In an eclectic little farmhouse atop a hill about 20 miles north of Three Forks, a local woman operates her own handmade soap company. With the help of some goats.
Nichole Croteau Baker and her husband, Ray, moved to their homestead about a year and a half ago after tiring of their city life in Seattle. Baker is originally from the area, and said it just felt like time to come home.
It also gave her an opportunity to grow the Lazy Daisy Soap Company. Baker has an extensive line of all natural soaps, lotions, lip balms and other personal care products, all made with her key ingredient: goat’s milk.
In Seattle, Baker said she and her husband lived on a half-acre of land that was overgrown with blackberries. Adopting a pair of goats to chomp away at the irksome bushes was their solution.
“It took us four months to beat it back far enough to put fences up and then we adopted two goats,” she said. “It just started a love affair.”
Now, she has five goats (with a couple of kids on the way), along with a bunch of chickens and turkeys. All the animals roam together on the small homestead.
So, that explains the goats. But why homemade soap?
In addition to a lifelong fragrance allergy, Baker battled thyroid cancer twice during her twenties. ‘That got me thinking about ingredients and what I could control with regard to what I put in and on my body,” she said. “Chemical ingredients are scary and the more I researched, the more I realized I could make my own alternatives.”
After about ten years of making soap for herself and close family and friends, Baker said she decided to turn her passion into a business when she moved back to Montana.
“The idea for Lazy Daisy was always there, just as a sort of pipe dream,” she said. “It’s really been awesome. I’ll never be wealthy, but it’s a labor of love.”
Baker’s cozy home is filled with the fragrance of her essential oil-scented soaps. She has piles of colorful cakes and her other products resting in a small storage room at the back of the house.
“Lazy Daisy has completely outgrown this kitchen, though,” she said.
She plans to soon begin retrofitting a small garage on her property so she can have a space completely designated to her business. That will hopefully allow her to keep up with her growing demand and allow her to make larger quantities of products.
It takes about three hours to make one batch of 32 bars of soap, Baker said. She grows a lot of the herbs she uses herself, and scours the internet for the best prices on the rest of her high-quality organic ingredients like coconut oil.
One common misconception about her business is that it’s a simple procedure, Baker said. Quite the opposite is true. She dons goggles and gloves and covers all of her skin before tackling each complicated recipe. Lye is extremely caustic, she said, and a small miscalculation can result in a “volcano.”
The chemical reactions between lye and the other ingredients rely on very precise measurement, kind of like baking. To learn how it all worked, Baker just dove right in.
“I just learned on my own and read a lot of books,” she said with a laugh. “Pinterest wasn’t a thing yet. We used a lot of ugly soap for a while. Still do. I probably threw away $800 worth of ingredients before I ended up with some soap that I would actually sell.”
After perfecting her process, Baker turned her attention toward healing specific skin problems like eczema, psoriasis and adult acne.
“That’s the fun part,” she said. “I love to problem solve. Every product that I have is meant to heal and I’m an expert in my ingredients at this point. I like being able to help people and figure out how to treat specific skin issues.”
The most difficult aspect of her blossoming business is being alone while working from home, she said. Selling at farmer’s markets is a welcome chance to socialize because she said she’s a bit isolated at her home soap laboratory.
That’s easy to believe. The Bakers’ home sits on top of beautiful rolling hills, just in front of the Missouri River. But she said they keep extra gasoline on hand for the wayward travelers who run out of gas near their house.
In the future, Baker said she would love to have a storefront with space to create her products in the back, perhaps in Manhattan or Three Forks. Another addition on Lazy Daisy’s horizon is liquid soap products. Baker said she just learned how to make it and plans to expand her inventory with shampoos, hand soap and body wash.
“It’s really limitless at this point,” she said. “My last two batches have been successful, so I’m excited about that.”
Check out Baker’s full line of products on her website, www.lazydaisysoap.com.