Stem Soaps: Good Clean Fun

Liz Conway
April 1, 2021
A wooden shelf is lined with colorful bars of soap wrapped in paper.
Photo by
Don Gregory
Lakewood, OH

Dave Willett and Steve Meka are two people who really love their job. Together with a lot of collaboration and communication they bring their unique talents together to create, Stem Soaps. 

Stem Soaps signature product line is their handmade aromatherapy soaps. They have grown to include a full line of beauty and household products, from lotions to liquid hand soaps to scrubs. 

Stem Soaps main production and first store resides in a quaint storefront in the Birdtown district of Lakewood. Their second, and newer, storefront sits on the opposite side of Cleveland in the bustling Shaker Heights Van Aken district.  Cleveland’s East and West siders can easily pop into a Stem Soaps store and support a local business. Everyone across town can fulfill their soap needs. 

Successful hobby turned meaningful profession 

Stem Soaps was born in Steve’s makeshift basement lab. As a hobby he started experimenting with different soap making techniques. (Don’t worry, he has a background in biochemistry so he knows what he’s doing.) Friends and family were their first to try his soap concoctions which they thoroughly enjoyed.

Dave, Steve’s husband, then came into play. His background and career in retail helped when they began to sell their wares at local farmers markets on the weekends.  

When they bought their Lakewood location to increase production space and set up their storefront, they were running this business in the evenings, weekends, and any time off they had from their full time jobs. They began to manage a small staff to run the store and the business continued to grow. It was not their original intention to start this business to get away from their full time careers, but that is exactly what happened!  It wasn’t until they decided to open another store in Shaker Heights that they both took the leap to leave their full time corporate jobs.

“We feel very fortunate to be in the Lakewood and Shaker Heights communities because they are outstanding at supporting the small businesses of the people who live and work there.”

-Dave Willett, Co-Owner, Stem Soaps

It was not an easy choice to make, to leave long and stable careers for running a small business full time. They were leaving behind a sense of security and regularity. But giving their full time to this endeavor gave them a sense of freedom and fulfillment they were lacking in their previous careers. 

They are now able to be in control of the decision making. Dave and Steve are excited to get up each day and go to work together each day. Work doesn't become something you dread; it becomes a meaningful part of your life. 

Now back to the soaps

Essential oils are, well, essential to their body care products. When you take a bar of Stem Soap into your shower you are getting clean and also getting the added benefit of aromatherapy from the oils they put into each bar of soap. Choose a scent like lavender to relax you at the end of a stressful day or choose a blend of peppermint and orange to pep you up in the morning. 

The basement of their Lakewood shop is where the magic happens. All of their products are made in house with that personal touch. When it comes time to bring new products and scents to the floor, their workshop becomes a playground for Steve and Dave to test out new combinations. They put out a few new scents each season to keep things fresh. Often a new debut will become a customer must have and they end up making it available year round. 


The customers of Stem Soaps care about sustainability - so they delivered. But they admit, they don’t always get it right the first time. They make shampoo bars, which are a great eco friendly alternative to bottles of shampoo, cutting down on both water and plastic waste. They first sold their shampoo bars wrapped in plastic, negating some of the eco friendly benefits of a shampoo bar in the first place. They have since swapped out the plastic for a recyclable paper wrap. They are constantly making shifts to have the whole operation be as sustainable as possible. 

Recently, they have implemented a liquid soap refill program to help cut down on plastic waste. You can buy a growler full of liquid hand soap to refill your bottles at home. When it is empty, simply bring the growler back and trade it in for a full one. The best part is that you can customize it to your favorite scents! These kinds of programs give their customers a cost effective way to remain sustainable in their everyday lives. 

Connecting near and far 

Want to know what’s going on behind the scenes? Attend one of their soap making classes! Equal parts history, safety, and science, Steve and Dave will take you through the soap making process. At the end of it you will have your very own custom scented bars of soap. You’ll have to be patient though; it takes about 4 weeks for the soap to cure before it can be hand cut and picked up. 

These kinds of events bring in regular customers and newbies alike and give them a memorable experience. 

If one good thing has happened as a result of the pandemic, it is the growth of their online business. “When you have a website, your product goes further” -Dave They ship out their soaps and body care products to nearly all 50 states. 

For more information or to buy, visit

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