RAD Soap Co. of Menands, NY makes a line of soaps, lotions and other skin care products from natural therapeutic ingredients, including hemp seed oil and chaga mushroom extracts. The family-owned company, which started in 2009 in Sue Kerber’s kitchen, uses a top-secret proprietary process to make the unique creations it sells through its Albany store and online shop as well as at Whole Foods and other select retailers throughout the country.
RAD Soap came to FuzeHub in 2019 for help with:
- Increasing its production and capabilities
- Making its operations more efficient
- Expanding its workforce
Sue Kerber first began making hemp-based lotions for her son Zak–now a partner in RAD Soap along with his brother Max–when Zak was a young child. He suffered from eczema and Sue could not find anything else to soothe his skin. Years later, when her family was going through a financial crisis, she decided to turn her avocation into a business and began making natural soaps to sell at farmers’ markets. The products were so popular that a buyer from Whole Foods noticed the crowd in front of the company’s booth at the Troy Farmers’ Market and had to check it out. RAD Soap products are now available at 28 Whole Food locations. This relationship forced the company out of the family’s Cohoes basement and garage and into a 4,000 square-foot building in Albany.
Today, RAD occupies a 15,000 square foot building in Menands. It operates a store in Stuyvesant Plaza and sells through more than 200 retailers nationwide. Its products have been featured in national magazines and the company did a promotional tie-in with Universal Studio’s blockbuster Jurassic World.
The main issue RAD has faced is keeping up with the growing demand for its products. Because its soap-making process is different from anyone else’s, scaling was not easy. For a long time, it used about 100 stainless steel “soup pots”, which had to be filled and prepped one by one. The process was slow and laborious, limiting the company to about 1,000 bars of soap a week. The manpower needed to produce each batch made it difficult for the company to invest in expanding its product line.
The company also has been limited in its ability to purchase hemp from New York farmers, since this means shipping the crop to its processor in Colorado–a difficult and expensive proposition.
RAD Soap reached out to FuzeHub, which visited the company with the regional director from the Albany office of the Workforce Development Institute (WDI). The Kerbers explained their situation and what they needed in order to boost productivity and employment. They then applied for and were awarded a $15,000 WDI grant for new and far more efficient processing equipment: melting tanks, molds, and pot tippers. The three agreed that “it was such an easy process.”
With the new equipment, RAD Soap has increased production 15-fold, to 3,000 bars a day–enough to keep up with “all the demand that is out there”–with far less manpower. A job that once took three or four people now requires one, which has allowed the company to shift resources to new lotions, the CBD line and other products while deploying workers more efficiently and planning for continued expansion with additional hiring.
The increased efficiency and productivity also have allowed the company to address its hemp seed oil problem. It is moving toward processing its own, using hemp purchased from New York State farms.