GOSHEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Sometimes a rich business idea sneaks up behind you in a goat shed, nibbling at your pant cuffs. That’s what happened with Regina and Steve Bauscher of Goshen, makers of award-winning soaps and other goat-milk skin-care products.
You may have seen the Bauschers at farmers markets in the area — along with some of their baby goats lounging in a pen next to the vendors’ display of the products of Honey Sweetie Acres.
Sometimes Steve Bauscher would be holding one of the kids in his arms, like a puppy. Often, human children, and the occasional adult, would stop to pat them.
Founded in 2011, the company now has grown to the point where the Bauschers no longer rent space at farmers markets, selling instead at larger events and to stores and online. Last year, Honey Sweetie won best of show for a soap and a first-place award for one of their lotions in the American Dairy Goat Association’s national competition for skin-care products.
According to Honey Sweetie’s website, their mission is “to bring natural, healthy, sustainable skin-care products to those who need them.”
Goat’s milk is said to be good for skin because it contains a lot of vitamin A, as well as selenium and lactic acid — skin-health boosters — and the cream is a natural moisturizer.
But the couple didn’t originally set out to make soap, Regina Bauscher said. It all started with the goats.
Bauscher and her husband retired from careers in chemistry and high-end carpentry, respectively, and they decided to move from Madeira to Goshen. Both grew up on farms — she in Kentucky, he in Milford — and missed a rural lifestyle. It is a second marriage for both. Initially, they bought goats for milk and cheese for themselves. And because they loved goats.
“They’re such friendly creatures — very, very smart, funny, even affectionate,” Bauscher said. “We love our dogs, but I think if we could, we’d have goats in the house.” (She clarified that they do sometimes have baby goats indoors.)
They picked Nigerian dwarf goats for three reasons, Bauscher said: “The Nigerian dwarf was known for extremely high butterfat, and I wanted to make some cheese.”
The other reasons were flavor -- “We just really liked the taste of the Nigerian milk” -- and hissy fits: “The size of the animal was also a plus,” Bauscher said. “I wanted an animal that if I had a disagreement with (it), I could win. Because they (Nigerian dwarfs) only come up to your knees, I could win that fight. Full-size dairy goats can be 140 pounds, and they’re basically gonna win.”
So they started breeding Nigerian dwarfs, drinking the milk and making a basic cheese. Because there was a surplus of milk, Bauscher said, she decided casually to make some soap. Her husband had a chronic skin condition, which had not been eased with prescription medications, and she thought goat’s milk soap might help.
“He’d been to dermatologists for well over two years, and he’d taken medicines. He’d taken steroids. And nothing would help it. It was primarily on his hands, and he would peel and crack and there was discoloration, and it would be painful. I don’t know what name they gave it. I believe it was probably fungal in origin. … It would go into remission, but it would never (completely) go away.
“We had made the soap and we’d been using it probably about a month, and my husband came to me and showed me his hands, and they were virtually healed. It was the only thing he’d been doing other than drinking goat milk — so he does wonder also if maybe that had an effect — but his hands were virtually healed.”
They started sharing the soap with family and friends, some of whom had dry skin or eczema, “And they all came back to us and said 'Wow, what a difference it made,' ” Bauscher said.
“So we started thinking, well, maybe this is something we could do in retirement together, and I started looking into it deeper. I have a background in chemistry. … So I had more than a rudimentary understanding of what it takes to make a good soap.” Specifically, she said, she understands “fatty acids and pH and specific gravities and densities, and those are things that are important to know in soap-making — not necessarily required, but it does help you in formulation.
“In the early part of my career, I worked in laboratories at a refinery of all places,” — Ashland Oil in Catlettsburg, Kentucky.
The couple spent about a year experimenting with recipes, using only organic coconut oil, olive oil and shea butter. They became certified soap makers and aromatherapists. And they began building their herd.
“We’ve got about 25 (goats now),” Bauscher said. “That’s going to go up to probably 40 or better once all the kids hit the ground. (The mothers are) going to start delivering the first part of March, and run all the way through May.”
“Right now, virtually all our girls are pregnant. We may have one or two that isn’t confirmed yet, but you generally want them to start kidding this time of the year into the summer.”
The herd includes a couple of Saanen goats, which they use for milk for the family only.
Once the kids are about two weeks old, said Bauscher — who is a mother of three grown human kids and stepmother of three more (Steve Bauscher’s children) — they take them from their mothers and start to bottlefeed them — all 15 or so of them — filling the bottles with milk from the does.
“We look for good babies every year to keep, and then we sell other babies for pets or for show animals,” Bauscher said.
Bauscher said the reason they brought the kids to the farmers markets was “to help people understand that the milk that we use is real milk from real goats. And we actually do farm this.”
Not to mention, the kids are good company.