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Meet Dali Yu of The Soap Kitchen in Old Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dali Yu.

Dali, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
It was Christmas 2002 when my entire concept of soap, as I knew it was changed completely. For as long as I could remember, I was using shower gels and body washes like it was the best thing for me, like I was spoiling myself. Little did I know it, I WAS spoiling myself, but not in a good way! Some friends of mine gave me a bag of roughly cut chunks of homemade soaps for Christmas. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but one day I decided to try a bar. To say, it was life-changing would NOT be an exaggeration! I couldn’t believe how amazing it felt on my skin. I remember when the bar shrank down to a sliver, I actually started to panic! I decided I needed to study this lost art and introduce my new found addiction to many more people. After months of research and experimentation, The Soap Kitchen was born in Old Pasadena, CA. It’s been over a decade now, and I’m still thankful every day that I get to do what I love while helping to cleanse the world naturally, one handmade bar at a time.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Oh gosh, no. There have definitely been struggles. The biggest one came about 5 years ago. Our lease was close to expiring, and a large chain store was coming in next door. They wanted to take over our space as well, so we were forced to move. This wouldn’t have been such a huge struggle had they given us time to look for space, build it out, then move, but this was NOT the case. The landlord gave us 30 days notice, with no other options. The new space we decided on was only two doors down but was not ready for us, so we had to move our entire shop and soap making equipment into storage. We moved all the inventory into our garage at home. Of course, the build-out took longer than planned (2.5 months), so we operated our online shop out of our garage this whole time. The nice part was that I got to get out of bed and work in my pajamas! That is, on days when I wasn’t supervising the build-out of our new shop. 🙂

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The Soap Kitchen – what should we know?
We are a mother/daughter team at The Soap Kitchen in Old Pasadena, and we’ve been raising the bar on soap for over 13 years, but who’s counting? Rest assured that we use only the finest essential oils and herbs to mildly scent our soaps, so the end product is hydrating for the skin, healthy for the body, and never overwhelming to the nose.

But, why bar soap instead of liquid? It takes about 5 times more energy to produce a bottle of liquid soap than a bar of soap. Liquid soaps almost always contain synthetic lathering agents, or sulfates, which can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. And because of their water content, they also often contain harmful preservatives, such as parabens, which are known hormone disruptors and carcinogens. We believe that going back to basics with handmade bar soaps is the wave of the future. Not only is it more healthy and gentle on the skin, but it’s easier on the environment, too. With our minimally packaged soaps, there is almost zero waste and no bottles to further pollute our landfills and oceans. So move over bottles, the bar is back!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I’m quite the perfectionist, but sometimes to a fault! I like to make sure things are done right, so I have trouble delegating. To this day, even after making tens of thousands of pounds of soap, I still have to make each batch myself! But I guess I must be doing something right because people LOVE our soap!

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