While the issues of poverty and lack of education around the world are still daunting, we’re grateful here at Soap Hope to partner with organizations like Milaap, who are addressing these problems with innovative new platforms and technology.
Milaap: Creating Connection through Technology
Milaap means “connecting people” in Hindi, and was founded by three entrepreneurs in 2010 — friends with a single vision “to change people’s concept of giving and make it a personal, transparent, and sustainable process.”
The Milaap microlending program is unique in its implementation of a technology platform that allows for people to lend money to a number of people in need.
Lenders are able to choose from a list of borrowers, based on their needs and loan requirements. The eligible borrowers are selected by Milaap’s field partners, who are “established organizations that have a strong presence at the grassroots [level], a deep understanding of their communities and challenges, and a commitment to serve their needs.”
The borrowers receive 100% of the funds, and lenders are able to track the process of the loan through the Milaap platform, where the stories and progress of the borrowers can be shared with a larger audience.
Usha is one of the borrowers who has benefited from Milaap’s giving platform and your Soap Hope purchases.
Usha is 28 years old and leads Samanvaya SHG, a company that produces natural home décor products. Samanvaya has been up and running for the last 8 years, and regular production activities have helped its members to support themselves and save for the future. Usha was able to purchase a small facility in her hometown from her savings.
There are other women who want to join Samanvaya SHG, but Usha needed adequate machinery and infrastructure to accommodate more women, which is why she applied for a loan from the Milaap program.
Supporting Usha will allow her to grow Samanvaya and empower more women in her community to support their families and save for brighter futures.
Creating a Wider Impact
By partnering with innovative organizations like Milaap, Soap Hope is able to create a wider impact with our profits. We believe that businesses everywhere can create this kind of change in the world, but only through the hard work and creativity of companies like Milaap that share this vision.
We make it part of our Soap Hope mission to only offer soaps and products that we feel comfortable using. This means that we only work with brands we trust, and who use ingredients that are wholesome and safe.
Maggie Hanus, founder and “Soap Bartender” at A Wild Soap Bar took a moment to talk with us about why she’s so passionate about the work she does and the products she offers.
Soap Hope: How long have you been in business?
A Wild Soap Bar: 20 years.
SH: Why did you start making soap?
AWSB: I’ve always enjoyed making things with my hands, so when I ran across Sandy Maines’ first little book about soap making, I decided to give it a whirl.
I eventually became good at it through trial and error and I haven’t been able to stop ever since. My son Jory makes all of our products now, but I still stir up a batch of soap every now and then, just for grins.
SH: What do you love most about making your products?
AWSB: I get so excited when I hear how our products are helping people with skin problems they’ve had for years! Making a difference in someone’s life, that’s what it’s all about. Being your own boss is incredibly hard work, but hearing from our satisfied customers makes it all worthwhile.
SH: What’s your favorite soap/scent/product right now?
AWSB: I designed all of our products, so naturally, I like them all. It’s hard to pick just one, but I’d have to say that my all time favorite soap bar is our Warm Wishes Holiday Soap that’s only available Oct. – Dec. (I actually hoarded some from last year.) The intoxicating vanilla spice scent drives me wild! Other favorite soaps are Desert Sage, Sassafras, Prickly Pear, and our Yucca Root Shampoo & Body Bar.
SH: What makes A Wild Soap Bar different from other natural skin care products?
AWSB: Our line is based around wild native plants, so that makes our products unique to begin with. For instance, everybody makes a lavender soap, but who makes a Bluebonnet Soap with real wild-crafted Texas bluebonnets in it? Everybody makes a mint soap, but who makes Horsemint Soap from locally gathered horsemint plants? There may be a few others doing it now, but we were the originals.
Other than the native botanicals, I believe our ingredients really set us apart. Every one is carefully chosen to be effective and sustainable. Our pure and natural essential oil blends are rich and complex, not the single notes used by many other soap makers. Compare our ingredient lists to others and you’ll see what I mean.
