Metro-East News

Local woman started making soap because of her grandmother — and ‘Fight Club’

Inspired by 'Fight Club,' this bubbly soapmaker goes beyond 'church lady soap'

Soaps McGotes owner Monica Moore, of Mascoutah, sells handcrafted soaps that she made from her own recipe. Though Moore was inspired to make soap after watching the movie "Fight Club," she is also inspired by her grandmother, who told stories abou
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Soaps McGotes owner Monica Moore, of Mascoutah, sells handcrafted soaps that she made from her own recipe. Though Moore was inspired to make soap after watching the movie "Fight Club," she is also inspired by her grandmother, who told stories abou

With a name like Soaps McGotes, Monica Moore is hoping people don’t soon forget her business.

Her handmade soaps have memorable names, too, like Mid Life Crisis, which smells like the leather interior of a new car.

She takes inspiration from popular culture. There are soaps she calls Nasty Woman and Bad Hombre — phrases that came out of the final presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Nasty Woman smells like vanilla and champagne. Bad Hombre has a sandalwood scent.

Monica, 37, has trouble picking a favorite from the soaps she’s created.

“I actually have kind of an emotional attachment to the soaps that I make,” she said. “The only reason I make soap in the first place is because of my grandmother.

“When I was growing up, she was always talking about how her mom and grandmother would make their own soap out in the yard over a fire, and that’s what they used to wash their clothes and do everything with.”

Her grandmother never actually taught her how to make soap, but she did pass on the main ingredients. “My grandmother said, ‘You need lard, and you need lye, and you mix it together.’ And that’s really all I knew about it,” Monica said.

Then one night in 2009, Monica and her husband Nate were watching the movie “Fight Club.” (For those who are unfamiliar, one of the characters is a soapmaker.)

“I looked at my husband, and I said, ‘I can do that.’ And that’s how I did it,” Monica said. “That’s how it all started.”

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Soaps McGotes owner Monica Moore, of Mascoutah, mixes up a loaf of soap in her kitchen. Though Moore has been making soaps for a while, Soaps McGotes didn’t actually become a business until about 2014. When Moore first started selling her soaps, she made enough money to travel to be with her husband for their anniversary in South Korea, where her husband was stationed at the time. Julian Lim jlim@mcclatchy.com

She found a simple recipe and started making soap out of her home, where she lives with Nate and her two sons — Drew, 18, and Brad, 17.

That was around the same time Nate, who is on active duty in the Air Force, was leaving for a yearlong assignment on a different continent.

“That was the hobby that I did while he was gone,” Monica said. “I would sell it here and there and made enough money to go to South Korea, to Seoul, to visit with him for our anniversary and then come back home.”

Monica said she wanted to develop her own recipe with ingredients that are gentle on skin before officially making it a business. And she did — about five years after getting the nudge she needed from “Fight Club.”

Since then, one of the products that she’s most proud of is a soap called Dave’s Not Here, Man, a reference to a Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong comedy routine that reminds Monica of her dad and life back in Tennessee where she grew up.

“Even though he was a minister, he snuck me in to listen to stuff like Cheech & Chong and George Carlin,” Monica said. “He was a really progressive Southern Baptist minister.”

Cheech & Chong comedy routines and films were based on hippie culture. Dave’s Not Here, Man is a floral soap that also smells a bit like cannabis.

“That might be my biggest stroke of genius, to me,” Monica said.

While the names for many of her soaps are meant to be silly, there’s one that has more meaning for Monica because it’s named for her longtime friend’s favorite song.

“He had a lot of health issues, and he passed away a few months back,” she said. “He was a big fan of Pearl Jam. He was always quoting the song ‘Yellow Ledbetter,’ and back in the day, we enjoyed quite a bit of rum together, so I did a bay rum fragrance soap, and it’s called Yellow Ledbetter. I made that for him.”

Monica says she feels like she’s found her calling in soap making.

