Friday, 27 December 2013

Packaging, Branding, Logo Placements and Strap-lines.

We have been working for the guts of a year on a new website.  Thank goodness for the patience of saints! We have been blessed with great friends who have lovingly and patiently guided us through to what I think is going to be a great site that we can only aspire to do justice to.

The process has really challenged us to hone in on our logo, our branding, our strap-line and our packaging. Getting something that works across all platforms, epitomises who we are, what we are about and engages people in the story of what we are trying to do.

The business cards were ironically one of the first important things to get out of the way.  Getting it finalised, thanks to +Nigel Smith  we have managed to get the logo, the brand colour and a strap-line.

The scent, all lower case with the white 'c' emphasises the meaning to us as a business.  The angel encompasses our desire to be messengers of change and blessing and the strap-line adequately conveys the fact that we make cleaning products that are ethically made and guilt free.

All this is portrayed on a pale blue background which is clean, neither too feminine or masculine, and reminds us of water.

Having this has helped us in getting the right background colour palette for the website.  The colour themes for each product line/range will carry on to our packaging (eventually - when we have the money) and the angel and word "scent" are, as we speak being transferred into stamps which we can then use on our soaps. Thanks to +Luciana Teixeira Gomes and her new stamp-making business.

Which leads us to our packaging.  Its been long disputed and hours upon hours of my life have been spent on this one thing alone.  We have looked at paper, fabric, glass, wood, plastic, aluminium, cardboard, ribbon, scrap-booking.  I've pursued labelling companies, made my own boxes, cut glass bottles, talked to designers and still, we have been missing that essential ingredient.  I've considered boxes, parcels, bottles, jars, kilner jars, cosmetics jars, bamboo, banana leaf and starch packaging for that ever so evasive product that is natural, organic, sustainable, fairly traded, enironmentally freindly and yet crucially fit for purpose.  Don't believe me?  Take a look....

And, did I mention cheap?  Having own-brand products have been so incredibly expensive for a start up such as ours that we have had to come up with solutions without the important advice of designers and their help in personalising our packaging to suit our brand.

So, I am truly delighted to be looking at a possible end in site.  We may well have the solution....  Having got frustrated at paying too much for plastic boxes I eventually sought the courage to enquire about a direct supplier.  If I am able to standardise all our soaps into a limited array of packaging options I thought it might just be possible to purchase in large enough quantities to permit us buying from manufacturers.  Plastic boxes - sorted.

Next up was for the bars of soap and cosmetics.  This, is perhaps a much more difficult challenge as we need to ensure it ties in with our desire to reduce, reuse, recycle, be sustainable, environmentally friendly and ethically traded.  The cold process soaps don't sweat as much as glycerin - so we have opted for some fairly traded lokta paper from Nepal to cover the bar and the more and more I thought about the high-end luxury market, the more I started to fantasize about wood.  It is ink free, which paper packaging rarely is, sustainable, reusable if nice and virtually unheard of for a bar of soap.

Which leads me to introduce a possible new venture for us in 2014.  Now it is fair to say that it won't look much like these - the logo is all wrong and the angel image is in the wrong place but it does give an idea of where we are heading.  Subject to feedback and prices.  It may even be the appropriate time to look into a crowd funding venture as a way to finance it.  It is fair to say that I, Garreth am quite excited by this new little possibility.  The hope is for something that looks high-end, luxurious and ethical.  The thing for us to avoid is the pitfall of it becoming too tacky or unnecessary.

Time will tell.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Scrapbook Play-Time

Just a quicky as we run up to Christmas.  I thought I would show you a little of some of the scrapbooking Carla has been up to recently.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

And... Breathe!

It's been a long time since we notified the launch of the social enterprise.  I think it was the 2nd Oct in fact. My how time flies!  My absence from blogging is simple - we have been up to our eyes in work.  Good work, fabulous work in fact!  We have been busier than than a bee in an ocean of nectar.

The moment we launched we saw orders start coming in over the internet.  It could be the social slant or the move into organic skin-care but beyond a shadow of doubt it is certainly to do with favour because within just weeks of launching the new product lines we also received a letter from Consumer Safety to inform us that we are permitted to continue selling our fruit soaps.

