Artisan Spotlight: Mary Kroll - Wild Heaven Farm

For Mary Kroll of Wild Heaven Farm, building her business has truly been a team effort. Her team? A herd of seven goats!

She’d grown up on a goat and chicken homestead, so to keep goats on her own farm was an easy decision. The plan was to make and sell bottled milk and cheese but, after learning about dairy industry requirements, she decided to teach herself how to make soap.

“It was a lot of trial and error”, she admits, and almost gave up after just her second batch. She says it was a $10 stick blender from Walgreen’s that turned it around for her. “Blending cold process soap with goats’ milk can be a challenge. The lye reaction can burn the solids in the milk and you end up with a grainy product.” She has long since perfected her formulation and Mary and her goats will be celebrating their 10thanniversary in business together on September 14.

Her goats are milked twice a day, freezing away as much as possible from February through November. After then, the does are pregnant and need to nourish their new babies. In the spring, a live webcam on her website will show off her new “kids”. “They all have names, and I’ve helped to deliver each one”, she brags. This year her eldest will retire, at age ten, and will become her "brand ambassador".

Although her craft may be considered “old fashioned”, Mary has fully embraced modern technology in support of her business goals. She’s active on Facebook and Twitter, and communicates with her fan base via Mail Chimp, and her “Goat Notes” newsletter. Mary says she does 99% of the work herself. That is, after the goats have done theirs. “Strong, entrepreneurial women run in my family”, she adds. Her advice to others running a business: “It’s more important to know your weaknesses than your strengths.”

That’s why she knew she had to work with a professional when she built her website. “The early versions that I did myself were just awful. Your site really needs to be coded to a high standard, so you are showing up in searches, and to make sure it’s viewable on all platforms.” The investment has paid off—in mail order volume and in bringing in wholesale customers from all around the country. Next, she is working on “re-branding” with a new logo, and has partnered with a local sculptor to design new silicone molds. With an exclusive design, these larger tray molds will allow her to double her batch size, making more soap in the same amount of time.

On May 14th,lightning struck Mary’s house and the resulting house fire disrupted her operation and rendered some product unsellable. Now, a month later, she’s back up and running at nearly-full-steam, and making” lemonade” out of this life-lemon: relocating her soap production to an off-site location, and doing a brisk business selling “mixed bags” of soaps which lost their labels in the move.

Go Mary!