We use a wide range of natural and organic ingredients and we’ve been tweaking our ingredients for over 20 years now.
SH: What’s your most popular product?
AWSB:Black Willow Bark Soap for Acne, hands down. I can’t tell you how many people have written to say that it’s cleared their acne or at the very least, vastly improved it. How awesome is that?
SH: Why are all-natural ingredients so important in A Wild Soap Bar products?
AWSB: Our goal is to make products that are safe for all living things and a joy to use. What we put on our skin is important. What we dump on our earth is important. What we leave behind for our children and our grandchildren….is important! Why use synthetic chemical filled products that are poisoning our bodies and our earth when safe natural ones are just as effective?
SH: What responsibilities do you think businesses have, when it comes to community and social responsibility?
AWSB: Businesses can make all the difference in the world! If even 1/3 of the businesses adopted some form of environmental and social responsibility it would make a HUGE difference in our hurting world.
Businesses can and should step up to the plate. It’s all about the triple bottom line…people, planet and then profit.
SH: Why do you work with businesses like Soap Hope?
AWSB: Soap Hope has been a huge inspiration to us! They’re our ideal retailer because they’re not just in business to make a buck. We know they care because they put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. Salah’s brilliant Good Returns model was one of the sparks that initiated our own Kiva lending team, wild about good.
If every business did something similar, no matter how small, just think of the mountains we could move! We’re super proud to have Soap Hope in our family of fine retailers and we hope that more businesses will take their example to heart by creating sustainable business models that empower people to improve their own lives.
Businesses MUST take the lead if we hope to change our world and Soap Hope is a shining example for us all.
In America you can start a business to do just about anything, anytime, and usually without anyone’s permission. We wanted to sell soap bars to change the world. It took a two-page form, twenty minutes, and $300 to incorporate a company in Texas. We filed the paperwork online from the kitchen table.
In America you can freely compete with other businesses. It might be hard, and the big guys might have an advantage, but any person can decide at any time to be an entrepreneur. Here, an entrepreneur’s only limitation is herself.
In America you can freely state your opinions about the rules we live by together, and you can work to change them if they are wrong. If you don’t like the rules, you can get your voice heard, organize a movement, nominate a candidate, and create change.
Do you agree or disagree with the notion that companies should label foods that are genetically modified? Do you agree or disagree that there should not be new taxes on Internet sales? Do you agree or disagree that plastic microbeads should be prohibited in products that reach our water supply? You can elect representatives who share your values.
If you want your voice to be heard you can get to know your representatives, learn about the issues by researching online and talking with others, and vote. Election day is November 4.
As entrepreneurs we value everyone’s right to vote. That’s why Soap Hope has a policy in support of employee voting. Every team member gets paid time off to vote in local, state and national elections. If you are a business owner, we encourage you to consider a similar policy. You can find ours here: Soap Hope Policy in Support of Employee Voting.
One of the most important things we do at Soap Hope is to evaluate the ingredients in products. It’s a much tougher job that you might imagine. Not everything that’s natural is good for you, so we have to keep tabs on everything used in every product. And makers update their ingredients all the time, so we’re constantly reviewing the field research, making sure that everything we carry is up to our strict standards. Our vision is that if you find it at Soap Hope, you can trust that it’s good for you.
Did you know that not everything that goes in a product is required to be on its label? One terrible ingredient that has made its way into thousands of products is called microbeads. Sometimes they are labeled simply “PE” or “PP.” It’s in everything from toothpaste to facial scrubs to shower gels. And it’s terrible for people, animals, and the planet.
Microbeads are tiny plastic particles that manufacturers put in products to make them scrubby or for visual effect. They go directly into our water systems. Our drainage systems were not designed to filter them out, so they end up in our water supplies and in the oceans.
These plastic beads do not break down. Marine creatures eat the microbeads, which ultimately end up in our food. They cannot be removed from the environment.
