MILD eczema, a skin condition that renders skin red, inflamed, itchy, and rough, oftentimes blistered, has been bothering the siblings Ria and Kit Guinto. Triggers of eczema may vary but for the Guinto sisters, it is triggered by detergent and harsh soaps.
“Our eczema is mild and it just appears on our hands. We can’t wash dishes and clothes because it will worsen and the cuts are painful. We used milder commercial soaps but they're expensive,” Ria shared in an online interview with Sunstar Davao.
This compelled the sisters to make homemade soaps using organic and natural ingredients to prevent their allergies from coming back. Kit shared her knowledge in soapmaking she acquired during her volunteering stint in a non-government organization that provides livelihood projects in a community.
“She invited me one day to start making soaps because she had extra lye from making soap over the summer,” Ria said. “We ended up enjoying making soaps and discovering natural products that we can incorporate into our products. We decided last year to start selling them.”
The simple remedy for their problem gave birth to Herbology Soap and Shampoo Bars which eventually became their venue to advocate zero-waste and eco-friendly advocacy.
Since then, the Guinto sisters have been making body and face soaps, and shampoo bars that harnesses the benefits of natural ingredients like rosemary, sunflower oils, cocoa and shea butters, aloe vera extracts, peppermint, olive oils, chamomile, bergamot, lavender, activated charcoal, avocado, soy, vanilla, oatmeal, coffee, mangosteen extracts, and Himalayan salts. They are also thinking of developing products like deodorants, lip balms, and lotion bars.
One of their friends, Emerald Rosal, shared the same advocacy later joined the venture. She is responsible for branding and social media presence.
For their shampoo bars, Ria bared their plans to compete with commercial shampoos.
“We are planning the mass production of shampoo bars that can compete with the price of commercial shampoo sachets. We plan to put this up in a sari-sari store type refillery that can still cater 'tingi' buying but will do away the sachets. We will be collaborating with another enterprise called WearForward which promotes circular fashion and reduce textile waste," Ria said.
Currently, they are producing 100 bars per week since both sisters are taking postgraduate degrees. Ria said there are only the three of them in the business and they needed more people to achieve their goal of increasing their production soon.
“The sales is erratic. But whatever we make this month becomes sold out in a month or two so we really have to keep on making [soaps]. We don't keep large inventories of soap,” she said.
One of their challenges is the availability of these ingredients in Mindanao.
“We try very hard to source our ingredients from Mindanao suppliers. Some ingredients like aloe vera and ternatea flowers are picked from our garden. The rest are ordered from Manila suppliers,” she said.
Some soap variants will only be available when it is the season of their main ingredients like mangosteen.
The venue to display their soap bars in the city also became difficult following the closure of a small store in Marfori St. that accommodates natural and organic products and small eco-friendly enterprises. But outside the city, their products can be found in Lipay Mundo store in Dumaguete City and Refuse store in BF Homes, Paranaque City.
“It has been challenging to find a physical store where we can display our products. Our first partner closed the shop and we haven’t found a new home yet. We prefer to have our products sold at small local stores that support the same eco-friendly advocacy,” Ria said.
For other areas, people can order through their Facebook and Instagram and soon on their virtual shop. But even in the choice of courier, Ria ensured that it supports their eco-friendly advocacy.
“We book our deliveries with BlitzPH which allows us to use non-plastic and recycled packaging. We've been told to sell on Shopee so that people can order easily, but we don't because they don't provide plastic-free packaging. We only work with couriers who allow us to use our own cardboard boxes that are sealed using kraft paper tapes,” she said.
They also give soap making workshops to those who want to learn the art.
“It’s primary advocacy is to keep the craft alive and encourage people to make instead of buy. We teach the most basic procedure and use ingredients available at the supermarket so that they can easily start making their own batch at home as soon as they’re done with the workshop," she said.
“As a business, revenue is important. But for us, advocacy is much more important,” Ria said.