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Soapmaker brings ‘breath of fresh air’ to downtown

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A born and raised Roswellite, Tanna Johnson followed a desire to be an entrepreneur by opening her own soap company.

Johnson, 26, describes her current roles in life as a “mom, wife and soapmaker.” She has been married for three years to her “soulmate” Steven, who also works with her, and they have two young daughters.

“There really aren’t words to explain the amount of joy that we get out of making a living from doing something that we love so much,” Johnson said. “We’re very passionate about what we do and we love sharing our gifts with other people. And it’s just really great whenever people come in that have skin issues — or that just love soap like us — and it’s just great that they get so excited about the products that we make. It’s just really gratifying.”

Her business, Rustic Essentials Soap Company, has been in business since 2017 and Johnson said she has seen “fast growth” in her business in such a short time. She began in her kitchen, moved to a location on West Walnut Street and has been in her new shop at 125 N. Main St. since Sept. 16.

The inspiration for entrepreneurship and soapmaking came from trips to Ruidoso. Following this, Johnson researched different methods to get to the cold process soaps she makes now.

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“Mainstream products that are sold in Target or Walmart, they’re not the best for your skin,” Johnson said. “They don’t have all-natural ingredients or detergents — stuff a lot of kiddos these days break out with. So my thought process was let’s make a product that I’ll feel comfortable letting my kids use and putting it on my own skin as well. …”

Before starting her own business, Johnson’s career experiences are in accounting and she has taken some classes in business administration at Eastern New Mexico University. She moved to North Carolina after graduating high school from Gateway Christian School in 2011 and returned to Roswell to be closer to her “huge family.” She is “the baby” of eight sisters and four brothers.

Her husband worked at the Roswell and Artesia fire departments and Johnson made a charcoal soap to help with the toxins her husband was exposed to on the job. Two of her best sellers still contain charcoal, one of which is charcoal spearmint and the other cedar leather.

With the new location close to the International UFO Museum & Research Center, Johnson said she meets people from all over the world and these conversations yield new ideas for her products. She said she enjoys meeting visitors one-on-one, hearing their stories and offering a moment of calm from the aromatherapy in her products.

Johnson has made alien-head shaped soaps as gifts for guests at Sandra England’s Airbnb. England said she has been following Johnson’s shop since her first location and she describes Johnson as “friendly” and passionate about sharing about her products.

“We’ve lived all over the world and out of the country also and I love all kinds of little local shops,” England said. “We just don’t have that many, just besides the UFO, alien-type shops. So to me, she brings in a new flair — I wish there were more little shops like hers downtown. … Her age and her excitement, enthusiasm and her love for Roswell and to share what she and her husband have created is like a breath of fresh air, I think, in this community. …”

Johnson expressed gratitude for “Amanda Mason and Jesus,” who she said contributed to the launching of her business. Mason, who is Johnson’s small business mentor, owns Sippy and Opal’s Ice Cream & Sweet Treats at 327 N. Main St. and offered Johnson an opportunity to sell her soaps at that location during UFO Festival last year. Mason also called Johnson a role model for mothers and young women.

“Oh, she’s the sweetest. …” Mason said of Johnson. “She’s got a kind heart and one of the best moms I know. I’m really excited for her. I think she’s doing what she’s passionate about and it shows in her work.”

Johnson said supporting local businesses is important and her business includes other regional businesses’ products in their soaps, such as Black Cock Brewery’s beer and Kith+Kin Roasting Company’s coffee from Artesia. Some of their products have local goats milk and honey from their friends and she has done some sugar scrub and other classes at Pecos Flavors Winery. Her own love for homemade and artisan products came from her mother teaching her how to crochet.

Giving back to the community is something she plans on continuing and Johnson said her shop recently donated a portion of proceeds to the Roswell Community Disaster Relief Services.

“I would say if you’re really passionate about something — I would say even if other things in life take precedence over your passion, as far as like work, or school or whatever you have to do — just don’t give up on what you really want to do in life and what makes you happy,” Johnson said.

Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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