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A Conversation with Our Founder, Monique Kofsky

Step into the world of Butter & Lye through an intimate conversation with our founder, Monique Kofsky. Discover the inspirations, passions, and journey behind the brand as Monique shares her story, values, and vision for crafting sensitive skin solutions with care and compassion.

How did you get your start as an entrepreneur?

I felt the entrepreneurial spirit from a young age. My parents were young Haitian immigrants trying to support three little kids. They had yard sales just about every week, and my mom would ask my siblings and me to go through our things and decide what we wanted to sell. This was always exciting for us because we knew we could use the pocket change we earned to buy treats at the ice cream truck. That was really how it started.

Why did you decide to launch Butter & Lye?

It’s been an interesting journey. I worked in cancer immunotherapy as a biochemist for over 10 years, but my interest shifted when I was hit with pretty bad adult acne. I tried so many different products, but most of them were full of fragrances and chemicals that were hard on my sensitive skin. The final straw was when I woke up one day when I was dating my husband and my acne cream had bleached the pillowcase. It was so embarrassing! With my background in biology and chemistry, I knew I could create gentle formulas for healthy, balanced skin. So, I spent the next year combining natural oils, botanicals, and lye in my kitchen. It all felt fairly similar to what I was doing in the lab, which was a plus! After a lot of experimenting, I finally found a soap I was happy with, and I shared my extra bars with my family and friends. Everyone loved them! They said it left their skin super soft, and they came back for more. That’s when I realized I could turn it into a business.

Why did you choose the name Butter & Lye?

Butter & Lye is an homage to traditional, simple soap-making practices. The old way of making soap is very straightforward. All you do is take a fat, like shea butter or just about any other fat or oil, and mix it with lye. Ta-da! You have soap. That’s why I chose the name.

What’s behind your focus on high-quality ingredients?

That’s something I saw firsthand growing up. When my parents had their yard sales, my siblings and I ran an iced tea stand. We would add a splash of lemon juice and our secret ingredient, vanilla extract, which is a Haitian specialty. People would line up, waiting for my mom to bring the pitcher down the stairs. I remember how excited I was to see people coming back for a second cup. Sometimes, they didn’t even go to the yard sale! That experience taught me the value of providing quality products made with great ingredients.

Why is community support so important at Butter & Lye?

That’s another lesson from my childhood. When I was a kid, every Saturday, my family and I made PB&J sandwiches for the less fortunate with an organization called the Peanut Butter and Jelly Gang. They set up tables in the gymnasium of an old, abandoned school and my job was usually to lay out the slices of bread. I always looked forward to Saturdays, because I had a lot of fun giving back.

Being an adult and continuing to support my community is so important to me. Life isn’t all about making money. It’s about making a difference.

Why have you built Butter & Lye with such an emphasis on sustainability?

I grew up sustainably out of necessity. The Country Crock butter containers in our fridge were usually filled with leftovers, we couldn’t leave a room without turning off the lights, and the majority of my clothes were hand-me-downs. This lifestyle conditioned me to live sustainably as an adult even though I don't face the same pressures my parents once did.

Then as I learned more about the state of the planet, I couldn’t see building a business that focuses so much care on people without also caring about the planet we live on. So I’m happy I was conditioned to be mindful of my choices. We need to protect the world so our kids, and their kids, have a healthy place to live. I’m committed to doing my part to make that happen.

Can you share a little about your family?

I have a wonderful husband, Rob, and a spirited young son named Theo. They are my world. As hectic as it is to run a business with a toddler hanging onto your leg with every move, I’m fortunate to have Rob’s incredible support to make it work. I’m looking forward to expanding Butter & Lye into the business I know it can be, with an amazing partner who has my back.