As I write this, I’m surrounded by the most heavenly scents, all emanating from a bag full of fragrant treasures purchased from a small, local farm just ten miles from my home. This small business started as a home-made endeavor in 2000, with inspiration from an eight year old boy, a couple of goats and a mother armed with determination and a flair for creating healthy soap formulations. Slightly more than a decade later, Goatboy Soaps has evolved into a full blown, successful business producing tens of thousands of bars of soap annually. These numbers speak volumes, and rightfully so, as this couple has taken something as essential as bathing, and transformed it into a beneficial luxury. The pure and healthy bars are still created in their home, with Lisa Agee as the chemist/recipe creator, and her right hand man, husband Rick Agee, working alongside to produce the same healthy, pure soaps they started out with thirteen years ago. Actually, they’re even better now . . .
Goatboy Soaps of New Milford, Connecticut, is located on a quiet country road surprisingly only a few minutes from the center of town. As I walked along the quintessential brick pathway leading to their house, hearty greetings were bleated out by Eve and Buttercup, two incredibly friendly female goats that are a combination of the Nubian, Nigerian Dwarf and Toggenburg breeds. In other words, pure cuteness. Rick came out to greet me with a big hug, then led me into their home-turned-into-a-soap-showcase, filled to the rafters with shelves of colorful, beautifully arranged soaps in a tantalizing array of over 25 scents including serious citrus (a best seller), blackberry sage, red clover tea, lavender, patchouli (a personal favorite) and heavenly, to name a few. I was still in a mesmerized state of euphoria when Lisa came out from the kitchen (where she was setting up displays of festive molded soaps) and welcomed me with some assistance from a most exuberant cocker spaniel/poodle mix named Stella. Though my “cup runnethed over” with fragrance and good vibes, I happily sat with this lovely couple to hear more about why they started Goatboy Soaps, and how things have changed over the years.
It all started with a search for food that their allergic son, Bobby, could tolerate, and expanded when they found his preference for goats milk. The couple quickly realized that products made with pure goats milk provided a soothing, calming effect on the skin and didn’t dry and irritate like traditional soaps. Once the family got used to the quality of the goats milk soaps they refused to use commercial soaps anymore, inspiring Lisa to embark on a mission to find out all she could about the soap making process. She learned that powdered goats milk was often used (rather than fresh) in addition to lard and preservatives, none of which Lisa wanted to use. And so the challenge she chose to take on was a complex one; to create a recipe using natural, healthy ingredients in a formulation that would produce a great lathering, long lasting bar. Although Lisa won’t share all her trade secrets, Goatboy Soaps contain whole goats milk, olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil and shea butter, ingredients that are incredibly beneficial to overall skin health.
We continued our conversation in the place where all things come together, the basement. I saw the vats where all the products are mixed, and the molds (like a box with no top) each weighing a hefty one hundred pounds when filled. Rick and Lisa make 600 pound batches at a time; “That means 600 pounds of product down the stairs and 600 pounds of soap up the stairs,” Lisa shared. Indeed, soap making is hard work and I wondered how-and why-they continue. The answer was mutual; this devoted couple is dedicated 110% to customer service. But it’s more than just good service, they genuinely care about their customers and think of them as extended family. They consider their soap a “family soap”, and take the responsibility of providing the very best product quite seriously. They both love being their own bosses, having the ability to follow their own path; a path based on caring for and appreciating those they meet along the way.
Lisa and Rick listen to what their customers tell them, creating new scents and constantly looking for other ways to improve on their soaps. Presently, Lisa is working on a new formulation using sake kasu, which is a residual rice yeast byproduct produced from the fermentation of sake. It must be harvested promptly to ensure freshness, and offers intense moisturizing properties when added to skin products. When combined with the other quality ingredients, this is bound to be a great addition to the Goatboy line and will be presented as a facial soap in two fragrances; Japanese cherry blossom and Japanese grapefruit.
When Rick and Lisa aren’t busy creating or selling their products, they are finding ways to utilize every last piece, as nothing goes to waste. Many bars are donated to charities or local food pantries, end pieces are sold as “scrapple” and the smallest scraps are sent to a family that melts them down and remolds them. With six female goats lovingly tended and producing milk almost year round (thanks to occasional visits from the handsome Luigi), soap production also remains consistent for this hardworking couple. But they don’t mind, in fact they’re happy knowing that in some way they have improved the lives of so many simply by sharing their passion . . . and a little love along the way.
**Goatboy Soaps will have an open house every Saturday and Sunday until Christmas, from 10 to 3, or by appointment. If you’re not local, products can be shipped as well. Please visit: www.goatboy.us