As Women’s History Month comes to a close, one local business owner worth highlighting is Soapy Jones and her array of specialty skincare products. Jones has kept the hands of Tuscaloosa residents squeaky clean since 1999.

DEEP ROOTS

Jones first learned how to make soap from her grandmother as a young child. She quickly developed a passion for the process and upon graduation from the University of Alabama, she founded what is now famously known as Left Hand Soap Company.

With 35 different solid soaps and nine liquid soaps, Jones said picking a favorite is as difficult as “picking a favorite child.”

“If I had to pick one, it would have to be the Rosemary Detox," she said. "We are always making soaps for functional purposes. It’s just an added bonus that it smells good.”

As for the most difficult soaps to make, Jones declared a tie between the beer and shaving soaps.

“The beer and oils speed the chemical process up so much, we can’t do the molds fast enough,” Jones said. “If it’s too hard to make there’s a reason, so we find a different path.”

Jones’ love for her specialty soaps reached new levels after she legally changed her first name to “Soapy."

“'Soapy' was a nickname given to me by my husband,” she said. “It just stuck so I changed it.”

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly thrown unprecedented curveballs to communities everywhere. However, Left Hand Soap Company is still making products for their customers to order online.

“We run a company that is based upon sensory interaction,” Jones said. “You have to smell things, touch them and really get a feel for the product that you are buying. That’s really not something we can do right now.”

While her super sanitary soap products may be just the thing needed to kill coronavirus germs, Left Hand Soap Company still felt the severe impact the pandemic left on local businesses.

“We want our customers to know that their safety is important to us,” Jones said.  “We closed the store to the public on March 17, 2020, and we still aren’t open to this day.”

GIRL POWER

According to the National Women’s Business Council, women-owned businesses employ nearly 9.4 million people as of 2019. Getting Left Hand Soap Company off the ground was half Jones’ battle. However, now that her business has made its mark in Tuscaloosa, she has been able to foster new and improving opportunities for both her and her employees.

“It took some time to gain traction as a company,” Jones said. “Now that I’ve done that, it has become a little easier, but breaking into any field is always a challenge.”

According to a study conducted by Visa, women business owners reported “pursuing passion” as a top motivator for starting a new business. Despite the growing number of opportunities for women in business, there are still discriminatory challenges they face every day. According to the Kauffman Foundation, “women entrepreneurs in the United States have historically faced and continue to face greater capital constraints than men.”

"I spent a lot of time trying to prove myself even in some of the most simple ways because I was written off pretty early on,” Jones said.

Turning a passionate idea into a flourishing business is tough for anyone but being a woman can make it even tougher. These gender biases have only brought women in the workplace closer together. In fact, the same study from Visa found that 65% of women business owners know at least one other woman in business and over 90% of those actively seek advice from their fellow female business owners.

“To be a successful woman in business means finding other women to partner with,” Jones said. “The partnerships that I have found with other women in the community, with other women nationally, with other female-owned businesses … those have been the ones that have been the strongest and lasted the longest.”

MOVIN' ON UP

While Jones is fond of her Tuscaloosa roots, she's taking her soaps on the road to greater opportunities. She plans to relocate her business just up I-20 to Birmingham, where she will be opening a brick-and-mortar store in the historic Sensabaugh building at Pepper Place.

“There’s no better time to announce yet another female entrepreneur’s vision coming to life in Pepper Place than Women’s History Month. Pepper Place seeks out authentic, creative operators, and we believe Left Hand Soap is exactly that,” noted Sloss Real Estate Chief Operating Officer Tom Walker in a Wednesday press release. “We’re incredibly excited Soapy Jones has chosen the Pepper Place District as her flagship location. In addition to being able to find all of her products ready for purchase, we are looking forward to all the creative community activation at Left Hand Soap Co. through classes, workshops and live soap-making.”

The Tuscaloosa Thread, which first reported the news of Jones' big move, added that she and her family still plan to live in the Druid City, where they run the Historic Drish House and Pink Box Burlesque.

Jones' soaps aren't gone forever, though, as there will still be select pickup and retail locations around town that carry Tuscaloosa's favorite scents.

Stay connected with Soapy Jones here:

Health and Beauty Products by Women in West Alabama

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