BERKLEY, Mich. - Amy McIntire has found her passion in making goat's milk soap.
What started as just a hobby for McIntire has completely changed her career path. She first started getting goats milk from a farm in Brightmoor to make ice cream for her daughter, then she and her husband had the idea to try making soap.
"We taught ourselves," McIntire said. "We first started with a recipe off the Internet and we bought a book and we did test batches in milk cartons and tried it on ourselves first, and then when we were fine we started sending it to friends and family and asking for honest feedback."
They started small, but after their first batches were successful, McIntire and her husband decided to start a full-fledged business, which she calls City Girls Soap.
"We literally sat there and said someday we want to work together," said McIntire. "We want to have a business together."
So a month ago, McIntire quit her job as a financial bookkeeper, a career she'd held for 20 years, in order to make the soap full time. She works with Knucklehead Farms in the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit where the goats are kept, and makes the soap in her own basement in Berkley.
"Detroit has a lot of green space and a lot of social capital, and a lot of knowledge. This could very much become an economic opportunity for many, many people in the city," said Riet Schumack, the farm's owner.
McIntire enjoys visiting the farm, "It is just my little break in the country once a week without being in the country."
What drew McIntire to the farm was the goats themselves. Their milk, she says, is filled with enzymes that are good for the skin. "There is something about milk, " McIntire said. "It was just a natural progression from where we were and when we did research and found out that the fats, the alpha-hydroxys, the vitamins, all goes into your skin."
The process of making the soap from the goats' milk is very involved. It starts with five main ingredients, including a combination of palm and coconut oil, and of course, the goat's milk.
McIntire then adds different essential oils, everything from lavender to honey oat, to give the soap different pleasant aromas. From that point, timing is crucial: McIntire must be precise about the time she takes to blend the ingredients, the amount of time spent stirring them together, and finally allowing time for the soap to sit before cutting it into bars and packaging it.
In total, it takes six weeks from start to finish to produce a batch of soap. At four batches, or 128 bars a day, McIntire stays busy.
She produces that much soap because demand is constantly increasing. She already sells City Girls Soap in seven local stores like Catching Fireflies in Berkley, and just recently, the soap has been picked up by the new Whole Foods Market in Detroit.
The name of the product -- City Girls -- was inspired by the goats themselves, said McIntire. "Goats are referred to as girls, the does, and because there are two of them, it's plural and then they live in the city. So we came up with City Girls Soap," she said.
And these 'girls' are doing their part to help local Detroit businesses. The hay that they are fed is grown in Detroit, and then the products from their milk are sold locally.
McIntire hopes to continue to give back to her local communities by expanding her business to produce laundry soap as well.
"We are running a business in Berkley, Michigan and we are in our own way giving back to our community [In Brightmoor]," said McIntire. "So we are getting two communities at the same time."
This new career path has allowed McIntire to do something she is passionate about, and it also allows her to spend more time with her family. "Nobody is getting put on the back burner to answer e-mails. I think there are more dinners on the table," she said.
For more information on City Girls Soap, click here.