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!