THIS WAS ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS NEWS and was received with an somewhat embarrassing leap for joy and yelp of relief  (photo of Evan Rock on his travel blog)  We were free to trade.  It may have been 6 months of waiting and it may have left us in a mad dash in the run up to Christmas - but the news was in.  We could continue to sell and it leaves 2014 wide open to sell to retail internationally which we have been unable to commit to for much of this year. Infact, within just days of this news we had four wholesale orders.

Some of the fruit soaps being made now that we can sell again.
To top the year of a tumultuous business year - there was no greater feeling than being able to give our first donations to the four different organisations we support at the beginning of December just 6 weeks after we launched.  Finally ScENT felt purposeful.  We were making a difference and whilst perhaps still being a long way off from being profitable and earning a living wage, we were definitely on the road to being able to live generously again and that for us is life-giving.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Social Enterprise - Defined and ready to launch!

I'm so excited, I might just burst!

It is time!  We are as delirious as a bee in a nectar storm as we announce all the structural changes for us as ScENT in the coming weeks.

If you have been following the blog you will know we felt we were dealt a bit of a death blow a few months ago by the Consumer Safety Council - over a piece of legislation called the "food imitation policy".  It risked putting us as a company under the water long before it was deemed possible to fulfill our dream of becoming a social enterprise.

But, I'm pleased to say - it did the reverse.  It forced us into a dark corner where Carla and I talked and thought, and prayed about where to go and we figured that if we were going out - we would go out with a bang!

We looked at what we were doing and where we wanted to go and started to veer headstrong into the vision that we set ourselves all those months ago when setting out.  We decided that we didn't need to make massive profits before giving money away - we could just factor it into the costs of the soap.  We looked at our ingredients and made choices on ethics and quality rather than on cost and delivery.  And, importantly, we looked past the soaps that look like food (as wonderful as they are) into a range of cosmetics that could be made by people, like me (Garreth) who are a little less talented than Carla.  Products that could still be hand made but made in larger quantities.

I don't want to bore you with the detail - but there is a fair about of stuff we are passionate about and when it got knocked around a bit we were able to hone in on some things we think are important to us as pioneers. And it all boils down to ethics.  Its always been about transformation and justice.  We'd always wanted to focus on Organic and Fair Trade - but I think we may well have excelled ourselves.

Here are our 6 reasons to buy from ScENT

  •  For every product purchased, we will donate 10% of our wholesale price to marginalised children in Nigeria through Stepping Stones (see below). 
  • Every product sold will provide funds towards a weeks clean water for one person with Charity: Water.  We will keep you posted when we get to build our first well.
  • 1 square metre of rainforest is protected for every bar of soap, bath salt, or candle sold by supporting CoolEarth.
  • We will also make a donation to help fund micro-credit loans to other social entrepreneurs.
  •  By purchasing organic/fairlytraded ingredients we are helping to improve the lives of the workers and communities who farm the raw materials.  We are proactive in abstaining from ingredients such as Palm Oil and hope to be Palm Oil free by the beginning of 2015.
  • Lastly, we are still working towards is providing employment in disadvantaged areas of Northern Ireland and fully functioning as a social business.

Stepping Stones Nigeria:

We are big fans of Stepping Stones the charity – which is why we are choosing to give a percentage of each bar of soap we sell.  This charity focuses on children of the Niger Delta and works in the following four areas: 

Interestingly, Nigeria has a long history with soap making.  When the slave trading ended in the 19th Century the traders turned their attention to Palm Oil. West Africa used to be the centre of the palm oil industry but in the 1870s, British administrators took the plant to Malaysia. Now Malaysia is the world's leading palm oil exporter, based on huge plantations which are stripping us of one of the most valuable rain-forests in the world (but that's another story!).  Nigeria’s agricultural income has withered from almost 100% of GDP to 18%.  Perhaps this is just our way of giving something back.

Clean Water Program

Diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.  Children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies aren't strong enough to fight diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses.

90% of the 30,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and unhygienic living conditions are in children under five years old.  The WHO reports that over 3.6% of the global disease burden can be prevented simply by improving water supply, sanitation, and hygiene. Source: Charity Water

It seems and issue that a soap company should be involved in.  Its also an equality issue, as is often the case, women and children who suffer most.  

But what can we do?  Well, we considered giving a bar for every bar as a strap-line of the business.  This would have been a good marketing tool but would have been yet another totally useless charitable gesture.  People don’t need soap.  Many of them have it.  They do not however, have access to clean water or the knowledge about the wonderful cleaning power that a bit of soap and clean water can have against some potentially life threatening diseases.  

