Vendor Spotlight: Sapo de Solis

Chuck Middaugh was setting up his booth for the ERMC Farmers Market on a bright sunny afternoon when I met him. He was busily stretching a large cloth sign that read Sapo De Solis in tall letters between two poles of his market tent, and arranging dozens of fragrant products on wooden stands and crates. Mason jars tied off with brown twine, cleaning products displayed in minimalist packaging, and chunks of marbled soap wrapped in cellophane made the space look organized and ready for business. While Chuck continued to prepare before the market officially opened, I had the chance to ask him a few questions about Sapo de Solis, the small business he and his husband run making and selling natural care and cleaning products.

“It all started with laundry detergent,” Chuck tells me, referring to the company’s signature Miracle Whip Laundry Detergent. “We noticed all of the chemicals in our laundry detergent and wanted to find another alternative. After making that, we tried other products and started making shampoo to give away as gifts. Eventually, we started working on products like the natural Castile soap.”

All of Sapo de Solis’ products (including the incredibly versatile Castile soap which can be used for anything from washing fruits and veggies to scrubbing kitchen counters) are plant based and contain no animal products. Sapo de Solis’ creations are also made without any detergents—an ingredient common in many store-bought products that can strip your skin of its natural oils.

“Our products are different from the ones at the store because they’re actually soap!” laughs Middaugh. “There’s no detergent, no alcohol, and no parabens so the products are healthier for you and more moisturizing. Plus, it’s cheaper!”

Strolling around the light, airy booth checking out the wide variety of Sapo de Solis’ natural products, it’s clear a lot of hard work and creativity went into each one. Chuck tells me that some products are easier to make than others, while some pose a unique challenge.

“The lotions are something that’s an accomplishment for me, and something I’m particularly proud of. They were the most difficult to get right, and took some time. They’re coconut oil and beeswax based,” he explains.

In addition to local farmers markets, Sapo de Solis has other venues for selling their products, including an Etsy shop and a website. However, those avenues can become expensive and frustrating for small business owners. Plus, Chuck says, he loves coming to sell at markets like the one held every Wednesday at ERMC because he gets to communicate with customers and find out firsthand what they think of the products.

“I love getting direct feedback from customers,” Chuck says. “I really prefer selling face to face because I get to interact with them and talk about what they think.”

Moving forward, Middaugh says he wants to focus on growing Sapo de Solis’ brand recognition, as well as investing in reusable and renewable practices for the business. The company already makes many efforts to reduce their carbon footprint through simple choices like using paper instead of plastic and packaging products in reusable containers. In the future, he plans to make the business even more eco-friendly by investing in reusable tote bags printed with the brand’s logo that every customer will receive with their purchase.

Finally, I ask Chuck what the story is behind the name of the company, and how it came to be. He smiles and says, “We wanted something that people would want to ask about! We stumbled across it when we were trying to figure out what to call the shop. It means ‘soap of the sun’ in Italian.”

You can find Sapo de Solis in the parking lot of Eaton Rapids Medical Center every Wednesday during the Farmers Market from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. all summer long.

Article posted on June 14th 2018.