What started as a hobby has bubbled into a career for a local woman.
Teri Keys makes bath bombs, soy candles and soap as part of her business, Bubble Luscious Soap Company.
Bath bombs are used to help people relax in the tub. They fizz and often emit a pleasant smell when placed in the water.
Despite moving around as a military wife, Keys has been able to grow her business through creativity and the support of her community.
Keys, 40, started selling handmade products around seven years ago when she was at Fort Benning, Georgia. Also a mother of three, ages 8, 14 and 19, Keys wanted to make a little extra money.
Initially she sold wooden, hand-painted signs at the Post Exchange at the base.
When those started becoming more popular, she decided to add more products to set herself apart. She’d made bath bombs before, so she made some small ones and put them in a jar on her table.
“People started coming and just buying my bath bombs,” Keys said. “They didn’t even buy the signs.”
Keys and her family moved to Manhattan in September 2017, and she brought her business with her. She said starting over from scratch in a new place was a challenge, but she was able to re-establish herself. The first place she sold in Manhattan was Eclectic Charm.
“I got a bookshelf in the back and now I have a booth,” Keys said.
She now also sells in Topeka, Junction City and at Fort Riley’s Post Exchange.
She said she tries to have new products and scents frequently to try to keep people returning and to catch the attention of new customers.
At one place she sold, another vendor started selling bath bombs after seeing how Keys’ products sold. Keys said learning to deal with competition was one of the biggest challenges of starting a business, but she said it made her work harder.
“It made me get really creative,” she said. “I knew it was going to help me grow.”
She starts out by mixing together the dry ingredients like baking soda and Epsom salts. Then she mixes in liquid ingredients and any color she wants. Keys uses the paddle from an electric mixer but mixes the ingredients by hand.
“It almost ends up like kinetic sand,” Keys said. “I have to have the perfect consistency, or it’s not going to stick together or it will overfizz.”
She then puts the mixture into a mold and lets it sit for around 24 hours. She said the process gets messy, and she wears a mask to protect herself from some of the dust.
“I have baking soda all over my face,” Keys said. “You have a layer of dust all over you.”
Keys’ favorite scents change from season to season, but right now some of her favorites are pineapple cilantro, cactus blossom and peach. She also makes bath bombs for kids that have small toys in them.
Keys’ friend, Helga Muren, is a fellow military wife and helps Keys sell sometimes.
Muren said she was impressed by how hard Keys works.
“She’s amazing,” Muren said. “I can’t believe the amount of time she puts into making her own products.”
Muren said that Keys somehow manages to find time to make things, drive her children to their activities and spend time with friends.
“She’s one of the friends I will have forever,” Muren said. “She always makes time for her friends. Her family and her business are her life.”
Keys said that the support of the military community has been crucial to her being able to maintain her business. She said sometimes military spouses have sought her out specifically because they want to support others in the military community.
“We kind of take care of each other,” Keys said.
Keys’ husband plans to retire from the Army soon, and they plan to stay in Manhattan. Keys said that eventually she would love to have a storefront to sell her products, but for now, she just hopes to keep working on creating new things.
“I don’t quit,” she said. “I’m not going anywhere.”