So, that is where we step in. For every bar of soap, bath product, or candle purchased, we will donate 5p to Charity:Water.  That 5p, we calculate, gives one person at least a weeks supply of clean water. It may take us a while to build our well for 300 people but step by step we hope to raise enough to build our first well.

Sustainable, Organic & Fairly traded:

Each bar of soap is natural, biodegradable, and contains ingredients ethically harvested from sustainable resources.  Where there is an option we buy Fair-Trade as our first option, organic as second and natural/wild as third.  We have created what we consider to be the ethically conscious soap on the market today – preferring to avoid becoming a single issue product (say fair trade, organic or palm oil) and cover as many possible areas of interest and passion as we could.   

Our products are not currently certified by any particular body.  (It’s a money thing – it simply costs too much to get registered as Fair Trade by the FairTrade foundation , Organic by the Soil Association, and  The Social Enterprise mark.  In fact its the same story for most of our suppliers too!

However to reach these criteria one must prove the following:

Fair Trade Certification: Products must contain a minimum fairly traded ingredient set requirement of 2% for a wash off and 5% for a leave on products.

  • Our soaps, on average, contain 25-60% Fair trade ingredients the lower percentage is because we also buy local organic ingredients, 
  • Our body butters – 50 to 90% fair trade ingredients, 
  • Our lip balms - 50%, 
  • Body oils 30% 
  • Hand salve – 60%. When others do the bare minimum, we strive instead for the maximum. We also actively pursue opportunities to work with suppliers and producers directly to ensure we can increase our percentages.

Organic Certification: Under the COSMOS standards there are two levels of certification: COSMOS organic and COSMOS natural. Products certified to COSMOS organic must have a minimum of 20% organic ingredients or 10% (hardly breath-taking!) organic ingredients in the case of rinse-off products.

  • We can safely say that we can easily meet this requirement on all our products (one exception being our bath salts as salts are not minerals or plants.)  In fact almost every single mineral or plant that we use is certified organic by the Soil Association.

Cruelty free

We love animals and never test our soap on them.

Palm oil

There are many negative environmental issues that are derived from the production of Palm oil, even when organic.  86% of palm oil is produced in Southeast Asia. High demand for palm oil has lead to rapid clearing of tropical rainforests. The United Nations Environmental Programme predicts that by 2022 the palm oil industry could wipe out 98% of Indonesia's remaining forests.  Many orangutans and other wildlife are killed in the process, so that this one vegetable oil can be used in many of our everyday foods and products. Palm oil plantations are also directly linked to a decline in biodiversity, soil degradation, carbon emissions from burning forests, and a disregard for local communities and land rights. To find out more, please read this report from Friends of Earth or this link:  "Say no to palm oil"

While we DO NOT use ingredients, specifically palm oil, derived from cleared rainforest, we recognize that many other soap companies do.   As such, we are doing our part to stop the destruction of rain-forests by protecting just over 1sq metre of rainforest with each and every purchase.  We do however use some Palm oil in our cold process soaps sourced from two ethically renowned suppliers.  Even this we hope to abstain from by the beginning of 2015.  The co-operatives we buy from are Co-operatives and we try to source from Ghana or Nigeria as opposed to Indonesia where the Orangatangs tend to live and suffer from forest clearing.

Social enterprise

The foundation needed for sustainable economic growth, specifically in the developing world, are thriving small businesses'.  Scent is therefore helping to secure microcredit loans for local businesses to get up on their feet, or get the jump start they need. Offering a microcredit loan to a small business empowers the individual, which in turn, strengthens a community. For every product sold we will make a donation to a fund which will be set up to support other social entrepreneurs.  It may take a little bit of time to build but we have got to start somewhere.


Sustainability means more than just providing eco-friendly soap.  We have had to think seriously about our packaging.  Having looked at carbon-offsetting we decided to proceed with our donations to Cool Earth in protecting the rainforest.  We then took the following decisions about our packaging.

Reusable, recyclable and sustainable.

To support local business we haven't been able to use recycled paper for our retailed soaps.  We have however ensured it is sustainable and recyclable.  The craft paper we use to protect the soap is fairly traded Nepalese Lokta paper.  The PET bottles are recyclable but hopefully, and importantly, people will much rather clean them out and reuse them.  That's why we have gone for the nicest looking cosmetics jars we could find anywhere.  We are also keen to look at sustainable & biodegradable innovative cosmetics packaging in the future as we grow.

