Check out this fantastic article on B.E. Magazine

 

http://thebemagazine.com/2015/12/nichole-croteau-baker-founder-of-lazy-daisy-soap-co/

 

Nichole Croteau Baker, Founder of Lazy Daisy Soap Co.

 December 11, 2015     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The company may be called Lazy Daisy Soap Co., but owner Nichole Croteau Baker is anything but. As the founder, owner, and sole employee of the Montana-based natural handmade soap company, Nichole is constantly working on and thinking about her business. “The biggest challenge with owning a business like this, and one that’s primarily out of my home, is that there’s never an end,” she says. “I do everything—I do the accounting, I do the production, I do the sales. So there’s a never-ending to-do list and I don’t clock in and clock out.”

 

Baker says she often works until 11pm, with just a dinner break, producing, packaging, marketing, shipping and experimenting for her company. Her long days and hard work seem to be paying off though—Nichole says the business is growing every month since she “officially” started the company last October. And by “officially” she means working on Lazy Daisy as her main focus, even though she’d been building the basics of the company for years.

 

Nichole grew up in rural Montana, in a household that was largely self-sustaining. “My mom…grew all of our vegetables, and my dad hunted all of our meat,” she says. “[My mom] was always pretty focused on healthful food, and so I think that was always a part of me.” Then, as a pre-teen, Nichole developed a fragrance allergy, which meant she could no longer use most commercially-made products, like shampoos and lotions. And so, her focus on organic grew to encompass both food and personal care products.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The emphasis on natural products was part of her life for awhile, but it wasn’t until her early twenties that Nichole really started researching and experimenting with homemade products. At age 22, Nichole was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. “It sucked!” she says. “I can’t think of a more eloquent word. I was in college and working full time. I pretended it wasn’t happening. I didn’t really cope. Looking back now, I think that is why I recovered. It was just easier to keep pushing through than it was to be sick.” Eventually, Nichole did recover—only to be diagnosed again at age 28. This time, she had her entire thyroid removed.

 

Without her thyroid, Nichole was able to recover completely and has been cancer-free for over six years. The thyroid, though, is an integral part of the body’s natural balancing system and without it, Nichole says, she has no natural metabolism, that she quickly put on extra weight and feels that she is still adjusting, emotionally and physically, even years later. She’s not alone here. “I think that lots of women struggle when their body changes, whether from sickness or age. I am very lucky to have such a supportive husband who loves me regardless of size and weight, but it is still hard for me to look in the mirror and see a larger woman. It has meant changing my idea of beauty and learning to focus on health and the things that I can control.”

 

This idea of control extends beyond just Nichole’s focus on healthy eating and living an active lifestyle in order to counteract her changed metabolism. “I think that one of the hardest things when you get an illness is that you lose all control and there’s not that much that you can do about it. And so I became more interested in what I couldcontrol. They don’t necessarily know why one gets thyroid cancer—they suspect environment. So I started thinking more heavily about ingredients and the chemicals that I was using in my everyday life.”

 

And that, Nichole says, was the unofficial start of Lazy Daisy. Over the next few years, Nichole continued to experiment with natural and organic products. She taught herself how to make cleaning supplies, soaps and lotions, and began passing products out to friends and family for trials. At the time, she and her husband were living in Seattle on what she describes as an “urban farm.” They owned a farm house and a bit of land in the middle of the city which

allowed Nichole to garden and grow her own vegetables and herbs, which were often

used in infusions to give the soaps natural scent and color. She also had two rescue

goats which provided the milk she needed for her lotions.

 

She was working in sales, in jobs, she says, that “paid the bills.” She could only pursue

her true passions—gardening, experimenting, working with her hands—on evenings

and weekends, but she wasted none of that time. “I would come home and drop my

purse on the back porch and head out to my garden in my suit and my heels. That was

always my love, I guess, was sort of doing what I can to be self-sustainable.”

 

Then, last year, the chance came to pursue her soap business further, when her

husband’s job transferred them back to Montana. They packed up their goats and

bought a small one-bedroom cabin that came with a huge barn which they’ve wasted

no time in filling up with more goats, chickens, turkeys and a handful of dogs and cats.

