Can you tell us a brief history of The Soap Co and how your own experiences led you to start the company?
Perhaps above all, I wanted to change the way people perceive ‘giving’. It’s not about asking for donations, but more about making great products that people want to buy to create more jobs for people who really need them.
By way of background, I had worked for big corporations, in banking, retail, and media - in lots of fields, but also working in India and Ethiopia working for various charities. Taking the best bits from a traditional charity and a big business – social enterprise is born right in the middle.
From my experience, many charities really don’t have much commercial awareness, often chasing after grant money - which could often set them on a path away from their core mission. Despite intentions, social action could be compromised by wanting to meet the expectations of those putting up the cash.I was also keen to leave behind the corporate world and do something that would have a positive impact on people’s lives.
I came to CLARITY - a social enterprise in East London manufacturing soap, in 2015 and the capability and opportunity to really showcase what a social enterprise can do was very clear, so I set about launching something totally new for the charity.
CLARITY had been employing people with disabilities for more than 160 years, with 80 years expertise in soap manufacture for 5* hotels, high end retails and a huge customer base, though mostly via contract manufacture. I only had six months to develop the brand concept and it’s a tough job to launch a product in that time! But we managed to get a prototype in front of a luxury buyer within seven weeks with a concept design very similar to what we have now.
We got some amazing feed-back and we were sure we were on the right track, and so, The Soap Co. was born.
Can you tell us the most moving experience that you've had through The Soap Co?
Where do I begin? When you see someone, who hasn’t worked for years having suffered a major stroke, sitting at a desk, a part of our team, doing a great job and making a positive contribution whilst building their confidence – well, that’s pretty damn moving. And that story is told time and time again here. And its just great to be able to be a part of it and to see how people rebuild their lives and move forward.
What is your favourite Soap Co product?
I would pick out our signature Geranium & Rhubarb hand lotion from the new Eco & Bee Friendly Collection. It is enriched with vitamins, geranium oil and natural bee-friendly borage and calendula botanicals and is complemented by our matching hand wash that contains softening sugar esters from coconut. They are readily biodegradable and aren’t harmful to aquatic life.
They are also carefully crafted from natural, vegan and eco-certified ingredients and free from SLS/SLES, PEGs, triclosan, synthetic colour, DEA, petrochemicals, silicones, EDTA, parabens, artificial colours, mineral oils and TEA. Enriched with organic cocoa butter, vitamins and antioxidants, our lotions nourish and hydrate the skin.
What was the last thing you bought?
I don’t buy clothes all that often, but I recently bought a jumper from an ethical clothing store that I really love in Camden Town. I am always searching for things of beauty made from recycled materials. I think when you find something you enjoy wearing that has had a life before it’s kind of cool!
What do you think makes a good company?
I think when you are all motivated by the same broad goals and ethics it certainly helps engender a feeling of unity. It’s a cliché to say - but nevertheless so very true - that I think a business is only as good as its people.
A ‘good’ company for me is one that is trying to effect positive change in society; one that is looking, for example, to help people who really need it or one that makes a real effort to lessen its impact on the environment.
What's your favourite thing to do away from The Soap Co?
I am a dedicated hockey player and love nothing more to belt a ball around a field and let out some pent-up frustrations. Although I possibly enjoy the social afterwards even more.
I also love to pack a bag and get on a plane to some far-flung place that I have always wanted to see – although with my work load its pretty hard to do these days. Other than that, I am a fan of red wine and some decent food shared with my partner.
Where is your favourite place to visit?
Well I have recently returned from an amazing spell in Sri Lanka. The people were incredibly friendly, the food beautifully fragrant and delicious, the beaches a taste of paradise and the culture fascinating! A must if you have not been!
Can you describe your workplace?
It is a unique place to work - and I have to say it is a very inspiring and uplifting environment too. First and foremost, we have a large number of people working in our huge, semi-automated factory who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise disabled. They all have a powerful story to tell but get on with life and their jobs as a real team - a family.
Naturally as with any workplace, there are issues to be dealt with but for the majority of the time, you get the feeling that we are all part of a pretty amazing organisation.
Being a social enterprise means we are a part of a cohort of like-minded businesses nationwide that try to have a positive impact on our society and that is what comes through to me every day. I am really proud of the products that we produce and that we are encouraging and enabling ever more people and organisations to switch their soap for social good.
What is your life motto?
Do good things and drink good red wine - in moderation of course!
What's next for The Soap Co?
Well we certainly are never content to rest on our laurels! We have recently taken on two brilliant business development managers to help us bring our products both to consumers and business.
We are also about to launch a new eco brand in both a bar soap and foam that will be available in the summer of 2018 both online and in store at major retailers - which we are naturally thrilled about.
In addition, our new oh so glorious The Soap Co. bath and body oils are now available and proving popular. Looking to the future, we remain dedicated to supporting and helping more and more people in to work who truly need it and that means building brand awareness and increasing sales! So, spread the word!