Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Congratulations!

Mujeres Luchadoras Group

BIG CONGRATULATIONS TO THE MUJERES LUCHADORAS GROUP.  This was our first micro-finance loan to another social enterprise and we are delighted to see that our supporters and our customers can see the power of small purchases and small loans to help change lives.





This group is in its twelfth cycle of the Women's Committee Program. They are all hard working women who above all are fighters. They are also doing the poverty elimination survey so that they can grow and get ahead.

Lucila is improving her poverty situation according to the survey. This is thanks to her work in clothing. She is very good at what she does, which is why her situation is getting better.

Lucila is asking for this loan to buy fabrics and needles so she can continue selling clothes. She is grateful for this opportunity which will help her a lot.
We helped support her and others through a small micro-finance fund through KIVA. I'm delighted now to be able to re-lend that money to another women's project. This time in Mali.



You can find out more about it here: http://www.kiva.org/lend/799734


Congrats again from all at ScENT

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Soap Making Workshop with Growing Connections.

One of the great things about being a social enterprise is the networking and support that we can both give and receive to other social enterprises.

We were asked a few months ago if we would facilitate a workshop with a community group near Bangor called "Growing Connections".  This community generally meet over allotments but they often meet on the farm for different workshops of community occasions - such as the building of the outside composting toilet, the mud hut, or bee hive.

There are some great shots of this workshop thanks to Suzanne from Growing Connections NI.


  


The purpose of this workshop was to organic and natural ingredients to colour and fragrance soaps.  For this workshop Carla made all the soap samples viewed above with a variety of ingredients ranging from Tumeric, juniper-berries, nutmeg, peppermint, vanilla and many many other variations.  Each sample used an opaque base at the top of the sample with a clear base at its base.  

There was  a fair amount of work and preparation to this workshop but it was worth it.  We had a great time.

Thanks to all at Growing Connections NI and you can find out more about them on this link:

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Summer help.

With Carla out of action we have been pursuing help from a few different sources.

I'm currently looking at offering a STEP into Work Placement with the Dept of Employment and Learning for the next six months.  I'm meeting someone shortly about what this may look like.

However, with the arrival of summer holidays and with a bored little 5 year old running around eager to help we decided it wouldn't be a bad idea to recruit him to help daddy and leave his poor mother alone.

Turns out that Eli did just as good a job as his Father (if not better).  He now admits that he doesn't know how to make soap but he is a good "packager" to sell the soaps.

Here's a few of the highlights:

video

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Wedding Favours

We have had a number of wedding favours over the last few years for friends and family and it has allowed us to garner quite a number of products which we now sell as favours.

So let me introduce you to a few of our weddings.

First up were Cameron and Katie with the Sheep which were featured on One Fab Day: They have also made their merry way to a wedding in France and a children's party in Spain.

Next was Dave and Shona with the Sheep and the Stones:
The wonderful Peach soaps have been shipped as wedding favours to Australia and Hawaii

Richard and Rachael ordered these for their wedding:

Sian and Luke went for a Cold Processed soap that represented "Fire"




Gareth and Courtney wanted these:
And finally, for now, we have Ben and Danielle:  Their theme was "Purple" but as the music lover's they are we resorted to some "Guns and Roses" (better photos to follow of this one).



 So, the question remains, what would you want for your wedding?



Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Making the Lab my own!

Carla would tell you that the evidence of me taking over the lab is all around and clear to see.

The disorder, the chaos and my innate ability to be untidy and leave things everywhere.  Don't worry, all is spick and span as it should be but I have a tendency to leave the wrong things in the wrong places and if Carla does get a pain free hour or two - then it drives her nuts to go into the lab and see her ordered little world turned to a mass of pots and and pans all half filled and misplaced.



Of course, I must also insist that the same is true for me.  Carla keeps moving things so I can't find them! They are always neat and tidy - tucked away in some hiding hole that no-one could ever know about and no-one over 3 foot might ever think of looking!

Still, as I've made the lab my own I thought I might show you some of the results.

video
Okay, so there may be a hole in the hair net and the fashion sense may hold much to be desired - but other than that I'd say I'm pretty pleased with the end results.

The soaps by the way that were made were Lavender & Lime soaps and our Bergamot & Cedarwood soaps.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

St. Georges Market

This year we took the decision to compliment our on-line business with a presence in St. Georges Market, Belfast.  With our lines finalised we needed to work out how to raise capital in order get our products branded and ready for retail.



