Carissa Hill, right, holds one of their does, Mystic, and her sister and business partner, Jaiden, has another doe, Gina. Behind them are the two bucks, Ruff Tuff and Tristan. (Johnson Publications photo)
Youth’s business operation is one of top FFA projects in state
Carissa Hill, a junior at Chase County Schools (CCS), recently attended the FFA state convention in Lincoln along with other members of the Imperial FFA chapter.
Hill earned first place for her proficiency in ag processing for the “Goat Girls” business she operates with her younger sister, Jaiden, on their family’s farm.
She topped all the other entries in the ag processing category and is in contention to compete at nationals. Of all the state winners in that division, four will be chosen this summer for nationals.
How idea became reality
About a year and a half ago, Hill and her 13-year-old sister, Jaiden, were building a fence for a garden at the farm.
“We were using goat fencing, and my sister speculated about raising goats and not just the fencing,” Hill said smiling.
She thought it had merit, so Hill began researching goat breeds, products from goat’s milk and the “how-to’s,” she said.
The girls discussed their idea with their parents, Dirk and Rhonda Hill, to start a business making soap from goat’s milk.
“Our parents said they would support us, but if we wanted to start this business together, it would be entirely our responsibility. We would have to work together as business partners and work hard to make it a success,” she said.
“After much discussion and brainstorming, we decided to purchase a Nigerian Dwarf breed because they have the highest fat content,” Hill said.
Last August, Hill found a woman in North Platte who raised the Nigerian Dwarf breed and purchased four goats—two does and two bucks, she said.
“The lady also taught us how to make soap from goat’s milk to get us started,” she added.
Hill explained that the process of making soap is lengthy.
There are five types of aromatic oils used in their selection of soaps, she said.
They begin by measuring out the oils and emulsifying them.
Then measured amounts of sodium hydroxide (lye) are added along with goat’s milk. The girls themselves milk the goats twice a day, she noted.
“Once the soap is made, it is cut and must then cure for four weeks so it will harden before it can be sold,” said Hill.
Each doe can produce a quart of milk a day once bred.
“The two does are bred different times of year to offset the births, and so we will have milk available at different times also. The milk can be frozen if we get too much on hand,” she said.
One of the does is pregnant now and will be having kids in May.
“I am excited to have some baby goats. We have a play area made of tractor tires for them to play on,” said Hill.
Caring for the goats requires yearly vaccines, deworming and copper pills so they won’t become copper-deficient, she said.
They are fed a hay/alfalfa mix, minerals and water, and their pens are cleaned twice a week, she added.
“The does and bucks are kept in separate areas—does in the barn and bucks in a shed called The Buck House. They have separate outside areas to roam in also,” Hill said.
New product added
Hill said her sister suggested they expand their product line to include caramels made from goat’s milk.
They came to an agreement as co-owners, she said, and developed a plan.
“My dad had the equipment at his grocery store to make the caramels,” she added.
They simply mix the ingredients together, including the goat’s milk, heat and stir until reaching the correct temperature, poor into molds and let it cool, she said.
“We don’t have to worry about licensing for our soap because it doesn’t have any ingredients that can grow bacteria. And the caramels are made at Dad’s store and are covered by his restaurant license,” Hill said.
“Although we have recipes for the soap and caramels, we put our own spin on everything,” she added.
She said her dad helps with the marketing and budgeting their expenses and sales, while her mom helps with the creative process of the business.
“But we do all the work (labor) for the business,” she said.
The product labels are designed and drawn by Hill, also an accomplished artist.
Their caramels are sold at Hill’s Family Foods, and they have a good following, she said.
Hill said they sell their soap and caramels on the Goat Girls’ website, but they are still building it to increase recognition in other locations and states.
Currently, she advertises on her personal Facebook page and the store’s pages, as well.
Hill said their soap is super healthy for skin.
There’s nothing “extra” in the soap—just pure, simple ingredients, she said.
“We have a customer in Topeka, Kansas who uses our soap. She makes greeting cards, and our soap is the only product that gets the ink off her hands,” said Hill.
She and her sister do an equal amount of work, and they both work through everything, making business decisions together, Hill commented.
“One of our biggest challenges was learning to get along, not just as sisters, but as business partners. We built a strong relationship as friends, sisters and business owners. We are better for it,” said Hill.
She said Jaiden will continue the bulk of the process in the future when Hill leaves for college, but she will help when home so as to continue their business.
“Once Jaiden goes to college, hopefully our two littlest sisters will continue on with the business,” she added.
Hill is waiting to find out if she will be one of the four state proficiency winners in ag processing chosen to compete at the FFA nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana in the fall.