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The name of the business founded by Kristi and Michael Gifford in 2015 is called Mimi & Opa’s Soaps, but it encompasses so much more — sugar scrubs, lotions, body mists, bath bombs, foot soaks and warming oils. In addition to these chemical free bath and beauty products, the couple offers quality candles and wax melts in scents so delicious you’d be tempted to take a bite. Michael has branched out into making signs from reclaimed wood, as well. The products are sold at craft shows all around the area, including the upcoming Rossini Festival April 22 on Market Square in Knoxville, and through their website, www.mimiopas soaps.com. Their candles are sold at the Rugby Commissary in Historic Rugby.
To say they keep busy is an understatement, but these two veterans — Kristi served in the United States Navy and Michael served in the U.S. Army — are accustomed to working hard and taking care of their family. That love of family was the impetus behind the founding of the business.
Kristi said, “Our granddaughter, who will be 3 in September, has eczema. Everything the doctors gave her wouldn’t work. She kept having flare-ups, so we got online and did research and came up with this honey oatmeal soap. She’s not had a flare-up since she’s been using this soap.”
After seeing the success their granddaughter had with the soap, the Giffords came up with various scents for the soaps and decided to sell their products at local craft shows. They then branched out into creating the soy candles and wax melts, all of which have been well-received by customers.
Michael explained that customers are appreciative of the natural quality of the products.
“Our soap is goat’s milk-based, all-natural soap, so it doesn’t have any of the harmful chemicals that your standard soaps do,” Michael said.
The lotions and body mists are shea butter-based, and the candles and wax melts are made with soy wax. Michael said, “They burn cleaner, and you can actually use wax, once it’s melted, like a body butter, for the rough spots on your elbows, on your heels. Obviously, on the candles, you don’t want to stick your finger in there when a flame is burning! But you can literally dip your finger in it and just use it for the rough spots.”
One of the most recent products is a bath crumble. It’s the same thing as a bath bomb that doesn’t hold its shape. Michael said, “We just crumble it up a little bit, put it in a bag. You can put as much or as little as you want in your bath, where with a bath bomb, you put it in once.”
Kristi said the foot soak is also new.
“It’s made with Epsom Salts in it, and it’s got some almond oil and tea tree, as well.”
Michael demonstrated how he and Kristi make the sugar scrubs, a popular bath and body care product that leaves skin exfoliated and nourished.
“It’s actually a fairly easy process,” he said. “We do sanitize everything with 91-percent alcohol before using it, even the jars, even though they come straight out of a box.
“It starts out with your standard Domino’s sugar, baking soda and Epsom Salts,” he said, putting the dry ingredients into a container and beginning to mix them together with his hands to remove any lumps. “You just get it where everything is mixed good together. The Epsom Salts are used for the magnesium that’s in it. It’s good for your skin.”
Shea butter and almond oil are then melted together and poured into the dry mix.
“Shea butter is probably the best thing for your skin because it absorbs in there without settling on the top,” Michael said. “We don’t use Dead Sea salt in there because it’s kind of coarse, so you can actually use this sugar scrub on your face.”
The next step is to add essential oils.
“We use tea tree essential oil,” Michael explained. “It’s an antibacterial … It’s good for you. Tea tree essential oil is the main essential oil that we use in any of our products, simple because it’s so good for you. It has a good scent to it, but you’re not going to smell it because I will add a fragrance oil.” In this batch, Michael used cucumber mint. A water-soluble colorant is added, and the product is packed into 8-ounce jars – weighed on scales to assure at least 8 ounces is in each jar – for sale. One batch will produce four jars. Michael said they limit how much product they have on hand at any given time.
“I like to have fresh product for people to try,” he said.
Kristi said the sugar scrubs are good for exfoliating after a sunburn, and that’s why they are such popular sellers in the warm months.
The products are competitively priced and range from $1 for a wax melt to $5 for soaps, $3 for bath bombs, $7 for candles, $10 for lotions and mists in 8 ounce containers or $6 for four-ounce containers, $4 for bath crumbles and $6 for foot soaks. Price breaks are available when multiples are purchased.
The reclaimed wood projects will vary in cost depending on what Michael does. A wall flag is priced at $25. He also does spray painted poster art, selling for $5 or $10 depending on size.
To learn more about the Giffords and their products, visit the website at www.mimiopassoaps.com or check out their Facebook page, Mimi & Opa’s Soaps.