Many people who grow up in small towns are anxious to leave when they become adults, and some vow to never return. However, a segment of this group inevitably comes to realize that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. That was the case for Audra Bunch, who was born and raised in the small community of Heppner, Oregon. Audra recounts, “After I graduated high school, I moved to Portland and swore I’d never come back to the rural area I grew up in. Twelve years later, I found myself in a miserable job, a townhouse without a yard, and stuck sitting in traffic most of the time.” When Audra’s mom suggested she take a summer hiatus and stay in her grandparents’ vacant house, she packed her things and headed back to Heppner.
While the move back was not intended to be permanent, Audra soon realized that the change of pace was just what she needed. She settled in and built a new career with Bank of Eastern Oregon, where she has been employed for seven years. Audra currently serves as the bank’s marketing coordinator, a role she relishes. “In marketing, I utilize my creative talents for innovative projects in advertising, branch expansion, web development, and to push the envelope to modernize our business efficiently,” states Audra. “I really enjoy being able use my creative background in the banking industry.”
Audra is a fifth generation Oregonian whose family “has a rich history of rugged individuals, artisans and artists.” Growing up, her parents ran their own business in town, and her grandfather, a WWII 101st Airborne paratrooper, was the first veterinarian in the county. Audra’s grandparents were both artists who built their own home and vet clinic in 1965. Audra recounts, “When my grandfather wasn’t tending to animals, he was in his art studio sculpting or making jewelry, while my grandmother painted.”
Audra, too, has a love for the arts and other creative pursuits. That creative streak would eventually lead her into soap making. “I’ve always thought making soap at home sounded like a cool thing to do, so, I bought a bunch of supplies online, which then sat in a box for two years,” recalled Audra. A soap making class in a nearby town would eventually rekindle her interest in the hobby. “I didn’t really expect it to be as fun as it is, honestly, but once I started I couldn’t stop!”
Aside from the soap making class, Audra began reading lots of soap blogs and understanding all the science behind the process. “The alchemy is fascinating. For example, a bar made with only coconut oil produces a lot of bubbles, but it is so cleansing that it can make the skin feel stripped,” Audra explains. “A bar made with only olive oil produces moisturizing qualities, but very few bubbles and can feel slimy. Combined, the two fats produce a lovely, balanced soap.”
Utilizing her marketing experience from working at the bank, Audra decided to create a website and an Instagram account for her soap. Overnight, she had friends asking to purchase her soap, and her hobby-turned-business grew from there. SUB ROSA SOAP (www.subrosasoap.com) offers “Luxurious, handcrafted soap designed to make skin happy. Always cruelty-free, palm oil-free, and made with the best ingredients.”
An admitted control freak, Audra has avoided selling her soap at boutique shops or elsewhere because she prefers to answer customer questions directly. “We have an unofficial motto at the bank, ‘Give ‘em the pickle!’, a customer service term coined by Bob Farrell,” states Audra. “The short version is: exceed your customers’ expectations. A little extra attention goes a long way. Customer loyalty is invaluable.”
Audra does toy with the idea of a brick and mortar shop. In the future, she envisions restoring the old veterinary clinic building to its former glory by turning it into a workshop and retail space. For now, Audra is content deploying her creative talents at work and home. “It’s true that when you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work,” states Audra. “That goes for my role at the bank, as well as my small business. There’s nothing better than pouring a glass of wine and filling orders on a Saturday night!”
Give ‘em the Pickle!
Behind the Banker
Behind the Banker profiles Oregon bankers and their lives outside of their professional career.
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