There is no doubt that Nashville is famous. Most people associate it with music, but for me it is the restaurants, coffee shops, and Indie stores that make an impression. I am always torn whether to revisit the places I love or to explore and find new ones. In the end, though, I realize that I am most excited after a trip filled with new discoveries. A visit to Nashville last month resulted in one such discovery. I was delighted to meet Kim Vorperian, the owner and maker of Bodhi Basics, a small handcrafted soap business for people and their pups.
Upon first meeting Kim, I was immediately struck with her sweet demeanor and her obvious desire to create beautiful and wonderful soaps. Her passion was evident, not just for soap, but for a life lived well. At 25, Kim is definitely living an inspiring life committed to creating “handcrafted, organic, sustainable and luxurious soaps that are fun, gentle, eco-conscious and junk-free.” Everything is made by her hands with love, care, and most of all passion. The result…unique, beautiful, and truly exciting soap. Really.
Kim was gracious enough to take the time to answer some questions…
So first, tell me a bit about yourself, your life, and how you got to where you are today.
Well, I am an artist, musician, and artisan soap maker. I like to dance. I wear size 7 ½ shoe. Giraffes are my favorite animals.
It’s been a winding road that led me to where I am today. I guess it started with my dream of owning my own little community-centric bakery/café. Somehow I finagled a job after college as the sole baker for a small specialty European deli in Wicker Park, a Chicago neighborhood - no idea how I pulled that off really. I worked there for a bit, and to make a long story short, I ended up moving back to Florida where I discovered I had a pretty serious wheat allergy. That put my baking career on hold. So I changed courses, taught myself how to make soap, and here I am!
How would you describe yourself?
Remarkably charming, stunningly attractive, and humble as pie. I’m just your average “Jane” really, trying to make ends meet with what skills I possess, learning new ones when the situation arises, and having fun adventures while doing so!
What does handcrafted mean to you? Why is it important to you?
The term “handcrafted” is a very important one for me. I know when I pick up a product that is handcrafted there is a certain amount of pride, passion, and love that went into it. Instead of bashing factory-produced goods, I focus my effort towards making an amazing product that gives my customers a feeling that they are cared about. I think one-on-one connection is quickly losing its importance in society. I like to think that supporting the handcrafted movement is a way of strengthening that loosening personal connection.
How does crafting soaps relate to your life?
It is a process with a learning curve. The more genuine effort, hope, and passion you put into it, the more you will get out of it.
So what is the story behind the name Bodhi Basics?
Bodhi is the name of my notoriously entertaining rescue pup and best friend (as a “high-five” to all the shelter animals out there Bodhi Basics donates a percentage of its profits to our local animal shelter). “Bodhi” is a Sanskrit term translated into English as enlightenment….I had high hopes for my little shelter pup. The “Basics” part of our name applies to our process and materials. We only use ingredients that are directly from the earth. Organic herbs, flowers, essential oils and spices are what produce the color, scents, and textures of our soap. My hands make them. So “Bodhi Basics” is a company that draws attention to the true nature of getting back to the basics. A little lofty for a soap company, yes, but why not?
How do you come up with new soap combinations? What is your creative process like?
My inspiration for new soap combinations usually comes from my daily experiences. From the food I eat, to the smells I encounter, when I experience something good, I write it down. The “Grapefruit & Sugar” bar and my “Spiced Pumpkin” bar are two examples of this. I also focus on the medicinal and healing properties of the essential oils I use. Certain combinations can develop a potent bug repellant (like in the Backwoods Bar) or heal certain types of skin troubles, all smelling awesome at the same time!
Who in life inspires you and encourages you in your pursuit?
My friends and family are big factors, of course. With that said, I recently worked as a studio assistant for an artist couple, Linda and John. Linda makes gorgeously funky jewelry and John is a talented painter and also creates jewelry designs in his “down time”. They have been incredibly inspirational and supportive of my life, art, and Bodhi Basics. In addition to teaching me the ancient craft of metalsmithing, they demonstrated that it is possible to create a life for yourself that you love. And that success can be achieved through passion, creativity, and hard work. They have been working together (as a couple) in the same small studio every day for years and years, which is inspiring to anyone who has ever been in a relationship, let alone one where you work together. They have my respect for many reasons. Plus they’re just dang cool.
What is the best advice you have received and how has it affected your business?
That the first few years will be difficult, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I think everyone who starts a business hears this, but it’s true and it’s important to keep in mind.
Apart from soap making, what does your life hold?
I like to do a lot of things: running, making music, drawing, dreaming, making food with my friends, going to the dog park with Bodhi. I like to stay busy. Up until recently, I was obsessed with the Game of Thrones book series. Thankfully I have finished the books that are already written and can get back to L.B.G.O.T. or “Life Before Game of Thrones”.
What is essential in your day?
Dancing around like a goofball to my favorite tunes for 30 minutes a day. Without that, I think I’d go crazy. Sunlight and fresh air. Some Bodhi tummy scratches. A kale shake. Laughing with a good friend or a complete stranger. I’d say those are pretty essential.
What is your driving passion in life?
That one-on-one connection you experience with another sentient being. Making that experience a pleasant and fulfilling one is what keeps me going.
How do you make your life more beautiful?
I’m pretty lucky that my line of work keeps my house smelling fabulous. That’s a nice thing to wake up to every morning. I like to do little things, like smile at people I walk by or pick up something someone dropped. I think it’s a culmination of those little things that are going to make someone’s day a good one, whether they remember it or not.
So, a couple of random questions for you….If you could go anywhere, right now, where would it be?
Iceland, hands down. The colors of the landscape there are just awe-inspiring.
What is the first thing you like to do in a new city?
Walk around. I know it is a pretty simple answer, but I think there is no better way to get to know a city and experience its people, smells, and sights than just hitting the street one step at a time.
Where is the best restaurant you have ever been to?
Flo’s in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. I still dream about their breakfast. Ethiopian Diamond in Chicago is an extremely close second, like 1 ½ place really.
Do you have any other dreams or passions that you hope to achieve?
I’ll be applying to grad school in the near future to try to get my MFA in Studio Art. That is a dream. Can I say world peace? That would be nice.
What about your hope for Bodhi Basics?
WORLD DOMINATION! Just kidding. I hope that Bodhi Basics can make a few people and a handful of pups a little more comfy in their skin. I hope to keep meeting as many awesome people as possible. I sincerely believe Bodhi Basics has one of the best customer bases in the world. Everyone is so down to earth and friendly.
Last question, if you had to pick your favorite soap, which one would it be?
Dang, this is a hard one. It’s like asking a mom to pick her favorite child. One Dirty Pup is classic. I’d have to say that’s a personal fav.
Bodhi Basics’ motto is “If we will not eat it, it won’t be in our soap.” It feels good to be able to trust the products we are using! Personally, so much of what Kim is passionate about, totally resonates with me…including traveling to Iceland! Meeting the artisan behind the crafted good is always special and something that I am truly thankful for. My sincere hope is that you will get a glimpse of her person, her heart, and her passion as well as enjoy her beautifully crafted soaps….Virginia