Rocky Mount soap business adapts, survives during pandemic

Posted January 19, 2021 6:26 p.m. EST
Updated January 20, 2021 8:10 a.m. EST

— Small businesses have had to adapt to survive the coronavirus pandemic, and Rocky Mount’s The Bath Place knows that all too well.

Kimberly Clayton Thigpin started her soap-making business in 2009. Shortly after, it grew to include other hand and body products.

"I started making soaps because there were members of my family who suffered from eczema," Clayton Thigpin said. "Then I learned about sulfates, parabens, chemicals and dyes."

She opened her brick-and-mortar store in downtown Rocky Mount in 2012, becoming one of the first new business to move to the area and jump-starting the downtown revitalization.

"Kimberly was one of the firs to come on board with that," Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President David Farris said. "She took a real financial risk, even greater than what you’d normally take."

Clayton Thigpin said she has no regrets.

"Over the last couple of years, there was a real upward momentum happening," she said.

But then the pandemic hit. With everything shut down, Clayton Thigpin did what she learned how to do early on in her business – adapt and pivot.

Soon, The Bath Place was also selling hand sanitizer, and she was also donating large batches of it to various organizations in the community.

The move helped her stay afloat for months, she said, noting that the business wasn’t eligible for any federal Paycheck Protection Program loans because her employees are contract workers. Her family also stepped up to help.

"I had to bring my family in," she said. "I brought my mom, my kids. They were sleeping here, after hours, trying to help me."

Since the holidays, the business is slowly getting back on its feet. Clayton Thigpin said support is more important than ever before, and it’s not always about spending money.

"Word of mouth, telling other people [helps]," she said. "If you really love it, help get the word out."

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