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Life & Work with Julie Camacho

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie Camacho. 

Hi Julie, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Back in 2014, I went through a weird health scare that was finally tied back to chemicals in my shampoo and body soap. Sodium Laurel Sulfates and Ureas were the biggest contributors to my health issues. My symptoms were brain fog, slowness of speech, heart palpitations, and headaches. 

I started to research how I could make my own shampoo and soaps. I was eager to try my hand at making cold processed soap. I operated a licensed daycare and didn’t like the thought of using and having lye around my home. 

So, I did my research and came up with a liquid soap that I could use for both shampoo and body soap. I also found out that the chemicals that I needed to avoid are found in other body care items, like deodorant. So, I made many of my own body care items. 

I have always been a creative person. As a child growing up, I was introduced to many art mediums by my grandmother. I got to experiment with painting, weaving, carding wool, dying wool and fabric, pottery, paper making, sewing, and many other hands-on arts. 

As an adult, I had seasons that continued in these arts. I made elaborate scrapbooks for each of my babies’ first year as well as a couple of family books. I spent a couple of years sewing my young children’s clothing and making my own patterns for other projects. The creative process was so rewarding. I taught myself how to crochet. I had a blast making beanies and blankets for Christmas gifts and crocheting practical items for around the house. 

By 2018 many life changes had occurred. My family and I were living in an RV. I was working as a volunteer at a popular local family-friendly preserve and campground. The desire for trying my hand at making cold processed soaps had never gone away. This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to give it a try. I spent a month researching the science behind soap making. Using caustic lye to saponify oils into glycerin and soap is a process that needs to be exact and understood. I created a recipe that would produce a hard solid bar with a great lather. I gathered my supplies and planned to make four loaves. These were then cut into individual bars and cured for 4-6 weeks. I started in October. The soap was ready to test by me and given to family as Christmas gifts if all went well. I had so much fun planning the creative side of it. Figuring out the colors and combinations feeds my soul. I was hooked from the first cut!

The response from my family on Christmas Day solidified my love of Soapmaking. I knew I needed to take the next step and go somewhere with it. The Creative Camper Soaps was born March 2019 at the same moment when a worldwide pandemic broke out. It was not a good time to start a business. But it was a great time to start a soap business! 

There is so much more to starting a business than the creative side. From licensing to insurance. And living in an RV, I had to figure out logistics of storage. I could mix and pour the soap in my RV, but it takes a lot of space to let soap go through the curing process. I rented a local climate-controlled storage unit. I outfitted it with tables and industrial rolling shelves. This is where the soap is cut, cured, labeled for sale, and packaged. 

The first year I sold mainly to family, friends, and acquaintances. Then the pandemic restrictions started to lift, and I was able to sign up for local craft fairs and events. It’s been fun getting out into the community and talking to customers. I love the positive feedback I receive. I also created my website and started to sell online with a goal to reach a more national audience. We live in an amazing time where we can use social media platforms to reach a wider audience. It’s free advertising! 

My goal is to continue to grow my business in the next couple of years. This year I have added more items to my product line. Including extra creamy and bubbly shaving soap, sugar scrubs, and solid shampoo and conditioning bars. I have two other items I am working on, one being a natural solid dog shampoo bar. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
The biggest struggle is time. I work part-time as a cabin host. I also have always homeschooled my two youngest children including planning their entire school year on my own. Another struggle has been watching the cost of my raw ingredients climb significantly over the last 2 years. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I love color and design. My soaps are different than many because I use many bold colors and try different design techniques. I am also careful with fragrances. I use only phthalate-free fragrances and use just the right amount, so soaps are pleasant and not overpowering. 

What were you like growing up?
I was friendly kid. I had three brothers, so I was a bit of a tomboy. I loved to read and be outdoors. My grandparents lived next door. They had an open-door policy, and my siblings, and I spent a lot of time in and around my grandparents’ home building tree forts, go-carts, and many other hands-on projects. 

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