Before Covid hit, Seaside resident Jon Forbes never imagined he would start his own soap company. He was happily employed as a guide and naturalist for Monterey Bay Kayaks, where he spent his days out on the water showing clients the majesty of Monterey Bay.
Forbes, who had worked at the job for over nine years, was furloughed in March 2020, brought back for a few weeks in June, and then, nada.
For months he applied for jobs with no luck. Ditto for unemployment benefits. “It was just a nightmare,” he says of the process, “seeing months go by without a penny coming in.”
In December of 2020, desperate to generate some income, Forbes started making soaps in his garage – something he had done for a few years as a hobby – and selling them online. His company name: Small Kind Soaps.
In January he secured a spot at a Salinas farmers market, and later in Marina and Pacific Grove. But he says the Artichoke Festival in April is what really put him on the map and opened doors, including a spot at the farmers market in downtown Monterey.
Since then business has been booming. Forbes hired one employee six months ago to help him staff markets and events, and another a few weeks ago. His primary challenge now is keeping up with demand. “I realized the more money and time I put in, it was coming back tenfold,” he says.
The soap bars Forbes makes are beautiful and smell amazing, which is probably one reason for the high demand. Another is that they’re all-natural and ethically sourced – no chemicals, plastics or synthetics, and no palm oil – and there’s no plastic in the packaging, which he designed.
To make soap, he renders down oils and/or animal fats in one pot, and in another a mixture of lye and distilled water. He combines them and mixes them with an immersion blender, adds the scents, then the colorants, and pours it into molds. He makes about 75 to 85 bars in a batch, and says he can make about four or five batches a day.
After the holidays Forbes plans to expand his operation into a warehouse facility, and his vision is to get his soaps into grocery stores across California.
“I did not see this coming,” he says of the company’s success. “Every time I run the business analytics, the arrow just keeps pointing up.”