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St. Louis-area mom uses soaps to teach diversity and inclusion

Coco Kennell wants her brand to stand for something and present a solution to some of the problems in society.

ST. LOUIS — In 2014, Coco Kennell experienced the civil unrest in Ferguson firsthand.

“We were so in the trenches with that,” she told 5 On Your Side.

The outbreak of violence in the streets and the perception of the people involved touched her deeply.

“It was such a personal matter to me, having African American boys,” she said.

The mother of three had a way to cope – she made soap.

“We used soap to take our minds off of it,” she said.

Kennell started making her soap years before the incidents in Ferguson. She learned how to find a way to treat her son’s eczema. The process isn’t an easy one.

“We’re makers. We’re hands on creative. It is very labor intensive,” she said.

The creative process also taught her some life lessons.

“It’s a wonderful teacher,” she said.

Kennell said the work showed her the value patience, tolerance and flexibility. She is now using those traits with her line of products, Soaplife 360.

“Everything I know about myself in the last 10 years, I’ve learned it through the process of building this business,” she said.

Kennell wants her soaps to do more than just cleanse the body. She wants the brand to stand for something and present a solution to some of the problems in society. The soaps come with her mission statement.

“It is on the back of every soap that we have – Diversity. Unity. Power of the people. Not just today but forever,” she explained.

The people she’s met along the way have inspired some of the products. There are bars called, “tomboy,” “drama queen,” “plain Jane” and “cougar.”

“When people see these names, they see themselves. We use the people as the inspiration. We listen to them. We’re here to serve them,” she said.

She believes the message on the soaps is making a difference.

“I’ve seen lives changed in front of us. I had to get other people to see,” she said.

Kennell hopes Soaplife 360 starts a conversation and brings about change in society.

If you want to learn more about the soaps or join her conversation online, click here.

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