One whiff of the cocoa emanating from Yvonne Oxley’s “Noir” chocolate bar or a glance at the pink and cream of her “Grace” bar, and you’d think her creations are good enough to eat. But she wouldn’t recommend it.
“No, I hear that a lot,” she said laughing. “I thought about changing the tag line to ‘Looks good enough to eat’…I have a chocolate bar and it smells like a Thin Mint and it has ground chocolate in it. It’s like a milk bath in a bar.”
Oxley is the entrepreneur behind Komfort Zone, a natural body care line with an artistic flair. “Forever Young,” one of her latest limited editions designs was so unique-looking she’s already sold out of it.
“When I went to natural soap bar soaps, they were square, they were beige,” she said. “I wanted mine to look like art. I designed soaps that are pleasing to the eye first. The downside is that because they are so pretty people think they are too pretty to use and people by them as a display.”
Previously based in Brooklyn, NY, Oxley decided to move to Bridgeport, CT shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Currently an executive assistant at an investment firm, Yvonne knew she wanted to get her own business off the ground as well. She started Komfort Zone with the intention of creating a home décor line. But the costs outweighed the benefits with this idea.
Oxley’s son suffers from eczema, so she was trying new products to moisturize his skin. After buying some natural soap online, Oxley found herself interested in making her own. She took a class on soap making and created her first bar: “Oatmeal, Goat’s Milk and Honey.”
“To date it’s still my most popular bar,” she said. “It’s not my best design but because of the ingredients people buy that the most.”
With her soap making skills on the rise, Komfort Zone started online four years. From her first bar, Oxley continued to create scents and at one point had at least 52 different scents. Since then, she’s brought her number down to between 25 and 30 scents with some seasonal soaps.
“I make other products but the soap is the star of everything,” she said.
Oxley’s road to soap-making has been an educational one. “I’m learning as I go along,” she said. “When I first started making soap, I used lard. Lots of people are turned off by that but all commercial soap use lard. They use a chemical name and so people do not know.”
Oxley decided to take lard completely out of her soaps. As she learns, her clients pick up tips as well. For instance, “Coffee is a natural deodorizer,” she said speaking of her soap bar which uses ground coffee and coffee essential oil. “It’s good in the kitchen and it’s good for athletes… people are surprised and come back for the coffee soap.”
Oxley’s business has grown so successful that she opened a booth at the Sono Marketplace, a local independent vendor shopping area in Norwalk, CT. There she sells her soaps every weekend which, she says, has really taken her business to the next level.
“Now I’m not limited to websites and doing shows. I have a place where I can be every weekend. I can also pay someone to be there [and] introduce people to the business. I have visitors who are now regular customers,” she said.
While business is not perfect — she struggles to keep her full-time job out of her weekends and evenings and is working to raise the popularity of the Sono Marketplace — Oxley looks forward to the next step. She hopes to go wholesale which will further allow her to grow her sales. She also hopes to do more home shows, where she can showcase her products and educate customers on natural soaps in a more personalized setting.
“I’m giving the consumer a product that is so beneficial to them but it doesn’t cost a lot, so everyone can benefit from it,” she said. “I think that is what Komfort Zone is all about.”