There are so many things one could say about St. Georges.  Firstly, we are a long way off fulfilling our need to raise the capital.  Things have been slower to get rolling than we had perhaps expected yet strangely we are fairing better than many of our counterparts.  We could do a Saturday to compensate but we try as much as possible to keep that day for family time.

We've considered investing money on banners, branding, packaging for the stall etc., but as a casual trader we really just wanted to see if we could get the stall to work.  And, it has.  We are currently looking at expanding to sell at Victoria Square on a Sunday as well and plans are in place for their Christmas fayre too. 

If these opportunities provide the capital it would permit us the opportunity of having finished products ready for retail; that would allow us to consider expanding and possibly, just possibly, consider taking some money out of the business.  A much needed source of income for the expanding Falls family.  

Incidently St. Georges' Market has been shortlisted in the top 10 "good causes awards" and is currently open for voting.  You can give it a big thumbs up here: http://www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards


Miracle of Miracles

I know, I know.

I'm so terribly sorry.

It has been 7 months since I last blogged and so, so much has happened in that time that we barely know where to begin.

But lets start with the sound of tiny little feet pitter patting their way into our lives once again.

In February we found out that Carla was pregnant.  It was the most wonderful and amazing bitter sweet news we have had in a long time.  Amazing because we have always wanted a larger family but due to very difficult previous pregnancies we had just taken the decision to have no further children and give all the baby stuff we have to others.  

The surprising news means we will now need to do a major restock of items for baby number 3.  It also meant that Carla was almost immediately confined to bed where she will remain until the baby is born  at the end of October.  

It also brought back memories relatively rapidly that I would have to take responsibility for doing everything at home and at work - though last time work was consultancy based admin work for a group of manufacturing business' - this time work would require me to also take on my usual quota and those responsibilities Carla has always undertaken one of which would be MAKING SOAP!

In that time I've learnt how to make soaps, bombs, melts, lip-balms, oils, salts and butters.  I've taken soap demonstrations, I've facilitated workshops, made wedding favours and even taught the odd bit of soap-making.  

ScENT has, as a result, been taken over by a man!  To such an extent I've even booked my first Hen Party. I perish the thought!

Perhaps this in part explains a little of my absence on blogs.  Much of the time I would have spent on-line or doing admin has been swapped with the lab.  Something had to give somewhere.  

Still, I'm back now for a little while and will keep you updated with some of the other things we have been up to.







Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Photo Tents for Christmas

One massive issue for us as a start up has been photography.  Editors, Websites, Internet shops etc., all require high quality images.  There are two sorts, editorials and hero shots.  The hero shots almost always have to be on white backgrounds, of high resolution and crisp.

I say here and now - "I FAIL!"

Despite Carla's great photography my limited technical ability and impatience editing has turned fantastic photographs into a great big blob of blurry mess.   Despite great tools on the web such as PicMonkey for collages and Fotofuze for better definition or even the ever popular photobucket which allows me to write text and special effects - I've have usually come up no better in my photography than this:

Now this little shot may look adequate when only a small image but increase the size and you can rapidly see that the image is of poor quality, poor definition and the fact that I shake like a pneumatic drill hasn't helped the blurring of the bristles.  I've used photofuze to brighten the image but it lacks so much that is necessary for a good internet image.

Answer to these problems?  Well, there are many.  First and foremost - we need good lighting.  In Northern Ireland that in itself proves to be a major difficulty.  Not helped by the fact that we live in an old and typically dark fisherman's cottage.  Still on the right day, with a clear sky and some sun you can get good quality photos.  Secondly, A good camera is essential and we tend to be struggling with a little digital camera bought for Tobin's birth a couple of years ago.  The 3rd problem however was that of a clean white background.

So, without further ado - let me introduce you to one of Carla's Christmas presents.


The tent, with a clean white background and some tripod lights gives a much brighter feel to a drib and dab day as seen outside the window.  The photo of the "S" is as it is photographed in the tent without any touch-up.  (you can see the corner of the tent getting in the way a little on the right hand side.

Now, I am learning how to use photoshop and Gimp etc for photo editing and cropping but to demonstrate the difference the tent in itself makes to a photo I wanted to show you these - editing done in the same way as the apple - a little fotofuze.





How much better do they look.  They are crisp, clear and gorgeous!  How much better will a little photo editing help?




Monday, 6 January 2014

New year - New lines....

Much of last year contained product testing, costings and EU listings due to new cosmetics changes.  We had just tested and launched a range of products that went with the fruit soaps when we were forced to re-vamp our entire product range and focus on an entirely new product line.

