Update: New Location
Since the publishing of this article, San Saba Soap Company announced a second location opening in Fredericksburg. The original store in San Saba will be temporarily closed until late October while the Holley family gets the new store prepped and ready. You can still get your San Saba Soap Company needs at San Saba Soap Company.
While San Saba, Texas is a small community, it has undoubtedly raised some successful businesses from the ground up over the years including Harry’s Boots, Wedding Oak Winery, San Saba Olive Oil, and the Dofflemyer Hotel. It is in the same slow and steady manner that San Saba Soap Company has made a name for itself and has even found a way to thrive during difficult times.
Marcus and Leanne Holley, the husband and wife duo behind San Saba Soap Company, were both born and raised in nearby Brownwood, Texas, but their families have been closely tied to the region since the 1800’s with Marcus’s family members even helping found the city of Lampasas. So it was a no-brainer when the couple decided to venture into skincare products, the name San Saba Soap Company was an easy choice.
The Holley family has always been health conscious. Not just in skincare, but in dietary and health habits as well. When Marcus and Leanne began to raise their family, they focused on the impact of having a healthy lifestyle for their children. They began a process of educating themselves on the different impacts of mass-produced foods and skincare products, and discovered the natural qualities of essential oils. It was around 2014, when after learning all they could about the science of organic skincare options, the Holleys began to explore creating essential oil blends that could be used across a variety of products.
Starting A Business
Marcus and Leanne have backgrounds that lend themselves to creating a brand and a business, with experience in marketing and digital art. From the beginning, their plan was to slowly build up a following that was organic, and did not force them to stray away from their core values and main business plan. Initially, the soap-making business was only an online venture that branched out into wholesale and corporate event lines of business as the brand grew. Key partnerships with Royal Blue Grocery (Highland Park) and Hoffman Haus (Fredericksburg) helped spread the word.
It was only years later that the Holleys added a storefront in San Saba that provided a home for the business. The San Saba community was a big help in the early stages, with many local stores carrying the soaps. Dofflemyer Hotel, owned by Clay Nettleship, agreed to be one of the first to use their products exclusively. The store itself has its own unique local story, having been a gym for the previous decade and a post office for years before it was a gym. The building may not have been most people’s ideal version of a skincare products store. However, anyone that has been can agree that the authenticity and clean and simple elegance of the layout and decor make it a great place to shop and visit.
The San Saba Soap Company retail store was made with love. The initial goals were to design a space that despite its rigid, square mid-century structure, could be transformed into something that was bright, clean, and have a feeling of warmth. Marcus built the display tables himself, designed the layout of the space, and brought in furniture pieces from his great grandfather and grandfather’s businesses, some dating back as far as 1914, for the seating area that continued to connect the brand with Texas and the region. Marcus also collects copper, wood, and pottery pieces, and used some of those pieces to create an environment, that often leaves customers wanting to purchase the decor along with the soaps and hand creams.
San Saba Soap Company features 10 fragrance collections that are derived from essential oil blends that are proprietary and created by Marcus. The collections include soaps, bath salts, and hand creams that are complementary to each other. The packaging for San Saba Soap is described by Leanne as modern farmhouse and has been very well received by clients ranging from Royal Blue Grocery to Chevron. The standouts from these collections are:
The White Tea Hibiscus Hand Cream, on the other hand, is very floral and made with high-quality ingredients including collagen, vitamin E, squalene, and aloe leaf juice extracted from Texas aloe plants.
The Pecan Oil Facial Oil has been a phenomenon of its own, requiring San Saba Soap to offer only pre-orders to manufacture small batches and ship because the products sell out immediately as soon as they are available. The cold-pressed pecan skincare product is unique in that it is one of the few products on the market to use pecans, rather than almonds, jojoba, or coconut. Science journals have written that pecans have the highest levels of antioxidants among nuts, are rich in fatty acids, and are highly beneficial to skin quality. Pecans, however, are very expensive, so being in the Pecan Capital of the World has given the San Saba Soap Company a unique advantage in the organic skincare industry.
COVID-19 has been devastating to many families and industries. Less than two years after opening the storefront in San Saba, the Holleys were initially nervous about the future of the brand as wholesale orders stopped, and corporate events were canceled. The couple regrouped and focused on online and pickup orders and sales shot through the roof. The renewed focus on the importance of hand-washing and cleanliness led many people to discover the San Saba Soap Company. They developed a curbside system that allowed online orders to be picked up by customers in the region with a simple text on arrival. As people used more alcohol-based hand sanitizer, they found their hands becoming very dry, and now hand cream sales are competing with the traditional soaps for the biggest sales. As more people tried the products, they shared them on social media and spurred more organic growth. San Saba Soap Company had found a way to thrive during a challenging time.
The San Saba Soap Company retail store is back open after COVID-19 concerns and state-mandated shutdowns. The Holleys heard consistently from their customers that they could not wait for the store to open back up again, so they decided to open back up, despite the fact that the growth in online and pick up sales made it almost unnecessary. However, San Saba Soap Company is one of those unique destination shops, that people will drive hundreds of miles to because they used the soap during a hotel stay, or were given a sample in a gift basket and want to visit the city and the store. Being open is good for the community, and good for business. A sign that the Holleys have done what they set out to do: Build a strong brand that was intentionally kept small to build a loyal audience.