So, What do you think of all that then?  No wonder we got excited.  Our desire and journey of wanting to see transformation through soap may well just be about to begin!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Cosmetics Legislation - Getting into a Lather!

Did you you know that EU Cosmetics legislation was one of the most difficult pieces of legislation to fully understand?

No, neither did we when we started - but as time has progressed we are in little doubt that its true!

In truth, there are many soap-makers, hobbyists especially, who are blissfully unaware that they are breaking the law by not holding a cosmetics safety assessment license.  However, ignorance is not an excuse and even if you plan to give your soap away for free to the public or sell it once a year at a craft fair - you must have a Cosmetics Safety Assessment, public liability (unless the place you are selling it provides this for you) and insurance not to mention complying with Good Manufacturing Guidelines.

Whilst at it, there is also quite a bit of ground to cover with Trading Standards, Environmental Health, and Consumer Safety in regard to labeling, appearance, weight and descriptions, choking hazards and food imitation legislation.  In regard to the latter, if you sell soap that looks, smells, or is packaged like food, fruits, cup-cakes, cakes, buns, sweets etc, it must, by law be submitted to a choking hazard test and a bite test.  Trust me, there are countless soap-makers absolutely unaware, or pleading ignorant, of this somewhat inconvenient piece of legislation unique to the EU.  We did have a momentary panic as we contemplated the EU successfully killing off another creative business.  I write about it here:

To be honest - I'm glad we learnt the hard way as it could easily put you off ever starting out and no matter what you think of the bureaucratic nonsense that is the EU - who can argue with the desire to have only safe products sold in the EU market. Still, as a consumer of craft or seller - its probably a good idea to ensure you know a thing or two about the legislation in order to protect yourself.  If not solely because so many seller's are not quite up to speed themselves.

As a buyer: 

You need only ask a seller one question, "Do you have a Cosmetics Safety Assessment?"  If they do, and they have read the detail, it will ensure that they also meet Good Manufacturing Practice, be compliant with Trading Standards, Consumer Safety and Food Imitations Legislation.

For the Maker:

Further,The European Cosmetics Regulation (EC) No.1223/2009 replaces the current Cosmetics Directive 76/768/EEC and comes into full effect on 11th July 2013.  Many requirements in the new Regulation will stay the same as the old Directive but there are some changes that will impact you if you sell your products to the public.

Regulation 1223/2009 states in article 13 that all products that will be placed on the market in the European Union need to be registered into the Cosmetic Products Notification Portal (CPNP) prior to being placed on this market. As from 11 July 2013, the use of CPNP will become compulsory but it has been possible to register and access the system since January 2013.

The CPNP is supposed to helps producers fulfill the requirement for notification of their products. This electronic system will also cover the requirement to notify poison centres, replacing the different processes under the old Directive.

In order to access the CPNP, the user needs a user login and password.

Two systems are needed:
1. The European Commission Authentication Service (ECAS)

This system provides the user with a login and password to connect to multiple European

Commission applications.

To register on ECAS:
2. The SANCO Authentication and Authorisation System (SAAS)

This system provides the user with a profile and access rights for a specific European

Commission application, in this case the CPNP.

Once you have your user name and password, log-on to:

A user that accesses the CPNP for the first time needs to follow a 3 step-procedure:

1. Create ECAS login/password

2. Request an access to CPNP

3. Connect to CPNP

Nanomaterials notification: Article 16 of Regulation (EC) No 1223 on cosmetic products requires that, in addition to the notification under Article 13, cosmetic products containing nanomaterials shall be notified to the Commission by the Responsible Person by electronic means six months prior to being placed on the market.

Before you Panic...

If your product was placed on the market before 11 July 2013 and it currently complies with the Cosmetics Directive (the ‘old’ legislation), you can continue to sell your product until it is out of stock/off the shelf. So you can make a big batch of your product, place it on the market before 11th July 2013.  There is an exception to this – if your product contains ingredients with nanomaterials – you will have to get a new CSPR (cosmetics safety product report).


In regards to labelling: Much of it is the same - only a few things have changed. You can check out more here.

