at UC Santa Cruz. Soap making is a perfect blend of all three. I had played around with making candles, hand churned infused butters, and even distilling wines from different local grape varietals. I landed on soap making because I loved the intersection of the art, science & formulating, plus the pure magical alchemy of the soap making process itself.
Q: What inspires your work:
A: I’m often inspired by scents I pick up in nature or cooking. I love playing around with the infinite combinations of scents, colors and ingredients that go into a soap batch. In my workshop, I really have hundreds of bottles of different essential oils and fragrance oils. I love experimenting with the various combinations as I search for the right mix to get just that right scent. I also love the process of trying to get the right texture, lather and richness in my soaps. I experiment again and again with each batch and have been known to give a friend some soaps and then call them right after their morning shower to ask them what they thought of the lather and how their skins feels. I actually enjoy reading chemistry books and articles about exciting subjects such as pH testing, saponification values and IFRA standards. My husband laughs at my bedtime reading choices.
Q: Where can we currently find your products?
A: We only sell to local specialty boutiques and gift shops and do not sell online. You can find Santa Barbara Soaps in Plum Goods of course, but also at The Four Seasons Biltmore and specialty custom gift companies such as SB Gifting Suite. We have a few others coming on board soon, so stay tuned! Because our soaps are truly handcrafted and each bar of soap is totally unique in design, we cannot mass product our product and stay true to what’s made it so special. Our method is small batch and that means it’s a slower and more delicate process. So we’ve carefully chosen retailers who can properly represent our brand.
Q: Who is your ideal customer?
A: The people who buy Santa Barbara Soaps initially try them for their look and scents, because we have luxury ingredients and/or a strong eco-friendly philosophy. They then become regulars because they love the feel and texture of the lather the sea salted soaps makes in the shower or bath and our soaps last a really long time. What’s surprising is how many men like our soaps. The “Montecito” “Pacific Surf” and “Driftwood” soaps are very popular with men. Additionally, many visitors purchase our soaps since they travel easily and allow them to bring home a piece of Santa Barbara. Gift givers have to be our number one customer though. Santa Barbara Soaps are a terrific gift.
Q: What product do you love creating the most?
A: I absolutely love making all flavors of our sea salt soaps with coconut milk! They each have their own personality and customer following. Asking me to choose my favorite is like asking to choose a favorite child! LOL! We just made a signature soap for Plum Goods and I spent quite some time researching the perfect combination of scents that elicited the right feeling that matched the richness and warmth of the colors we wanted to use. It was a collaborative effort. In the end we used scents of ripe plums, Mysore sandalwood and fresh ginger among others and the soaps smell fantastic. That was really fun because we were using scents to capture a feeling.