116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MY BIZ: Making soap led to making 100 products
Wende Fugate hand-makes skin-care items for her Rare Bird Soap Shop
By Katie Mills Giorgio, - correspondent
Mar. 14, 2023 5:00 am
Wende Fugate wasn’t sure that her interest in making soaps would support a small business, but she’s happy it worked out that way.
“I got started making soaps over 10 years ago as a personal project I wanted to try out,” she said. “My mom is always supportive of me trying new things and had gifted me a book on soap making so I tried it, loved it and decided to make a business out of it.
“To my surprise, there was a huge market for such a thing.”
Fugate owns Rare Bird Soap Shop, which specializes in handmade soaps and skin care products, with more than 100 items available for purchase. The business will celebrate its 10th anniversary in June.
She has a booth in the NewBo City Market, and her products are available at other retailers, including New Pioneer Co-op, Hy-Vee and Stringtown Grocery, and at farmers markets and through Fugate’s website and Etsy shop.
“We offer a full line of products from handmade soaps, shampoo bars, lotion bars, hand salves, body lotions, facial care, body and linen sprays, roll-ons and a wide range of essential oils and fragrance oils,” Fugate said.
“My most popular scents are Oatmeal Milk & Honey, Lavender with many combinations, Nag Champa and my signature scent Peace Out.”
Fugate, 50, makes the shop’s products in small batches, using all-natural, plant-based ingredients, at her farm solar-powered workshop in rural Kalona.
Since she’s busy making the products, Fugate has three employees who tend to the NewBo shop, though she sometimes works there, where she said she enjoys the interactions with customers.
“Like any small business owner, I wear all the hats associated with running this business,” she said. “From production manager, inventory manager, marketing and sales manager to customer service and financials. You name it, I am usually responsible for it all.
“Most weeks I am busy with production, keeping up with inventory at the shop and processing wholesale and online orders. There are a lot of other things that come up on a regular basis, but it all seems to get done, eventually.”
Fugate said she enjoys it all.
“I truly feel that I am in my element when I am making products,” she said. “It just all comes so naturally to me, and my customers love my products.
“I have been truly blessed over the years with great support from the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area community and am very grateful. I wouldn’t still be in business without them and their outstanding support throughout the years, and especially through the pandemic, proves that.”
Know a business that should be considered for a “My Biz” feature? Let us know by emailing email@example.com.
Rare Bird Soap Shop
Owner: Wende Fugate
Address: NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids