Minal Mehta used to spend hours in craft stores.
"I love all things Michael's," she said. But, "after a while, I noticed that my hobbies were collecting clutter."
That's when she decided to start Favors by Mima, an eco-friendly soap business that ships all over the world. Mehta will attempt to create every design that her customers request, from R2D2 to the Star of David.
A native of Los Angeles, Mehta moved to Cupertino in July, and she calls her kitchen her "soap factory." Mehta began experimenting with soap ten years ago at her mother's suggestion, but she didn't turn it into a business until 2009. Demand was high then, perhaps after her friends saw action figure soaps in her sons' birthday goody-bags.
"The boys would come home from birthday parties with bags of plastic junk... it's not good for the environment, it's not good for me, it's not good for them," she said. Soap-making, she said, is her "no-waste hobby."
She's even figured out a way to incentivize good hygiene for rambunctious kids by embedding small toys into the soap so they can't get to them until all the soap has been used.
The soaps cost between $2 and $7, with up to $5 in shipping charges. And get this: The soaps aren't packaged with foam peanuts, but with real, fresh popcorn.
As a vegetarian, Mehta said it was important that the soaps not contain any animal by-products. She also doesn't use harsh fragrances in her soap, instead using essential oils she gets from India— the only ingredient that isn't made in the U.S., she notes. Initially, she didn't use any fragrances because of her son's eczema, and she still honors requests for fragrance-free soaps.
The method of soap-making Mehta uses is called "melt and pour," meaning there's no potentially hazardous chemical reaction for her children to accidentally get their hands on.
Mehta is always looking for creative designs to try out and looks forward to extending her business to including classes for children and adults.
"It's limitless," she said. "You can really do anything with it."