920
9 min 4 sec

Lather, Rinse, Recycle: Soapy Problem Leads to Clean Solution

An account manager solves the mystery of “What happens to soap after it’s used in a hotel room?”—and turns it into a sustainable side hustle.
Branding Manufacturing Product Sustainability Unique Ideas

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What It's About

A sudsy side hustle that cleans up in more than one way.

Business Model
Product
Skills Required
Research & Branding
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

For anyone selling a product as part of a side hustle, Tristan recommends asking lots of questions. Why is this product important to you? Where will you get your materials? To whom will you sell it? These questions will support you in getting started and taking action.

Fun Fact

Over 2 million bars of soap are thrown away every day in the United States. In order to combat this, Tristan and The One Gallon Soap Company partner with hotels to change that. They collect, clean, and sterilize used bars of soap from hotels, and then they manufacture it into their 100% recycled liquid hand soap.

Notes from Chris

Episode 920

Have you ever stayed up at night wondering what happens to used soap in hotel rooms? Like after a bar is only used once? For Account Manager Tristan Corriveau, this question kept him awake in his hotel one night about three years ago.

Rather than letting this question simply wash away, Tristan decided to spend time researching this probing question. As he researched, he learned that something like two million used bars of soap are thrown away every single day. This figure completely blew his mind—and before it slipped down the drain, he decided to do something about it.

His first thought was to collect the used soap and see if he could make something entirely different out of it. But why make something new when you can just use it for how it’s intended? He contacted the hotel where he was staying in Portland, Maine and asked if they would be interested in donating all of their used soap to him for a project. To his surprise, he discovered that the hotel had been wanting to do something with the soap … but didn’t have a great idea.

So Tristan began by working with local university students to run experiments alongside their professors. Together they began to develop a process for sterilizing partially used bars of soap and turning them into liquid hand soap. For this process, they use an autoclave— a strong heated container that uses steam sterilization. Once the soap is sterilized, it is repurposed into liquid soap and packed into 16oz glass bottles. Why glass? Every year over eight million tons of plastic finds its way into the ocean, and Tristan wanted to change that. So in addition to repurposing soap, he’s also improving the environment by cutting down on plastic use.

The testing process was a little slippery at first … it took months of trial and error. They landed on a simple product made from the bars of soap, water, and baking soda. Finally, Tristan had his concoction, and The One Gallon Soap Company was officially born.

Tristan started small in the beginning by testing the product with his community. He then built a website, which is now the main source of sales.

The One Gallon Soap Company is now profitable at a low but sustainable level. He utilizes his website, Instagram, and word of mouth for sales. As he grows, he’s been able to add additional hotels to his roster of soap suppliers.

Tristan utilized many resources for getting this product out of the trash and into the bottle. He partnered with the hotels to collect soap, worked with local university students to create a sterilization process, and relied upon early customers for feedback on what they liked and disliked about the product as it was being developed.

He plans to continue to partner with more hotels and hopes that The One Gallon Soap Company will bubble up all over the world.



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Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Resources

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Quote of the Day
"Just keep asking questions. Ask potential customers what they like or dislike about the product they're using that yours will replace. Ask yourself where you'll get your materials, who you'll sell to, how you'll make it. If you keep asking those questions, eventually you're going to act.​​"
—Tristan Corriveau #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau