From Home-brew to Whole Foods RAD Soap’s Story

FuzeHub sits down with Rad Soap to learn about their journey from a small kitchen operation to a large production facility in Menands, NY. Learn about where they’ve been and where they’re going on this episode of NYSMN.


Steve: Hey, welcome to New York State Manufacturing Now the podcast that’s powered by FuzeHub. I’m your host, Steve Melito, and today we are in Menands, New York with Rad Soap, and we have Sue, we have Zak and Max Kerber. Welcome.

Sue: Hi, how are you?

Zak: Hey.

Max: How’s it going?

Steve: We are really excited to have you with us here. To get started, can you tell us about the Rad Soap story? What do you do? How’d you get started?

Sue: Well, I guess I’ll tell that because I’m the mother and began this whole thing. I had a house in Cohoes, New York, and we lost everything as a family and we had to start over. And I decided to make a soap company because I’ve always loved soap and I’ve always wanted to sell something that we knew we could make something that people would love. So anyways, my son, Zak here, was suffering with eczema and early on I used to make creams for him and do things in the house and with different oils that I’ve used. And I started making something and I thought I could sell mother to mother and I started in farmer’s markets and we grew from there into Whole Foods and into a lot of different companies that it just all of a sudden took off. People loved my stuff. I went to the Troy Farmer’s Market also. We used to sell there and that’s where Whole Foods actually found us and we’re in 28 stores there, and grew to a 4, 000 square foot building because Whole Foods, they wanted to visit the facility and I was in my basement and a garage, so it was hard for them to come and visit me. So I decided to move into a facility and that was over on Fuller Road. So from there we grew and into this one. Now we’re in Menands in 15, 000 square feet.

Steve: So does Whole Foods just walk around markets like this and they find talent?

Sue: Well, what happened is it was during Christmas and these two people were trying to get to our table. And they couldn’t get to it because during Christmas there at the Troy Farmer’s Market we’re very busy. People want our soap, they want to share it with their relatives and things. So they kept on coming to the table and they started asking questions, saying, ” What do you sell here, because I can’t believe you’re this busy.?” And I go, ” I sell my soap.” I said, ” It’s hemp-based soap and we’ve been doing this from my home.” And she said, ” Well were you ever interested in going into Whole Foods?” I said, ” Yeah, right. You’ve got to be in a magazine, you’ve got to be in New York City.” She goes, ” Well I’m a buyer.” And I thought, my husband and I were looking at each other at the time and we said, she’s a buyer for probably oranges or something. Something. So ended up, it was on my birthday. And what happened was they called me and wanted us down to Ridgewood. That was the first office we went to. And down there we wrote down, we had a whole presentation, we were nervous. I’m going, ” Oh my God, we’re going to be in Whole Foods, and we’ve got to do this.” So we were planning this whole thing out and it ended up, we got down there two and a half hours later, dropped off soaps. She said, ” Yeah, you’re in.” And we just walked around that market literally for like an hour saying we’re in Whole Foods. We are from Troy, New York, we are this little place and we’re in Whole Foods. So it was thrilling. That was the biggest thing we did in the beginning of our business, so.

Steve: That is huge. And how many years ago was that?

Sue: 10 years. This is our 10-year anniversary this year.

Steve: 10 years ago. And so today you can’t look at anything without seeing hemp as an ingredient.

Sue: Exactly.

Steve: So you were way ahead of your time. How did you get ahead of your time? What was it that propelled you to look at hemp?

Sue: Well, when my son had eczema, when he was little, I was in an airport in North Carolina. We were delayed for a little while, so I, of course, a woman always go shopping. So shopping through the stores that were in the airport, found a company that was selling hemp products. And I tried it on my skin and I couldn’t believe the absorbency and the softness that it immediately gave me. And I was thinking of my son, because doctors were putting steroid creams on him and it burned him. I was chasing him around the house going, this doesn’t make sense to me that this burns. So we looked into different lotions and soaps and I found this hemp company and that’s what really what I was using on him at first is this cream. And then that company got bought out by L’Oreal later on and all of a sudden the product didn’t work for him. So what happened was I had to start making my own. So I put together some lotions and potions and made them in my kitchen and it helped him again. So Zak can tell you how he was affected by eczema as a kid and where the product helped him so much and that’s why we came to this point.

Zak: Yeah. It’s hemp seed oil. It’s what we used in the original recipe, which we still use in our Project H cream, which is a widely used by many mothers, doctors even now. I mean, we’ve seen it work because hemp seed actually works as a natural steroid for your skin, which we didn’t really know back then until later on developing this. We just saw all these other people that had psoriasis, and I have eczema, and it helped them. And that’s how we kind of started the business with everything. But hemp seed oil was all the rage. But now as we come into 2019, you’re really looking at CBD oil, which is a lot different than the hemp seed oil we use in our products now. There’s a lot of different medicinal benefits of that. So that’s what you’re seeing in the market now is CBD oils and there’s a whole slew of different things that come with that as well.

Steve: I just learned something right there. I wasn’t aware that they were not the same thing. And what are some misconceptions that people have about CBD oil?

Zak: So I think a major one people talk about, and I think my brother will shed some light on this too. So the major thing we’re seeing in the business is there’s things called CBD isolates. You have full spectrum hemp extracts, and those are the two kind of spectrums they come on these oils. As a company, we believe that the hemp plant, which means that it has 0.3% low THC, and what we believe is a thing called the entourage effect. Now the entourage effect, what does that mean? Is that means when a processor extracts the plant, the hemp plant, you get all the terpenes, all the phyto cannabinoids and also all the other stuff that’s great in the plant. When you do an isolate, it’s actually just that chemical compound of CBD. So as a company we believe that the full spectrum is what creates the healing aspect of things. And then we can also talk about hemp seed oil. Hemp seed oil is just the seeds, but they crush it, our processor, and it’s just the oil that comes from the seed. It’s high in omega threes and sixes. It’s just really good for your skin and that’s why we use it. So those are the major difference you’re seeing in the market. And so we did release a product not too long ago that’s a full spectrum hemp extract. And my brother actually is very knowledgeable about the process on how we extract that. So you want to get into the CBD extraction?

Max: Yeah, so there’s a couple, you probably, if you’re shopping around CBD oils, there’s all different extraction processes that companies are trying to sell you on, or just a big thing with the CBD market is transparency. People want to know what they’re getting and ingesting in your body. So you only have one so you better know what you’re putting in it. So the leading ones right now, especially in New York state, are ethanol. So they’ll take hemp and they make the extraction through a high-grade ethanol. Usually it’s an organic 92% or higher, or they’ll use, you’ll invest in machinery and you’ll do a CO2 extraction. Some call that a super fluid extraction, and it’s a process of using carbon dioxide to take the components of the CBD oil out. But when you’re using those two processes, there are times that you’ll lose kind of the delicacy of the plant. So the things that Zak touched on, the terpenes or flavanoids, those profiles sometimes don’t come through as much. CO2 as much as ethanol. And we stumbled upon a company called Vapor Distilled. And what they figured out was it was a guy that actually built this in his house, really reminded us of our own story. He built this big 112 volt kilowatt battery he claimed from the clean tech industry. And he learned how to take what was on the market already, which were the vaporizer movement. So he related his process off of vaporizers and he actually is using heated air to actually extract all of those chemical compounds. So he’s getting a clean extraction. You don’t have to worry about using chemicals. It’s a lot safer for people, because when you’re using CO2 you have to use all those tanks. You have to pay for the insurance, you have to pay for these big machines. If something goes wrong, those things blow up, there’s a lot of liability there. So with the battery, it’s close to what the industry is going. You just see the movement in automobiles with Tesla, and it’s just, I think, the future of the extraction process of CBD oil.

Steve: So Sue, you started by making soap to help your son. And listening to your sons now, they’re experts in this field. How did you all acquire this knowledge? Did you go to school for it? Did you acquire it along the way?

Zak: Yeah, so this is Zak speaking. Yeah, so how did we do it? It’s really all about, especially in this industry right now, it’s all about talking and figuring out what everyone’s doing. Because as we all know, state by state everything’s very different, laws are different, so you hear a lot. I mean, we travel a lot to Las Vegas, New York City. We work with a lot of awesome people. I’m going to give one of our close people that have helped us out a lot and that’s Dr. Obendorf. He’s really given a legitimacy to us and all the research that me and my brother have done and how we’ve become experts, he’s kind of helped us hone in all this. And we didn’t even know we knew all this stuff until we started talking to them.

Sue: Talking to those people. Yeah.

Zak: And then you’re like, oh my gosh, I know more than this person and that person. So knowing a lot about how the process works, how the consumer was looking at the oil and stuff, it helped me and my brother really come up and find a company that could have the same values as Rad Soap. Quality products that were giving to people.

Sue: We don’t skimp on anything. We try to do the best.

