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Sunday, December 16 News

New Milford resident sells decorative, vegan soaps

When Deborah Freeman lost her corporate job years ago, she turned to what she loves to do: make stuff.

The New Milford resident started out crocheting accessories for soap products, but has now focused her attention on making her own soap. OEP Soapery makes decorative soap products made from vegan and cruelty-free ingredients.

The soaps are sold online at oepsoapery.com, at the downtown New Milford boutique Safari Collective, and at the pop-up shops held monthly at Makery Coworking Space on Bank Street. The next one is scheduled for Oct. 13.

“I’ve always wanted a cottage business. That’s what you do in New England, you create a cottage business,” she said. “This is the thing I’m passionate about. It taps into my creativity, my entrepreneurial spirit and my business sense.”

And where did OEP come from?

“Orange is my favorite color, elephants are my favorite animal and I like to garden, so the p is for patch,” she said.

Freeman is such a fan of elephants that she recently “adopted” one named Flora from The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, a nonprofit organization that provides homes for elephants that have been retired from zoos and circuses. She hopes OEP Soapery takes off to the point where she can donate a percentage of the profits to the sanctuary.

While she does not eat a vegan diet, she feels soap products are an easy way to cut animal by-products out of daily living. Many soaps are made using lard or another animal fat. Freeman uses ingredients such as cocoa butter, shea butter and coconut oil.

“Using vegan ingredients is important because I love animals,” Freeman said. “I don’t think we should exploit animals if we don’t have to. This soap is just as effective at cleaning. You’re not losing quality or performance. It creates a beautiful, creamy lather.”

The 1982 New Milford High grad launched OEP Soapery under the umbrella of her LLC Deba-Do, which includes other ventures for Freeman. She also works at a local assisted living facility.

To get OEP Soapery off the ground, Freeman received marketing and business plan from Nelson Merchan, a business adviser with the Small Business Development Center based in Danbury.

“Deborah has spent long hours developing her product and she pays close attention to the interaction with her clients,” Merchan said. “She is eager to learn. I love the fact that she has set clear guidelines to manage and grow her business. This allows Deborah to enjoy each and every day.”

Freeman said the New Milford Area Networking Power Women group has also been instrumental in getting the OEP Soapery name out there. The group, which meets in person once a month and on-going on Facebook, was founded by Jessica Bittner and Tracey Garan Ruscil.

A long-term goal of Freeman’s is to open her own “storefront with soapery studio,” and offer workshops.

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“The soaps are decorative, fancy and fragrant and, of course, not just for vegans,” she said. “The cupcakes are the best-sellers.”

Freeman has a message for customers who may be reluctant to use the soaps because of their colorful, decorative nature.

“Soap is for using,” she said. “I can always make more.”

The writer may be reached at cbosak@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3338

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