I recently wrote a blog post pushing for a stronger Bitcoin community on Instagram. I personally make an effort each day to browse “#bitcoin” on the platform. Sometimes, it really works out for me – like when I discovered A Bear of Soap! The clever name stuck with me, as did the adorable soaps and the fact that they accepted Bitcoin payments. I left a comment on one of their photos with my email address, and not long after, Danielle Hébert emailed me to let me know that she would love to participate in an interview.
“The competition really drove me to start the business,” she told me during the interview. “The market for soap is very competitive and it really takes a lot of dedication to make it work.”
In many ways, Hébert has definitely managed to make her soaps stand out from the rest. For one, the soaps I received were adorably packaged – the two travel bear soaps came in beautiful drawstring bags, while the other soaps were sealed with stickers of cats, moons, and flowers. Everything smelled fantastic, and I was impressed with the variety of different scent combinations that A Bear of Soap offers. There are several different purposes for the soaps, ranging from “Acne Free” to “Naturally Deodorizing”, and my skin looks fantastic after a couple weeks of use. Plus, shipping was free & fast from Texas to New York. And of course, a lot of my excitement came from buying the soap with Bitcoin!
When Hébert and I had a chance to talk, I learned more about her interest in soap and her preference for Bitcoin payments.
Emily Braun: How did you get into making soap? Where did you learn the necessary skills?
Danielle Hébert: About two years ago, I started to think about the hobbies that I currently had developed at age 21. I realized that there wasn’t very much depth, and the only thing that I could say I was proud of developing was my poetry. I started to realize the kind of person that I was allowing myself to become, and I came to terms with me needing to do more for my life, not just with my life. I had a decent job, but I was definitely not fulfilled. I thought about what my most admirable traits were currently and what hobbies I thought would best portray those traits to other people. The traits I chose were insightful, intuitive and innovative. My poetry best captures my ability to be insightful. I took up archery, and that captures my intuition. I was then left with innovation and no solid ideas. Then, one day I thought, “Oh, holy hell. You know what would be adorable? Soap.”
From that point on, I just started doing a lot more reading on the different processes. As with everything now, you can find out what to do online. My best advice for anyone starting is to search one ingredient at a time and write down what you want to know in a notebook. It will help you commit the ingredient and its function to memory.
Braun: How long has A Bear of Soap been around?
Hébert: I’ve been selling soap for the better part of two years to family, friends, and acquaintances. I actually just began selling online, but I can say that the concept of A Bear of Soap began during the spring of 2014.
Braun: It seems like you really love animals, from your company name, to your blog post about your pets, to the packaging of your soaps (I loved the cat stickers!). Can you tell me a little bit about the importance of animals in your life?
Hébert: Animals, domestic or wild, have always been on mind. My first pet was my cat named Jazz. I named her after my best friend in third grade who had died of leukemia. Well, Jazz had kittens over time, and I spent most of my happy days watching them and playing with them. Jazz trusted me with her life, and she let me touch and move her kittens. I felt really connected with the world at such a young age. I have rescued all of my pets (other than hamsters when I was a kid), and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The satisfaction I get from showing compassion fulfills me enough to pursue a life in this crazy world.
I have a cat now, named Mieux. She was named after Yvette Mimieux, an actress that was active between the 50’s until 1992, which was the year I was born! Yvette Mimieux also inspired Audrey Hepburn, who in turn, also inspires me. I really like to make things work out like that. I rescued her from a week old and bottle fed her in a box, carrying her from class to class during the last months of my senior year in high school. She has enormous eyes, and she is a tiny little thing. She kind of looks like an owl; it’s pretty odd.
I love my cat, but oh man, do I love my Hugo! I rescued him from a hoarding environment where, out of the eight other rott/chow mixes, he was the only one not euthanized for aggression. Eleven days from being put down because of breed restrictions, I came to his rescue. I walked in, and all the dogs started howling and barking. Not my Hugo! He was looking at me from literally the furthest pen to the right, not saying a word. I marched straight to him and said, “You look like you need a walk.” He most certainly did.
As for the title of my company, I love bears, but the main reason my company is called A Bear of Soap is because my last name is Hébert – which is pronounced similarly to “a bear”. When I introduce myself in person, I always say, “As in, ‘I see a bear’.”
Braun: So there’s also a large focus on essential oils on your website. What interests you the most in learning about essential oils? Do you have a favorite?
Hébert: Well, I’d have to say that what I am most concerned with regarding essential oils is skin benefits. However, I am intrigued by the aromatics of it all as well. I’ve never been too new-agey, but I can tell you that I am always more peaceful after making my soaps with lavender in them. I actually don’t have a favorite essential oil, but I am currently obsessed with the combination of lemon and ylang-ylang – it smells so clean and just… makes sense, face-wise.
Braun: How do you decide which ingredients & scents to mix for your products?
Hébert: That is my favorite part of the process. I admit that I have wasted a decent amount of ingredients on experimentation. The trick to being able to smell in entirety is to whiff coffee grounds before you smell your test concoction. This also helps a little with congestion, by the way! I have a pretty good eye & nose for creating a complimenting pair.
Braun: And how did you first hear about Bitcoin? What’s your favorite thing about it?
Hébert: I first heard about Bitcoin about three or four years ago from my current significant other. We were starting to become more politically aware, and Bitcoin just made sense. My favorite thing about it is the algorithm behind it all. It’s some seriously advanced stuff – I can hardly fathom it.
Braun: What influenced you to start accepting Bitcoin for your soaps? Have you had a lot of customers use Bitcoin to purchase your soaps?
Hébert: Actually, I knew from the very beginning that I was going to take Bitcoin, and I plan on making most of my money this way. In fact, most of my orders are from customers paying with Bitcoin. It’s my preferred method of payment, because both Bitcoin and organic soap are so grassroots. There is too much middle management, and it’s destroying the world. I also like that the transfer is instantaneous and very secure. I get at least four emails every time someone buys a bar of soap.
Braun: What are your hopes for the future? Both for your soap business and for Bitcoin!
Hébert: I feel very cliché saying this, but I just want world peace. I feel as though titles have gotten in the way of our sense in humanity, and we are now struggling to climb a ladder that doesn’t exist. All of this is in order to compensate for lack of feeling accepted or “in tune” with the world. Instinctively, we are pack animals and desire a more sociable community. I feel as though Bitcoin solves part of this overlying issue in today’s world, and that’s why I support it. I want Bitcoin to flourish, and I want to support the people in the community in ways that connect with everyone on a personal level.
As for my soap, I definitely want to be able to live off of the money I make through my website and in person. I want to live a lifestyle that allows me to answer my customers’ questions whenever needed. Eventually, I would like to employ a small staff. I’d really like to be able to help as many people as possible with my soap. I just donated a batch that wasn’t as pretty as I wanted it to be to the homeless men in Dallas, because men are treated unfavorably by shelters. (Eight out of ten shelters are for women only). Giving back to one person at a time is really important to me. I watched Pay It Forward when I was younger, and it affected how I saw the world. So I guess I can say that I would like to become successful enough so that I can live modestly and still help others frequently.
Hébert is soon making the move from Texas to Thailand: “Everyone over fifty has told me that they regret not traveling when they were younger. I’m not going to be one of the people with a regret like that.”
– Emily Braun
To browse A Bear of Soap, click here!
By adding “Coin Cafe” in the notes to the seller, you’ll receive a free oval bar with your order!