Among Sherry Wilson's favorite childhood pastimes while growing up in South Africa was making fragrant soaps with her mother, Lynn Braun, in the family's back yard.
"We were always making something, and making soaps was one of my favorite things to do," said Wilson.
However, Wilson put her hobby on a back burner when her mother was transferred by her employer, Hewlett Packard, in 1993, and Wilson, then a teen, joined her in the United States.
After college, Wilson married and became a real estate agent. Then, seven years ago, she decided to revive her childhood hobby, making soaps to give as gifts to family and friends.
"Everybody said I should try selling them," she recalled. So she started a part-time business, selling her handmade soaps, lotions and sugar scrubs through her own website.
When her daughter was born, Wilson decided to give up her real estate so she could spend more time with her daughter. But she continued building her website business from home.
"People loved my soaps. But they also wanted personalized gifts so, 3 1/2 years ago, I hired a lady to do embroidered names and initials on items," said Wilson.
As her personalized gift baskets became more in demand, Wilson purchased her own small embroidery machine and taught herself to use it.
"And the business really took off," she said. That prompted her to purchase a large monogram machine and open Aroma Bath & Body at 6032 Winthrop Town Centre Ave., Riverview, last summer.
"I love it," she said. "Now I get to meet my customers and help them design unique gift baskets. And, because the shop is small and I don't have a lot of overhead, I'm able to keep my prices low."
Wilson's 15- by 15-foot shop is filled with aromatic soaps made with all-natural ingredients, homemade soy candles, sugar scrubs with anti-aging oils, beeswax lotions and an array of colorful tote bags, beach bags, baby bibs, towels, backpacks and pencil boxes, hats, scarves, blankets, carrying cases and clothing that can be embroidered with names and initials.
"Everybody likes to receive something unique, something personal, so my personalized gift baskets have become very popular," she said. "I have many regular clients who keep me very busy."
Wilson said she can help customers create themed gift baskets for baby showers, bridal showers, birthdays and other occasions, and have the items embroidered within two weeks. Once completed, Wilson will even ship the gift baskets to the recipient.
"It makes it very easy to give someone a personal gift," she said. "Many of my regular customers are busy career women who don't have time to shop and put together a gift basket or men who aren't sure what to buy. I do it all for them," she said. "Customers can even give me a calendar of birthdays and other special occasions throughout the year and I'll prepare gift baskets and send them out so they don't have to worry about it."
Wilson is currently offering a variety of seasonal items for the holidays.
For information, contact Wilson at 813-477-9488 or email her at Sherry@AromaBathandBody.com.
You can check out some of Wilson's products on her website.