Microbeads are getting even more attention lately because they have been found lodged in the gums of many people who are using Crest toothpaste. No one knows how much damage they are causing to the very teeth that were supposed to benefit from the product.
Manufacturers of these products are fully aware of the harm they are doing to humans and to nature – but they put profits above all else and use them anyway. When a recent outcry finally got Procter and Gamble’s attention, they promised to eliminate microbeads from their toothpaste – in two years.
You’ve heard the saying “corporations are people.” It’s true in this sense: businesses are run by people, and those people make conscious decisions every day either to responsibly serve customers, or to earn profits regardless of the impact on people and the world. When you choose companies that care about humanity and pay attention to the consequences of their decisions, you contribute to more good in the world.
We’re paying attention to things like microbeads for you. Of course nothing at Soap Hope has them. We don’t have Procter & Gamble’s problem of what to do with two years worth of unacceptable ingredients. We never carry those kinds of ingredients in the first place. When our makers want a product to be scrubby, they use sea salt, or flowers, or cocoa seeds.
In our view, business should be of service. When we prioritize the well-being of our customers, our employees, and the world we all share together, it’s easy to make the right decisions.
The Crest controversy has led Soap Hope on the search for great quality toothpaste that is effective and free of harmful ingredients. We’re working on boarding oral care products for you soon. In the meantime, be sure to avoid products with the words polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), nylon or Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) in the ingredient list.
If you’ve ever ordered from Soap Hope, you’ve seen a little scrap of folded paper fall out of one of your products when you unwrapped it. It says, “Can Shopping at Soap Hope Change the World?” In the packing room we call it the “Easter Egg” because it’s hidden in your order.
Like most things at Soap Hope, the Easter Egg is very intentional. We hide it in your package. It’s a symbol of extra impact that your order made, on a woman’s life far away from you. It’s a surprise to make sure you know about the mission of Soap Hope, even if you skipped the paperwork we include.
Inside the Easter Egg, we explain that we were inspired by Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Dr. Yunus is known as the father of microfinance. His efforts have touched the lives of millions of women around the world. I’m driven every day by his achievements.
In 2010 I heard Dr. Yunus speak at Austin College in Texas. He told the story of a woman who lived in extreme poverty in a village in Bangladesh. She received a small loan to help start a personal business that could provide income for her. She took and repayed a number of loans over the years and slowly increased her standard of living. She was able to send her daughter to grade school – now the daughter could read, even though the mother could not. Through continued access to training and credit, she was able to afford to send her daughter to high school. Her daughter was able to fund her way through college, and then medical school.
Think about the change in the standard of living from mother to daughter – from a life of illiteracy and poverty to that of an independent woman with a career as a medical doctor, in one generation.
This opportunity is why we started Soap Hope. Can we realistically expect people here, with busy lives, families, and interests, to figure out how to send girls in Bangladesh to school? Maybe not – but Soap Hope can:
We partner with local institutions like the one established by Dr. Yunus. Since Soap Hope sells things that everyone needs for everyday life, and uses all the profits to fund loans for women so they can afford to do things like send their girls to school – that means now everyone can participate. Wash your hair with shampoo from Soap Hope – help teach a girl to read. Wash your dishes with dish soap from Soap Hope – help teach a girl algebra. Drink a cup of tea from Soap Hope – help empower a generation of women.
We’re intentional about the products we curate for you, the environmental impact of the box your order is packed in, the placement of the Easter Egg, the use of the profits your order generates. We do this so that you can simply shop for your everyday needs with us, and the rest is taken care of. But we do need your intention too: Remember Soap Hope. Remember to shop with us for your family. Remember to tell others about Soap Hope. Remember to share your thoughts and ideas with us about how to grow this movement. It’s our actions together that matter.
You know by now that every bar of soap purchased from us funds one day of a woman’s business – “a bar of soap is a day of hope.” If you’re a follower, you also know by now that I want to sell one millions bars of soap, to create one million days of hope. Let’s tell a million people about it, and get this done. #milliondaysofhope
Some of you know that I started my working life as a classical pianist, not as an entrepreneur. In 1993 I was very lucky to go on a six week international tour through Africa and the Middle East, traveling through almost a dozen countries and playing concerts in national theaters, universities, and ambassadors’ halls.
