How it all begins

It has been a while since I felt the tingle of excitement, the feeling that the future could be brighter, the skies could be bluer, and there are rainbows and unicorns everywhere I look.

This feeling probably abandoned me once I stepped into adulthood, and when I became jaded with work, work, and more work.

Being an engineer probably didn’t help much. I really enjoyed my work, but I am also a highly conceptual and creative person, and my right brain is jealous that she doesn’t get to contribute much in my engineering job role.
So, I delved into jewelry making, got into sewing, and one day, when I moved from a crappy one bedroom apartment to this gorgeous townhouse, I discovered the joys of pampering myself in this beautiful bathroom of mine. Who cares if the décor is a bit dated? It’s a vast improvement from the ones I had in the past. One of these days, when I have money, I’m going to re-tile with marble, and make this into the most luxurious bathroom ever. But I digress…

Anyway, before long, I was taking baths twice a week. Wed and Sat baths became my relaxation ritual. Each bath was an hour long bliss of steam, flickering candlelight, soft music, melted butters, sweet essential oil aromatherapy, floating rose petals with wine or tea by the side and a good book to read. And so I begin to get through bath bombs and bath salts really quickly. I’m not going to lie, pampering oneself, is like a drug habit, the more pampered you are, the more you are going to crave it.

One of the occupational hazards of being an engineer is that, we usually have a pretty loud, and sometimes obnoxiously know-it-all left brain. This is the brain responsible for all the data analysis that we do in our day job.

One day, my engineering brain complained rather disapprovingly, “At $6 a bath bomb, 2 baths a week, multiplied by 52 weeks = a lot of $$$ down the drain. Literally. Not to mention that some of them were hit and misses. More misses than hits actually.”

The periodically steamed, lathered, scrubbed, moisturized right brain explains in a  I-don’t-really-get-why-you-are-so-worked-up voice, “See, when we spend the money, we BOTH get to smell like roses, get surrounded by bubbles and fizzes, caressed by kaolin clay, Shea, cocoa and mango butter and all things wonderful. Just enjoy it and shut up about the price tag.”

And thus began the greatest internal brain fights of all time.

After couple glasses of wine, and a couple peeks into my bank account, they finally called truce and came up with a plan.

The plan was simple –
Miss Engineering brain says she will convince Janette to invest in raw materials, take care of design of experiments, recipe tweaking, data collection, testing and data analysis.
Miss Pampered brain, who prefers to go by the name, Creative, promises not to slack, or get distracted, and will work on the look, feel, smell and make all things beautiful, sparkly, ooomphy so that whoever is using it will be super happy and in perpetual bliss!

So they hugged and make up, and THEY tasked ME to do the research and cough up money for raw materials. Seriously? Sometimes I’m not sure who owns whom…

So, I researched. Watched tons of YouTube tutorials, read endless blogs, hung out in libraries, bought textbooks, downloaded e-books and even ventured into medical journals. To be very honest, some of them flew over my head. Eventually, one of these days, I swear I’ll get what these papers are talking about….

Anyway, the more I ‘researched’, the more enticed I was by natural homemade skin care products. And also, unfortunately, the more horrified I was, at the list of ingredients that exists in my high end skin care. So I began the purge. I started reading labels, and phased out certain skincare items that I use. I also stepped up my experiments and I created different base recipes for bath bombs, scrubs and face masks. I tweaked ingredient ratios, zealously recorded results and observations for each test batch.

Eventually, for my favorite bath bomb, I managed to arrive at the highest butter to dry ingredient ratio that is structurally possible. With that much butter in the mixture, it doesn’t fizz as spectacularly as my previously store bought ones does. But I’ll take moisturizing properties over spectacular fizzing anytime.

To make such a bath bomb, the final cost price is still not cheap, but whoever that says that quality pampering is cheap is lying through their teeth. But at the very least, now it’s always a hit, and never a miss. And I know exactly what goes into the final product. And the key thing is, my skin can most definitely feel the difference and she is thanking me for it.

Excited by this small little success, I started talking to friends at work about my new found hobby. I heard about how Brooke makes her own lotions and sugar scrubs and I touched base with her. It started with a casual (ok, maybe leaning a little more towards excited than causal) comment from me, “I heard you make lotions!!!!!! What type of essential oils do you recommend??? Maybe we can swap???!!”

Probably taken aback, but being too polite to tell me, she started telling me about lotions and sugar scrub, and we promised to swap products as well as essential oils.

One morning, she handed me small sandwich zip lock bag of her lemon olive oil sugar scrub. This is the first example you will see that engineers are rather practical, and not very into packaging. The first time I tried it, I swear Miss Engineering, Miss Creative and my skin, fell in love – both with Brooke and the scrub. I returned the favor by giving her a solid sugar scrub that I hastily cobbled together from a recipe I found online. Which, in retrospect, was kind of pathetic compared to her awesome scrub. And she let me know about it. So we started talking more, discussing, day-dreaming and one thing led to another and then a eureka moment occurred – Maybe, just maybe, we should pool resources and work on these together!

So we roped in Puja, another highly analytical engineer in the mix. She self declared this proudly to us one night – “You guys may not know this from how I behave at work – but I have a very creative side too!” From the scope of her work, we may not have any visibility to her creative side, but we are darn sure her engineering brain outperforms both Brooke’s and mine combined.

So, here we are, three completely different brain profiles – one highly conceptual, one highly analytical, and one highly structured got together over glasses of Pinot Grigio and Blue Moon at Red Robins, one cold Friday night of 8th Nov 2013.

And thus mark the beginning of The Soap Engineers.

Wherever this takes us, our guts tell us it will be fun. And our brains tell us that it will be frustrating, but whatever it is, we will be able to persevere and push through and develop great products simply because we are AWESOME ENGINEERS. And we are very proud of this fact!

And with this little something to look forward to every day after work, the skies are indeed looking brighter. Unicorns are still a little shy though, but if I squint really hard, I think I might just make out the tip of a unicorn horn peeking through the trees in the distance.

Team picture - Day 1 (2)

Janette. Brooke. Puja.


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