Max: And also, I mean, my mom made this for my brother because it was something that was missing in the market and it was something she wanted. Everything we make are things that, that’s kind of our purpose is-

Sue: Yes.

Max: We don’t use it, we’re not going to sell it.

Sue: Right.

Max: So that’s why we took such an interest in CBD oil. We all have different backgrounds. My background’s as kind of athletic, and I’ve just seen the work the oil has done as a topical cream for sore joint and muscle pains, or tincture. And the studies that are coming out, especially for CTE, I mean, it’s helping with Alzheimer’s and things like that. It’s not FDA approved. It’s such a new part in the health industry, so there’s still a lot of research going into it, and that’s so exciting to be at a groundbreaking ingredient that’s kind of shaken up this industry and be able to give back to this industry and try to help fund the research so we can get more benefits out of this plant.

Steve: As I’m sure you’re aware, New York State would like to be a leader in hemp and there are a number of initiatives underway. Is it a challenge for you to find New York state suppliers or New York state companies that are part of your supply chain?

Max: We are in the process of working with New York State farms. There’s a couple, one of them is Homestead Farm in Salem, New York. We love to work with them. It’s just our processor in Colorado, it’s kind of a proprietary process. So we’re trying to figure out, our real problem is the supply chain of getting 5, 000 pounds of hemp oil to Colorado through state line and not having any issues and having the insurance behind an LTL carrier to carry that much. So if we can find out that situation, it would help a lot more. And we would love to be able to say our CBD oil is from New York State hemp. That’s our goal as a company.

Steve: So what’s it like working with members of your family every day? What do you each do within the organization?

Sue: Well I oversee everything basically. And I do some of the bookkeeping with accountants. When they have ideas we all sit down and powwow it out in this room, actually. And what happens is we try and come up with the best situation or the best thing that we can do to. We try and keep the integrity of our company, our products, so some of the deals we’ll just walk away from, some of them we will embrace. And I think I’m the one that oversees all of those things. Basically the boys have their own education behind them. I was sales in the beginning. I care about what I’m doing. I want people to know that we really represent a company that invites people in to be part of our family. It’s not just a company. I want to relay that we are a unit that loves to embrace different ideas and different solutions to people that are having problems that are out there, and there’s just nothing out there. So that’s what I do. And then Zak will tell you what he does.

Zak: Yeah, we consider her the heart of the company. That’s what we always say. Without mom’s approval on things, she kind of gives that overseer-

Sue: It’s still mom’s approval.

Zak: So we still have that. I have a background in radio and television, so I was doing that for ESPN for a while. When I came on board, I actually had my own show called Tub Talk that we did. It was a weekly show. I’ve been really busy so that’s no longer, Tub Talks don’t exist anymore. But I’m operations really. I make sure what the employees are doing, make sure morale’s up continually. I sell still, I’m still selling.

Sue: HR.

Zak: I’m HR. When you’re in a company like this, it’s funny because you wear so many hats and you just, it’s like a pass off. You’re like okay, I can’t do this today. Can you do this? And we kind of play off each other in that way. And I think that’s, I used to do a lot of the internet stuff now my brother can kind of go into what he’s launching. I think it’s launched now, right? Our soap subscription? And you can go into all that stuff that you’re working on because that’s cool.

Max: Yeah, so this is Max. I graduated from Manhattan College with a major in finance, minor in computer information systems. So I really like numbers. Crunching numbers is one of my favorite things to do, especially when it comes to using them to generate and bring more business and acquire new customers and figuring out how the best way of doing that and not as much of a cost. That’s the big thing is to figure out how to acquire a customer and not a cost as much as compared to being able to get a customer you already have. So that’s something I love. I love the internet channel. One thing we are releasing is we’re finally doing a soap subscription. So we’ve been working really hard. I’ve been working with a partner out of New Jersey. He’s a company called Fans Tech Media and what he specializes in is helping small businesses with tech problems. So you would call him and he would say, ” Hey, this is what you do and this is how you help.” So as far as my concern as I don’t have any kind of backend dev work inside of websites. So he helped me build a customized of our website, completely customizable for our soap subscription. So you can pick between the different soaps you want, you can pick one soap, two soaps, three soaps, and you get free shipping, and you also get mystery gifts in every order. And then say you have your one soap you’ve had for six months and you’re like, hey, I’m kind of sick of this, I want to try a new one. Inside account profiles, you’ll be able to pick your different soaps, whatever you want inside of your account profile that’s set up. So you’re constantly, it’s just we tried to make it as user friendly as possible. You kind of see Amazon out there as kind of the example. 50% of sales online is going through amazon. com. So if your customer service, if your website is not fast enough, you really need to look at that as a small business. And if you’re going to sell on the internet, if you want to compete, that’s your example if you want to build a great internet business.

