The sweet, tart smell of a lemon or lime whisks Tim Kapalo-Allen away to a happy place that’s bright and cheerful, where the sun is shining. Kapalo-Allen, Sleepy Hollow Road, has always been drawn to fragrance. Candles are always burning in his home and a happy scent in the shower can set the tone for the whole day.
“I think the smell of (citrus) can really change your mood,” he said. And he wants to take others to that same happy place each day with his vegan, handcrafted soap, sold through his business, Sleepy Hollow Handmade.
Although Kapalo-Allen’s day job is speech-language pathologist, he has an extensive background in sales, previously working in retail at Lush, a soap store in South Hills Village. After leaving Lush, he knew he couldn’t afford to keep buying top-shelf soaps at full price. So, with encouragement from his husband, Joey, he started making his own.
At the start of the pandemic, Kapalo-Allen found himself making more and more soap for fun. He did giveaways and used social media—mostly Instagram—to share the soap making process with others. He wanted to do his part to keep the post office afloat, so he kept sending out soap to friends and family. Soon he learned that he could only give away so much soap. Joey again encouraged him, this time to turn his passion into a business.
Kapalo-Allen describes the chemical process of soap making as “part chemistry, part baking and cooking.” He combines the ingredients, plays with colors, scents and designs all from his kitchen counter.
Kapalo-Allen makes the soap in small batches. He doesn’t use products that were tested on animals and tries to keep his recipes simple. He believes in supporting small businesses and helping others pursue their passions. “It’s about that community and supporting others,” he said. “Your dollar should support things that you believe in. I am queer and I want my customers to know that you’re supporting a gay man. I’m proud to be who I am and I’m proud to make my soaps.”
Kapalo-Allen keeps an inventory of his top sellers that include mint, coffee, citrus and florals. He also makes seasonally inspired creations, like a grass-scented soap to set the mood for the crisp spring weather.
His client base has grown as he posts updates on social media, and as friends and family tell their friends and family. He’s shipped to Georgia, California, Indiana and New York. He was selected to participate in the Handmade Arcade’s virtual hyperlocal fair last month.
“2020 was a crazy year and everyone has so much going on and there’s obviously so much stress and uncertainty and ambiguity in life that at least there’s the one little thing where you can jump in the shower and have that moment of happiness and that scent can take you away to somewhere else.”
To learn more about Sleepy Hollow Handmade, follow along on Instagram at @sleepyhollowhandmade.