HD Soaps by Hilltop Designs carries unique gifts and products at its Dorr and Tanger Outlet locations.
Owner–proprietor Christine Weber of Martin started her business with $20. Today you can shop at one of her two store locations or browse her online inventory.
Back when I worked at the library, Christine would bring her toddlers in for story time. There was something about her that I just liked immediately. Over the weeks, we began chatting more and more after story time had ended.
Then at Christmas Christine presented the library with a gift bag of toddler approved snacks, new crayons and some other crafty items. Rarely does the library receive a gift, so this was so touching.
But more than just gifting to the program she had her children involved in, she also gave soap to library employees.
“I hope you like it,” she said, as she handed us the brightly wrapped bars, “I made it myself.”
“You made this?” I asked, shocked.
“Yup! And they are selling really well. If you want more, just let me know, and I can hook you up!”
Christine grew up here, but when she and her husband married, they lived in the Chicago area where her husband was raised. They decided to move to Michigan with their two young children, and one more on the way, but finding a house to move into proved more than difficult.
When the snow was falling, they could finally move out of the camper they were staying in and move into the house they had purchased. Their happiness at finding a home was dampened, however, when they realized the current homeowners had been selling off everything in the home before they moved in.
For instance, why not sell the fridge, oven, microwave and dishwasher during the short sale process? To say they were dejected and hit hard financially by this would be an understatement.
Expecting their third child and needing a source of extra income, Christine started her company Hilltop Designs. Their daughter had developed a skin rash and Christine, who had done some research about natural ways to treat this, via soap and balm, made up a recipe that worked so well she thought she could probably help someone else as well.
She had twenty dollars to spare, left over from a grocery run. With the extra grocery money, she purchased the ingredients she needed to make some soap to sell. Her mom bought half of those first bars to give to friends and Christine took that money and bought more ingredients to make more. She used the other half of her first batch of soap to make samples, and gave all those samples away, hoping to drum up more business.
That was more than eight years ago.
Christine began making more soap and started making lotions, body scrubs and balms. She studied Aromatherapy for two and a half years in order to become a certified aromatherapist.
Christine named her new up and coming business Hilltop Designs because she was quite literally living on top of a hill in Martin. Her home and business name may have changed since then (HD Soap by Hilltop Designs), but the products have stayed the same.
The soap making business took over their basement, so they moved HD Soap to a larger location in Hopkins. When the location in Hopkins could no longer hold the amount of products they were making, they moved the business to Dorr.
Still located in Dorr, Christine, her husband, kids and a team of employees keep cranking out new products in the back of the store, while keeping up a well-stocked shop in the front.
HD Soap made this past spring the move to a second location in the Tanger Outlet mall, where you will find all the products still made in the Dorr shop, but in a smaller, more gift centered store location.
While HD Soaps by Hilltop Designs now has two gift shop locations, they primarily sell the bulk of their products online. On their website you can find every handmade item you would find in the store. You can also join their monthly VIP and receive brand new full-size products, at a discount. These can be shipped directly to your home, or as a gift to another’s home.
Some of my favorite items from HD are her candles, but I also cannot handle certain kinds of candles due to a smell sensitivity. Yes, try living in a house full of boys with a smell sensitivity!
Christine’s candles are always a scent everyone in our family agrees on… winter, fall and cozy are our most favorites.
When items were hard to come by during the pandemic when the country shut down, my face wash was no longer available for purchase. I asked Christine what kind of bar I should use, and she gave me all kinds of samples she thought would work well. Christine has loads of sample bars to choose from and the soap I would never have chosen now is the one I will not change from. Her bar soap worked so well I never went back to my regular face wash.
While this column may appear to be a bit like a commercial, I didn’t write it to be. I wanted to introduce you to a locally owned business where you can find great gifts for this Christmas. I also wanted to introduce you to Christine, my friend, the woman who has been a great wife to Dan and a great mother to her three kids while working a business. If you see her cheering for her kids at a game, hanging with her husband, or working hard for their business (yes, her husband works there full time now, too), you’ll find the same authentic Christine.
She is in my top five, those top five friends you call when you need someone, and she can make me laugh hard like no one else can, and she can pray so hard for me that I think her prayers count as double.
I asked Christine what her favorite part of owning her own business is, and she said, “My favorite thing about our business is seeing all of the answers to prayers and remembering all of the God moments along the way. I love that God has provided us with work that allows us to be available for our kids’ moments, and gave us flexibility to homeschool our kids during the pandemic. While these last two years have been some of the most challenging, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
This story about her business is a portrait of Christine and the journey, she and her family have taken. I keep telling her she had better be keeping notes because it’s going to make a great book one day (I offered to write it for her, of course). It is her dedicated hard work that has brought her to eight plus years in business, and I could not be more proud of her, her family and team.
Tell me about an entrepreneur you think we need to get to know!