Artisan Spotlight: Irish Twins Soap Co.

So many of the artisans we speak with are one man—er, woman—shows, but with the Irish Twins Soap Co., there’s strength in numbers.

Erin Nelson started the business with her sister Dawn Schwandt, and the company’s name honors their family heritage. For those not familiar, the term “Irish twins” refers to siblings born less than a year apart. Although close in age, they are separated by distance living on opposite sides of South Dakota. Still, they’ve found a way to build a successful business as a team.

When Erin found herself unemployed a while back, she bought some soap molds, started pouring soap, and has been at it full time ever since. Since their start in 2009, Irish Twins has grown steadily: from sales to friends and family, to peddling at markets and craft shows. Now, Irish Twins Soap Co. is supplying product wholesale to the largest grocery chain in their area, and almost 20 retailers altogether! There was lots of learning along the way, and the girls have developed a full line of soaps—both cold process and glycerin melt & pour—as well as laundry concentrate, lime kitchen & bath scrub, sugar scrubs, lip balms, laundry sachets, cedar sachets, and more. Their tagline: "Good for You. Good for the Earth".

Their “Heart of Ireland” soap (made with Guinness Beer & McCann's Irish Oatmeal) and their line of “homekeeping” aids are just some of their signature products. Each of their cleaning products—as well as their soaps—is all natural. “We never use anything artificial or synthetic, including fragrances and dyes. We have a lot of customers with skin problems and allergies and we are proud to give them the purest products that we can. We're super fussy about the ingredients that we choose and if we wouldn't use it on our family, it's not going in the soap.”

When running your own business, you learn to do a lot of different things—and do them well. From learning how to put up tents and take them down in record time, to building an ecommerce website and navigating the murky waters of social media—including the newest “must”, Pinterest—Erin and Dawn have made it a priority to educate their customers on why all natural is so good for them. “We keep learning and sharing with our customers and they are also teaching us so much”, says Erin. “I have gained so many amazing friends throughout this whole process, and have been blessed with the opportunity to be present for my family. My husband has been so supportive throughout this journey, and willing to see my vision and support it wholeheartedly. He has stepped out in faith with me over and over and each day has really been a gift."

ROBIN M LENHARD is a freelance business writer and craft artisan, based in Buffalo, New York, and is a board member of Artists in Buffalo, Inc.. Robin wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie (, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.