The core idea behind Soap Hope really started all those years ago. After one concert, I had the fortune to spend time with the Director of the World Bank in Kenya. He explained to me about his efforts to address poverty in Kenya. He told me that of every ten dollars sent to alleviate poverty in Kenya, nine went to corruption.
That challenge stuck with me for years: only 10% of the aid that was intended for the extreme poor was making it to those who needed it.
It was three companies and 15 years later that Soap Hope was born. When we designed our model for addressing world problems, we wanted to learn from the lessons of that evening in Nairobi. We didn’t want 90% of our effort lost. The Good Returns model was born.
We don’t give money away – we invest in women. When you buy your household products every month from Soap Hope, we send all the profits to women – every dollar – so they can start or expand their own small enterprises around the world, whether in Kenya, or in the Dominican Republic, or right here in Dallas.
How do I know the money isn’t being lost? Because every dollar is repaid after one year, interest-free. We don’t take anything out of our company until those profits are returned. Only then do we get the rewards of our entrepreneurship.
Our intention is to provide opportunity with accountability: yes, all of our business profits are loaned interest free, but all of those profits are required to be returned after they have done good in the world for one year. This approach puts us and those we help on the same page, responsible to each other.
Our vision is to take Soap Hope from the small business it is today to a nationally recognized enterprise, serving millions of customers and millions of women around the world. Then we want to teach many other companies to do the same. I’m so grateful and delighted that you have been an early adopter, creating this vision with us by shopping at Soap Hope and sharing the Soap Hope story.
I still love music and playing the piano, and when the day comes that Soap Hope is big enough to operate without me every day, I will start working on concert material again. The next time around, I want to play fundraiser concerts to raise awareness and money for sustainable social enterprises. I hope you’ll join me then too.
Co-Founder, Soap Hope
You’ve probably seen the “#LikeAGirl” video that debuted not long ago. If you haven’t, take a minute to watch it – it’s inspiring and eye-opening.
At Soap Hope we often think about how perceptions of women either empower or limit people. Why do we invest in women? Here are some amazing facts about the behavior of women that inspire us:
Women consistently reinvest a much larger percentage of earnings into their own families and communities than men do. This behavior creates opportunity and advancement for more people.
The more economic and political participation of women there is in a country, the more stable that country is likely to be.
The more women there are in the legislature of a country, the lower the level of corruption is likely to be.
Women are far more likely than men to repay a business loan.
In short: it’s smart to invest in women.
Soap Hope was founded (by two men, incidentally) on the belief that solving humanity’s greatest problems will require balanced participation by women in all aspects of society, especially decision-making and leadership. We decided to focus on women at the “bottom of the pyramid” – those who are most disadvantaged.
We choose to make our difference by empowering those women through entrepreneurship – and we’re serious about it. Every single dollar of profit that we earn goes to fund loan capital and education for women.
These women start and grow their businesses, changing the dynamic of their local societies by bringing success, hope and opportunity to them. We believe that this, too, can and will become a pervasive worldwide phenomenon.
Who wouldn’t want to invest in a person who saves like a woman, invests like a woman, plans like a woman, strengthens the community like a woman, and transforms the world like a woman? I know I would – how about you?
– Salah Boukadoum, Co-Founder, Soap Hope
If you want to participate, it’s easy: shop at Soap Hope, share the story with others in e-mail and social media, and please write us – we want to hear from you.
I recently attended a conference about the future of cities.
Like many conferences, this one started with a packed room of attendees ready to hear some great opening speakers.
Right at 9:00, the conference chairman came on stage to welcome us. Then came the city mayor. Then the conference organizer gave us an orientation, and an expert gave a great talk about the cities of the future. And then a powerhouse panel of five world leaders took the stage.
