Meet the Small Business with Big Plans for Soap Gifts
Faced with a family with sensitive skin (and very little choice of bath and beauty products that suited them) Fiona McBryde took action and got creative; the result was her own range of high-quality, handmade soaps.
But these aren’t any old soaps!
The Soap Folk’s range brings authenticity, provenance and quality to the world of handmade soaps. Each soap includes ingredients, which are reflected in the colourfully illustrated packaging used for the soaps.
From her home in Amberley, near Stroud, Fiona has turned a hobby (which solved a problem for her own family) into a successful small business; a venture that is on the cusp of offering alternative bath and beauty products to people everywhere.
Keen to find out more about this exciting new business, I reached out to Fiona to gives us a sneak peek behind the scenes.
Soap Folk: The Interview
How would you describe your business and what makes it special?
Soap Folk is a business born and bred in the Cotswolds. We hand make natural and organic soap inspired by the beautiful Stroud Valleys for people who want to give and receive a little bit of loveliness. All our products are designed to be both kind to the skin and the environment.
What inspired you to start your business?
I’ve always enjoyed making my own skincare products for family and friends. We don’t make anything that we don’t use ourselves. The Milk & Honey soap was originally formulated for my eczema prone daughter. Behind each product is story, identity and reason for being.
Since having my own children, it’s become even more important to me to make sure that I use only the most gentle natural and organic ingredients and to reduce my impact on the environment. The turning point from hobby to business was in the blink of an eye – I spied a Facebook post from Made in Stroud, a local artisan gift shop asking for soap makers, and I thought why not?
I had a very strong vision from the start, not only did I want to continue creating products that my own family could use but I wanted to create a brand that reflected something about the place where we live. Not just its beautiful landscape but its people and community spirit, hence the ‘Folk’ in Soap Folk. I wouldn’t be here without my talented team, who support every aspect of the business, from design, marketing and publicity, photography – all local, all sharing the same values.
How does your experience help you run your business?
My professional experience helps me with the nitty gritty of running a business, but it’s life experience that has been more valuable. The health and beauty sector is really competitive, dominated by major brands and small-scale producers alike. It’s also highly regulated. You do put yourself out there in all sorts of ways. Resilience is crucial. Staying true to our values; not cutting corners and having an eye for detail from ingredient to final product is what defines our business.
In terms of my approach to my business, I think passion is an overplayed word, but belief is a truer one.
Tell us about your products in The Soap Folk collection?
We make natural soap in 6 varieties: these are Lavender & Oatmilk, Milk & Honey, Peppermint, Rose Geranium, Juniper Berry and Lemon & Bergamot. The soaps are gentle and moisturising. They are handmade, hand stamped and wrapped in bespoke designs from the textile artist Susie Hetherington. All our products are designed to be kind to the skin. We have lots of products in the pipeline for 2018 and beyond!
We’re striving for something special. The guiding rule behind all our products is that it must be something we would be proud to give and delighted to receive.
Our products have a very strong sense of place. We are proud that our heart lies firmly in the Gloucestershire countryside. The look and feel of our range is a nod to the arts and crafts movement that flourished in the Cotswolds over a hundred years ago.
To paraphrase, William Morris, everything we make is intended to be both beautiful and useful. The colour palette is taken from a vibrant cottage garden. Bland neutrals are not for us. We like to think that when you buy a soap you are actually taking home a little slice of the Cotswolds!
If you had to describe the highlights of your business to a customer what would you tell them?
Quality through and through – our products are handmade, in small batches using the highest quality natural, organic and where possible locally sourced ingredients.
A sustainable approach is at the heart of what we do – this extends across all part of the business – we don’t use Palm oil, we source fairly traded ingredients, use low energy techniques and make the packaging recyclable.
A Quick Look at the Soap Folk Range
The soaps in the collection have different properties whether calming, restful, soothing or refreshing. The current range:
- Rose and Geranium – Sweet and Soothing.
- Lavender and Oatmilk – Calming and Refreshing.
- Milk and Honey – Unscented for Sensitive Skin.
- Peppermint – Cooling and Refreshing.
- Juniper Berry – Calm and Clarifying.
- Lemon & Bergamot – Bright and Balancing.
Each soap is handmade by Fiona in her ‘soapery’ before being hand stamped and wrapped.
Keen to follow the arts and crafts motto of ‘beautiful and useful’, these soaps come in a wrapped 115g bar.
For Fiona, these soaps are just the start and there are plans already in the works to add more skincare products to the collection in the near future.
Soap Folk Gain Organic Certification From The Soil Association
Adding to their achievements, Soap Folk were recently awarded COSMOS Organic certification by the Soil Association.
“We are over the moon to achieve our certified organic status. It has been a dream to make our fledgling brand fully organic and to be able to sell our six soaps as certified organic is a great first step. We are already looking forward to adding further organic product ranges, in the near future.”
Achieving this status is a timely catalyst for Soap Folk, who are now promoting their range of soaps to a wider audience. With this certification, they can quickly demonstrate the values of quality and authenticity that are so important to the collection.
“The Soil Association symbol for us is the benchmark in quality and the clearest way to show that our products are produced in the most sustainable and environmentally sound way. This certification backs up everything we believe in and stand for, namely working in harmony with the natural ingredients around us, to provide good quality, desirable skincare products.” – Fiona McBryde, Founder Soap Folk.
Find Out More
Soap Folk soaps retail at £5.95 for a 115g Wrapped Soap Bar and £24.00 for a gift box of 4 soaps.
To see the full range and find out more about stocking the range please visit the Soap Folk website.