If you attend the third Downtown Holiday Craft Market event Saturday on Broadway Avenue in Maryville, you might see two local experts in small business vending and bath bomb testing.
One is named Simon. He’s 4 years old. The other is named Elias. He’s 2.
“Yes, they have both done a lot of vendor shows riding in a backpack,” laughs mother and East TN Soap Works owner Sunny Tune.
Tune moved to Maryville in 2007 from Missouri to attend Maryville College.
She earned degrees in sign language interpretation and theater, but loved Maryville so much, she and her husband, Phillip, decided to stay and raise a family.
When Simon was born, however, they discovered he was sensitive to fragrances and chemicals in most commercially available soaps. So they had to get creative.
“We just had to learn to make soap as we went, and we watched a lot of YouTube videos,” she recalled.
Over time, though, soapmaking became more of a professional hobby when she and her husband started selling soaps, bath bombs, sugar scrubs and other products at local craft fairs and wholesale to local shops.
“We focus on sustainability and using local ingredients whenever possible,” Tune said.
Although the business barely sustains itself at this point, she admitted that part of the joy is having a family activity she and her husband can enjoy with the children.
It’s still work, though. In fact, she and her husband have been working hard to get ready for their third Downtown Holiday Craft Market.
“This week, we’ve made 60 sugar scrubs and more than 70 shampoo bars,” she said. “It takes about half a day to make four batches because we work in very small batches to ensure quality control.”
So not only has she invested money into the materials and supplies, but also significant amounts of time. That’s a lot of risk for a small business owner just before Christmas.
“Yeah, it’s a little bit of risk,” she laughed. “But that’s all part of the fun.”
The plan, though, is to gradually grow the business into something profitable for the family.
Phillip, who works as a full-time web developer, is working on a website where they can offer their products for sale online to a wider audience. They also want to increase the number of shops that sell their products.
“Maybe one day we can have a traditional brick-and-mortar store,” she said. “But that could be like 20 years from now.”
In the meantime, she’s looking forward to setting up her tent on Broadway this Saturday and selling as much of their toddler-tested bath and beauty products as they can.