The cabin is so remote, though—a 40-mile trip to the nearest town, that it didn’t make

financial sense for both Nichole and her husband to commute for work. “It would put a

pretty big strain on the animals here,” she says. “They wouldn’t get the attention they need, my female goats have to be milked between 10 and 12 hours apart, and I spend a lot of time with them, so Lazy Daisy sort of started from almost necessity. I’d already had the recipes, I’d already been making products, so I restarted, and it’s been awesome.”

 

Lazy Daisy has grown into all-natural body care products company, with a wide range of products from soaps and goats-milk lotions to lip balms and bath salts. Nichole makes each and every product herself, using her own recipes that she’s perfected over the years, and all-natural ingredients. All of the scents and colors come from essential oils, herbs and other botanicals, or clay, and Nichole has spent uncountable hours researching natural preservatives in order avoid chemicals like parabens. “Once you start making a few of your products, you start to realize how unnecessary most of the chemicals are,” she says. “I hear this a lot from my customers that my products work better than a commercial product. So you start to realize that [chemicals] don’t really have a necessary place in our world. Hopefully, as consumers get more and more aware of what they’re using and putting in their bodies it will become easier to find products that are healthful. I think we’re moving in that direction.”

In addition to fun soaps like her Pink Margarita Salt and Man in the Mint, Nichole also creates custom orders and products to treat specific skin conditions. Her High Desert soap, for instance, has seen great success in treating eczema, psoriasis and rosacea, and she has turned this product into a body cream as well. She’s also teaching herself the rules of liquid soap, which she says will open up a whole other world of products like body washes and shampoos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This expansion into new products obviously means great potential for business growth—even more than Nichole has already experienced. In the last year, her operation has outgrown her kitchen, and she’s in the process of converting her garage into a dedicated production space. But Nichole has dreams even bigger than that for Lazy Daisy, including a retail store and onsite production facility.

 

In addition to focusing on Lazy Daisy, Nichole also spends summer days working at an organic farm down the road, so this past year has been an exercise in balance. “This last summer has been hectic because I sold more than I anticipated, so I’ve been making product and farming. My biggest goal is just to get ahead a little bit more, so that I can have more of a work-life balance.” The retail store would help this goal, allowing Nichole to spend fewer long days at farmer’s markets selling product and more time working with customers and building inventory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“If I were to take a day off here, Lazy Daisy would suffer quite a bit,” she says, “and it’s challenging to go like that for as long as I have. We used to travel, a lot”—Nichole studied abroad in Morocco and was married on an island in Belize—“and I miss the adventuring so much.”

 

As a one-woman operation, though, this balance can be difficult to achieve. Work, running a business, kids (in this case goat-kids)—many of us know the struggles of finding balance. That’s why Nichole encourages would-be business owners to start a business only when they’re very passionate. “If somebody has something that they’re truly passionate about, then it’s worth it to open your own business. I think it would be horrible to spend this much time and energy on something you’re going to later resent, or you’re not going to love,” she says.

 

Passion is obviously not in short supply in Nichole’s case. Despite the pressures of running a business and the years of struggle battling cancer, the love she holds for her business and life is evident in every word she speaks. “I feel like I do have it all. I have a great marriage and great friends. I live in a beautiful place. And I own my own company that feeds my desire to be creative and create products that are better for the body and for the environment. It’s funny that in the end, it really was cancer that was the first step to where I am now. I probably wouldn’t have a small company of my own if I hadn’t gotten cancer at 22 years old. It’s funny how seemingly the worst things can lead you down the perfect path.”

 

If you would like to learn more about Nichole and Lazy Daisy, take a look at the company’s website, or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook!

 

Bridget Thoreson is a writer and editor in New York City. Her interests vary widely, but she lives for traveling, snacking, reading, daydreaming, and making lists.

 

Check out this article from the front page of Belgrade, MT Newspaper February 26, 2016

 

http://www.belgrade-news.com/features/article_0afdfee2-dc2f-11e5-9133-d35098f905d9.html

 

 

Clarkston Woman finds new life working with goats

 

In an eclectic little farmhouse atop a hill

about 20 miles north of Three Forks, a

local woman operates her own handmade

soap company. With the help of some

goats.

