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Meet Conrad Haynes of Nomad Soap Co. in Koreatown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Conrad Haynes.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in Grand Rapids, MI and would often spend summers with my grandmother in Detroit. Outside of the usual crossword puzzles and Judge Mathis, I would watch her make soap. She learned how to make it from her mother when she lived in Monroe, LA, and together, we loved to experiment with the fragrances and scents.

Grandma was a flea-market entrepreneur – The Soap Lady – and unbeknownst to me, I was her unpaid assistant. On special occasions, I would accompany her to the markets and fairs where she had sold her products. Grandma was a keen businesswoman and believed that “the integrity of a product equals the integrity of a person.” I always carried that with me.

Out of college, I ended up working in tech, but a part of me still missed those summers: the idea of experimentation, design, fragrance, culture, meeting new people. So I made the move to LA. I landed in the field of UX Design and worked on brand and data-driven experiences for companies like Microsoft, Coke, and Vistaprint. I loved the directness of it all – seeing and interviewing customers face to face and finding solutions for them. It was there that entrepreneurship found me. I figured if I can invest in other people’s companies, why shouldn’t I invest in my own? Why not me?

When I told my grandmother I was interested in starting a company that merges my love of travel, art, and fragrance, she was hype lol. She brainstormed ideas with me over the phone, offered advice on budgeting from her time in the market, and repeated one of her favorite mantras to me over and over again, “It takes time.” (She also said, “Don’t get high on your own supply.” That one’s a little less profound…) In any case, she’s been an essential collaborator every step of the way and still sends me bar soap in the mail. I launched Nomad Soap Co in 2019 with our premier solid cologne product shortly after, and I’ve been working with scents ever since.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There was so much I didn’t know about when starting Nomad Soap Co. I had a vision in my head of what I wanted the company to look like but things like standing up an E-commerce site, thinking through digital marketing, navigating pop-ups and farmers markets, joining the right guilds, drafting contracts, filing all the proper business paperwork, insurance – I had never done any of that before.

I keenly remember chatting with another entrepreneur about filing business paperwork with the county, and she mentioned something about newspaper publication being a pain. I had no idea that was even a requirement! So from then on, I made an effort to talk openly about my business with others who have experience with the process.

Also, the packaging companies convinced me that I needed a 1000 boxes… I know you hear about this in tv shows, but it is very real. (And no – you do not need that many boxes, even if the price is significantly less).

Starting Nomad Soap Co. hasn’t been easy, but it’s been a lot of fun. Right now, my challenge is figuring out the best ways to find new customers amid the pandemic. It’s tricky, but I have a friend (shoutout Cami from @lucyandkaya) who says, “You don’t grow without challenge”, and I couldn’t agree more.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Nomad Soap Co. – what should we know?
Nomad Soap Co. is a black-owned LA-based all-natural indie soap and cologne brand for men, giving our customers quality men’s bar soap and solid cologne products.

We’re obsessed with the raw, the unpolished version of you. We want our customers to celebrate themselves: all the scars, bumps, bruises, and scents included. When it comes to fragrance, we believe we’re not all supposed to smell the same. Our body chemistry, genetics, environment when mixed with oil-based fragrances all create a beautiful concert of scents distinct to every person. And we want to help you capture that.

I believe my business is highly different from those in the market based on our scents, our ingredients, and our design.

Raw All-Natural Scents: At Nomad Soap Co, we celebrate the scars, bruises, and natural odors of men. We want to empower their authentic scent. We want raw, sweaty, animalistic, and a little dirty – all natural. They’re real, and our ingredients are too. Our goal as a brand is not to polish and manicure men into some unattainable image. We don’t shame people for their uniqueness. We don’t sell them on what artificial confidence should smell like. We just help their natural scent profiles, smell strong.

Raw ‘All Natural’ Ingredients: From our cold-processed soaps to our small-batch solid colognes, all products from Nomad Soap Co. use real, all-natural ingredients, pure essential oils (no fragrances or chemicals), and recyclable tin or card stock containers. We also understand that people have varying degrees of what it feels like to be clean, and so we’ve designed our soap to uniquely combine essential oil-powered bars and body scrub to create a signature hybrid bar. Cornmeal, Himalayan pink sea salt, pumice, and rolled oats are just a few of the products we use. We pride ourselves in knowing every ingredient on our label besides lye can be found in the kitchen.

Raw ‘All Natural’ Design: The Nomad product line consists of eight individual scents, each designed to meet the needs of various skin types and conditions. To us, beauty products are not a one-size fits all market. The same can be said for masculinity. Our products are artistically abstracted to capture the varying ethos of every shopper without prescribing them to the singular socialized ideal image of who they need to be.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Coach: Cami Uchoa from Lucy and Kaya @lucyandkaya
Mentors: Grandma, Tikue Anazodo @antikwatches, Elena Caponi @el.caponi

Art Direction [Product]: Kenny Tai @akim.63
Photographer [Product]: Joanne Nguyen @joannenguyenphotography

Art Direction [Digital]: Sade Ndya and team @theredfuton
Cinematographer [Digital]: Cameron Poletti @cam_poletti

Artist: Mike Shea @sheabudda, Pichya @monk_5mm, Chill Panda @chillpandamusic, Alisha Westerman @gowesterman

Collaborator: Mark from Global Custom Packaging, Specialty Bottle
Personal photographer: Jim Zhao @runningaroundla
Models: Noel Vazquez @roninkaizen, Kento Matsunami @kento.matsunami, Steven Busby @stevenleebuzz

And lastly, I wouldn’t be anywhere without the support of the #NomadTribe: my family, friends, and customers.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

The Red Futon, Sade Ndya, Cameron Poletti, Joanne Nguyen, Jim Zhao, Noel Vasquez

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