If you are a cosmetics maker and want more information then just click on the links above or find out more information from a Cosmetics Safety Assessor. We use as Scott is passionate about supporting local crafters likes us. Prepare yourself for a bit of a wait though as they are up to their eyes getting everything ready for those of us who are existing members.

Monday, 1 July 2013

The First of the Last?

So, if you have been following our blog lately you will know that we may not be able to make the fruit soaps for much longer. Click here for more

In the interim it is only fair to pay tribute to my wonderfully skilled artist of a wife as she continued with her passion and finished off two of the last fruits she had planned to add to the range.

I present to you our papaya fruit soaps:

The scent is gorgeous, as usual the flesh is hand painted and the little seeds are all individually poured soaps held together in some transparent soap.  This, my friends, is a masterpiece!

Next up, and quite literally our last soap product for the foreseeable future, is our grapefruit soap.  A truly citrus affair and wonderfully fresh! 

We will keep you posted 

Friday, 28 June 2013

One-to-One Workshop Residentials

Our one-to-one residential workshops at Hunter's Lodge have seen a real spike of interest of late.  We even have interest at the minute from Nigeria and Saudi Arabia - such is Carla's international stardom!

So just what is in store for you on a one-to-one workshop.

Really, it is up to you.  We cater to your needs whether it be Melt & Pour, Cold Process, body products, cosmetics legislation, bath products etc.  Residentials can range from 1 day workshops to 4 day workshops depending on your requirements.

Here is one in action:  Thank you Noreen for permission to use the photos!

As for the finished products - well here are a few tasters of items that were made at a residential along with some of the finer aspects of Hunter's Lodge.

Want to find out more?  Why not check out our site at or  Oh, and whilst we are at it - we are offering a special five course meal at Balloo house fine dining restaurant for just £25.00 between now and the end of September 2013

A one night workshop is around £225 depending on requirements. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Ethical Make-up, cosmetics and a desire to fight Human Trafficking.

But before I talk about us, let me just take a moment to mention Radiant Cosmetics;

Radiant Cosmetics, and Nicole Marrett in particular; we salute you! In fact, we want to be like you! Thank you for honing in on exactly the type of business we want to become.

Here is one company I am particularly inspired by. I like it so much I may even be talked into wearing a bit of mascara and lip-gloss myself!

Their mission is simple, it reads:

"Our mission is to help garner awareness for human trafficking by raising funds through cosmetics, to provide resources for those on the forefront of change, as well as victims of trafficking."

Based in America, Radiant Cosmetics has begun to make a name for itself in the fashion industry for its high quality make-up and desire to help change the world by selling one lipstick at a time.

Nicole comments, "The cosmetics industry generates $170 billion annually. Women dominate this industry and of the over 2 million human beings trafficked each year, 80% are women and girls. My dream is to awaken a generation of women to not sit back and allow this injustice to happen to our fellow sisters."

And, in the process, she has awoken a few men too!

Its simple, its a quality product, and its making a difference to trafficking in the US. It is also something we, as ScENT would like to bring here some time in the future but aside from that, Nicole's story has been a little inspiration at a time when it was much needed, as ScENT walks through the difficulties of the last few months with silly EU nonsense. Nicole stuck to her vision, her expertise and has successfully been able to manage creating a change within a fickle and difficult cosmetics industry.

Radiant, like us, don’t believe non-profits are the only ones who should be working toward change, but firmly believe "for profit businesses" can and should be a part of transforming this world for the better. The driving force behind their products is a heart for justice and they want their customers to get on board with them.

So, to ScENT then, what model of social business are we going to use? This has perhaps always been our stumbling block. How do we do the social bit? Initially, we felt we needed to be profitable before being charitable. Our heart on this however has been changed of late - we feel we need to draw a line in the sand and just start being what we want to be and in the process recruit enough believers to buy from us so that we can be both profitable and charitable at the same time.

We have therefore taken the decision to strive to donate as much as possible to some children in Nigeria. Radiant is looking at Trafficking (something we have a heart for - and hope to support by stocking their products), we want to look at the idea of "The Fatherless" and to that end have chosen a little known charity called "Stepping Stones" (more about them in a later post).

Just like Radiant we have decided to donate a minimum of 20% of profits from each purchase. This means products bought from us will have 20% of the RRP profit margin and wholesale orders will have 20% of the wholesale profit margin. As our company grows, we promise to increase our efforts physically, financially and spiritually to continue.


