Elmwood Park father, daughter clean up in soap biz
Athena River started Father & Daughter Soap with a little help from her dad, Angel Rivera. This year, they made about 3,200 bars of soap in the basement of their Elmwood Park home.
Father & Daughter Soap
The biggest seller at Father & Daughter Soap is oatmeal soap, said daughter and founder Athena Rivera. “Oatmeal actually exfoliates but it’s not rough on your skin,” she said.
Her personal favorite is Swirls, named for its multi-colored patterns. Her father, Angel, leans toward sandalwood or peppermint.
Among the other offerings are:
Goat Milk Deluxe Soap, $6.99
Sea Salt Premium Soap, $8.99
Man-Bar shaving soap in sweet or spicy, $10
Lemon cuticle cream, $7.99
For more information, visit www.fatherdaughtersoap.com.
Updated: December 31, 2012 1:18PM
ELMWOOD PARK — While checking out a book at her school library, another book on making lotions caught Athena Rivera’s eye. She was 10 — and unknowingly on the road to her own company.
“I asked my dad to help me make a face wash,” she said. “It interests me how things can be mixed together to make something else.”
From there, Athena wanted to experiment with glycerine and other types of hand-made soap. After working her way through the how-to books in local libraries, she purchased more books online. Athena’s father, Angel Rivera, helped.
“There are some parts of it that aren’t safe, and as a dad you watch for that. We make a cold-process soap that uses lye. She did all the measuring but I married the product together,” he said.
Less than a year into their experiments with combinations of natural ingredients, a family friend offered to build Athena a Web site. Father & Daughter Soap was born.
“We started it as something for fun. We never imagined it would be a business,” Angel said. “We don’t cut corners. Because originally we were making it for ourselves, we use the good stuff.”
Athena is now 13 and an eighth grader. Half her family’s Elmwood Park basement is dedicated to making soap. Each batch takes about two hours to mix, and about six weeks to dry.
Her mother, Irma, does the labels, which Athena decreed must include “made and packaged in the USA.”
Besides about 40 varieties of hand-made soaps, their products now also includes cuticle cream and lip gloss.
Athena and her father, a full-time orthopedic technician, sell at outdoor festivals from June to October and online year-round.
“We are always making soap,” Athena said, acknowledging that her friends likely think she’s crazy.
Father & Daughter soap made 500 to 600 bars in its first year, then twice as much the next year. This year, it has made 3,200 bars. The Riveras donate surplus soap to PADS.
“I have a master’s in business but I think by the time Athena is 15 or 16 she will have accumulated more experience than most coming out of business school,” Angel said. “She’s involved in the research and development of the product and even takes photos for the Web site.”
Eventually, Athena hopes to be a journalist or lawyer, though she’d like to continue to maintain a family business. Ideally, Father & Daughter Soap will pay for her college.
Parlaying her knowledge at school this year, Athena recently won a science fair with a project highlighting the benefits of hand-made soap.
“It’s better for your skin because it’s natural,” Athena explained. Her soaps are composed largely of oils that include olive, almond and a wide variety of other plant-based extracts. The bars are fragrant and long-lasting.
Chicago resident Richard Wojewnik has purchased Father & Daughter soap for himself and as gifts.
“I love the shaving bar. I like the way it smells and my skin is soft like a baby,” he said.
Father & Daughter is exploring potential corporate partnerships. But whether or not the company expands, it’s turning a profit -- much of it reinvested in the business -- and allowing father and daughter to spend time together, which they agree is the best part.