Colorado native Julie Zoller grew up making soap with her grandmother, and now she’s passed her knowledge on to another generation. Zoller and her daughter, Jaclyn Ubert, are the duo behind Fire Lake Soapery, a Kansas-based company dedicated to creating all-natural, handmade bars of soap. What originally started as a hobby for family and friends has since developed into a rapidly growing brand.
KCS: Did becoming a mom spur your all-natural lifestyle and desire to make your own soap?
JU: I had a passion starting in high school. I started eating really healthy and watching what I put on my skin. I spent a summer in Italy working at a culinary school and bed-and-breakfast. They grew organic vegetables, and I learned a lot from that experience—about how they used every ingredient in-season. Since my girls were born, I’ve always been really careful about what I’ve put on their skin, what they eat. We wanted to make something that was healthy for our family, so we started making soap for friends, and it just took off. It all went hand-in-hand.
KCS: How is your soap different from other all-natural brands?
JZ: The biggest difference that sets us apart is the research that goes into our ingredients. We’re passionate about what goes into every bar. We ensure the purity of every bar, and it’s important to us that we’re consistent with all-natural, fresh ingredients. Our soaps are a really great blend of great products coming together in little batches.
KCS: What is it about mainstream, corporate-made soap that makes it less beneficial to consumers?
JU: There are just a lot of chemicals in them, and there is always a huge ingredient list. Most of those ingredients are harmful to the skin. We put a lot of research into our soaps so we know the personalized benefits.
KCS: How do you tailor your ingredients to specific customers?
JZ: We have garden soaps that are great for gardeners and have a little bit of grit from coffee grounds to exfoliate their hands. One of our most popular bars is a set called Mama Bird and Baby Bird. It’s for a new mother and her new baby. The Mama Bird bar is full of lavender essential oils and oatmeal, and the Baby Bird bar is scented with chamomile and ground oatmeal in it, which is very soothing for the baby. We even have a men’s line. Our family is very active. We do a lot of hiking, and Jaclyn and her husband do a lot of biking, so we created a soap for that called Camp Soap, which is eco-friendly and biodegradable.
KCS: Do you see your brand expanding into other all-natural products?
JZ: Soap will always be really huge. We’ve already created an all-natural hand sanitizer, and we’re doing a body mist and basic things like alternative cleaners and a laundry detergent that is really simple. I don’t ever see us having 20 things in our line, but we’re passionate about certain things we can ensure the purity of.
Inspired by Fire
“We moved to the country from Overland Park quite a few years ago, and behind where we live is a lake,” Zoller says. “We do a lot of kayaking, and shortly after we moved we went out to the lake and took the kayak out.”
What they discovered was that the lake could actually be lit on fire, particularly in the shallow north end. Fire Lake has also served as the backdrop to farm-to-table dinners, wedding receptions and cooking classes hosted by Zoller and her husband.
“I just think the community we’re involved in has really helped spread the word about Fire Lake Soapery,” Zoller says.