Wednesday , June 11, 2014 - 11:28 AM
EDEN -- Years ago, Athena Steadman led a high-stress working life, engaged with the duties of an assistant food and beverage manager at Snowbasin Resort. But when the Liberty resident was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that effects the spinal chord and brain, she decided to make some major life changes. This wake-up call inspired her to pay closer attention to the ingredients of the foods she put in her body.
“We ate a lot of prepackaged-type food and a lot of convenient foods because we were always going, going, going,” Steadman said. “So it made me realize that I needed to start cooking from scratch. Once I started making more from scratch and not using all of the prepackaged, convenient meals, I started feeling a lot better.”
After quitting her demanding job, Steadman found herself with more time to care for her body, but also to pursue other passions. It was then her husband suggested she begin caring for goats. Steadman agreed with the thought of making cheese. But after learning of the hefty U.S. Food and Drug Administration cheese-making regulations she turned away from the idea. It was then that a new passion was born.
“At that point, I started looking at the ingredients on my skin care products and I thought, ‘I’m sure I can do this,’” she said.
Using the milk from her goats, Steadman formulated a simple recipe for an all-natural soap. Through research, she found ingredients that worked to sooth her dry and sensitive skin. Eventually, with an entrepreneurial spirit and her home kitchen as a laboratory, she decided to take her product to the public.
“I felt like the product was good enough, and I had a lot of people who really liked it, so I just decided that if I was going to be spending so much effort and time into it, I needed to focus it on at least paying for itself, she said. ”So, it started out just trying to pay for itself and it went from there.”
Steadman started by selling her product from the basement of her home, making it available at select retailers. Five years later, she has opened the Simply Eden storefront in Eden, Utah, where she supplies her entire line of natural skin care, including the original soap as well as lotions, balms, bath salts, body mousses, essential oils and scrubs, all formulated from the milk of her goats.
Simply Eden soaps are made using a cold process, meaning the ingredients are not cooked. Steadman said some companies use a hot process, which speeds up the cooking time. But, because she uses fresh goat’s milk, which would caramelize and brown with heat, the cold process allows her to be more creative. The process includes the mixing of lye, milk and the oils of her choice, along with other specialized ingredients particular to each soap.
“...I mix them together with a stick blender or whisk and then pour it,” she said. “I let it sit overnight and then usually the next day, or in two days, I un-mold it, cut it, and then it goes downstairs to cure for four weeks. That way it’s fully cured; it gives it a chance to harden and make it a harder bar of soap.”
Although she has tweaked the process countless times Steadman still swears by her founding principal.
“It’s about knowledge of ingredients, and that’s one of the things I love to do; I love to research ingredients,” she said. “I do a lot of research on the back-end before I use anything in my product because I want to see where it comes from and how it’s made.”
Steadman said the Simply Eden line is natural, but she does not encourage everyone to abandon skin care products that are not.
“’All natural,’ to me, is a very broad term,” she said. “Everybody has their own idea of ’all natural.’ I try and do things as natural as possible, but I do know that, there’s a lot of also beneficial products that are nontoxic and safe. So I try to do a combination of that.”
Her use of preservatives are an example of this combination; Steadman said she has to use them, especially in the lotions, to avoid the growth of mold and staff and other harmful bacteria.
When asked if using natural ingredients is superior to unnatural ingredients, Steadman said there is no right or wrong answer. She believes that taking allergies and skin type into consideration is very important.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s about natural versus not,” she said. “You have to know your ingredients and know what bothers your skin. If you have a problem with a product, it’s not that you actually have a problem with a the product, but a problem with an ingredient in the product.”
Steadman said she will continue to formulate her products for herself, and for her customers; it isn't about what is the most natural.
“It’s all in what that customer wants,” she said. “We used Dove before I started doing this, and they do have a good product. But, for me, as I started looking into different things, I decided that wasn’t I wanted, and that’s not what my customer wants. I listen to what my customers want...A lot of people find one thing that works for them and they stick with it.”
Steadman’s shop also carries other locally made goods as well as products made in the U.S. that benefit a spectrum of causes. She hopes to one day create products to do the same.
“At some point, one of my goals is to make an MS bar and have proceeds go towards the MS Society,” she said. “That’s been a thought process, it’s just getting organized enough to do it.”
And, to those who carry an entrepreneurial spirit, but aren't sure where to start, she gives this advice: believe in your product and stay the course.
“Especially in Utah, right now is a great time, especially for women,” Steadman said. “Utah is very supportive of local businesses and there are a lot of options out there for local Utah businesses to flourish and blossom. So, make a product you believe in, make sure you have a unique product and just go for it.”
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