ARIZONA, USA — Jennifer Himel described it as “a leap of faith” when she quit her job at a radio station and invested all her time and energy into a passion project that had been curing for years.
The young woman living on the Hopi Reservation, working as a library tech at an elementary school, started making soap to earn a little cash during the summers.
“At the library, there is so much available, so I found some books on crafts that you can make and sell, so I set my sights on the soap business,” Himel said.
The young entrepreneur started selling her soaps at a local farmer's market.
After a few job changes landed her at a radio station, her path would take yet another turn when the pandemic hit. She ended up dedicating more and more time to soap making as the need for hygiene products on the reservation grew.
"There was the whole toilet paper shortage, soap shortage and I had friends and family contacting me to see if I had extras, so I donated whatever I had left, and from there, I was making it as fast as I could,” Himel explained.
Himel decided to take up soap-making full-time and Big Sky Soap Arizona was born.
Her online business promotes affordable, natural, and sustainable bath essentials inspired by Arizona that pay homage to Hopi and Tewa cultures.
As she churned out new products, Himel pursued a different way of marketing her new business. She started a Tik Tok account for Big Sky Soap Arizona.
She used the video-sharing social media network to highlight her latest creations and show her online community what it is like being an entrepreneur on a reservation.
“I really wanted to highlight the positives about it, and show that as a small business owner that you can be very successful if you just use that community support that’s there on the reservation because that’s very central to living on a reservation, is that your community is behind you,” Himel said.
Himel said she plans to expand her business by investing in larger equipment and opening a store on the reservation to serve locals and visitors.
“I feel like I am just as capable of as any man or any other person of any other background. It is more about my grit, my guts, and my creativity and the brains that I have, and those types of things make me feel like I can compete at whatever level it is,” Himel said.