Blackbelt Soap Company

Dawn Cauthen-Thornton | July 21st, 2020
Temeka Carter (Photos by JLG Photography)

Temeka Carter (Photos by JLG Photography)

The best thing we can all do, in today’s emotional climate, is take care of ourselves. When jobs (or the lack of one), bills, children, significant others, and the threat of contracting a potentially deadly illness is at the forefront of most people’s thoughts, health and wellness should be also.

Temeka Carter is an advocate of caring for your body, inside and out. During a visit to a luxury hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi several years ago, she was introduced to seaweed soap, and immediately fell in love. “For the first time in my life, I had an Herbal Essence experience in the shower. The seaweed soap was so silky with rich lather that I just kept going on and on about how amazing it was.” That moment sparked Carter’s obsession for natural soaps and she found herself purchasing them everywhere she went.

Still intrigued, she decided to try her hand at making them on her own. She was able to convince a friend to try the process with her and they both made an olive oil castile soap. Carter wanted to take it a step further and enrolled in a class on how to effectively make the product, then gifted them to her family and friends as gifts. “It wasn’t until I gave the soap to my family, that my grandmother told me that my great-grandmother, who lived to be 100, also made soap in her day. So, when I make a batch, I feel a special connection to her,” says Carter.

In 2014, Carter was faced with the most devastating reality of her life – losing her only child. Making it through that experience opened her eyes wide and forced her to realize how short life is. She promised herself that she would do anything and everything she ever dreamed of doing, and owning a business was one of them.

In 2015, after much practice and research, The Black Belt Soap Company was launched. Those who hear about the company initially think the name is martial arts related, but it’s far from that. “I have this little corny joke that I tell people, ‘It’s not martial arts related, but we do make kick-ass products!” she laughs.

Carter hails from Sumter County, Alabama, 45 minutes south of Tuscaloosa, where The University of Alabama is located. The county, along with about 17 other counties, make up a region called ‘The Black Belt’ due to its rich black topsoil, an ingredient known for producing the best cotton. Subsequently, cotton is the company’s logo.

The Alabama native considers her company a social enterprise. She plans on giving back to the African American community, especially within the Black Belt region, which is very poor, lacking adequate jobs, has failing school systems, and everything else that comes with poverty. A few years ago, Carter helped sponsor an all-expense paid trip for African American students to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington, D.C. In the coming years, she plans on creating more of those same opportunities, to expose students to moments outside of their normal lives.

Carter, who is also a college professor at N.C. A&T State University is creating an affiliate program with The Black Belt Soap Company, to allow others to generate income by selling her products. She ultimately wants to build a healing community space, in honor of her daughter Chloe, that helps people Cultivate Health, Love, Opportunity, and Education.

As a professor in the Department of Liberal Studies, teaching African American and Women’s Studies courses, she is constantly encouraging her students to be entrepreneurial. She touches on the lack of opportunities for women and minorities in this country. “The only way to break the economic glass ceiling is to own your own business and diversify your income. So we talk about social disparities and work to create solutions.” Carter has a bachelor’s degree in English and political science, a master’s degree in English and African American Studies (graduating #1 in her class), and a Ph.D. in English, Rhetoric and Composition, with a post-baccalaureate degree in Women’s and Gender Studies.

Since starting the company, Carter enjoyed traveling to trade shows and presenting and selling her products across the country, but since the current health pandemic has halted that, her online sells have increased exponentially. Her bestselling soaps include her Green Tea, Lemongrass, & Honey, a Cucumber Aloe Mint, and Banana Bread, made from fresh pureed bananas, almond, cinnamon, and honey. She creates countless soap variations infusing coffee, tea, local goat milk, beer, and fresh herbs from her garden. Many attest that her Revive: Hydrating Skin Repair Serum has helped improve crow’s feet, dark blemishes, acne scars and razor bumps.

“Each month I make different types of soap, mainly using fresh, local ingredients. Sometimes, I get specific requests, which allows me to make customized soap loaves for my clients.” Carter has been invited to share her love for self-care and educate children by conducting specialized workshops at summer camps to teach them about living healthy, utilizing essential oils, and cleaning with non-toxic products.

Carter’s ultimate goal is to scale her company and become a household brand that customers can trust. The Black Belt Soap Company was selected as a local maker for West Elm stores in North Carolina. It was also selected to take part in eBay’s Retail Revival, a program that trains local business owners in different cities to sell their products in a global marketplace. Her products are located in Elements (in N.C. A&T’s Student Union Center), Green Hill Center for NC Artists, and will soon be in other markets.

She wants to help people love the skin they’re in. Regardless of skin tone, race, or gender, using great products can help achieve that.

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