By: Emily Creighton Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers
While most people enjoy a relaxing bath as a means to treat themselves, Tracy Gunn found a different kind of comfort in bathtime.
After being laid off from her job as an animal pharmaceutical rep, the single mother of two teenage sons had only $100 to her name – then an idea struck. Running out of her favorite luxury body wash, she made the bold decision to purchase $32 worth of soap-making supplies.
“I had a hundred dollars in the bank, and I thought, ‘This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. I’m absolutely out of my mind,’” recalls Gunn, who was 41 at the time.
But that was only the beginning of an emotional journey that would eventually become the Naked Mermaid Soapery – the home of UR Bath and Body, a line of handmade body soaps, scrubs and bath bombs – located on Delray Beach’s 6th Ave.
Starting out of her Oklahoma kitchen, Gunn began selling handmade soaps to friends and through word of mouth. She said, “I put it on Facebook and from there, it just kept growing. Before you know it, our 3-bedroom house was covered in soap.”
After three years, her products were being sold in over 1,000 stores across the country, and in the fall of 2014, she was able to afford a manufacturing facility. However, the rise to success didn’t last long. In May 2015, a tornado devastated her building, bringing her back down to square one – this time with a painful bout of shingles.
“I lost everything,” Gunn said. “I had no money again, and I was scared.” Unable to work for two months while healing, her favorite television show, CBS’s “Blue Bloods,” and its focus on New York’s homeless community, inspired her.
“I had decided that there’s probably tens of thousands of me out there and not to feel sorry for myself because there’s always somebody out there who is in a worse position,” she said. “I was just so determined to start my business over and survive everything. I sat up one day – both kids were sitting in the living room with me – and I said, ‘I’m going to New York City.’”
So she did. For two years, she traveled between New York and Oklahoma, selling her soaps, body scrubs and bath bombs and vowing to help others with her restored business. But, it wasn’t until a visit to a women’s and children’s shelter in the Bronx that her brand got its signature, UR.
“The director [of the shelter] was your typical Bronx, sort of hard spoken, tough girl,” Gunn said. “She would be telling me about their facility and how I could employ them, and as every woman would leave for the day, this very hardcore woman would stop mid-sentence with me and she would hug them and would say, ‘You are amazing, you are going to do such great things today, you are going to be okay…’ and it just stuck in my mind.”
With renewed purpose, Gunn named her line UR Bath and Body. Every product is branded with an affirmative message, including “UR Sexy,” “UR Fearless” and more.
Looking for a permanent home for her business and family, she made the move to Florida in May 2016. By August, she opened her storefront, but once again, her good fortune took a turn for the worse when she discovered that employees were stealing her products and reselling them online.
Disheartened, Gunn reached out for help on the Delray RAW Facebook group, a private page dedicated to connecting residents. This is where she began to find her footing amongst the locals.
“At that moment, when I thought I didn’t know what the hell I got into, I posted on Delray RAW and the community came out and they rallied,” she said. “The whole Delray Beach Police Department took me in and treated me like family.”
Eventually, the stolen product was found and returned, leaving Gunn grateful. “If it hadn’t have been for Delray RAW – that community on Facebook – I would’ve lost my business.”
Since then, Gunn has been doing the inspiring. Rashelle Moore, 24, began working at the Soapery in February 2017 after being introduced to Gunn by her cousin, a Delray Beach cop who helped recover the stolen property.
“I admire her for starting [UR Bath and Body],” Moore said. “She is the type of person you know you can look up to because even when she was at her lowest point, she never gave up, and now she’s selling across the country.”
As for what’s to come, The Naked Mermaid Soapery continues to grow while staying true to its original mission of empowering women in need.
This month, an organic, all-natural line will be released and will be sold to health food stores around the country. Additionally, Gunn will bring on three new employees as the beginning of a partnership with an organization that brings less fortunate women from New York to Florida in hopes of a fresh start.