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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Couple’s hobby thrives into sudsy new beginning

AnaBelle Elliott
Kevin Douglas Smith scoops out lye powder, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023, at Douglas Smith Soap Company in San Marcos.

What began as a trip to Michael’s for art supplies in March 2020 to get a new puzzle ended up being the start of a new passion and career in soapmaking that would take Michael and Kevin Douglas Smith across the world via suds.

“They were sold out [of puzzles] and there was a little soap making kit,” Michael Douglas Smith said. “And we thought, ‘Why don’t we try some natural soap?’”

During a time when many felt isolated, Michael and Kevin, the married couple of four years and San Marcos couple of two years, hoped to bring a sense of community to their friends and family. The couple would send off their soaps to loved ones and they would open them up during Zoom family meetings, allowing them to connect in a new way during the pandemic.

The kit used a method called “melt and pour,” meaning the soap was already made, and the couple would then break it down and add things to it.  From there, they began learning how to make soap from scratch.

“Soap is two ingredients: fat and lye,” Michael said. “The combination of fats can make a bar really good for different purposes. So that’s been the fun part, researching what oils are common and what are luxury.”

As markets started opening back up in 2020, the soapmakers joined markets and wholesale businesses in Wimberley, then Chicago and Nashville and some other locations. By October 2020, Michael and Kevin opened a shop on Etsy with the help and encouragement of some friends who understood the next steps they were taking. 

“We didn’t want it to be an expensive hobby,” Michael said. “We thought, maybe it could be a hobby that paid for itself. And so with that knowledge, it started flipping where ‘If we invest more, maybe we could have different tools and then we could make bigger batches,’ and then we went to markets and were like, ‘We really need to make bigger batches.’”

Landon Lacey Wehbe, a supporter of Michael and Kevin for eight years, played a vital role in the couple’s transition to an online format.

“When I first tried Michael’s soap, I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, this would totally take off,’” Wehbe said. “And I started ordering it and told him he really needed to brand it for the masses, and so he did.”

Both being speech pathologists, Wehbe met Michael on a trip to Vietnam with Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss in 2015. 

Also being an entrepreneur, Wehbe has had her own shop on Etsy, Landon Lacey Jewelry, for 13 years and said she learned by trial and error.

“I kind of have an eye for what will sell and what won’t because I’ve been doing it for so long,” Wehbe said. “I wanted to help my friend skip that learning curve of mine and [Michael] was successfully able to.”

The couple officially moved to San Marcos in 2021 and opened their soap shop “Douglas Smith Soap Company” in August on North LBJ Drive.

Kevin and Michael both said the mindsets they activate when making soap in San Marcos are familiar to them within other areas of their life. For Kevin it’s running, and for Michael it’s yoga.

“You have to focus,” Michael said. “It’s like driving. It can be dangerous if you don’t follow the rules. It’s a way to focus and you connect with the ingredients.”

Now, every month the couple sends off their soap scraps to an organization called Eco Soap Bank that disperses it to 25 countries. Michael has a background in teaching a yoga class called “karma classes” where the participants donated instead of being charged, and whatever was earned would go to a local charity. This line of thinking applied to Michael’s idea to donate soap scraps.

Kevin and Michael have noticed their state of being plays into the soap. They say connecting with the soap and each other is vital to it turning out how they want it to.

“We can tell if we’re upset about something, the soap doesn’t come out good,” Michael said. “If we don’t connect with it and connect with each other, because there’s timing, there’s temperature and it feels a certain way. If you’re not connected with it, it’ll turn into something weird.”

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