A lot of us are careful about the types of product we use on our bodies and are concerned about what we use on our skin. So, we think a lot before we buy and try to learn all we can about a product prior to using it. Some of us are more careful than others – spending hours looking up ingredients and researching possible effects of these ingredients. One of those people is Erin Fenison. With sensitive skin and a deep care for what she uses when it comes to cosmetics and hygiene products, Erin was driven to create her own soaps.

Erin finds the experience of soap making enriching and fun. Photo courtesy: Erin Fenison

Born in Portland and raised in Gresham, Erin found herself in Cannon Beach in 1998 after her sister told her of a job opening. Although she got married and moved away, Erin and her husband moved back to Cannon Beach just four short years later.

She worked various hospitality positions and returned to school in 2012 at Clatsop Community College. For Erin, CCC was a positive experience and she left with new knowledge she would use in the future. She credits three people as being a positive influence while at the community college, Kristin Shauck, Denise Russell, and Tommie Redwine. All three being both instructors and influential mentors.

After her time at CCC, Erin worked for Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters in Cannon Beach. “I have learned a lot from them,” says Erin. “They are very small, really good at customer service and care about people”.

A Fresh Business

A while back, a friend of Erin’s had showed her an app that scans all make-up products. The app shows the toxic level in the cosmetics. Erin was shocked and ended up throwing about half the cosmetics away. “People don’t realize that everything they put on their skin. All the cosmetics that they use, the toxins in the cosmetics soak up through the skin and enter their body!” That really woke Erin up and she became more cautious of what she used on her sensitive skin.

Cannon Beach Soap Company Coffee Soap
Erin uses her creative and artistic skills in all her soaps including this coffee soap with a heart inside. Photo credit: Cannon Beach Soap Company

While at CCC, Erin took a lot of art classes and some business classes. The combination of the two opposite subjects actually benefited her, she says. In her opinion, all artists should take some sort of business class. In many ways, an artist becomes an entrepreneur and is required to run their own business. Erin has taken her artist and creative skills, along with the business acumen she learned in school and at Sleepy Monk, to start her own venture.

In 2016, Erin decided to start making her own soap for herself. Erin harvests locally grown and natural products including dandelions, seawater, sea kelp and coffee from Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters, and turns them into amazing products. Her first try was coffee soap. “It wasn’t beautiful,” she says. “It looked like mud but it worked great!”

She continued to experiment and tried different things. She used any sources she could find and used all the information on making soap at home. “It’s really easy,” she adds.

Cannon Beach Soap Company Dandelion Soap
Erin shows pride in her all her products and puts a hands-on effort in everything she makes. Photo credit: Cristine Swett

Soon she started sharing the soap with family and friends. After about a year in July of last year, her friends and family convinced her to start selling the soap. Cannon Beach Soap Company was born.

She admits not all products are local, but they are all real ingredients. One of the most intriguing soap products she produced, to me, would be bacon soap.

I asked her what her biggest challenge was. “So many options,” she answers. “Picking and choosing what to use and combine, but keeping the product healthy while keeping the art of soap making.”

In addition, time is a challenge for Erin, which came as no surprise. She works full time, has two kids, and she’s running a business. “I would work 10 hour shifts, come home, cook dinner and make soap,” Erin explains.

Cannon Beach Soap Company Family harvesting
Erin doesn’t just harvest the real ingredients herself, family members like her daughter help. Photo credit: Erin Fenison

It doesn’t stop with soaps. Cannon Beach Soap Company produces a list of items including body butters, bath bombs, scrubs, lotions and bath salts. One thing to really watch for is the limited time offers and seasonal products. One most recently was the Valentine’s Day Sweethearts soaps.

When asking Erin at what point did she feel successful, she replies with “When other people enjoy the products. Some people didn’t know it was me making it.” She laughs and explains how her neighbor didn’t even know it was her making the soap. But if you follow the company’s Facebook page and Instagram you can see that she’s fully involved in making the products. Various videos and photos show Erin making the soap, using it, cutting and packaging it. She also shows the ingredients. Her most recent photo shows her harvest of both sea kelp and seaweed, but my favorite story is when she was harvesting dandelions. “We would be driving along and I’d see a field of dandelions. I’d stop and make everyone get out for picking dandelions!”

Cannon Beach Soap Company Seaberry Soap
Erin mixes, makes, cuts, shapes, and packages all her soaps herself and inside her home. Photo credit: Cannon Beach Soap Company

So where can you get this fabulous soap? You can find Erin’s soap on the Cannon Beach Soap Company website and at the following locations:

Cannon Beach: Found, Flair, Fresh Foods, and Basketcase (coming soon)
Seaside: Dough Dough Bakery & Fermentation Station and Healthy Hub.
Astoria: Vintage Hardware
Gearheart: Romancing the Home

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