Dubuque student showcases soap business at summit

When Taylor Hilkin started milking goats at her uncle’s farm, she loved caring for the animals, but she was too short to do the job effectively.

So, the 13-year-old Dubuque resident decided to start smaller — by purchasing her own dairy goat, Fern.

The goat’s former owner had called her “the crazy goat” because she kept jumping the fence, and she was more than a little cantankerous. But before long, Fern had warmed up to Taylor and soon was producing a gallon of milk a day.

When the bottles began filling up the Hilkins’ fridge, Taylor and her mother decided to start using some of the raw goat milk to make soap.

“We tried a lot of different types of recipes until we found one we liked,” Taylor said. “Since then, we’ve slowly expanded, selling more things and creating more products.”

Two years later, Taylor’s business, Crazy Goat Soap, is thriving. She recently competed in a business summit hosted by Hy-Vee, earning a $1,000 prize.

Crazy Goat Soap offers soap in 20 different scents, from green apple to honey to lavender, along with unscented “Naked Goat” soap. Also available are bath salts, laundry soap, soap-making kits and more.

Taylor said the soap-making process begins by freezing goat milk and mixing lye into it. Then, she adds coconut, grapeseed and olive oils, along with beeswax. The soap then is poured into a mold to harden for a day or two. Finally, Taylor removes it from the mold to dry for at least six weeks before packaging.

In April, Taylor applied for the chance to present Crazy Goat Soap at Hy-Vee’s OpportUNITY Inclusive Business Summit for minority and women-owned businesses, acting on the encouragement of her science teacher, Roosevelt Middle School teacher Becky Milum.

Milum described Taylor as a quiet, organized and helpful student who “always puts her best foot forward.”

“(Taylor) has a great product and a great business, and she’s got great support around her,” she said. “The summit was a huge opportunity for her.”

In early May, Taylor learned she had been selected as one of 10 contestants to pitch her products at the summit in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the chance to win up to $25,000. As the youngest contestant at the summit, she was nervous, but she practiced her speech and did her best to stay calm.

“The judges were really nice and kept helping me through it and told me I was doing a great job,” she said. “We got to listen to a lot of presentations from people who work for Hy-Vee or have worked with them in the past.”

Although she didn’t walk away with the top prize, she did earn $1,000, which she will use to purchase another dairy goat. She also met store representatives at the summit and soon will talk with Hy-Vee store managers about the possibility of selling her soaps in their stores.

She advised other students interested in launching their own business to prepare for a challenging but exciting ride.

“It all comes from a dream, but it’s a lot of hard work,” she said.

Crazy Goat Soap is available at several local shops and markets, including Dirt Road Darlings in Dubuque and the Dubuque Farmers Market. Products also can be ordered online at crazygoatsoapdbq.com.