Editor's note: This article was modified on July 15, 2014, to reflect the nature of Sajid and Khan's relationship and affiliation with the business.
College guys sniffing mango-scented soap isn’t an unusual sight in Asawar Sajid’s accounting class.
“They just whip it out and smell it,” Sajid said. “I’m like, ‘Dude, are going to use that?’ They are like ‘Nah. Not yet. We just really like the smell.’”
The vegan and vegetarian soap samples were gifts from Sajid, a graduate accounting student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He's the accountant for The Fizz Shop a speciality store that sells organic soaps and skincare products. His friend Summayia Khan, a licensed esthetician and UNL alumna, is the owner. Located in the Calvert Place Mall on 48th and Calvert streets, the shop will officially open on April 12, though the duo will start making products in the store’s backroom lab starting March 1.
The idea came when Khan’s husband walked in the door and asked her to figure out a way to make vegetarian soap. The 25-plus ingredient products he was looking at in the store often had beef fat or lard.
“I certainly wasn’t up for putting lard on my body,” Khan said.
So she designated a corner of her apartment as the soap-making lab. She started researching and ordering. Lavender. Eucalyptus. Goatmilk. Honey. Pink Himalayan sea salt. She used some pots and pans, her microwave, a blender, some spatulas. She and her Sajid worked from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., hours when her 2-year-old and 8-year-old children were out of the house.
“Soap is so easy to make,” Khan said. “It’s just four to six ingredients and a few weeks to cure. So why do we need all of these synthetic chemicals?”
Those synthetic chemicals are often the ones that make bubbles, Khan said. Bar soap has gone the wayside of lathering liquid soaps, but The Fizz Shop hopes to change that with its variety of 5 oz. bar soaps, selling for $6 a piece.
“Bar soap is kind of a vintage idea, and it will take people a while to get over the whole bubbly phase,” Khan said. “But people are just bubbling themselves away in nasty lard and chemicals.”
Khan said she hopes that she can find natural solutions for acne and other skin issues and is currently experimenting with various recipes that include activated charcoal and clay.
But it’s about more than giving people eco-friendly, chemical-free products. The Fizz Shop’s mission is to give back as well. For each bar of soap purchased, the shop will donate one to a local women’s or homeless shelter. And the products could be used for fundraisers for local school or church organizations. Buy the soap at wholesale prices, sell it for $6 and keep the $3 profit. Eventually, the shop hopes to use local ingredients and sell other local products to help other small Lincoln businesses with similar missions.
Khan and Sajid are also trying to incorporate an educational element into their business plan. They want to find a party room where groups could come in and make their own soaps or bath fizzes.
Sajid has also posted marketing and accounting internship opportunities on Husker Hire Link, so students can see and be a part of a developing a start-up business.
“With all of our plans, we want to keep that local Nebraska hospitality,” Khan said.
“I think one bar of soap could put a smile on someone’s face, especially in the women’s shelter,” Khan said. “We want that community support to spread those smiles and keep that giving going.”
In its simplest form, that giving has included those samples passed out to friends and classmates, even strangers who struck up a conversation on the bus.
“The response has been great and people love the soap,” Sajid said.
“But I hope they start using it and not just sniffing it and telling us how great it smells.”