For 15 years, Stephanie Falsetta commuted an hour and 45 minutes each way by bus from her home in Middletown, New York, to her job in Manhattan as a legal administration manager for the famed auction house Christie’s.
At home, the married mom was raising three young children. Falsetta was also growing a passion for creating different types of soaps using goat’s milk. She perfected original recipes by taking classes and lots of trial and error, an endeavor prompted by her mother’s love of goats milk soap and inability to find a good product.
“It’s very moisturizing,” says Falsetta’s mother, Marianne Markey, 69. “When she started making it I was thrilled.”
Falsetta called her burgeoning business Goats in a Coat. By the end of December 2014, with demand growing from her mother’s wide circle of friends and sales at local orchards, Falsetta decided to take the leap. She quit her job at Christie’s and become a goat soap maker full-time.
“It was the hardest thing to quit my job,” says Falsetta, 44. “My mom is super important to me and she tells it to me straight all the time. I told her, ‘I am thinking of quitting my job’ and she shocked me and said, ‘You should follow your bliss.'”
Almost five years later, Falsetta’s passion has developed into a successful business. Her company offers 32 varieties of goats milk soap bars and lotions, which she makes with help from her mom, 7-year-old daughter, Samantha, and a few part-time employees at a manufacturing facility at Touro College’s accelerator program in Middletown. She charges $6 for a bar and $10 per lotion, which come both scented and unscented.
Over 15,000 soaps and lotions, and 6,000 soy candles a year are now sold through the Goats in a Coat website and a dozen orchards in New York. For Angry Orchard, Falsetta has created a unique line that includes using their ciders.
“It’s a constant for me,” says Falsetta. “And I am constantly testing things out. Sometimes I come up with crazy ideas and it just won’t work. Business is booming, at times it’s hard to keep up with the demand.”
The goats milk comes from a local farm, and is added to Falsetta’s original recipes. The soaps involve working with lye, and differing amounts of oils and butters. “One makes it creamier, one makes it more bubbly,” she says. “There are so many things that go into it.”
Says Markey: “I am very proud of her. I am proud she stuck with it, it’s a good product.”
Falsetta cherishes the community of fellow soapers she’s met from around the country, and is on the board of directors of the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild, a non-profit trade association. There group estimates there are some 360,000 soap makers in the United States, she says.
Growing up in Queens, Falsetta never had dreams of becoming a soap maker. After earning her secretarial degree, she worked at a large law firm before landing her job at Christie’s about 20 years ago.
“It was the hardest thing to quit my job, it was my life,” Falsetta says. “That was how I was known, that I worked at Christie’s. Now it’s so nice to work for myself and I don’t even think twice when I tell people I am a soaper. It’s been an amazing journey.”