And that’s when I first noticed it. All the people on the panel were men.
I started thinking back through the morning. Before the panel was the conference organizer, a man. The expert before him, a man. The mayor before him, and the CEO before him, all men.
The panel took questions for an hour from a moderator – a man. Next on the agenda, a scientist – a man.
It was 11:30. The whole morning had passed. Not a single woman’s voice from the stage.
Women’s Voices, Women’s Choices
Half the people in the world are women, but women do not make up half the conversation or half the decision making about its future.
I have long believed that most of the ills of our world come from the imbalance of the missing voices of women in leadership, governance, planning, and decision making.
That’s one of the reasons that Soap Hope focuses on empowering women, particularly those who are the most disenfranchised. If women don’t have the means to earn an income, don’t have access to credit, and don’t have a seat at the table, then half the world is excluded from the conversation and the decision making. How can we expect the future of the world to serve all humanity if half of it is left out?
I agree with Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, who said, “Microcredit is about much more than access to money. It is about women gaining control over the means to make a living. It is about women lifting themselves out of poverty and vulnerability. It is about women achieving economic and political empowerment within their homes, their villages, their countries.”
Soap Hope, Women, and the Future
The conference organizers didn’t consciously exclude women that morning. But that didn’t comfort me at all – they didn’t even notice the absence of women. There is a blind spot in their understanding of the world.
Blind spots like this don’t just disappear on their own. We have to actively work not only to raise awareness and educate, but also to take action and use our resources to change existing structures that currently exclude women.
That’s why Soap Hope means so much to me. I love the idea that we can change the world with our simple system. We provide customers with everyday things – soap bars, shampoo, candles, laundry soap – and all the profits from every purchase create income for women, bring more women’s voices to the conversation, bring more women’s leadership to the society.
Soap Hope is my way of joining my voice to the many people who are asking, “Women, please join your colleagues on the stage.” I for one am very much looking forward to what you have to say.
Co-Founder, Soap Hope
If you like this post, won’t you please share it? And if you have thoughts about this post, please comment here: http://wp.me/pv0Gr-8i.
Every week at Soap Hope, we get together to talk about what to write on this blog and what special offers to send to the many customers who get our weekly email.
The team wanted to do a makeup promo, since we’re big fans of the Pacifica line – the products and packaging are just gorgeous, and our customers love the quality.
Normally that would mean I would pull out the research I did on natural makeup when we decided to carry it and write up some important points about natural makeup, what to look for and how to use it.
But this week I also saw a very touching music video called “Try” by Colbie Caillat. I really wanted to share this song with you, because it made a big impact on me.
But I was conflicted about sending out a promo about makeup, and also sending you this song. You’ll see why when you watch it. (I’ve put it at the end of the blog for you.)
I talked with my friend Kathy and told her about my concerns. “Is it insensitive to promote makeup in the same week as you share a song like this?”
Kathy asked me, “Well Salah, why do you sell makeup?”
It’s not a short answer, but it’s a simple one. I sell makeup because I wanted to create a company that solves big human problems by selling everyday things to my community. I wanted the company to use all of its profits to empower women to escape poverty. And I only wanted to sell things that were healthy and high quality, with the highest integrity I can bring.
I started with something simple: soap bars. And customers – you – showed up to participate. And then you asked for more – for shampoo, for lotion, for new brands, and yes, for makeup.
In return, I asked Kathy why she wears makeup. “The same reason you cut your hair a certain way. It’s fun. It makes me feel good. I like the way it looks. And some days I don’t wear it.”
In the end, Kathy and I decided you would understand everything. That there’s nothing wrong with selling makeup for the right reasons. That it’s OK to share this video with you about how we don’t need to be wearing makeup – or doing anything else – for the wrong reasons. And that I shouldn’t have to worry too much about sharing things with you that moved me, and that I think might move you too.
I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments below.
(Can’t see the video? Click here for the original post and scroll to the bottom.)