Inot 2013, former firefighter Brad Kellum and his then girlfriend Jennifer Ziemianin Kellum founded the herbal soap company Buff City Soap. Since then, the couple – now married – have expanded to locations in 11 states, including Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia.
Buff City Soap’s Hermitage location is celebrating a year of serving residents with handmade natural soap, and employees are happy with how business has gone. “It’s great,” says general manager Emma Lorenz. “It’s been the fastest year of my life, absolutely phenomenal. It doesn’t feel like a year has passed. We’re super busy.
The idea of creating plant-based soap came to Kellum after reading about what was in the soap he used daily.
“I had recently tried a homemade soap, and the experience was so different from the grocery store soaps I had used all my life,” Kellum told the Stage by email. “That motivated me to research soap. I discovered that most soaps were made from cow’s fat (literally), and I started experimenting with plant-based recipes in my garage in Memphis.
Before going nationwide, Kellum started by selling his product to his neighbors. After seeing their reaction, he expanded.
“I made soaps at home and sold them to [Nashville School of Law, where I attended] while my girlfriend Jennifer was going to farmers markets in Memphis,” he says.
Kellum took its products online and in 2014 opened its first physical store. In Buff City Soap’s first year, he says, the company made $75,000 in sales. Overall, Kellum says the company has made more than $20 million in sales and opened more than 200 stores nationwide. Kellum and his wife remain shareholders of Buff City Soap, but are no longer active in day-to-day business.
Buff City Soap Brand Specialist Paige Ross thinks customers gravitate to their products for a number of reasons. “First, it’s healthier for you and safer for the environment,” she says. “Second, I think there’s such a need for healthier products right now, and with COVID, self-care.”
Buff City not only specializes in herbal soaps, but also bath bombs, whipped body butter, lotion sticks, Epsom salts, and laundry detergent. Customers can also create a fragrance by combining multiple scents. According to Ross, the top-selling product is laundry detergent, and that’s because of the blend it’s made of. “It contains three ingredients,” she says. “Coconut oil, citric acid, washing powder. We don’t use harsh chemicals or detergents, so people with allergies and sensitivities can use our products.
Ross also says that customers have noticed a change in their skin’s hydration after using the herbal products. She hopes that by the second anniversary of the Hermitage location, more residents will come and try the products.
Since launching Buff City Soap, Kellum and his wife have grown as a business owners and launched another brand.
“Buff has grown so quickly that we’ve taken on partners to help us navigate 2019,” says Kellum. “Today, Jen and I live in Colorado and work on our new business, Bad Boy Boards, where we make cutting boards, charcuterie boards, chess boards, and more from available, renewable hardwoods. found here. Watch for our website coming soon.