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Conversations with Emlyn Roesler

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emlyn Roesler.

Hi Emlyn, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
The idea for soapmaking started in 2013 when I wanted to make presents for Christmas. It was exhausting trying to figure out the “perfect” gift for friends and family on a budget, something thoughtful and practical. Plus, what do you get your family member who has everything and literally says every year that they don’t need or want anything? I bought a melt-and-pour soap kit from the craft store, and I cut out fun shapes with cookie cutters. I made my husband, John (and he was my boyfriend at the time), a T-rex soap with a red heart.

A couple of years later, John wanted to make soap “Fight Club style” out of sodium hydroxide (lye) and oils. I really did not have much interest in cold-process soapmaking at the time, so John made the first batches of soap. I would occasionally join in his hobby, but it really wasn’t MY hobby… yet. We’d save a few bars from the loaf of soap and then give away the rest to friends. Everyone who tried the soap was hooked. They all said, “you should sell it!” John, having zero interest in selling our homemade soap, had no problem giving me the go ahead to try my hand at starting a small business. This conversation was in early 2018.

Solid Soaps became MY small business in April 2018, and I started selling my handcrafted soaps online on Etsy. I experimented with different essential oils and fragrances, recipes, and techniques, but I always stuck with natural colorants and botanicals. I had my first artisan market in October 2018, and I remember being so nervous about it! I sold my bar soap for $5-6 at the time… they now retail for $9-12/bar.

At the official start of Solid Soaps in April 2018, I was also working as an advanced practice nurse in cardiology / congestive heart failure (my official title is Clinical Nurse Specialist in Adult Health) with Dr. Kunjan Bhatt at Austin Heart, I was a mother to my two years old daughter, and I was also seven months pregnant with my son. I had a lot on my plate, to say the least, and the growth of Solid Soaps was purposely slow and thoughtful. I chose what markets to join (granted, I was not on call that weekend at the hospital), and I would post the process of soapmaking and business-related growth on social media, which really helped get Solid Soaps on the road to where it is now.

Usually around the holidays (Oct-Dec), I would joke about quitting my day job, and every year that thought became less of a joke and more of a dream. However, I love being a nurse, and I couldn’t give up my nursing career just yet.

Oct-Dec 2020 was the busiest season for Solid Soaps to date with custom and wholesale orders, markets, and online sales. In addition, Dr. Bhatt was advancing our heart failure program at work. All this, and I was still trying to be the best mom and wife possible. Real talk, I had a couple of breakdowns in mid-late December when I was stressed and sleep-deprived from everything. My blood pressure was elevated. I was not exercising. I was firing at all cylinders, and I knew it was not sustainable to my well-being. Something had to give.

April 29, 2021 was my LAST DAY as a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) at Austin Heart. I retired my nursing career of 14 years to pursue soapmaking full-time! As much as I LOVED that job, I knew in my heart I was ready. It was very difficult to say goodbye to some patients that I’ve been following for over ten years (some of them cried!), let alone my staff and colleagues.

It has been almost two months since making a career switch, and I’ve had no regrets. I’m very happy where I am now, and hey, I’m still a nurse (just not currently practicing professionally as one). It’s a crazy career change, but you know, YOLO.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The biggest struggle is ALWAYS figuring out the work/life balance, as this is forever changing and evolving. My husband, John, and my two children are my world. They will always come first. Period. I sometimes feel guilt that I’m working at a market, doing soap-related things, and not spending “enough” time with them. I’m always looking inward and reassessing if what I’m doing is okay, and I communicate with John constantly about this.

Another obstacle was COVID19 when our city became shelter-in-place. This was difficult for everyone in different ways, but from a business standpoint, I could only sell online. My goal for 2020 was to be in more stores/shops in Austin, and COVID19 squashed that dream real quick. In response, I had to grow my online sales substantially, as well as make a presence for Solid Soaps on social media.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I make artisan soaps using the cold process method. I use phthalate-free fragrance and essential oils, natural colorants and botanicals, and I have vegan options. I hand-measure all of my ingredients and design my soaps with simplicity in mind.

A huge part of my branding is reducing waste and plastic. I make a “confetti” soap that uses all of the beveled soap shavings from other soaps. All of my packaging is compostable and/or recyclable. If I do use plastic bubble wrap, it’s from reused packaging.

I think what sets me apart from other soap makers is I’m a little funky. I like to have fun, crack jokes, and dance in some of my Instagram stories. You’ll sometimes find me making soap while grooving to so many different genres of music, from Patsy Cline to Bruno Mars, to Celia Cruz. As much as I share all the pretty soaps, I also share the fails and mistakes – it’s all part of the process, and it makes my business more personable/relatable.

Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
When I was in elementary school, I was 100% shy and timid. I was also overweight, which meant that I was the butt of all jokes (kids can be so mean!). Always picked last in PE and never very good at sports. Junior high was similar in that I was shy and introverted, except I had an early growth spurt, making me appear extra thin and tower over everyone. I spent many days reading books in my bean bag. The library was my favorite place, and I read a lot of Sweet Valley High, Babysitter’s Club, Nancy Drew, and R.L. Stine.

In high school, I took an art class, and I think that’s where I could express really myself. I ended up painting a mural in my high school at the end of a hallway with me closing up the imaginary wall to the land of opportunity. I was on the opportunity side of it. I was ready to close this chapter, move away from Houston, and start anew in Austin. I ended up getting accepted to UT Austin. I joined Texas Wushu (kung fu) club, and that became my social circle. You could say I became my own person midway and after college – the early 20s were a life-changing time for me, for sure.

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Image Credits
Jin Chu-Ferrer Khrysten Dyane Photography

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