Bulletin sat down with Arian Franz, part-time graphic designer and full-time soap savant, to ask the hard questions: But...what is soap? How is it made? And the easy ones: Why is your soap so obviously special? We learned about "saponification," essential oils, and the deep love Arian has for making sustainable, natural, good-for-you products.
Bulletin: So, let's dive right in! Tell us how you got into soaps.
Arian: Well, I've always been a tactile and hands-on kind of person. About four years ago, a friend and I bought a kit for soap-making. We got all the supplies to make about a pound of soap. And, you know, we watched some videos and did some research for a making-soap-kind-of-hang-out day—and I got hooked. I really loved making soap.
Bulletin: Like doing a drug for the first time.
Arian: I mean, yeah. So hooked that the very next day I bought supplies to make even more soap. I experimented with different scents, textures, materials. I began researching properties of natural oils....
Bulletin: What was the most compelling part?
Arian: I was hooked by all the design that's involved. Because of how I make the soap, there's an element of sculpture. It's sculptural and sensorial. You touch it, feel it, interact with it.
Bulletin: When you say, "make soap," what does that mean? How is soap made?
Arian: It's a process called saponification. Soap is made when oil and lye mix and spark a chemical reaction. The soap has to sit for six weeks to fully harden and build that smooth surface. It helps the soap last longer, too.
Bulletin: So you're casually making soap, learning about its properties. When did you decide, "Let's take it to the next level"?
Arian: I did a few craft fairs here and there after my initial experimentation. Made a few more batches. But it wasn't a bigger thing until about a year ago, last January. That's when I officially launched The Greater Goods site. I saw the company get more and more recognition and orders, and it just kind of started to pull me. ..
Bulletin: You realized there was some real potential here.
Arian: Exactly. I figured if I gave this company more time, if I nurtured it more, it could really grow. I would have regretted doing nothing and seeing it all fizzle. And now, I want it to be bigger than me. That's the next step.
Bulletin: If it does become bigger than you and continues to grow, do you foresee yourself doing The Greater Goods full time? I know you still do graphic design day to day.
Arian: That would be amazing. It's all about, you know, being creative with how you manage your time. Balance everything out. Having your own full-time, full-fledged company is a totally different lifestyle.
Bulletin: Speaking of lifestyle—and please forgive my cheesy transition—tell us how your friends' lifestyles have influenced your product line.
Arian: Oh, yeah. I definitely pull inspiration from people I meet. I made the Mechanic soap because my friend was studying to be a bike mechanic, and his hands always super grimy. The stuff he was using was really artificially scented and didn't seem very natural. I wanted to make something more natural but provide the same effect. So to give it some grit, it's made with walnut shells that have a real exfoliated texture. There's activated charcoal in there too. It has a massive surface area, with teeny little sponges that suck up impurities and toxins.
Bulletin: You work with a lot of natural oils too.
Arian: Yeah. So another friend has psoriasis, and when I found out, I immediately began researching what oils and essential oils help with the condition. I wanted to make something with zero additives, so there's no fragrance or anything in the Tea Tree and Oatmeal soap. Just oils and honey.
Bulletin: Did you build the branding around that simplicity? How did you come up with the name and the brand's aesthetic?
Arian: So The Greater Goods was the name of a project I actually started in college. I used to make bags and screen-print t-shirts and stuff. I thought to keep the name because the values lined up and it just made sense. And since I work in graphic design all day on the computer, I didn't want to over-design. I went with a clean minimal look that really emphasizes the product.
Bulletin: How do you feel about the Maker Movement as a whole? I know your roommate does natural dyeing and has her own business. What's it like to be a part of this push toward more home-grown, natural stuff?
Arian: In short, I think it's great. I think it's awesome to be and stay aware of what you're buying and putting money toward. Everything is getting made overseas, and we cause so much waste and irresponsibility by mass manufacturing. I find it wonderful that people can share and sell what they love, and that it's supported and accepted by this larger community.
Bulletin: Seems like you're in it for the long haul. Just soap or—
Arian: Well, I do plan to put some new things out. I want to dive into the fragrance world, make dry shampoos, and focus on a lot of sustainability-focused product. I have some more figuring out to do, and I've got a lot of ideas. But theres strategy involved when you put out new stuff, so I'm going to take my time and make sure I do it right.