Last summer Chris Peeler of Clarksburg decided to drop the small plastic toys left over from children's parties into some homemade soap.
Rachael Golden/The Gazette
Chris Peeler makes and sells specialty soaps from her Clarksburg home.
The results were colorful see-through soaps with small balls, dinosaurs and creepy crawlers suspended inside.
Peeler's children loved the soaps and a business was born -- Willow Farm Soaps.
Peeler began reading about soap-making, experimenting with color and fragrance combinations and creating her own molds for shapes.
"I make soaps because it's fun and I can be creative and artistic," Peeler said.
Using commercially available vegetable glycerin soap bases, Peeler has created soaps with a variety of themes -- from children's soaps with plastic duckies that squirt water to a highball glass filled with ice-cubed shaped soaps.
"My kids give me ideas and coach me," Peeler said.
One of her personal favorites is a clear soap shaped like a bag and tied with a ribbon with two small plastic goldfish swimming inside. The bag of goldfish soap looks just like a bag of goldfish children win at carnivals.
For a Poolesville Elementary School fund-raiser, Peeler put paw prints into an orange paw-shaped soap for the Poolesville Tigers.
The soaps were a big hit and the student government sold all 200, said Carolyn Smith, the student government advisor.
Smith liked Peeler's soaps so much she ordered soaps as gifts for her bridesmaids. Members of the wedding party received purple soap teapots with purple silk flowers floating inside. Smith's cousin then ordered soap teapots to give as favors at her own tea party bridal shower.
Peeler is open to suggestions and special orders.
"I always wanted to have my own business and a job that let me stay at home," Peeler said.
Peeler, 41, worked in finance at IBM for 10 years before retiring to be a stay-at-home mother to Samantha, 10, Aly, 7, and Kara, 22 months. Her husband, John Peeler, is CEO of Acterna.
She likes being able to make soap in the basement while her children play in a nearby basement playroom. She also likes to make all the soaps herself (a two-day process) so she does not expect the business to grow beyond what she can do on her own.
Peeler sells her soaps at craft shows and bazaars and by special order. She plans to set up a table at the Damascus Community Fair. In her first year, with limited marketing, Peeler sold 800 soaps.
"I would love to be a million-dollar business," she said. "My goal is to keep growing [the business] so by the time the youngest is in school I can be really busy with it."
This month she put her products online on a Web site she bought at the spring Clarksburg Elementary School auction, www.willowfarmsoaps.com. The soaps sell for $3 to $7.