Hey, friends! In case you missed it last week, I’m doing a series for the next few weeks leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8th. Every Friday, I’m featuring an interview + branding session with a different local boss babe who I admire. This series started out as a fun passion project idea and has already blessed me in ways I could not have imagined. It’s been amazing getting to take time to sit down with some other strong, female small business owners in my life and hear their stories and words of wisdom and get to see a little behind-the-scenes of what they do. Last Friday I kicked off the series with multi-faceted entrepreneur and philanthropist Meagan Henry, whose Branding with a Purpose event I’ll be speaking at next month. If you haven’t already, go give Meagan’s interview a read and then pop back over for week 2!
This week, I got to interview and photograph a woman who has been an inspiration to me literally my whole life, my aunt Donna. She and her husband live on a farm in North Georgia where they raise dairy goats, and Donna uses the goat milk that they produce to make all-natural soap and other amazing products through her business Toggensuds. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ve seen me post about trips to my aunt’s farm. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet and a tiny glimpse of what I like to imagine heaven will be like- peaceful, cute animals all over the place, smells amazing (because of the soap), pot of coffee always on, decorated like a cozy little BNB. It’s the best. Being the outgoing, transparent ENFP 7w3 that I am, it’s common for people to feel like they get me (without truly getting me) but Donna is one of those few, blessed kindred spirits on this earth who I feel really understands me to my core. I’ve loved watching her business grow over the years (Chris and I swear by her products, not because she’s our aunt but because they really are unlike anything else), and it’s an honor to get to share her story with you today.
The following is a transcript of our interview together. My questions and comments are in bold.
Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do and how you got started.
I’m Donna Piper. I live in Homer, Georgia. I moved here from Atlanta, Georgia 10 years ago and we bought a small farm up here in North Georgia. And we got a couple of goats, just as pets, and then we enjoyed them so much that after a couple of years we bought a herd of dairy goats. The first year we had the dairy goats I went to the Gwinnett County Fair and a lady there who had her own small business taught me how to milk goats. So from that I started milking and the first Christmas that we had goats we made soap for our family and friends for Christmas and they enjoyed it so much that we continued to make it and we started our soap business called Toggensuds.
So why don’t you tell us a little bit more about how Toggensuds has grown over the years and what kinds of products you all make now.
Well, we started out with one kind of soap which is still our most popular soap to date, and it’s honey oatmeal soap which is very mild, just what it is- honey and oatmeal. From there we started experimenting with different scents and we still only had soap then. We started selling at a local flea market on Saturdays and the business grew as more people wanted the soap and from that we started making full body lotion and sugar scrubs also and we started a website. So now, at Poplar Creek Farm, which is the name of our farm, and Toggensuds Soap we have our website thebestgoatmilksoap.com and I also still sell, 6 years later, at our local flea market on Saturdays, which I enjoy because I get to see my customers and I get to talk to them and hear about how they enjoy using the products like we do. So that’s really fun, seeing people and actually putting it in their hand. So now we have a wide variety of our soaps, our lotions, and our sugar scrubs. And this season we’re getting ready to introduce a couple of new products, some fresh new scents that people have requested and we’re also introducing a line of liquid soap that’s been requested by some customers. So we look forward to putting those in our line of products.
And y’all also make beard balm too, right?
Right, and our beard balm is the only thing we sell that does not have goat milk in it. My son-in-law and my husband both have beards and so they came up with this beard balm recipe which they say is the best, so now we do sell that also.
Well thanks for telling us all about the awesome products that you make! The next question I want to ask is- with any job that any of us have, even if it is a dream job, there are gonna be times where, you know, you kinda get worn out. So what makes your work meaningful and keeps you going even during the seasons when it is a little bit more challenging.
What keeps me going is I love the farm. I love our farm here, I love the animals, and the goats are very spoiled pets also. I had never lived on a farm until I moved up here, but I know that it’s where I should be and I love the animals. So that’s what keeps me going. And also, we really believe that we have fantastic products, and it keeps me going when I hear from our customers that they enjoy the products also because that’s why we keep doing it- for the people. We try to keep our price point where they can actually be used and it’s not something that somebody can just use every-now-and-then because it’s rather expensive, but they can be used daily. So what really keeps me going is the animals and the customers. I just love talking to them and hearing that they love the products. (Personal sidenote- I can personally attest that they are the best ever! I always have a bar of goat milk soap in my shower. I used Honey Oatmeal today.)
Well I just love hearing more about Toggensuds, and I mean, as your niece I’ve gotten to see it all grow over the years and it’s just been so inspiring to me. What’s a word of encouragement or advice that you’d give to other women out there who are pursuing a dream that’s on their heart?
I think that I would say go for it- go for the dream. The older I get I know that God puts surprises in our lives from time to time, things that we just really aren’t expecting at all. And this business is something that I was not expecting. I was born and raised in the city, never thought of having a farm with goats, or a farm at all. So the whole process has just been a blessing and a very big surprise, and if I can do this, anyone, really, can do this. (laughs). This is just not something that I ever thought I would have, this business, or it was not in the plans, but I’m so glad that we have this business, that we have the farm, and the animals and the products and it’s been provided for. And if there’s something that you’re wanting to go for, go for it! There again, if I can do this, anybody can achieve their dream. So if you have a dream, you need to go for it.
Okay, last question! Give a shout-out to a woman you know who inspires you.
Thinking about this, I just want to give a shout-out, in general, to women who are achieving their dreams, They inspire me. The small bakery that we have here in town and a friend that has seen that dream fulfilled. To Rachel who started her photography business because it was a dream of hers and she’s seeing it happen. To another friend who’s graduating from college at age 60 to be a physician’s assistant. It’s all the women who have a dream and they’re achieving it. To them I give a shout-out. (I love that!)
Tell us where people can find you and purchase your products.
You can find us online at thebestgoatmilksoap.com or at the Rabun County Flea Market April-October on Saturdays.
If you loved hearing Donna’s story, I encourage you to head over to thebestgoatmilksoap.com and pick out some products for yourself or a friend! With every order placed over the next week (Feb 22-Feb 28), Donna will send you a free body lotion of her choice as a thank you! She also includes free shipping for orders of 10 or more items (not including the complimentary item).
I love keeping a few bars of soap on hand for easy gifts (these would make WONDERFUL teacher gifts), and Chris and I use Toggensuds products regularly- My favorite soaps are Honey Oatmeal, Lavender, and Eucalyptus Mint. I keep one in my shower at all times. Just make sure you set it on soap tray to let it dry out in between uses and last longer! We bathe Theodore with Toggensuds soap (Lu has to go to the groomers because he’s so big), and I actually don’t buy shaving cream anymore because the soap lathers so well that it can be used for shaving. I love the lotions- My hands get dry and cracked really bad in the winter time and this stuff works wonders. I also like to use the sugar scrub once a week or so before I put on my makeup (which, let’s be real, is once a week or so) because it smells amazing and smooths out my skin so my moisturizer and makeup go on easier. #notsponsored (But for real though- We purchase all of our Toggensuds products from aunt Donna because we believe they’re so great and want to support her business.)
If you want to keep in touch on social media (and see more adorable farm animals!) you can follow:
@toggensuds on Instagram
Toggensuds on Facebook
I hope you were encouraged by Donna’s story. The inspired series is continuing for 2 more weeks, so check back next Friday to hear from another amazing local boss babe! -Rachel