Santa Barbara's Lisa Franklin brews up natural soaps and lotions using local ingredients.
Courtesy Photo

For Lisa Franklin, what seemed like bad luck — an allergy to commercial soap products — turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for it led her to her creative calling: the craft of soap making.

“I realized I have allergies to a lot of the products out there, so I started making my own,” said Franklin. This was about eight years ago. First expanding the scope of her soap to family and friends a few years back, she took her craft to a professional, quasi-full-time task about one year ago. Her products are no longer mere homemade concoctions; they are Sweet Leaf Essentials, and businesses such as Lazy Acres Market and Plum Goods have jumped on board with vending her products. Local Harvest Delivery is a recent distributor, and the Presidio Motel has her soaps and lotions on hand for guests.

Franklin brews 10 different soaps in 15-bar batches that take two to three hours from start to finish, singlehandedly creating scents ranging from lemongrass and eucalyptus to sweet orange and “lavermint” (her lavender-mint hybrid). “Lemongrass is one of my favorites right now,” said Franklin. “One of my newer flavors is green tea butter, with citrus essential oils and green tea.” The extent of her work is not limited to soaps — an array of lip balms, sugar scrubs, bath salts, cuticle salves, body butters, lotions, and candles are also part of the Sweet Leaf Essentials lineup.

“The main thing for me is natural,” she said, explaining why she puts as much attention into acquiring ingredients as she puts into production. Herbs and spices that aren’t homegrown she gets from local sources; bee’s wax and honey come from San Marcos Farms; essential oils come from trusted fair-trade, organic vendors in Arizona and Utah; and she makes a point of skipping the chemicals, petroleum-based fragrances, and parabens.

Neither opening up a shop of her own nor hiring a team of helpers has yet made it onto Franklin’s to-do list. “The goal is to make it completely natural and affordable. I like to distribute to local shops because I can keep prices on products down,” said Franklin, who also hand-delivers her products around town. “Business is pretty good; right now it’s just me, and I’m still able to handle everything by myself — it’s a lot of fun.” For more information, visit


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