Fourteen-year-old Markku Ollinkoski has an entrepreneurial spirit, with an holistic bent … this enterprising young man and his proud mum, Sandra, explain how the need to find a skin-friendly product led them to develop Mountain Goat Soap …
Tell us about the property where you live and how you came to be situated there …
Sandra: I’ve had the farm since I was in my late teens / early 20s. I worked on the Central Coast, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that we actually decided to move here permanently.
We had children and settled down here. I had goats earlier on – but only a few. Then, as the bush began to encroach on the property, and especially considering one of my children had an allergy to cows’ milk, we purchased some goats. And we just love it here on Mt Cairncross.
How many and what type of goats do you have on the property?
Sandra: We have a mixed herd of 26. We have miniatures, miniature-crosses plus British Alpine and a couple of Saanens.
My boys show the British Alpines. We do sell some goats and we’re aiming to improve our breeding program. Markku’s aim is to breed a good quality miniature milker, and he’s actually achieved this with a couple of goats.
How did the idea to make soap from the goats’ milk first come about?
Sandra: I had the milk there, and I always wanted to do something with it. I would make yogurt and ice cream, for example.
But my oldest boy had Eczema, and I wanted to do something for that. I made some soap and I played with a lot of different oils. The soap with some of these oils helped, and some didn’t. I fine-tuned the process and made more soaps for family and friends – my husband really liked it for shaving.
My middle son, Markku, decided he wanted to start earning some money. I suggested he sell goat poo to start with (laughs), but he wasn’t keen on that idea. So I suggested he sell the soap, which meant we had to come up with a way to present it more attractively. We bought some moulds for this process.
Markku first sold the soap at the markets in Kempsey, and then he decided to seriously concentrate on selling the products at the Farmers markets.
How are you enjoying the process of selling the soaps at the markets?
Markku: I really enjoy it. I get quite a few interesting comments from people, and they’re all interested in learning more about what I’m selling. It’s a really, really good product, and I use it myself.
How much work is actually involved in the process of creating the soap?
Markku: It takes quite a while. We have to heat things and get them up to the right temperature to make the soap. The process takes about 6 weeks to get the product up to the standard where we can sell it.
We milk the goats every day at 6 in the morning. At the moment we’re only hand milking three does. This number changes as some does dry off, and we can bring more in when they kid.
Then we strain the milk, cool it (we usually put it into the freezer to get the temperature down low enough). After that we mix it with our lye, which is Sodium Hydroxide. Some of the oils we use come in solid form, so we have to heat them to the right temperature, and mix them all together.
We don’t have a machine to do the mixing, so it’s all done by hand.
When we get both mixtures to the same temperature, we add the oils to the milk mixture and stir till trace occurs. After that, the soap is poured into the moulds.
How popular have the soaps been at the markets?
Markku: A lot of people reallylike the products, and we have quite a few regular customers.
How do you present the soaps – packaged or unpackaged?
Markku: We use big trays to pour soap into and when it sets, we cut it to size. Some of them have been in the moulds, as I mentioned before, and we do package some of them up with nice labels to sell as well.
Apart from your soap making business, you’re actually quite involved with other aspects of keeping goats as well, Markku?
Markku: Yes, we show the goats too. It’s a lot of work! About a month beforehand, we have to trim them, so all the excess hair is taken off.
We bath them about a week before a show, and then again right before a show. We brush the goats every day during the month before the show too. We have to make sure the goats are at a high standard before we show them. So where to from here with your soaps? Do you have plans to take the products further?
Markku: I’d like to, but I’m not quite sure yet. I want to keep doing the markets for now, and I’ll wait and see what happens.
Sandra: We’re developing new ideas all the time. Mountain Goat Soaps are free of harsh artificial colours, preservatives and no fragrances are added, because we’re dealing with people with high allergies.
I’ve just recently made a low salicylate soap, because someone approached me with this request. The customer said the results have been fantastic.
Our soaps have been progressing, because people have been asking for products, even for hair! I make a hair care bar, because people were asking for something with high protein to help with damaged hair.
What’s the best way for people to source your products?
Sandra: Mountain Goat Soap can be found at either the Hastings Farmers’ Markets in Wauchope on the fourth Saturday of each month or the Foreshore Markets at Westport Park on the second Saturday of each month.
Thanks Sandra and Markku.
Interview by Jo Atkins.