CMC student launches soap business to help cover tuition | SteamboatToday.com

CMC student launches soap business to help cover tuition

Michanae Edwards sells soap to help pay her CMC tuition. (Photo by Kari Harden)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Presented with the opportunity to attend college in Steamboat Springs, Michanae Edwards jumped at the chance.

A native of Jamaica, Edwards first did her research watching videos about the town and its Colorado Mountain College campus.

Then, at her aunt’s invitation, she moved from the tropics to the mountains in the middle of winter 2015.

She liked that it was a small town, a small college, and "I always wanted to see the snow." Although, she admits she’s still adjusting to the cold.

At one of CMC’s Casino Nights, Edwards won a snowboard, but she still needs bindings and all the gear but hopes to try it for the first time this year.

She's grown to love Steamboat and is now in her third year at CMC, studying resort management and leadership management. There are currently six international students at CMC in Steamboat on F1 student visas.

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Edwards works full time in guest services at a hotel and is looking for additional seasonal work. She's also started investing in the stock market about $5 a week.

But she still needed to find something more to cover her tuition and cost of living.

When she first moved to Steamboat, she was living with her aunt, who was helping her with tuition. But with her aunt working two jobs, "I knew I needed to take over," Edwards said.

About a month ago, she moved out of her aunt's house and into an apartment with two roommates.

For inspiration, Edwards searched the internet for money-making ideas for college students. She came across one that appealed to her — selling soap.

She found a small company in Illinois that helps entrepreneurs get started — setting up the business, customizing labels and choosing varieties.

A local friend helped her start a website.

As she is getting started, Edwards buys the natural, cold-pressed, handmade soap wholesale. But as soon as she builds the time and resources, she plans to start making it herself.

She named her business Camaleta's Soap Bars after her middle name.

Plagued with dry itchy skin when she moved to Colorado, Edwards uses the soap every day and convinced her roommates to as well.

"I wouldn't want to sell it if I didn't believe in it," Edwards said.

So far, she's invested more than she's made, but the business is new, and she's working on selling it to guest houses and people who make gift baskets for clients.

Tucked into a corner of the apartment, Edwards pulls a variety of soaps and colorful cloth bags out of a set of plastic drawers.

Among her 15 varieties, there's black raspberry vanilla, honey suckle, mountain air and dead sea mud scrub. One of the most popular — and colorful — is gobi gold, a mix of sweet orange, plumeria, patchouli, amber and vanilla.

"I count every sale and do a happy dance," she said.

She's posted fliers all over town and offers free delivery in Steamboat.

Long term, Edwards plans to pursue a career in the resort industry, most likely back in Jamaica.

"I want multiple sources of income," Edwards said. "I'd rather work for myself and be creative and not work for other peoples' dreams — but work for my own."

While she misses Jamaica — "the food, the beaches, my mom and sisters" —she is fully embracing her time in Steamboat.

"She's the most cheerful person I've ever met," said friend and her website designer Alberto Williams. "And she's very determined and focused on goals."

Williams, who has eczema, is also a test subject for new soaps and is a regular customer. He said is continuously impressed by Edwards' ability to juggle being a full-time student with a full-time job.

"Living in this town has given me nothing but opportunities,” Edwards writes on the "About us" page of her website. “And I have met great people who have guided me on the right path to success.”

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @KariHarden.

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