Interview with Brooklyn Soapworks

One of my favorite finds at the past Renegade Craft Fair was Brooklyn Soapworks. Their soaps are responsibly made in small batches by a mom-and-daughter team. We spoke with Justine Slattery about what makes Brooklyn Soapworks different, going into business with mom, and her favorite spots in her Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood.

Brooklyn Soapworks

Brooklyn Soapworks

What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I started Brooklyn Soapworks in 2012. I decided that I needed to do something that had more meaning and do something that I felt was contributing to the planet in a positive way. It started as more of a side project and then just kind of took off. It’s scary to own your own business but also really awesome at the same time.

What is the soap-making process like?
It’s kind of like baking a cake. It’s not hard, but it can be a little fickle. Anyone can bake a cake, but a really awesome cake, well it takes a lot of practice. Soap is kind of the same way.

Where do you source your materials?
I source as many materials as locally as possible. I buy my lavender from the farmers market. I grow the basil that goes in the soap myself. I buy organic fair trade oils whenever possible. I try to make sure that the materials I am buying are supporting people who are doing right by the ecosystem. That’s why you won’t see palm oil in my products. The harvesting of palm is incredibly destructive for the planet and helps to promote the deforestation of rainforests. I want to make certain that the people who buy my soap and support me are also helping to support everyone else who is doing right by the planet. That is why I take such care in finding my materials.

Brooklyn Soapworks

You and your mom run the business together. I’m assuming you guys get along really well?
Haha, well she is still my mom after all! Yes, we get along, but it’s not without the occasional spat. We both have pretty strong opinions about things and sometimes that gets a little tricky, but for the most part, yes.

What’s your favorite soap?
That’s so hard! It depends on my mood. I use all the end pieces of the soaps, so I generally have about 5-10 kinds of soap in my shower at one time. I really love the margarita salt scrub as my face soap, and I’m pretty into the lemongrass basil as my day to day soap. The blue ridge mountain soap I use for shaving. It’s woodsy and earthy, and it has Bentonite clay which is good for a more slick soap, so it makes for a good shaving soap. The coffee soap is my favorite for the kitchen. The coffee helps eliminate garlic and onion from your hands. Although, I’m always experimenting with new stuff so my favorite list is ever changing.

What are your plans for the next few months?
Well, I plan on making a lot of soap! I’m working on a shampoo bar and some salves that I hope to have up and running for the holiday season. Apart from that, I’d like to squeeze in a trip or two upstate to go apple picking and maybe even a last minute fall trip to the beach! I’m also looking forward to pumpkin pie season. I love pumpkin pie! I might even venture into doing a pumpkin soap. We shall see!

What are some of your favorite spots in your neighborhood, Prospect Lefferts Gardens?
I love being right by Prospect Park. It is definitely one of my favorite spots. The boathouse and the lake are two places I like to hang out, although, I bike or walk the park almost every day. I’m also right by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden which is another spot I enjoy frequenting. I find it to be really inspirational. There is a really awesome coffee shop on my block called Tip of the Tongue. They do a lot of fair trade single origin coffee. They like to change it up on a weekly basis, so I get to try a lot of new stuff. I love a good cup of coffee. It’s one of my most favorite things.

You can find Brooklyn Soapworks fantastic small-batch soaps on their website.

All photos by Jonathan Curtis.