Benson Soap Mill owners Ryan Cook and Tim Maides are buds that live in Benson and turn local and sustainable resources into quality, handmade beauty products. We are proud to carry their products in-store. Read on for a Q&A with Tim!
Scout: How and when did you guys get started creating soap/beauty products? What was the inspiration behind your business? Give us a look into your origin story!
BSM: We started Benson Soap Mill in 2013 when my buddy Ryan Cook had a wild idea to try to use up a lot of products that we were seeing go to waste while working in restaurants. We always were wondering if there was anything we could use the fat scraps, discarded citrus peels, and coffee grinds for so he thought about making soap. Our first bars were pretty crude since we started with no prior knowledge and were using ingredients that were difficult to work with, but our friends and community were there to support us, so we kept going. We've always kinda gone about things the hard way, by literally designing our own original recipes and making sure to prioritize local ingredients over ones that are sourced internationally. We are our own hardest critics, and we do not take any shortcuts.
Scout: You're obviously Bensonites, but tell us more about where and how you make your products!
BSM: We used to make the soaps in my basement but since then have had two "soap labs" as we like to call them. One was in Larkin's Parkin' along with the Omaha Screen Co. guys, and now we're right across the street in the basement of Daisy Jones Locker. We miss the warehouse vibe with lots of natural light but the basement is large with more stable temperatures which makes our lives easier. Plus, we get to have a little shelf with all our products for sale upstairs! We batch about 160 bars of what is known as "cold processed" soap at a time and close to 300 pounds of liquid soap using the "hot process" method. Not to get too technical, but the procedures are relatively similar but using different forms of chemical lye.
Scout: You source much of your ingredients locally and through the recycling of other goods. Tell us a bit more about that process and the importance of sustainability in your business.
BSM: As a local business, we strive to support other local businesses through our ingredients. Our pivotal shift happened when I found a local sunflower oil farm in western Nebraska, close to Ord, that allowed us to switch our soaps to a vegan product, while sourcing 70% of our oils locally. It costs more, but we think it makes our soaps better and our customers can feel the difference. The sunflower oil from Simply Sunflower contains 41% vitamin E oil naturally, so it's basically made for your skin. Since we are Bensonites, we work a lot with our neighbors over at Hardy Coffee Co, for their chai tea scraps and coffees. All our soaps use therapeutic grade essential oils to scent them, since they are medicinal in nature and also have desirable properties for skin care. We never use synthetics and try to be as eco-friendly as possible, like our soap packaging is made from 100% recycled paper or we sell refillable plastic foaming soap pumps to help reduce waste, then re-use, and when it wears out, recycle.
Scout: What are your personal favorite scents of BSM products?
BSM: I'm a big fan of the Eucalyptus & Rosemary soaps, it's herbaceous while uplifting, such a pleasant combination. I used to love our Citrus & Ginger bars, but our supplier stopped selling Ginger Grass essential oils, so I'm trying to source it elsewhere. Also as much as I wanted to hate on patchouli, our new Patchouli Blend bar has quickly become my new favorite. It's earthy and balanced, perfect for Fall & Winter. I love going to a local bar or restaurant and see them stocking our soaps.
Scout: Besides Scout, where can folks shop your products?
We sell at a handful of stores around town, and usually for the Farmer's Markets on the weekends, although we took this year off due to COVID, we have been selling on our online store as well. http://www.bensonsoapmill.com/soaps
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