Jan 21, 2016
Raising The Bar: Island Soap & Candle Works
The scent of rosemary and a hint of tropical fruits wafts through the air. In a few moments, her concoction will quite literally congeal and come together. And after aging in Hawaii's perfect climate for 21 days, she'll have handmade soap. From there, the soap will go through an inspection process before it finds itself neatly merchandised on the sales floor, wrapped, and ready for an eager customer.
For more than 30 years, Island Soap and Candle Works has been repeating this process, diligently working to craft the finest natural soaps and candles in the state, all of which are hand-poured and crafted right here in the islands. In the sleepy town of Kilauea on Kaua'i, the first Island Soap and Candle Works opened up shop with a vision of sustainable and responsible production lighting their every move. As it turns out, creating artisanal soap using natural ingredients is a very viable business model. And over the ensuing years, Island Soap and Candle Works would expand their operation outside of their home base in Kilauea to include another store in Kauai's Koloa Town, a storefront in Ma'alea on Maui, the aforementioned location in Honolulu at Ward Village, and yet another location at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.
"I truly love working here," says Oaks, the business' operations manager, with a laugh.
I've been with the company for 15 years, originally working as a soap maker. There's something really special about being able to make something with your hands using all-natural ingredients. It's great to physically hold the finished product in your hands and see the joy on someone's face when they hear that it was all made right here in Honolulu. People really want to support locally made products here in Hawaii.
Oaks mentions, one of the greatest selling points for Island Soap and Candle Works is their small-batch business model. Within their Ward location, they have an actual soap-making factory, where visitors and patrons alike can watch the product come to life. When many visitors realize the soap they're purchasing is actually made on site, they're both shocked and impressed. In an age of mass production, it's clear that there still exists a market for small-batch products.
For Oaks, while ensuring that the quality of their product remains, her biggest joy is taking care of her customers. "I truly love helping people and showing them our wide array of candles and soaps. We're passionate about what we do here and I think that shows." However, while her day-to-day responsibilities see her handling the business from a macro standpoint, she still enjoys getting her hands in the mix when an opportunity allows.
"Although I'm not a soap maker any more, I still enjoy getting in there and doing it from time to time. The process is just so gratifying," she enthusiastically states. "It's an age-old technique that's been in practice for thousands of years, but you're able to put your on spin on it. Through it all, no matter the ingredients we use, we make sure to include one key element in each and every bar we produce: plenty of aloha."
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