Owner of Little Bull Falls Soap Works turns layoff into opportunitySubmitted: 03/28/2020
Andrew Goldstein
Andrew Goldstein
Sports Anchor/Reporter

Owner of Little Bull Falls Soap Works turns layoff into opportunity
WAUSAU - Michelle Neathery thought soap would be a retirement hobby.

Now it's her full-time job.

"I started to decide making this more of a business, coming back, selling to the public," Neathery said.

Neathery started making scented soaps on the side in 2003 while working other full-time jobs.

But after the United Health Group eliminated her department a few weeks ago, Neathery began devoting even more time to Little Bull Falls Soap Works.

"I started doing more craft shows again," Neathery said. "Last year I did over 30 and this year was supposed to be over 30."

Normally, the layoff wouldn't have been so bad;it wasn't even related to COVID-19.

A week later, though, coronavirus began rippling through the economy, resulting in more than 110,00 initial unemployment claims in Wisconsin from just March 23 to March 27.

The same week last year had less than 6,000.

"Its been difficult, finding employers right now," Neathery said. "I mean, you can apply to all the jobs you want, but a lot of them are just stuck in limbo until things start going back to normal."

Neathery found some relief in the recently-passed federal stimulus bill, although that still doesn't bring long-term, steady health insurance.

"COBRA health insurance, as many people know, is just so expensive," Neathery said. "It's just not in our budget to be able to afford it right now. I have asthma, so I'm one of the people who are at high risk. It is what it is, I'm just stuck with what I have right now."

For now, though, she runs an essential business and hopes her customers see it the same way.

"I'm sure a lot of people are afraid to be spending money right now," Neathery said. "A lot of people are in the same boat we are."

The Little Bull Falls Soap Works is open four days per week.

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