‘Disgusting’ project now thriving venture: Mississippi family cleans up in soap biz
“My mom and sister were in Michaels or another craft store, and my mom saw a book on making soap. She said, ‘We can make these for Christmas gifts,” Jessica Long recalled.
So, Long’s sister Amanda Quarles started experimenting, because, as Long said, she’s a “big nerd and loves chemistry.”
The first batch was a wreck.
“It was literally like your grandmother out in the back yard rendering down fat,” Long said. “It was so disgusting. We tried it once and never again.”
With subsequent batches, using only palm and coconut oils and lyes, the women had more success and in three years had turned their project into a corporation that is vegan-certified. Dirty Hippie Soaps uses only all-natural ingredients in their soaps, “kissing sticks” and bath salts. Their products are sold across the United States and are particularly popular on the East Coast. Because the soaps are “like little pieces of art,” they’re often sold in gift shops and art galleries.
Each soap is named to reflect 1960s pop culture. There’s Max’s Farm, named for the owner of the property where Woodstock was held. Others include Sugar Magnolia, Born to be Wild, Nowhere Man and Bangladesh Blues. In addition to the floral and musky scents, Dirty Hippie Soaps also offers Christmas scents like Jingle Jingle Jingle, Woodstock Frosty and Santa Bay-be.
The business’ best seller is its original soap, the Dirty Hippie, with scents of patchouli and hemp.
The original is named for the company, which was named by the former owner of Down to Earth, Greg Evans, in Alabama.
Quarles, then a grad student at the University of Alabama, went to the shop and told Evans and his wife about the soaps she and her family made.
“He said he wanted to see the business grow, and she told him we didn’t have a name or anything,” Long said. “She told him about a guy she dated who wanted her to stop smelling like an ‘expletive’ dirty hippie. Greg said, ‘That’s it. That’s the name.’
“The boyfriend went and the named stayed, and it’s by far our best-selling soap.”
Up Close With …
High school: Graduated from East Rankin Academy in 1997
College: Graduated from Belhaven College in 1998; received her master’s degree in business from Millsaps College in 2005.
Key to success: “We are extremely hard workers, and we have a good product in a very niche market that’s fun. People come to us because they think we’re funny, and they fall in love with us because it’s a great product.”
Coolest thing you’ve ever done: “The fact that we’re in The Smithsonian, I think, is the coolest thing,” Long said. “We’re in an international internet catalog that sells full, grown men longjohns with feet in them and we’re sold at The Smithsonian. That is so freaking cool to me.”