If you ever wanted to make your own soap, but after looking into the process figured it would be too difficult, think again! Mohammed A. Mahdi, his brother Mohammed M. Mahdi, and their friend, Anthony Duncan, who call themselves “mad optimists,” will let you do all the fun parts, while they do the work.
After graduating from Indiana University Bloomington in 2006, Mohammed M. Mahdi had worked as a mental health professional before creating an independent consulting team offering web design, network management and other tech services for small businesses. In 2008, he rented a room in his condo to Anthony Duncan, who was then a sophomore at Mohammed’s alma mater. It turned out that both young men enjoyed inventing, and together they created such things as dog beds made of old sofa cushioning. Eventually they got interested in soap and began looking into commercially available products. Duncan recalls how their investigations revealed how many artificial ingredients are in most soap and they decided to try making their own. After “multiple marathon soap-making sessions,” they had enough samples to try them out. Their first tester was Mohammed M’s younger brother, Mohammed A. He was used to the common store brands, but when he tried the samples, he says, he fell in love. (“How Three Guys Started a Vegan Soap Company,” O Magazine, September 2017).
Naming their new endeavor Soapy Soap Company, in 2012 they began to market their soaps on-line and in retail locations in the Midwest such as Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme, Marsh, and Lucky’s. In 2016, they wanted to expand their business and “go where no soap company has ever dared to go before,” by allowing customers to design custom soaps that would then be manufactured by Soapy Soap Company.
A Kickstarter campaign was initiated on June 30, 2016, with a goal of $6,000 to help start up this company offspring. Unfortunately, the campaign was unsuccessful, but this didn’t stop the mad optimists! They decided to bootstrap their new endeavor and set up a satellite website,
Soapy Soap Company (and its offspring company) produces a full line of body care products, and they use only high-quality, plant-based ingredients and essential oils. The soaps are made from scratch and do not include pre-mixed or purchased soap bases. All of the ingredients are 100% vegan, non-GMO, and 100% halal. As Muslims and vegans, the Mahdi brothers were particularly concerned with producing soaps and other body care products that would not contain animal products. All the partners wanted the business to reflect their personal values and commitments.
While soap generally has to cure for up to a month before it can be sold, the partners created a proprietary process, the “Volcano Method,” that allows the soap to cure in 24 hours, enabling quick fulfillment of custom-designed orders.
Soaps are designed by choosing the base ingredients according to skin type. A base might be composed of water, olive oil, organic certified-sustainable palm oil, organic coconut oil, lye, USP castor oil, and organic canola oil, for example. Essential oils such as cedar wood, cinnamon, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary or tea tree are available, as well as add-ins such as shea butter, oats or cardamom. The soaps can have a special name and label printed as well. Customers can choose a price for their soaps within a specified range. This unusual feature is part of the partners’ vision that their business should run according to their ethical values, a commitment that was emphasized in May of 2019, when they renamed this part of their business “The Mad Optimist.”
In addition to the payment option, company owners, administrative staff and production staff are all paid the same wage and company revenue is posted monthly on their website as part of their commitment to transparency. Their mission is to run a business that puts people and the planet first, instead of profit, and they are “eternally optimistic” that doing things in this way will spread to others and promote community, equality and care for the earth.