MARYVILLE (WATE) - Have you ever tried handmade or homemade soap? A local woman did nearly two decades ago and it changed her life.
Now Rainwater Farm has become a thriving family business for Colette Sevier Souder.
The day Made in Tennessee stopped by, Colette was making sandalwood soap with fat and lye, the way our ancestors did for years.
We watched as she poured small drums of hot liquid in the basement of her Maryville home. That liquid eventually becomes bar soap, nearly 450 bars for each batch.
Colette's interest in soaps grew after she was given some as a gift nearly 20 years ago. "After using it once, I knew I could never go back. It felt so good on my skin," she said.
After a little research, Colette began making it on her own.
At first she just gave her creations to friends and family, but response was so good she started selling it and touting its differences from what you might typically find in a grocery store. "It has no petroleum, sulfates or paraffin in it," she said.
Colette stirs the essential oils and lye by hand, a process that can take hours. But she has an electric stick blender that shortens the process to just five minutes.
After that, Colette pours the soap into giant molds where it sits, or cooks as she puts it, for 36 hours.
Then she puts the soap in special wooden molds and cuts it with a saw her father strung with piano wire. The soap cures on wire shelves, and finally is trimmed and packaged for sale.
This is all done by hand, but don't be fooled. Rainwater Farm has some big time clients.
"I was providing Blackberry Farm with soap at this time and Mast General came up to me and asked me could they put it in their store," Colette said. "I said I don't think I can handle it. I'm too busy, but they said just 25 bars and I said, okay I can do that. Then they called in two days and said we're sold out. We need 100 bars."
Today, Colette says she loves the partnership she has with Mast General.
While she's expanded her product line by offering laundry soap, lip balm, pet shampoo and more, she doesn't necessarily want to get bigger or busier.
"I love the idea of a family business. I love making something natural and good for people. I love that it is made by our family and distributed by them," she said.
Made in Tennessee wants to point out this is one busy family. Colette and her husband have six kids, and she home schools her children through middle school.
Still, she finds time to set up at about a dozen fairs and festivals throughout the area, and you can buy her products online.