Nichole Croteau Baker and her husband,

Ray, moved to their homestead about a

year and a half ago after tiring of their city

life in Seattle. Baker is originally from the

area, and said it just felt like time to come

home.

It also gave her an opportunity to grow the

Lazy Daisy Soap Company. Baker has an

extensive line of all natural soaps, lotions,

lip balms and other personal care

products, all made with her key ingredient:

goat’s milk.

In Seattle, Baker said she and her husband

lived on a half-acre of land that was overgrown with blackberries. Adopting a pair of goats to chomp away at the irksome bushes was their solution.

“It took us four months to beat it back far enough to put fences up and then we adopted two goats,” she said. “It just started a love affair.”

Now, she has five goats (with a couple of kids on the way), along with a bunch of chickens and turkeys. All the animals roam together on the small homestead.

                                                                                                                                       So, that explains the goats. But why                                                                                                                                                  homemade soap?

                                                                                                                                       In addition to a lifelong fragrance allergy,                                                                                                                                        Baker battled thyroid cancer twice during                                                                                                                                        her twenties. ‘That got me thinking about                                                                                                                                        ingredients and what I could control with                                                                                                                                        regard to what I put in and on my body,”                                                                                                                                           she said. “Chemical ingredients are scary                                                                                                                                        and the more I researched, the more I                                                                                                                                              realized I could make my own                                                                                                                                                            alternatives.”

                                                                                                                                       After about ten years of making soap for                                                                                                                                          herself and close family and friends,                                                                                                                                                  Baker said she decided to turn her                                                                                                                                                    passion into a business when she moved                                                                                                                                            back to Montana.

                                                                                                                                       “The idea for Lazy Daisy was always                                                                                                                                                 there, just as a sort of pipe dream,” she                                                                                                                                             said. “It’s really been awesome. I’ll never be wealthy, but it’s a labor of love.”

Baker’s cozy home is filled with the fragrance of her essential oil-scented soaps. She has piles of colorful cakes and her other products resting in a small storage room at the back of the house.

“Lazy Daisy has completely outgrown this kitchen, though,” she said.

She plans to soon begin retrofitting a small garage on her property so she can have a space completely designated to her business. That will hopefully allow her to keep up with her growing demand and allow her to make larger quantities of products.

It takes about three hours to make one batch of 32 bars of soap, Baker said. She grows a lot of the herbs she uses herself, and scours the internet for the best prices on the rest of her high-quality organic ingredients like coconut oil.

One common misconception about her business is that it’s a simple procedure, Baker said. Quite the opposite is true. She dons goggles and gloves and covers all of

her skin before tackling each complicated

recipe. Lye is extremely caustic, she said,

and a small miscalculation can result in a

“volcano.”

The chemical reactions between lye and

the other ingredients rely on very precise

measurement, kind of like baking. To learn

how it all worked, Baker just dove right in.

“I just learned on my own and read a lot

of books,” she said with a laugh. “Pinterest

wasn’t a thing yet. We used a lot of ugly

soap for a while. Still do. I probably threw

away $800 worth of ingredients before I

ended up with some soap that I would

actually sell.”

After perfecting her process, Baker turned

her attention toward healing specific skin

problems like eczema, psoriasis and adult

acne.

“That’s the fun part,” she said. “I love to problem solve. Every product that I have is meant to heal and I’m an expert in my ingredients at this point. I like being able to help people and figure out how to treat specific skin issues.”

The most difficult aspect of her blossoming business is being alone while working from home, she said. Selling at farmer’s markets is a welcome chance to socialize because she said she’s a bit isolated at her home soap laboratory.

That’s easy to believe. The Bakers’ home sits on top of beautiful rolling hills, just in front of the Missouri River. But she said they keep extra gasoline on hand for the wayward travelers who run out of gas near their house.

In the future, Baker said she would love to have a storefront with space to create her products in the back, perhaps in Manhattan or Three Forks. Another addition on Lazy Daisy’s horizon is liquid soap products. Baker said she just learned how to make it and plans to expand her inventory with shampoos, hand soap and body wash.

 

“It’s really limitless at this point,” she said. “My last two batches have been successful, so I’m excited about that.”

Check out Baker’s full line of products on her website, www.lazydaisysoap.com.

© Lazy Daisy Soap Co. Gallatin Valley, Mt