BUSINESS

Mississippi mom’s quest to find skin-safe products leads to Magnolia Soap and Bath Co.

Magen Bynum. Submitted photo. Bynum is featured with containers of some of her products.
Magen Bynum. Submitted photo.

Gabrielle Curry
Oxford Stories
gncurry@go.olemiss.edu

When Magen Bynum began looking for safe products for her daughter’s sensitive skin, she discovered that many soaps are closer to detergents than traditional soap.

“This is because the mass production process removes the natural glycerin (animal or vegetable fat) from the soap, which gives it moisturizing properties, and replaces it with synthetic agents to make up the difference,” she writes on her business website. “And believe me – your skin knows the difference.”

While these “detergent bars” are more economical for companies and consumers, Bynum said many soaps and personal care products are harder on the skin, frequently causing dryness and skin irritation.

“I decided to make it my mission to educate others about plant-based beauty and provide them with natural alternatives,” she wrote.

Today, Bynum, who was named Mississippi Entrepreneur of the Year in 2021 by the Mississippi Main Street Association, is the owner of Magnolia Soap and Bath Co. with 25 stores and plans to open more.   

Megan Bynum is pictured with her children. Submitted photo.
Megan Bynum. Submitted photo.

Bynum owned a nail salon prior to entering the soap world and noticed there was a need for safer soaps and lotions for customers. So, she began creating her own products.

Her interest intensified when her first child had sensitive skin, and she became hyper-aware of irritating products. This inspired her to find plant-based ingredients compatible with her baby’s skin. When her love for making bath and beauty products grew, she said she found her new business was more successful than the nail salon.

After closing the salon, Bynum opened her first location in New Albany, Mississippi, at 119 W. Bankhead St., then opened a second store in Oxford at 2305 Jackson Ave. W. Mississippi is known as the Magnolia State, so she incorporated the flower and state into her business name.

“No matter where you are in a Magnolia Soap, the home base was always going to be Mississippi,” she said. “… I prayed so hard about every decision that was made and knew this is what God wanted me to do, and knew that he would provide, and indeed he did.”

Bynum faced a few challenges with her start-up. Magnolia Soap and Bath was mainly self-funded, but Bynum said they also used small business loans to finance the business and their 10,000 square foot warehouse. With 25 locations, comes much responsibility, such as figuring out payroll and sales tax.

With a sales management background, Bynum has relied on her leadership skills, teaching managers how to set goals and be accountable for their own store’s success. She is also responsible for sourcing ingredients for every store. 

Bynum said she’s learned a lot about business from her mistakes.

“I’m a hustler. I’m gonna make it happen. My personality type, I don’t get distraught over a mistake. I have the mindset of learning from it and moving forward.”

Magen Bynum

Magnolia Soap and Bath Co. is mostly known for its bar soaps infused with coconut, olive and pine oil. The next best-selling product is their laundry detergent that customers can match with any scent in the store. Magnolia Soap also sells whipped sugar scrubs, whipped body butters, bath bombs, a pet line, a men’s line, and a home line. 

“I play a lot,” said Bynum. “I’m always back at the New Albany store mixing and making.” 

Bynum said she has perfected a recipe for her plant-based products with ingredients that nourish and hydrate skin.

“Make sure what you’re putting on your body is safe and as close to nature as you can get,” she said.

Bynum said her products are free of harsh chemicals and parabens.

“Yes, we can get the ingredients somewhere else for $20 dollars cheaper,” she said, “but I would rather increase our prices a little, than decrease the quality of our ingredients, and compromise the integrity of our products.”

Megan Bynum. Submitted photo.

Bailey Rhynes, manager of the Oxford Magnolia Soap and Bath Co. store, said she admires Bynum personally and professionally.

“She is such an overachiever,” Rhynes said. “That is contagious to the rest of her staff. She never gets comfortable with her success. Instead, she always pushes for growth and improvement in our work ethics, product additions, and customer satisfaction.” 

When customers are satisfied, it’s not enough, Rhynes said.

“She wants them to be mesmerized by our company as a whole,” she said. “She not only wants to grow her company and brand, but also the type of people her staff sets out to be as they encounter their future endeavors.”

Bynum hopes others will sample her creations.

“You can talk about your products all day and implement all the marketing in the world,” she said, “but when someone actually tests your products on their skin, they can see benefits, leading to word of mouth and growth for your business.” 

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