We are going a few steps further. We are also committed to ensuring that we are ethical from source right through to division of profits. We will only buy organic products where available because we believe the chemicals used are bad for the growers and local people - never mind your skin! We will buy fairly traded products were available and are actively sourcing new ethically sourced ingredients.

In Addition....

We are excited about committing to social enterprise helping locally. To that end, as we grow, we hope to offer apprenticeships, offer community group workshops, employment in deprived areas and become a local agent of social change. In fact we are looking at options in this area at this very minute.

Monday, 3 June 2013


It is a statement you will find on most of our packaging - Clearly, in bold writing are the words "THIS IS NOT FOOD - DO NOT EAT!".  Sometimes we vary it to avoid needless repetition and instead put "THIS IS SOAP - IT IS NOT EDIBLE!"

Now, before I begin my second rant in as many posts may I remind you of the anally retarded EU legislative bureaucracy that requires packets of nuts to carry a warning on them stating "Ingredients may contain nuts" on them.  I feel its fair to say that this is perhaps only the tip of the ice-berg.  Still, on with the story...

On a mission to get Carla's Soap-making categorised as "Contemporary Art" with Craft NI, we were notified that there is a European Directive on Food Imitation that banned us from making soap that looked like food.  

It takes a little while to read and get your head around the wording of the text - but for your eyes only....  Here it is...  The Food Imitations (Safety) Regulations 1989

No person shall supply, offer to supply, agree to supply, expose for supply or possess for supply any manufactured goods which are ordinarily intended for private use and are not food but which–
(a)have a form, odour, colour, appearance, packaging, labelling, volume or size which is likely to cause persons, in particular, children to confuse them with food and in consequence to place them in their mouths or suck them or swallow them; and
(b)where such action as is mentioned in (a) above is taken in relation to them, may cause death or personal injury.

Now, its easy to see why many soap makers have believed they couldn't make any type of product that resembled foodstuff - but, upon careful reading you might spot a crafty little semi-colon followed by the word "and".

Its not the making of products that look like food that is the problem - its only becomes an issue if a piece which is bitten off can be deemed a choking hazard.  Panic of a ruined business could perhaps be left aside as we took an opportunity to breathe.

So, off I went to find out what types of tests highlighted potential choking hazards.  There is a Choking hazard test that involves sticking bits of a soap into a plastic tube which sits at an angle.  If the soap fits into the tube - its a choking hazard.  If part of the soap still remains outside of the tube - its deemed okay (or so we thought!).

Having cleared our conscience we were also aware that there might be a requirement for another test known as the "bite test".  I had a quick look to see what this was about.  

Fundamentally, it is about chemists and the government ripping the ass out of a piece of useless and fundamentally flawed bit of legislation (more of that later.)  A bite test is when a product gets squeezed between two bits of sharp metals at various degrees of pressure to see what force the product can withstand.  It costs about £1000 to buy a calibrated version and its about £140 to get a bite test done on a product (though there are also numerous other tests that need carried out in conjunction with this one).   I know you are just dying to see what one looks like - so "Ta Da!"....

£1000 - you have got to be having a laugh!

So, faced with possible closure of a business start up that had started with capital less than this single item of equipment we were faced with a bit of a conundrum.

Do we, like almost every other soap maker who makes cupcakes, soap tarts and soap cakes out there; carry on regardless until we are told otherwise?  Do we seek advise from trading standards? Or, do we pull all our stock of the shelves and focus on something else?  

Every little fibre of my being felt we should carry on regardless until we were told otherwise.  We were carrying out the choke hazard test and labelling everything appropriately.  I figured if people can sell cigarettes, bleach, batteries, keys, real apples and little pieces of carrot to parents expecting the parent to make an educated and informed decision about where they put the product for safe-keeping the same could be expected of our soaps.  Which, may I add, carry the clear message that they are not assessed, nor to be used on anyone under the age of 3; which is added to the very clear "THIS IS NOT FOOD" warning.

However, consumed by conscience (AKA Carla) and a deep-rooted desire to be law observant I decided to telephone Trading Standards and subsequently Consumer safety about the issue.

Lesson 1 - NEVER DO THIS! - NEVER, EVER, EVER do this off your own free will!

Lesson 2 - Rapidly acquire the skill of saintly patience if in the unfortunate situation where you must speak to once of the aforementioned officers.

