Wausau Pilot & Review
Editor’s note: Business of the Week is a sponsored feature that shares the stories of locally-owned and operated businesses in the Wausau area, highlighting the products and services they offer and the ways they contribute to the metro area’s unique flavor. Learn how to feature your business by emailing email@example.com.
This week’s featured business recently relocated from Prospect Street in Wausau to 14 Brown Blvd., Rothschild. Little Bull Falls Soap Works Boutique – named for her home town of Mosinee – was born out of owner Michelle Neathery’s desire to create soaps that wouldn’t irritate her daughter’s eczema or her own sensitive skin. Now, Michelle offers much more than soap, with products ranging from bath bombs to lotions, lip balms, smudge sticks, candles and more. Stepping inside is a feast for the senses, as shoppers delight in a wide range of products ranging from bath bombs to lotions, lip balms, smudge sticks, candles, clothing and more, much of it Wisconsin-made and sourced. Browse the store while sipping coffee from locally-roasted beans, you’ll be sure to find plenty of treasures among the antiques and collectibles on display, as well as all-inclusive clothing from Red Apple Vixen Boutique. Michelle calls Red Apple owner Jennifer Lowrey a Godsend – because she is now part of the staff, filling in several days a week as the business continues to grow. Rounding out the Little Bull Falls Soap Works Boutique team is Michelle’s daughter, Brianna, who mans the store while her mother sets up shows on weekends, as well as her husband and father who help behind the scenes. Michelle said the best thing about her job is the customers, whose smile and support make it all worthwhile.
“For me it’s all about Love, Peace and Bubbles,” she said.
Here, Michelle talks about how she got her start, how she slowly built a thriving business and her plans to add vendors, classes and more moving forward. We wish her nothing but the best!
Q: When was your business established, and what prompted you to start?
A: It all began back in 2003 after my youngest daughter was born with eczema. I always had a lot of allergies and certain chemicals would make me break out in hives, but my daughter was the biggest push. I tried a bar of handmade soap, and her skin got better. I wanted more scents, so I started reading. There wasn’t as much on the internet back then. I learned the basics and the rest was trial and error. I am really proud of the skin nourishing recipe I have now. Many of my regulars tell me how their skin has cleared up, healed, and not needed lotion. But I DO make a fantastic aloe lotion too!
Q: How did you choose the name of your business? What are you trying to convey?
A: I actually started selling under the name “The Soap Artist.” I kind of took a step back for a number of years, but then rebranded. Every dollar I made went back into growing the business. It still does – I am all about improving on what came before. I am all about using the best of what I can to make a good product utilizing local and American made ingredients whenever I can. My new re-branded name is from what they used to call Mosinee, where I live. Wausau was Big Bull Falls and Mosinee was Little Bull Falls. I love living here and am proud of my Midwest heritage. On a side note – my great-great grandparents also owned a general store and a movie theater up north. My dad owned his own business for decades…its all in the blood!
Q: Tell us about your business. What products or services do you offer?
A: Of course, I have organic goatmeal soaps, but I also make a whole host of other bath & body products. I also have a line of wood wick candles made from American grown soy beans, hand dipped incense, even sage smudge sticks!
- Antiques & collectables – both me and my parents have been antique collectors and dealers much of our lives, so I also carry antiques and vintage goods
- Coffee – we have locally roasted beans and a Keurig on site for you to sip & shop!
- Boutique women’s clothing from Red Apple Vixen
Other makers also bring their goods in and I sell them on commission. I am always looking for more vendors! Right now, I have wax tarts, mason jar candles, ice dyed dish towels, home decor, and jewelry.
Q: What makes your business unique? What sets you apart?
A: I am a very eclectic person having all sorts of interests, and the store represents that. You never know what you will find next. Every week, I am adding things. I believe in supporting our local artist/maker community and always having a nice selection of Wisconsin made things. We offer coffee, antiques, boutique ladies clothing, and so much more!
Q: What are you most proud of accomplishing?
A: It’s just how far I have come. I am an introvert, so it isn’t always easy for me to get my self out there, but soaping has really made me a lot more comfortable around people
And of course the store. I took a BIG leap and risk three years ago and opened the store on Prospect Ave in Wausau. I wanted to just jump in and do it because my mother came out of remission from her cancer (she had first when she was 21). I wanted her to see me do it. I may not have been ready, but I did it. Two years later, in June of 2021, I moved to the new store in Rothschild. This quadrupled my space, plus allowed for me to make things on-site rather than in my kitchen. Now I focus on filling it!
Q: How have you changed and evolved over time? What’s different now from when you first started?
A: My product is so much better than it was in the beginning – I have learned so much through trial and error – and taking classes, and listening to podcasts. I learn as much about soap and marketing as I can. I used to make eight bars of soap a night using grocery store ingredients, now I make 128 bars and order in bulk with great suppliers who I have personal relationships with.
Q: What challenges have you had to overcome? Basically, if you had it to do all over again, would you do anything differently?
A: Honestly, my biggest challenge is time. I work a day job in accounting while running the store, making things, and setting up at shows. I couldn’t do this without my daughter wrapping soaps, Jennifer running the shop, my husband calling on wholesale accounts, or my dad making me displays. I was also challenged over the past two years with prices rising and other things becoming unavailable.
Q: What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
A: To keep expanding into more stores, to add more open hours and people at the store, to add tons of new local vendors.
I would also like to add some classes run by other makers.
There’s so many things I want to add and do…it’s all so exciting!
Q: Where do you see your business in five years? 10?
A: I am hoping to have my store full in 5 years. I want everywhere you look to have something new and interesting. I want to be the place to shop at for things that are good for your body, good for your soul, and good for your local community.
I will make soap until I can’t. I absolutely love making things and meeting people. With the past few years you keep hearing how rude people are becoming (I think I heard it called coronavirus rudeness)…I have not experienced that. My customers are some of the kindest, most supportive people ever – I feel so much love and it’s important to me to pay that forward.
Connect with Little Bull Falls Soap Works Boutique
Little Bull Falls Soap Works Boutique – 14 Brown Blvd., Rothschild
Find them on Etsy, Instagram and TikTok