Donovan Smith is a young entrepreneur who relinquished his soap business to focus on donating his products to those in need.
The 13-year-old’s interest in soapmaking came when his mother taught him math, science and art in homeschool. He opened Toil and Trouble Bath on Etsy in 2013, a name inspired by William Shakespeare’s “MacBeth;” the title speaks to the teen’s love of reading.
But despite enjoying some success since opening the online soap shop, Donovan decided to put the breaks on the operation to devote more of his time to giving to shelters.
“It was more important to help,” Donovan told Atlanta Black Star. “I could not do the business, donate the amount of soap needed and pursue other things at the same time. I wanted to make a bigger impact where it was needed, so it was an easy decision.”
Donovan donated to Supportive Housing Coalition of New Mexico throughout 2014. He also gave soaps to Veterans Integration Centers in New Mexico for their Stand Down program that same year.
The reason for the focus on homeless shelters is personal. The teen and his mother Casey Smith – a Navy petty officer who was medically discharged in the 1990s – had to move from Augusta, Georgia to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2011 after running out of resources.
“The [Veterans Affairs] and I called several shelters, but all had waiting lists,” Casey Smith told ABS. “I found out through the VA that there were programs being built for women veterans, so I researched at the library and found a recently opened shelter for homeless women veterans and their children. They had space, so I applied. Then a group of friends donated bus money for us to go to the shelter in New Mexico.”
Donovan noticed the large homeless population in the area daily and thought he had to help.
“After being homeless, I have a different perspective on being in a shelter, and I don’t want to see [anyone] struggling like me and my mom [were],” Donovan said.
Donovan has donated to St. Martin’s Hospitality Center since 2015. To help offset the costs of soapmaking, his mom set up a GoFundMe page to raise $3,500. Donovan’s original goal was to donate 600 bars of soap to the shelter, but since the page has raised $5,620 in four months, his new goal is to give at least 1,000 soaps each month.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed. Donovan received the Good Deed Award by the American Legion Auxiliary on March 13, and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry honored him with the Good Samaritan Award on April 29.
Her son’s charitableness does not surprise Casey Smith.
“He has always been an old soul,” she said, adding that Donovan “has a platform and he should use it to the best of his ability; he is representing for all the homeless kids and all the little brown and Black creative and caring boys who are never seen or heard. It gives him pride to do so.”
The young business owner hopes to travel and learn about other cultures but wants to make a difference when he does.
“It’s an amazing feeling [knowing] that somewhere out there that someone was struggling like us and I could help them,” he said.
Added his mother, “You can tell he was born with a purpose.”