Lesson 3 - Learning how much punching the air can help with frustration when speaking to people who serve a system that only makes me seek to presume them to be anally retentive!  (I'm stretching it a bit - she turned out to be quite lovely - but I still resent that I pay the wages of someone who does a job I don't believe in!)

The Consumer Saftey Advisor was approached by us for advice - what we got in return was an assumption of guilt.  Rather than work with us into compliance we were in fact treated as offenders - despite my willingness to comply with legislation.  I tried asking for financial assistance to do the test, offered to hire the equipment if it could be bought.  

Now, let me remind you that there are 100's of soap-makers in the UK selling food like soaps, who are not aware of this legislation or who have not sought to become compliant.  The response from this consumer safety officer was "I only work 2 days a month on consumer safety. I can only deal with those who come to my attention, I can't go looking for those who are not compliant."  

So, in other words - I'm getting pulled over the coals because we have integrity?  GO FIGURE!!!

Now, to be fair, whilst I'm a compliant sort of guy - I do have a tendency to ask difficult questions, I have a desire to understand why things are as they are and perhaps can even be seen as a "difficult character" So, patiently persevering, due to the fact we don't have money to do a test I asked what would happen if we didn't do as requested.

The response was, "oh, well in that case, we will do the test to prove that the products are safe or not".

I answered, "and if they are safe?  Can we then continue to sell them?"

"... uh... no."

"Why?"  I said, "surely if you are going to test them and they are deemed 'safe' I am free to sell the products."

"Well, no.  You see we will have the certificate, not you.  You can't produce that certificate to us by way of proving that your products are safe.  You must therefore go and have them tested again, in order to prove to us that they are in fact safe."


We met with the officer, who was lovely (you are lovely, if you happen to be reading this).  She too understood the frustration of logic v's legislation but is only trying to do her "pointless" (my opinion) job.

The quote that beggars belief from the meeting but sums it up well was.

"your products do not look unsafe, so continue to sell them, however you must prove to me in six weeks that they are safe."

No one actually thinks our soaps are "unsafe" but they want us to pay out hundreds of pounds on something that states they are "safe".  Why in the name of good sense would anyone do that?

Carla persevered.  "where does it say in the legislation that we must possess a certificate that state they are safe?  If you have the certificate, in your name, why on earth do you need us to also possess one - if legislation doesn't require it?

She's coming back to us on that one!

In the interim, we have weighed up the pros and cons, whys and wherefores, what comes next type conversations and decided on the following steps.

1. We are going to sell our soaps until we are told otherwise as we nor those responsible deem them "unsafe".  

2.  We will, if required take them off the shelves in order for them to be tested.  If they are deemed unsafe - we will remove them from public sale (despite the bleach, batteries, keys, countless food soaps etc being sold daily in Europe and elsewhere).  

3.  If they are deemed safe, we will sell our soaps again and look forward to being prosecuted for not having a certificate in our possession by the prosecuting body that holds that very documentation themselves!

4.  And, if we can't sell our soap art, it really has been quite a life enhancing few weeks, as it has re-invigorated our desire to not just grow into a social enterprise - but start as we mean to go on.  Undeniably ethical.  

The last few weeks has finely honed our desire to only use organic ingredients where the option is available; to only purchase Fairly traded where the option is available (and eagerly pursue getting planters and growers to provide us with these direct where possible).  We have also a desire to become a social business by employing long term unemployed, people with disabilities etc; but more importantly, in the immediate, to give 20% of our profit or a certain percentage of each bar we sell to a charity we believe in.  It has got us looking at partnering with the charities we love and how we may also contribute in some way to creating social enterprises elsewhere in the world.  It has also got us thinking about our core values of who we are, who we were called to be and what God might do in us through a business created for others. It has even borne us a new strap-line.  


One thing I should point out - before someone points it out.  This legislation wasn't made because of someone having choked on a piece of soap that looked like a food.  It was actually to do with a fragranced rubber that caused great concern.  This item was in fact marketed to kids and for children - you can kinda see the danger this  might have presented.  Cosmetics, on the other hand, are licensed only for people aged 3 up and our particular soaps are actually geared towards adults with warnings attached.  Further, if like me, you have taken the opportunity to bite into one of the products - you will find it absolutely impossible to swallow and I guarantee you spit it out in no more than 3 seconds!