By Laurie Lechlitner
AKRON — “I was raised on a farm,” stated Mary Beth Gast. “My husband and I have always been advocates of organic, natural ingredients. I love to cook and making soap is very much like cooking, creating recipes and choosing ingredients. When I began making soaps, my motivation was to create quality products made with all the ingredients nature intended us to use, natural and sustainable. This became my mission for my business.” Gast is the owner/producer of Mud Lake Soap Shop.
“When the kids moved out and got married, I needed a hobby. So, one day, I decided to make homemade soap. That began a fast love to be creative and share my love of natural soaps.”
Her first recipe was an olive oil-based soap. “I love creating recipes where I am in control of the ingredients. I began to branch out, using other oils such as coconut, palm, and sweet almond oil, just to name a few. I also use several kinds of butter including cocoa, shea and avocado.”
She scents with essential oils. “It’s important to me that the scent is natural. Essential oils are aromatic oils distilled from different parts of plants.”
Gast loves she can be creative. “I make honey soaps with beeswax and honey, aloe vera soaps made with organic aloe vera juice, and a full line of goat and coconut milk soaps. I also use a lot of other plant-based ingredients like spinach, apricot, and walnut seed powders. I have branched out and make a natural laundry detergent, deodorants, hair conditioner and shampoos.”
She supplies 15 stores in three states. She has an Etsy Shop and has built her own website. “Two of my stores are in the Warsaw area. Many of my customers come from Kosciusko County.”
Of course, her soaps are not created in a day. “I use the old fashion way of making soap, cold processed, which means I have total control of the ingredients. It takes 15-20 minutes to process most batches. They are poured in an 18-inch mold. I let them sit for 48 hours. I then unmold the soap and cut it into 18, 1 inch, bars and cure them on a bakery rack for four to six weeks.” She is in constant motion each week, making 250 bars weekly.
Her loyal assistant is a Tippecanoe Valley freshman. “Colby Seaney is not only a huge asset to me, but she’s learning the process. She helps make the product as well as packing orders. She’s also my neighbor, so the arrangement is very convenient.”
Gast has also added a candle line. “I buy my handcrafted wood bowls for my candles from a not-for-profit group in Kenya. A percentage of the proceeds they make selling the wood bowls goes to benefit elderly women in their village. The wood is Jacaranda, native to their area and known to be one of the most beautiful woods in the world.”
She encourages people to read the labels on the products they buy. “The ingredients on the label tell you everything.”
Gast and her husband Greg are enjoying their new grandson, eight-month-old Edison. “He is a wonderful new blessing.”
Her hobbies include cooking, kayaking on the lake, and creating new products. Those interested can view her website.