The Commercial Street block in downtown Bellingham has seen many up-and-coming businesses throughout the pandemic – from beloved longstanding businesses like Brandywine Kitchen and Uisce Irish Pub to newer additions like Wink Wink Boutique (recently relocated).
If you take a walk down this street, you’re sure to catch a whiff of a new business on the block. MW Soapworks is a natural skincare and artisan store where one thing is certain: Sustainability has never smelled so good.
Owner Andrea Lawson founded MW Soapworks (MW being her middle initials) in 2013. The goal was to create skin care items that were not only safe to use on her body but were also safe for the environment.
“The more research I did as a consumer (and later as a maker) of skincare products, the more I learned how dangerous some of the ingredients we use daily are, not just only for our bodies but also for the waterways that carry these same harsh chemicals into our precious ecosystems,” Lawson says. “All of our products are created in hopes of promoting a healthy you, healthy communities, and a healthy planet.”
A New Space for Creation
Armed with her background in environmentalism and social activism, as well as her long-time love of the Whatcom maker community, Lawson began making small batches of product to sell at local markets. Her working space grew from a kitchen in a one-bedroom apartment to a larger home business. It wasn’t until late 2021 that Lawson and her partner Teddy Rivard moved into the Commercial Street storefront.
“I neither make nor participate in making any of our products, but learning about natural skincare has dramatically shifted my views on what goes on/ in my body,” Rivard says. “The adventure of joining Andrea as MW Soapworks has been thrilling and engaging, and enriched my life in ways I never expected.”
Having a storefront hasn’t just allowed Lawson more space to create, but also allows the business to sell more products and feature the work of 40 local artisan makers, including candle makers, textile artists, jewelry makers, potters, and more.
“Not everyone has the resources to open a store or wants to work in any kind of retail setting so we wanted to use our privilege and our buying power to help spread the small business joy,” Lawson says.
MW Soapworks is a queer- and woman-owned business. Lawson says supporting local makers of diverse backgrounds like Black, Indigenous, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, and AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islanders) makers is an important way to help spread joy throughout the community, along with reducing carbon footprint by shopping local.
Bestsellers and Personal Favorites
With so many featured businesses, the selection of products to choose from at MW Soapworks seems endless. Some customer favorites include the Black Mission Fig Soap ($7.50), Sore Muscle Balm ($14.50) and Coconut Lime Natural Deodorant ($10.50).
Lawson and Rivard’s personal favorites include the Northwest Woods Soap ($7.50) and the Country Mint Soap ($7.50).
While some products like deodorant or perfume oils can be whipped up same-day (with the right ingredients), items like soap are made from raw ingredients using the cold process soapmaking method, which is a tad more intensive and can take over a month. Despite this, Lawson says the most time-consuming part of the business is product development.
“I do tons of research on the best ingredients to use and how best to balance recipes. We believe that in our products, fewer ingredients can often be better and quality should always be our number one priority,” she says. “I am so happy that I’ve created final products that so many people love.
Lawson says she looks forward to releasing more products, including a line of household cleaning products that is currently being developed. However, the best part of running MW Soapwork is getting to know the customers.
“Being a small business owner can be incredibly isolating sometimes but when our customers come to visit us at the store or at an event, it is a huge boost of positive energy,” Lawson says. “They know they are supporting real people and their dreams with their buying power and I think that makes a difference to them too.”
1310 Commercial St., Bellingham, 360.545.3443, mwsoapworks.com