Living self-sufficient lives can often usher to uncertainty when it comes to financial stability, food and supply inventory.
For Country Q’s – A Goats Milk Soap Company Owners Joshua Bradford and David Rodriguez of Lane City, uncertain times in a global pandemic validated their decision to become home steady.
It was just by chance that the pair discovered that a hobby of theirs could help put food on the table and potentially suffice a resignation to corporate America.
‘We were nervous about it but when she asked for more bars, we thought ‘maybe we could make this a business.’’
A hobby Bradford started while living in Austin acted as a natural remedy for his hereditary skin condition.
“I had psoriasis as a child, which runs in my family and one of my friends gave me a bar of soap for my birthday. I used it and it started to clear up my skin,” Bradford told The County Gin. “I decided to make my first batch of soap and created a recipe. I still use that same recipe today. My psoriasis cleared and I haven’t had an outbreak since.”
Since the first batch generated an entire block of soap, Bradford sent a portion with Rodriguez to work to see if he could sell the remaining soap to his co-workers.
“We actually made a post on Facebook in 2014, talking about our first batch of soap that we made. A co-worker asked if we would sell her a bar,” Rodriguez recalled. “We were nervous about it but when she asked for more bars, we thought ‘maybe we could make this a business.’”
With confidence in his product gained, Bradford began making more soap to potentially bring in more income for the couple.
“The first product was our Honey & Oat soap, which created Country Q’s and what I began selling at markets,” he said.
Even with the additional income added from his soap recipe, the cost of living in Austin became unbearably high for the pair.
Then dreams of creating the farm and business near Rodriguez’s hometown started circulating and soon became reality.
“We started discussing the idea of starting a farm in or near my hometown, where the cost of living was manageable and where we could really build the life that each of us wanted,” Rodriguez told The Gin. “We purchased property and moved back to Wharton County in September 2015”.
Continuing the nine-to-five regimen provided Bradford and Rodriguez the means to fulfill day-to-day needs; however, plans for transforming their recently purchased plot seemed to be pushed aside by meeting deadlines and company-set quotas.
When Rodriguez was laid off only a year after moving to Wharton County, the pair began growing and expanding the business.
“We started expanding our product line in 2016 when we purchased our first pair of goats. They started producing a ton of milk and we got the idea to add it to our soap,” Rodriguez said. “Then customers started asking for lotion. We just went with the flow and made goats milk lotion.”
Country Q’s following on social media and booths at farmers’ markets in the greater Houston area allowed the company to expand their inventory.
With the addition of soy-based candles, air fresheners, lip balms and sugar scrubs to their inventory, an opportunity to contribute to community organizations presented itself.
“We started a fundraising campaign with our air fresheners,” Rodriguez said. “We have been able to help local organizations make more than $50,000.”
Even though face-to-face is the company’s preferred method of sales, Country Q’s introduced products through the Facebook Marketplace and began working toward building a website.
While sale volume was at a high and their calendar was filled with planned organization fundraisers and farmers markets, the threat of a global pandemic stopped nearly all production for the goats milk company.
It was the announcement of the cancellation by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo that caused Rodriguez and Bradford to prepare for the worst-case scenario for their company.
“We had several markets that provided around 30% of our farms income completely cancel. We also had fundraisers that would benefit more than 500 kids cancel,” Rodriguez said. “Businesses went directly into panic mode when they were either forced to close or their events got cancelled. We panicked for the first 24 hours, but realized we needed to change things on our own,”
Those changes would include utilizing the abundance of the farm’s goat milk and new ideas of earning.
“We learned to be open to new ways of making money. We were approached by a raw dog food company to provide them with raw goats milk,” Rodriguez said. “Before COVID-19, we would have never considered this, but with so much milk, it was a godsend.
“Along with the wholesale of their goats milk, the company relied heavily on their original product to fill a void of soap supply within the community’s bigger retailers.
“We went back to selling solely soap due to the shortage. We had to utilize our online presence more and more, because face-to-face wasn’t an option,” he explained.
With the state of Texas reopening, farmers markets and events for the company to sell at are becoming available again; however, the duo realized that the newly acquired online operation will have to continue.
‘The largest lesson we learned was to save every penny.’
“We are going to be utilizing our online presence. We have a large Facebook following and we will learn to capitalize on that,” Rodriguez said.
Looking back on the past few months, the owners explained they will continue expanding their farm and business to better prepare if any other occurrences similar to those experienced with the first wave of COVID-19 should occur again.
“The largest lesson we learned was to save every penny,” Rodriguez said. “We now know that we need to buy our feed for our goats in larger bulk. With the potential for a second wave, we need to maximize our storage abilities for hay and feed. The goats are the most important asset for our business. We have to make sure that the health of them is our number one priority.”
Even with the added stress of the pandemic, Rodriguez and Bradford realized how fortunate they were to make the move back to Wharton County when they did.
“Our life, had we stayed in Austin, would have been riddled with anxiety. We would have been worrying about rent payments and high utility bills,” Rodriguez said. “Wharton County’s lower cost of living proved to be a blessing during the pandemic.”