We had the good fortune of connecting with Katrin Canlas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katrin, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Even though I majored in Economics and my current job is in oil industry, I have always been an artsy person: from gift wrapping to painting with watercolors, from creating and selling gift cards to being published in a DIY section of a magazine, art has always been my passion. And what started out as a simple internet search morphed into a passion in a short amount of time. In 2017 during Hurricane Harvey, my husband and I evacuated from Houston to Dallas to wait out the storm. Trying to keep my mind off the flooding and destruction that was affecting my family, friends, and city, I randomly researched “how to make soap at home.” I quickly fell in love with the concept as it gave me the ability to blend science and art to create unique soaps that were not only practical for everyday use but also attractive to the eye. The newfound hobby started out small with the first batches given to family and friends. But the entire soap making process was so therapeutic. I was making more soap than I could ever use or give away. With my perfected recipes and confidence in soapmaking growing, my husband and I officially registered o’jar lab as a business allowing us to participate in the local markets and events.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The o’jar in o’jar lab means soap in Armenian. As a proud Armenian, I wanted to represent part of my heritage in my business. There are different ways to make soap: melt and pour process (which is exactly what it is, you melt a pre-made soap base and pour), hot process soap (which involves a heat source, like a crock pot), and cold process. My forte is the cold process – bringing hard oils (coconut, palm), soft oils (olive, castor), butters (cocoa, mango), and lye water solution together to saponify (bond) and make soap. Even though the soap making process is the same, each handmade batch is not. I’ve spent countless hours on studying chemistry and researching ingredients but the creativity in design put into each batch is what sets me apart. Making a batch of soap always starts with the scent. I start by smelling different fragrance oils and essentials oils and try to imagine what the soap bar would look like. The possibilities are endless as different colors and designs flood my mind. Being able to put these ideas into the final product is the most rewarding aspect. Soapmaking can be very challenging. I’ve had discolored batches, cracked batches, and flat out ugly batches. But each failure came with an opportunity to learn and improve. I’ve adopted this concept into my daily life. There is always something to learn from failure.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Houston is such a large and diverse city. From local breweries to eclectic restaurants you will never leave this city thirsty or hungry. Residing in The Heights puts us in proximity to great local eateries. My husband is Filipino and we love getting our Filipino food fix at Be More Pacific.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First and foremost, my husband. While he’s not the most artistic person, he is certainly the main reason why I still do what I love to do (along with my full-time job). He always makes the effort to attend markets and events and stands by my side for long hours to help with the sales in the booth. He always encourages me to do my best and supports my vision and creativity. He has been integral with growing the business as he manages the marketing and bookkeeping. And he was also the original guinea pig for my first soaps! The soap making community has also been very supportive. We all might be using same ingredients, same method, same process, but everyone’s soap comes out different. It amazes me how soap makers from different parts of the country do not hesitate to share their knowledge and skills and help new soap makers in their journey. Every time I travel around the States, I make sure to look up local soap makers and visit their shops or markets and get to know them and their story.
Facebook: o’jar lab
Other: Tik Tok – ojarlab