Soapy Sales

Community Involvement

Brookside is also praised in the local community. Ledray's company donates bar soap and laundry detergent (made from grated soap remnants) to various charitable causes, such as the Cuban-American Friendshipment and the Chicken Soup Brigade, a food bank for AIDS patients. Brookside also donates products to Angeline's House, a day center that provides a way for homeless women to, as Ledray explains it, "come in off the street, shower, and do their laundry."

Brookside's efforts in the community are much appreciated. Ledray contacted the Cascadia Revolving Fund, a nonprofit, community-development loan fund in Seattle that provides loans primarily for women- and minority-owned businesses that are doing environmentally friendly work in the area. Cascadia granted Ledray and McIsaac a $30,000 loan.

The money from Cascadia took their homebased business to the next step. Brookside was experiencing a bottleneck in its production process at the wrapping stage. Still, the two were daunted by the pressure of investing in an expensive piece of wrapping machinery. Finally, after receiving the loan from Cascadia, Ledray remembers, "I bought a piece of used wrapping equipment that we lovingly call `Lucille,' which wraps all of our soap now. We had to have her rebuilt to our specifications."

"Lucille" allowed Brookside to wrap the soap as fast as it could be made. Also, part of the product's appeal certainly is its packaging. "I designed our house-brand packaging and hired a botanical illustrator to do the artwork," says Ledray. "It went from a simple two-color offset printing to a four-color process and dry-brush botanical renderings." In keeping with Ledray's environmentally conscious product design, all packaging is 100 percent post-consumer waste recycled, printed with less toxic soy-based inks. "We try to do as much right as we can find to do."

Although there are many body-care product lines on the market today, Ledray maintains that Brookside was one of the first small companies to come onto the scene. "I was pretty much on my own when I started this," she says. "There weren't a lot of folks doing this kind of business, making these products." After all is said and done, Ledray finds that the hard work and struggle were worthwhile. "I really enjoy the chemistry and working with herbs and the equipment we have," she comments. "Running my own business and doing design work on packaging . . . just about everything about it is a nice combination. It fills a lot of needs for me."

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This article was originally published in the October 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Soapy Sales.

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