Steve: So tell me more about some of your successes because clearly you’ve had them. I remember we had spoken before, we talked about a certain movie studio. I’m hoping you can share that story.

Sue: Yeah, Universal Studios. The boys can tell you how they found the company.

Max: Over at Media, they’re awesome. We did kind of a keynote speak marketing wise, talking about the future of retail, because that’s what we had, New York state, had a retail there. Just kind of trying to explain where small business should go, what’s the future, what are you guys doing now? And from that relationship I got to meet Jody, who is their VP of marketing for Transworld Entertainment and FYE. And through that relationship she let us go up to their big convention they hold in Saratoga Springs and see all their vendors and try to figure out a way we could work together. Two local companies, they’ve been around forever, and it’s such a monument company in our area and they’ve given jobs to this area and helped such small businesses like us, give us a shot at supplying all of their stores. So we got to walk the floor and meet all of their different vendors and licensing that they do. And we stumbled upon the Universal booth.

Sue: Yep.

Max: And from that we got talking and they were talking about the new movies that they were coming out with and kind of the different franchises they work with. And they’ve never really done beauty. They were getting into beauty because most of the stuff is, for most films, it’s toys and things like that. So they wanted to switch it up, increase the demographic and they figured beauty might be a good shot at doing that. So what we ended up doing is doing a project with them based off of their new Jurassic Park movie. So it was a pretty cool relationship because they were like, yeah, one of our new franchises that are coming out would be Jurassic World, the new one that just came out this past year and we were like kind of put two things together because we’re big… The reason, I think, we’re big into research. We love looking at new ingredients that are upcoming and trending because I like using them. I like trying things out on myself and being like, all right, is this something we could use in our product line to just make us the best we can be? So one of those things we found was a mineral that’s actually found on the West Coast and it was a family farm that came across this plot in their land and they saw these cows kept going over to this one part of the land and these cows kept drinking this muddy water. And whenever they were drinking the muddy water, they were just producing better than the ones that weren’t. So they were like, ” Why do these cows keep drinking this muddy water?” So they went over to the part where they were at, took a sample of it and they found out that it was a mineral deposit that was found for 300 million years old. And it wasn’t covered and it finally encapsulated out of the rock and became exposed to oxygen for the first time in that many years. So we had a product that was actually from the Jurassic Era.

Sue: Actually 3 million-

Steve: Wow.

Max: So it’s dinosaur rocks.

Sue: They thought that was so cool. Oh, my God. They were nuts.

Max: So we’re like, oh my god, this would be so cool. So we pitched the idea to Universal and they were all about it. Absolutely loved it. That’s kind of what started the relationship. And we got to work with a really cool company also, GT’s Kombucha. And we did a mask so you could actually make your own Jurassic mask and you had to use GT’s Kombucha to make it, and-

Sue: They were all on board with us.

Max: We got the call with them and they were a great company to work with also. Another family run business in Hollywood. That’s where they were headquartered. And the relationship was awesome. The Universal team was so small business friendly. They got to introduce us on how a large corporate company works, how far ahead they’re planning, marketing strategies, just their channel of how to do business. And it helps a small business like us just take in all that information and kind of apply it to ourselves and how we can be better.

Steve: So Sue, you’ve been extremely successful. You’ve gone from a stage that a lot of entrepreneurs don’t progress beyond, let’s be honest, the basement of the garage to manufacturing. How did you do it and did you get some help from New York State or other agencies along the way?

Sue: Yeah, as a matter of fact, FuzeHub helped us. And Zak can get into the (inaudible) part of that.

Zak: Yeah. So we had to come up with a way to expand our soap production. And so through a bunch of different groups, we got turned onto you guys, which you guys came in and kind of looked at how we’re doing things and we had to tell you, what do we need as a company to increase our workforce, productivity? And so we laid it out all for you guys, and you guys came up with a workforce grant that we could expand our workforce and allow us to make a lot more soap.

Max: So the first way we were soap process is kind of your stainless steel pot you make soup out of in the winter.

Zak: Yeah, that was the original.

Max: We had about 100 of those, and we used to fill them and prep them one by one.

Sue: And that was good for the basement.

Max: But we still did that up till last year. We were filling up those one, by one, by one, filling them all in separate molds. You had to line the mold with paper.

