Fifteen years ago, Brian and Kathy Jeffers were suburbanites who decided they wanted to live on a farm.
In 2005, they moved to Hartville. It led to an unexpected but successful business that continues to grow and thrive.
The couple are co-owners of Nanny Goat Naturals, a company that specializes in pasteurized goat’s milk, and fudge, skin creams and soaps made from goat’s milk.
“We lived in Perry Township all of our lives, grew up there and raised our family there,” Kathy Jeffers said. “We learned as we went. We came from living in an allotment, to learning how to take care of three horses.”
Jeffers said they acquired two female goats in 2007 after her daughter raised a pig for 4-H competition but the pig wasn’t very cooperative.
“The next year, she wanted something she could take on a lead,” she said. “We knew she wouldn’t sell a market animal, so we went dairy.”
Jeffers said the goats produced so much milk that the family began selling the excess.
“We tried the Canton Farmers’ Market, and it took off,” she said. “I was working at a credit union, and I decided to quit.”
Nanny Goat Naturals’ first store was located at the Hartville Marketplace for eight years before the couple relocated it to a space in downtown Hartville.
“When the pandemic closed us in March, we knew retail was going to take a while, so we decided to bring it home,” she said.
They’re remodeling an unused room in their home, which will serve as a retail space and a place to host workshops. Meanwhile, orders are being shipped or hand-delivered.
In order to serve their customers, Kathy Jeffers said the pandemic has forced them to become more creative. Nanny Goat Naturals also sells on Etsy and to wholesale distributors who sell their products across the U.S.
“We offer free shipping on orders of $35 or more,” she said. “It’s a new experience for me. Some have been with us from the beginning.”
Kathy Jeffers said they developed soap products in response to her husband’s problems with severe eczema.
She said her husband also took an online soap-making class and plans to enroll in an advanced class.
“When we started, he was in the hospital all the time,” she said. “His doctor was buying our milk. He started adapting recipes; that’s where his talent lies. He does the science and the math behind the recipes.
“We have one customer who has two pages of things he’s allergic to; he can’t even use soap. He gave Brian the list, and he made him a custom soap.”
Nanny Goat Naturals also offers products made from camel’s milk, which can help people suffering from psoriasis, and coconut milk for vegans. The camel’s milk comes in powder form from India.
“I’ll tell you, it really works,” Kathy Jeffers said.
Jeffers said operating Nanny Goat Naturals has been challenging, but fun.
“What’s really fun is adapting and figuring it out,” she said. “When the pandemic hit, it wasn’t an option to close. We thought ‘What can we do to make this work?’ ”
Jeffers said they get advice from SCORE and have been a community partner with Kent State University’s Small Business program (Stark campus).
“Everything we have done, we have just done on the fly,” she said. “We’ve made all the mistakes. The hardest thing was making up my mind to quit (my day job), to grow the business. A friend of mine said to me, ‘You’re going to grow. You’re going have to make this business work because that’s your paycheck.’ ”
Jeffers said that since they closed the store, they have more time to devote to make and develop more products.
“It’s been amazing, the amount of support we’ve gotten,” she said.
Jeffers said her daughter occasionally helps her with social media, but she has her own booming business, Happily Tumbler After, which opened in 2019.
To learn more, visit nannygoatnaturalshartville.com.