Updated: Jan 26
At Greater Fergus Falls, we love highlighting the people, businesses, and places that make Fergus Falls special. With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we thought it would be a great time to share a local business run by a mother/daughter duo, Pure Joy Farms. Established by 14-year-old Ahlea Mouser and her mom, Katrina, Pure Joy Farms makes and sells soap using sheep milk from their very own flock. Keep reading to find out more about the family business!
The Mouser family relocated to Fergus Falls back in 2008, when they purchased an old farm about seven miles southeast of town. They spent several years fixing up the house and barn before they began farming in 2015. The operation includes raising and selling pigs and sheep, as well as pork and lamb meat products.
It wasn’t until just last year that the notion to make and sell soap came to be. The idea was sparked when one of the Mouser’s ewes abandoned her newborn lamb. To save the lamb’s life, the family had to milk the ewe for her colostrum, or “first milk”, which is rich in antibodies essential to the newborn lamb’s health.
Though the lamb was transitioned to milk replacer after a few days, Ahlea continued to milk the mom and began experimenting with making soap from the sheep milk. Her very first batch of soap sold out in just one day. Since then, a handful of local businesses have asked to carry the soap in their stores. Ahlea and her mom have also opened an Etsy store, which allows them to ship their product to people all over the country. In her first year of business, Ahlea sold over 400 bars of soap. Her goal for 2020 is to double that number.
So, what makes the soap so special? The sheep’s milk, of course! Sheep milk is all-natural and gentle on your skin. Adding it to the soap creates a beautiful lather that naturally moisturizes. The duo also sells felted bars of soap that are wrapped with wool from the sheep. The addition of the wool acts as a gentle exfoliant and helps to extend the lifespan of the soap.
While the soap making business has been successful, there have definitely been some challenges along the way. For one thing, all of the milk is collected during one part of the year after the lambing season ends in April and May. “We have to forecast how much milk to save and freeze, knowing that we won’t have another opportunity to collect milk until the next spring,” Katrina explains.
Without a benchmark to go on last year, Katrina and Ahlea underestimated how much inventory they would need during the holiday season. But, they took the mishap for the learning experience it was and have a plan to build up their inventory this fall.
For parents whose children have similar ideas or goals like Ahlea’s, Katrina has a few words of wisdom: “Let your child run with their ideas, even if it is brand-new territory. Giving them ownership of a project sets them up for independence and the ability to persevere.” Helping them work through their ideas teaches them valuable life skills they can use now and in the future.
She goes on to say, “It was 100% Ahlea’s idea to try making soap … She bought her supplies from me on loan and had to pay back her debt before she started turning a profit. It was hard for her to start her business ‘in the hole,’ but I also knew it was the best way for her to experience what it feels like when you start to move in a positive direction.”
When asked what her favorite part of the experience has been so far, Ahlea says, “I love spending time with our sheep, and I like that they provide us with a usable product. I also enjoy experimenting with new soap recipes, adding exfoliants and colorants.” For Katrina, it’s spending time with and watching her daughter grow. “I love how our animals have given our daughter an opportunity to work hard, set goals, be creative, and manage a business at such a young age … There is some downtime during the soap making process, so it’s given us time to talk about whatever is on her mind that day.”
We hope you enjoyed getting to know more about Katrina and Ahlea, and we can’t wait to share more about other businesses in our community in the future! If you’d like to learn more about Pure Joy Farms, visit their website, Etsy shop, or find them on Instagram. Happy Mother’s Day from Greater Fergus Falls!
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