Zak: Paper, yep.

Max: Yeah, you had to take them one, by one, by one soap. I mean a day of soap would take almost three to four days to just do a 1, 000 bars.

Zak: 1,000 bars a week and that’s it.

Max: Yeah. So what we did was, the hardest part of figuring out how to scale was we’d make soap different from everyone else. There’s melt and pour, there’s cold processed soap making, and there’s hot processed soap making. So just from trying to figure out things, always being scrapers, we figured out kind of using philosophy from each of the different ways that make soap. And from that we actually, it helped us create the new process, which is what we call the Rad process of making soap. It’s proprietary, and you get the benefits of a hot processed soap without all the damage that could happen to how. It’s kind of rough making soap. You’re dealing with caustic sodas, you’re dealing with fats, oils, and you have to be careful with it. But with our new process, we try to make things as safe as possible, especially in the production side. So with the process and the grant that we got, instead of doing one pot to make 12 bars of soap, now we’re up to one pot makes 200 bars of soap with this new grant that we received.

Zak: And it was fast. I mean, FuzeHub came in, we talked quick and within a month we were already on our target to getting this thing. And it’s increased us, now today, we can make about 3, 000 bars a day. Not a week, a day. Which is crazy.

Steve: Yeah, I can remember that first time that we came in. And just to give a shout-out, that was Dan Cullin from the Workforce Development Institute. He came as well and he was-

Max: Dan’s great.

Steve: Great to work with.

Zak: Yeah.

Sue: Yes.

Zak: Yeah. It made it so easy. Such an easy process-

Sue: It was a very process. Yeah, it was really easy.

Zak: -which was amazing. Yeah, we were really excited about that. Yeah, and we’re still. I mean, that machine back there, it’s put to work every day and it’s doing well for us, so we’re really happy. Me and my brother are happy because it doesn’t take three guys or four guys back there anymore, it takes just one. So it’s real good. We’ve added to our workforce, I mean, tons of different people now that are-

Sue: That can do other things.

Zak: Yeah, like lotion making. We have the CBD products, so it’s expanded. We could go and invest in all these other areas that we’ve wanted to expand because we couldn’t keep up with all this stuff. So we’ve been able to focus on our brand and just creating really great products. I mean, our creams we’re releasing with our CBD are probably the best on the market. I think we couldn’t have done that without FuzeHub’s help with that.

Sue: Just production. And our subscription plan. We decided we brand ourself now as the best soap in the world. I feel it is, because anybody that uses our stuff, they really don’t go to anybody else, which is nice. And I always kid about it, but it really helped us brand ourself as a soap company. And we can produce enough from the machine that we can now supply as much as the demand is out there. So we’re really pleased with it.

Steve: So how do you get even better than the best soap company in the world? What’s next for Rad Soap?

Zak: We have a year project that’s happening now. We are going to be able to process our own hemp seed oil. Not CBD, it’s hemp seed oil. So the one we talked about earlier, that’s good, enriched in Omega threes and sixes. And what we use in that is basically every product we have has that in there. So that’s a cool thing we’re going to be able to offer a hemp seed oil to the consumer.

Sue: And it will be hemp seed oil from New York state.

Zak: Right. Yeah. We’re going to try and get, yes.

Sue: We really feel that we should be the soap company of Albany, New York State. And I think we are trying to use relationships that we have and co-branding that we do to prove that we are in the community, we want to work with the community, and we’re trying to make as many products that we can feel that are part of Albany and part of New York State.

Steve: Anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up? Anything else that the world should know about Rad Soap?

Zak: That you guys have to try our CBD oil.

Sue: That’s right.

Zak: That’s something that I want everyone-

Sue: Yes. And try our soap.

Max: Try our soap. Try our soap.

Zak: And CBD oil.

Sue: Yep.

Steve: All right. That is fantastic. Again, many thanks to Sue-

Sue: Thank you.

Steve: -and Zak and Max Kerber. We’re here at Rad Soap in Menands, New York, just north of Albany. And again, this is Steve Melito on behalf of FuzeHub and the New York State Manufacturing Now podcast. We thank you for listening. If you are an inventor, entrepreneur or manufacturer and you want to get to the next stage, do you have questions? Do you need help with business or technical knowledge? FuzeHub is available 24, seven. Just go to our website, www. fuzehub. com, look for the solutions program menu, and then complete the form and the request for assistance and the person you’ll probably speak with is me. So I look forward to talking to you.

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