I’ve always been kind of silly, and I was a drama kid in high school, so I thought I would kind of put that into my products.

Monica Moore, soap-maker and Soaps McGotes owner

“I think a lot of people know what they wanna do when they grow up,” Monica said. “I graduated high school and had my first son when I was 19 and had my second son at 20. And then I went to college. I was in a bad marriage, and I really wanted to get out, so I said, ‘I’m really independent; I’m gonna go to nursing school and be a nurse because that’s a good career to make money so I can raise my kids.’”

“Nursing’s great, and it has paid a lot of bills for me. But I’m a very creative person, and I need my outlets,” she added. “Then I started this up, and it’s like, ‘This is what I wanna do when I grow up.’ So I’m working toward it slowly so I can just do this.”

Soaps McGotes offers handmade soap, as well as bath bombs, bath salts, lotion and lip balm.

She’s moving toward more vegan and cruelty-free ingredients for her products, which is important to her because she’s an animal lover. She shares her home with a growing number of pets, including 14 snakes, three cats and two dogs.

Monica sells her products online at soapsmcgotes.com, at local fairs and festivals, as well as Mascoutah Farmers Market. Customers can stay up-to-date and communicate with Monica directly on social media. (She says sometimes her business’ Facebook page is updated with new products before the website.)

The Moore family renovated their sun room, an enclosed porch, last year to make a store out of their Mascoutah home, which gives people a chance to smell the soaps and a place to pick up their orders.

Monica sat down with the News-Democrat to talk more about her soap making hobby-turned-business:

Q: Where did your name, Soaps McGotes, come from?

A: “I heard a kid say ‘Totes McGotes’ one time, and I took it and ran with it. Nobody’s gonna to forget that name. So whenever I run out of business cards, I tell people, ‘Just remember: Soaps McGotes. Just go find it on Facebook or Google it.’ That actually works.

“People come to me at festivals and stuff like that, and they’re like, ‘Well, with a name like that, I kind of have to buy something from you.’ Then, they start looking at some of my other soap names. Oh my gosh. People come and take pictures of it. ‘I’ve gotta show this to my mom’ or ‘I’m gonna buy this just because you called it that.’ I’ve always been kind of silly, and I was a drama kid in high school, so I thought I would kind of put that into my products.”

Q: What’s an example of one of those soap names that everybody loves?

A: “I don’t have it now because it’s a fall soap, but I would say my most popular soap is called White Girl in Autumn. It smells like cinnamon and pumpkin spice. And it’s actually made with pumpkin.

“... I actually have a pumpkin spice latte soap called Basic — actually it’s called #Basic. That’s my most popular one right now. I have a lemon soap called Mother Pucker, and a lot of people like that one, too. But White Girl in Autumn, I think, is probably the one people go for.”

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Soaps McGotes owner Monica Moore says that #Basic is one of her more popular soaps. Moore says that sometimes she knows the name before knowing the ingredients that she wants to feature in the soap. Other times, it’s based on the songs she’s listening to while she’s making the soaps. Julian Lim jlim@mcclatchy.com

Q: Are there any plans to add more products in the future?

A: “Yes, I have it made, and I just need to label it and introduce it, but I am doing a deodorant. And it’s not in a stick. It’s actually, you get a little out and warm it up in your hands and put it on your underarms. It works all day. It’s so hard to find a cruelty-free, non-toxic deodorant that actually works. And I think I’ve done that. I have stinky teenage boys, and they were my test audience. After some trial and error with them, they said, ‘Hey, it works.’

“... I’m actually doing some room and body sprays. Those are about to be coming out as well.”

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes

Soaps McGotes

  • Owner: Monica Moore
  • Products: Handmade soap, bath bombs, bath salts, shaving soap, lotion, lip balm
  • Cost range: About $5-$14, plus $7 for shipping if purchased online
  • Social media: Facebook.com/soapsmcgotes
  • Website: soapsmcgotes.com
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