By Annie Iezzi
Ten years ago, Sue Kerber founded RAD in her kitchen, far removed from any festival scene. Instead of searching for transcendence through music, she had been searching for something, anything, that would soothe her son’s eczema. Disgusted by manufactured creams and ointments that didn’t work, or that made matters worse, she turned to a small hemp-product company whose products were guaranteed to include pure hemp extract from the owner’s personal hemp grow. All too soon, however, this small company fell into the hands of a major cosmetics company– we won’t name names–and their products stopped working.
In stepped Sue. Already invested in using only natural ingredients on her son’s sensitive skin, she concocted her own, all natural and hemp infused soap, and her business grew out of the product’s merits. “I said, I want to make soap!” exclaimed Sue warmly. “I don’t understand why people don’t make things that work. I bought hemp and developed these products in my kitchen, and it grew from there.”
Friends and family observed the product’s effect on her son’s skin, and they, too, wanted soap of their own. Soon, RAD soap secured a booth at the Troy farmer’s market, one of the largest in the northeast. As RAD was expanding, however, Sue’s family was struggling financially. Her house was on the line when she decided to move RAD SOAP CO. into its new home, a 15,000-square-foot building in the Albany suburb of Menands, where she employs 12 people who make, package, and ship her soap bars at a rate of 10,000-20,000 per month.
In the ten years that RAD had been growing, so had Sue’s son. Now, both of her sons share the titles of co-founder with their mother, and it was actually one of them who had the idea to reach out to Stick Figure to collaborate on the brand’s new baby, “Shine by Stick Figure”. The hemp bar soap is scented with sandalwood vanilla, coconut and shea butter and brands itself as devoid of all manufactured chemicals to “allow your skin to shine organically.” Customers even get a free download of the band’s song, “Shine”, off of their newest album, World on Fire with each purchase.
“This is the perfect marriage,” says Sue, “I make all-natural soaps that give a good feeling. I don’t just sell soap; I sell an experience and a nostalgic feeling. And this music is a way of expressing how I feel about our product.”
She is hoping that Shine– both the soap and the song– will become a staple of the music festival scene. “The soap will give them an experience that they can travel with,” she says of the bar’s ability to induce nostalgia and good vibes, “we express ourselves through emotion, and our soaps convey that emotion through scent.” This is what connects Stick Figure and Rad so perfectly; they both emanate positive vibes embodied in their creations.
Together, Stick Figure and RAD are trying to teach the world that “quality, acceptance, and the way that you are motivated through life has to come from within. We send a message of love. We love our skin; we love people; we just want to spread that message to the world.”
RAD has also recently branched out into making CBD products that actually contain CBD. Drawing from concerns of her longtime and loyal customer base, Sue launched the company’s CBD product line in March. It’s quickly become the company’s best seller, with three tinctures and two topicals that are bringing relief to customers. But Sue warns that she is most invested in taking things slow: “We are becoming the standard,” she says. “Doctors and therapists recommend us. We are building the trust and loyalty that we have given [to] our customers. That’s the best thing for me as a mother. You want parents to come to RAD to heal themselves and their children’s skin.”
What’s more is that Sue is trying to fight the stigma and antipathy against this emerging CBD line, and the industry as a whole, with the one weapon endorsed by her and by Stick Figure: education. “RAD is a company that makes it a top priority to lead with education when it comes to hemp and CBD. We educate our customer base, the public, and specific patient groups. We make sure that salespeople can give information. Information heals people.”
To see the RAD soap making process and jam to Stick Figure, check out this video of RAD Soap Co. making “Shine by Stick Figure”!
Annie Iezzi is the Managing Editor of Honeysuckle Magazine and a third-year student at Barnard College of Columbia University, studying English and Political Science and writing in her scarce (and cherished) free time.