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Mom of Two and Former Corrections Officer Turned Her Soaping Hobby Into a Million-Dollar Business


Anne-Marie Faiola didn’t let growing up in a small farming community in Lewis, Washington stop her from setting goals and going after them. Instead, she entered St. Martin’s College with the hopes of becoming a doctor, like her father. But after taking two science classes, Faiola realized she wasn’t as passionate about medicine as she’d originally thought.

Intrigued by psychology, with an emphasis in criminal justice, Faiola was determined to join the FBI. Unfazed by the intimidating nature of the industry, Faiola applied for a position during her senior year in college.

“I loved my interview process and was told to come back the next year with some police department experience under my belt,” Faiola says.

How Her Weekend Hobby Became Her Dream Job

Shortly after Faiola started working as a correctional officer, she realized she wasn’t as well-suited for the position as she’d hoped. But, as the old saying goes, when one door closes another one opens. And, that’s how Bramble Berry was born.

Read on to see what Faiola had to say about chasing her dreams and starting her own business from scratch.

WW: When did you decide to start Bramble Berry?

Faiola: “I had been selling soap on the side since I was 16 years old and it became a viable option when I was looking for something to do for work when I eventually quit my job as a correctional officer. I sold soap on the weekends and then taught people how to make soap during the week, and that’s how Bramble Berry was started.”

WW: Where did the name “Bramble Berry” come from?

Faiola: “The name was something I made up because it was a memorable and cheery name. I didn’t realize, until I went to go get it trademarked, that the word ‘brambleberry’ was actually any berry that fell from a bramble, so it turns out, I wasn’t quite as original as I thought I was.”

WW: When did you start soapmaking? How did you find out about such a sophisticated crafting project so young?

Faiola: “I was always a crafty kid. Whether it was knitting, rubber stamping, decoupaging, or making paper, if there was a craft to do, I made it and played with it. I started getting serious about soapmaking when I was about 14 years old. I got a book from the library and started exploring online chat rooms to really start.”

WW: Could you tell us a little bit about your book Live Your Best Day Ever?

Faiola: “I have a few books out — two on soapmaking, Pure Soapmaking and Soapcrafting, both published by Storey Books, and one on how to live your best day ever, every day, Live Your Best Day Ever: 35 Strategies for Daily Success published by Forbes Books. My most recent book, Live Your Best Day Ever, is bite-sized chunks of information and strategies designed to help you change your mindset, finish your to-do list, and reach those big goals. “

WW: What does your day-to-day look like?

Faiola: “My day-to-day varies, but it usually involves the school-day-shuffle with our two young children, packing lunches, working out, and time to be creative at the Bramble Berry studios.”

Faiola family

(Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Faiola)

“I love to create, so everyday has me making something. Lately, I’ve been making a lot of cheese and candles. Since I’m the CEO of Bramble Berry Handcraft Provisions, there is often management and strategy things to do on a daily basis – everything from accounting, to marketing meetings, to human resources. No day is ever the same, and that’s just the way I like it.”

WW: Who came up with the nickname “Soap Queen?”

Faiola: “My teacher at the MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program, then called the Birthing of Giants program, Verne Harnish told us all to be the king or queen of something — anything! — just name it, own, claim it, and do it. So, I took his advice and love where it’s taken me and my career.”

WW: How is soap made, exactly? What does this process look like?

Faiola: “The entire process takes about four to six weeks from start to finish. There is an easier way, though. The soap I like to direct new people to is ‘Melt and Pour Soap’ that utilizes a pre-made base that melts cleanly and clearly down in the microwave. From there, you add your fragrances, colorants, and pour into a mold. That soap is ready to use right away.”

Almond Milk Confetti

(Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Faiola)

WW: What’s your favorite product you’ve made thus far?

Faiola: “Soap has always been my first love – I love any type of soap out there, but right now, I am loving the facial charcoal bar from the popular Soap Queen tutorial. It’s an easy starter-recipe if you’re wanting to explore cold process soapmaking from scratch.”

WW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Faiola: “I love what I do and would love to continue to explore creativity. I’ve been getting into other handmade creative outlets, like cheesemaking, bitters, and candlemaking. So, I’d like to expand my areas of interest and expertise. Handmade is best-made.”

WW: Who inspires you?

Faiola: “Powerful women dominating their industries, trying new things, and risking beyond inspire me. Women such as, Alli Webb from Dry Bar, Sara Blakely from Spanx, and Jessica Iclisoy from California Baby inspire me.”

Anne Marie Faiola

(Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Faiola)

“Oprah remains a constant source of inspiration, as well as Jessica Alba with Honest, Gwyneth Paltrow with Goop, and Sheryl Sandberg with Facebook. Watching them expand their empires, their reach, and their influence is inspiring.”

WW: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

Faiola: “Two of my core beliefs are that creativity is essential and handmade is best-made. I feel so lucky that I’ve gotten to spend the better part of my adult life in a job that allows me to explore creativity and handmade goods. The old adage of, ‘Follow your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life,’ has certainly been true for me and I don’t take it for granted, ever.”

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