OLYMPIA –– It started with sensitive skin and pretty soap.
The then-10-year-old Olympia resident, Naomi Barer, would walk into a store that sold beautiful soaps that the sensitive-skinned Barer couldn’t use.
“I was like, ‘I could get it, but it wouldn’t really work,’” she said during her July 25 pop-up shop in West Olympia. “Then I thought, ‘What could I do to make sure other people in this situation could also have this ability to use soaps that are not only fun, but work super well?’”
Barer, now 16 and a junior at Capital High School, started researching how to make soap when she was barely in her double digits, and after a couple of months, started selling the colorful soaps she made at craft fairs in the area. While she started making and selling her soaps at the tender age of 10, after the coronavirus pandemic broke out earlier this year, she felt the need to expand her soap production from a hobby into a business.
“Other people were in need of soap and stores were running out,” she said. “I got my business license and I made it a real-deal thing.”
Barer announced earlier this month that her company, NRB’s Beauty, had a successful first quarter of sales online after the company launched in March. The July 25 pop-up shop is one of two she’s hosting this summer to celebrate the successful first few months of the young venture.
“I had a lot of people ordering soaps, but a lot of people who buy soaps live nearby and I wanted to make sure they could see all of what we have,” she said. “I wanted to do something fun and special after a great first quarter.”
A variety of soaps she makes, from bestselling “Busy Bee” soaps to cupcake-shaped soaps, are colorful to look at and feature colorful swirls, unique shapes or biodegradable eco-friendly glitter, depending on the product. Some of her soaps, like cupcake-shaped soaps, are more difficult to ship, so are saved specifically for pop-up shops customers can peruse in person.
She uses a soap base for some of her soaps, and customizes each one with colors and scents. Others are a mixture of oil and lye solution, which turns into soap from a liquid base. This allows her to see the soap through the entire process, she said, and lets her choose what oils are going in and determine how it will end up.
Some still surprise her, though. In producing certain products, scents and colors will change when going through the process because of the high temperatures the chemicals are subjected to.
“Some of the soaps completely change colors,” she said. “This apple pie soap started off as a bright red and bright green, and it turned into more of a brown. So that’s always pretty challenging because I never know if it’s going to turn back into its original color.”
The July 25 pop-up shop wasn’t the last one Barer plans to host this summer. Those who missed it can go to the next one, scheduled for Aug. 8 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at 3835 Cooper Point Rd. NW in Olympia. For more information about NRB’s Beauty and to order some of Barer’s hand-made soaps, go to nrbs4u.com.
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