Turning Mud into Money

GERLACH, Nev. Being home schooled and working in the family business doesn't sound like a fun time to many kids, but 12-year-old Cameron Egbert loves his life.

"It's a lot of fun because we get to come out here and play in the mud," he said. "We get to get dirty for our job."

Cameron's family owns land in Gerlach, and the land is home to hundereds of geothermally heated hot springs. Ever since Cameron's grandfather bought the property 12 years ago, the family has enjoyed hanging out in some of the cooler pools.

"We noticed the pools had this smooth, green clay on the edges," Cameron's mom, Shelly Egbert said. "So we started putting it on our bodies, and we noticed how good it was for the skin."

Wanting to start a business, Shelly had the mud analyzed to make sure it was okay to sell.

"We found out the mud is mostly made up of a clay called illite clay," she said. "It's actually know for its ability to draw or pull toxins out of the skin so it's very detoxifying."

The most unique part of the clay is what's missing from it.

"Normally when you hear hot springs you immediately smell that sulfur, rotten egg smell," Shelly said. "But you notice there's no smell here and our mud reflects that. It doesn't smell good, it doesn't smell bad, it's a very neutral odor. We add nothing to it. No scents, no fillers, no dyes, nothing."

With the help of her friend Summer Powelson, Shelly was able to form the Black Rock Mud Company.

"We call this our heaven on earth and it really is," Shelly said. "How many adults get to make their living by playing in the mud?"

Since the hot springs are created from geothermal activity, the ground and springs are constantly changing. So to make the business work, the two women adopted a business plan from wineries. They come to the hot springs twice a year and harvest the mud. Whatever they get from the harvest is what they have to sell.

But they don't do it alone.

"We didn't really start this business to make money," Shelly said. "We started it to teach our children how to start a business and be entrepreneurs. From marketing to bookkeeping, the children are involved in everything."

"Its been a great experience for us to have the kids learn how to work and instil that ethic in them and teach them new experiences," Powell said.

With kids ranging in ages from 17 to 2, the two moms find something for everyone to do.

After the kids spend the morning studying and doing school work, they close the books and get to work. The oldest children help carry the mud in, and the littlest ones make sure the jars are clean are ready to ship.

"It's not really child labor, we like doing this," Cameron said. "It's a lot of fun to be able to come out here. It's really hands on and you get to do alot of stuff."

The jars of mud are available through the company's website, www.blackrockmud.com.