To be honest I am not even sure we have had a chance to formally introduce them.  I must do that later next month.

In the interim period though we managed to experiment with a few new styles of soap-making and play around a bit with natural colours.  None of which excited Carla as much as this castile soap with alkanet and spirulina.  The colours where bright and in your face initially but just look at how it ended up.

Nothing short of stunning.



Now, for the skin conscious among you - what is in this bar and what can it be used for?

So for 5 months of last year we experimented and produced our main lines.  But the above little experiment opened our eyes to the wonderful potential of castile soap (soap made with just olive oil as opposed to a blend of oils).  We could make castile soaps for each of the lines, reduce our overheads, our costs and remain fairly traded.  It would help with postage and produce a hard bar (which when you blend the oils can make a moisturising bar - but one which is quite soft and doesn't last too long).

So, knowing that Castile soaps need to cure longer - we are already starting our batches for Christmas 2014 and in the interim are keeping our blended soaps which cure in a 6-8 week period - the debate for the minute is whether or not to use organic palm oil to keep the bars hard.

Its an ethical decision.  We had wanted to remain palm oil free but frankly, the soap suffers.  It can be a fabulous skin product without palm oil or lard - but without it the soaps don't last too long and go mushy far too quickly.

In the interim, we are opting for a sustainable and organic palm oil provided via Aromantic and Akoma both of which are business' we both trust and respect.  That said, despite our love of both companies the oil they sell is certified by the RSPO (Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil) which is not highly regarded by any environmental organisation that I'm aware of - you can find out more of the probems with it on this link http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/forests/palm-oil.  Whilst using these oils as a stop-gap we still anticipate being Palm free by the end of 2014.  One can but do our bit to save the wonderful Orangutan




Palm oil is in so many food and cosmetics products. Palm oil and its derivatives are used in a ubiquitous array of packaged foods, including ice cream, cookies, crackers, chocolate products, cereals, breakfast bars, cake mixes, doughnuts, potato chips, instant noodles, frozen sweets and meals, baby formula, margarine, and dry and canned soups. It can be labelled as anything from palm kernal oil to vegetable oil and is cheap and easily sourced. The difficulty is that rainforest are being devastated in order to make Palm Tree Farms and species, environment and people all suffer as a result. The Orangutan has become the face of this campaign through organisations such as Rainforest Action Network.  And, as we launched our products in 2013 we decided to not only go Palm Oil free but to ensure we used some of our income to protect rain forest from being exploited for more Palm Oil Farms and crucially, to protect the rights of the indigenous people who live in the rain forest - hence our support for both Cool Earth and Survival.  As Carla is native to Brazil who's ancestors were native to Brazil both the rain-forest and rights of the people are something we personally want to get involved with.

At best we can be palm free and use our profits to make a difference. At worst, if we really need to use palm oil then we can source it sustainably, ethically and organically/wild-crafted.

As a cosmetics business however - we think Palm oil is a wonderful product. Great for making a hard bar of soap which lasts. It just grates at our conscience however to claim to be an ethical company when we are aware of so much devastation and difficulty around this one ingredient.


Thursday, 2 January 2014

Craft Fairs, Stalls and Displays.

In the run up to Christmas we had been spending a little bit of time and money to enhance our presence at craft fairs and stalls.  I wish I could say that the investment paid off.  I confess, my belief in doing charity craft fairs has now ended.  The next person that can convince me to do a charity/community craft fair deserves high praise indeed.

That said 2014 will see us committing to St Georges Market in Belfast for a short period to see if we can increase our presence in Belfast as well as make more money from sales rather than solely from the internet.

So here is a little of what we have been up to...

It started with the crates.  We needed something that provided multiple layers to ensure we could get a wide variety of our lines out on display without it looking cluttered and difficult to differentiate.  We needed something that would be easy to pack and display, was visually eye-catching and offered us a way to keep changing the format so people wouldn't keep seeing the same old week in week out.  Something that didn't offer a blank canvas that the products would fade into but would instead enhance the appearance of the products.  We think we found the answer.  The white crates work perfectly to bring out the colour of the products whilst the blue ties in remarkably well with our brand colour.  The odd bit of blue in the display really draws the eye and the best bit is that we can carry much of our stock in the crates to and from the market.

Much better than a flat table and tablecloth!

Carla had a few ideas of how to develop the stands for craft fairs.  Some of which haven't materialised yet but one which has are the letters for ScENT.  Carla has been working with Little Roots to come up with some letters for the stall.  Here is a quick look at what they have been working on together...


Personally, I can't wait to see the rest of the letters.