Seizing a Soapy Opportunity
What happens when a hobby develops into a bona fide business opportunity?
To find out, we talked to Kale Schulte MBA’11. By day, Schulte works as a project manager of global consulting and engineering at Peach State Integrated Technologies. But, on the side, he founded 23SoapCompany, a line of luxury soaps formulated with natural ingredients. What started as a simple science experiment has since grown into a brand now sold online and in specialty stores, including the Biltmore Estate and Esmeralda. Schulte has even expanded the product line to include a new fan favorite, activated charcoal deodorant.
When did you first start making soap?
“My mother was experiencing skin sensitivity to almost every store-made product—fabric softeners, soaps, shampoos—that had a litany of chemicals infused in them. The goal was to create something that worked for her. My dad is a veterinarian and chemist, so he started researching soap formulas and came up with something he thought would work. At one point, we were working in the lab and had a spill, but decided to cast the soap anyway. My mom tried that bar and said, ‘This is it.’ It was exactly what she wanted. That’s where it started.”
How did that grow to become 23SoapCompany?
“I started at a farmer’s market in Wellesley. I sold 60 bars in one day. People started calling me and asking for more, and that’s the point where I realized there was something there. So, I moved into other stores, and it slowly grew into an online site. It’s grown steadily since and we’re selling more than 250 bars a week.”
Had you ever envisioned breaking into the soap business before that experiment?
“No, it was really more recognizing the opportunity. Even while the first batch was being made, I wasn’t thinking about going into business with it. But, the wonderful thing is the rewarding feeling I get when the soap helps someone who is truly suffering, just like my mom was. I get just as much satisfaction as I do monetary gain.”
Your product is sold in Esmeralda. How did that connection come to fruition?
“I knew Matt and Esmeralda Lambert [the founders] at Babson. If I remember correctly, Matt liked a sample of soap I gave him. When they opened their storefront, they approached me about making a custom bar—they wanted to customize colors and scents. And, the bars sell pretty well at their store. It’s a Babson connection that worked really well in the end.”
Outside of that collaboration, how have you stayed connected to Babson as an alumnus?
“I’ve been in contact with some friends, and connected with the alumni club in my area. Here in California, I’ve been seeing and hearing Babson’s name a lot more. It’s nice to tell people here that I went to Babson, and have them know what that means.”
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
“You don’t have to start your own business to be an entrepreneur. You can find entrepreneurial opportunities within companies. The entrepreneur mentality and process is a transferable skill it’s what companies look for when they hire new employees—that fire and the creativity.”