Many people who choose to use bar soap in their home are familiar with the lump of white or yellow most brands come in. However, one company hopes to help people discover the beauty a real bar of soap can hold.

Kimberly Masters is the founder of Essential Journeys Soaps. While most people would call the plain soaps sold in the store functional, Kimberly saw an opportunity for creativity. With over 50 soap scents and styles, she is continually innovating her line to meet the interests of her market.

I recently asked Kimberly a few questions about her business and her unique products.

Tell us a little about Essential Journeys.

Essential Journeys began as a hand-crafted soap company and came to fruition in 2004 as a culmination of combining my business and marketing degree, my design experience in painting, fabric arts and ceramics, and my inspirations from living and traveling from Alaska to Florida, Asia to Nepal and Central America.

I have always enjoyed pushing the limits of functional pieces whether it be clothing, ceramics, jewelry or soap and giving them character, history and inspiration. I grew up painting, drawing, sewing and batiking always with an interest in textures, composition and whimsical inspiration.

I have a business degree from the University of North Carolina Greensboro where I also took ceramics classes along with my accounting, marketing and economics classes.

Years later while living in a camper in the backwoods of Alaska I bought a book on soap making and began my journey to create a functional soap with a sculptural element. After moving to Asheville, North Carolina in 1999 I continued creating soaps and in 2004 developed the Essential Journeys ™ Soap By the Slice ™ “soap as art” sculptures you see today.

What inspired it?

Essential Journeys â„¢ soaps are a marriage of art and function. When faced with a fork in the road I choose the intentional journey to lead a life of creating everyday. Finding joy in writing a business plan, creating a marketing plan, staying in touch with customers and dreaming up new soaps inspired from travels around the world.

What are some of the products you offer?

We offer 50+ different scents of soap, 8 different scents of Body Lotion including a Purely Naked Fragrance-free version, 4 different lip lubes, 2 bath salts, 12 different soy candles and two different liquid hand and body soaps. Our most popular scents are: Lavender Morning, White Tea & Ginger, Chai Tea, Grapefruit Splash, Thai Lemongrass and Zinnia and Gardenia.

What is included in your soap/lotion products?

Essential Journeys â„¢ Soaps uses luscious natural ingredients including vitamin E and glycerin to enrich the skin without the use of animal products or harsh chemicals. We do not test on animals; however our dog soap has been tested on humans.

Our Lotion For the Body â„¢ is made with Chamomile and White Tea extracts. These natural botanicals help ward off the drying effects of the elements and retain moisture long after use.

What separates you from the competition?

The quality of our product, the exceptional ingredients, and our customer service are outstanding. We have the flexibility to adapt to customer demands and the latest creative ideas quickly.

What are some of the lessons your business has taught you?

It is all a creative challenge. There is never enough time to do everything. Do the things you are good at doing and contract out the other work to people who specialize in those areas i.e. accounting, graphic design.

Do you have any advice you’d like to offer fellow entrepreneurs who are just getting started?

Make sure you know something about your customers; it should be a two-way relationship. They need to have a basic understanding of your business and you need to have a good idea about their business. Situations change all the time and you need to know the differences between selling retail, selling wholesale, and selling business to business. If you know your customers needs and concerns you can adapt better.

Set realistic marketing goals and budgets each year. Marketing will and can cost more than you can imagine when you first get started. Remember that if you do the same thing you did last year you will probably get the same results so don’t be afraid to tweak your plans. Revisit your core goals and ethos but don’t be afraid to see a new opportunity and make some shifts.