The Story Behind Nourish
From simple beginnings in my kitchen to selling nationwide…
By Pauline Susman
Nourish Natural Soaps have the privilege of being nurtured to life in the beautiful forests of Rheenendal, just outside Knysna. Knysna is the beautiful jewel along the coast line of South Africa’s Garden Route. Here the living is easy and the natural environment is exquisite. Birdsong and the buzzing of the bees in the hive outside my door accompany the fragrant smells when you approach the workshop. The view from my window overlooks beautiful flowering trees and aloes and a large dam chock full of bird life. Pretty blissful surroundings in which to create soap with soul!
Starting Nourish Natural Soaps as a Viable Home Business
Around the end of 2011 I was toying with the idea of starting a home business. We live on a small holding surrounded by close family and I home school my daughter. She was only six and still needed a lot of hands on attention. I had some previous experience with making glycerine soaps as a home-school venture and that sparked the idea to try to make my own soaps from home.
I spent a few months Googling everything I could find about soap making. After much research I finally ended up with some basic recipes I could start with. I Ordered in my ingredients and for Christmas everyone in my extended family got a bar of soap.
That first year I played around a lot with colours and fragrances. I eventually decided on eight soaps fragrances that would become the basis of the existing Nourish range. As word spread I started selling to friends and acquaintances and the feedback was good! To make them easier to handle, I wrapped the soaps in wax paper. On my home printer I printed up some labels and suddenly the soap looked presentable! I was still cooking the soap in my kitchen and all the cutlery was starting to taste like soap. In order to make life easier for everyone, we set up a dedicated work space on my back porch.
As the year wore on I fine tuned the soap recipe to consist primarily of coconut oil. A drought in Spain had brought prices of olive oil through the roof, so it seemed like a prudent move to make! Besides that, it made my soap harder and improved the lather incredibly. Add to that some rich natural butters and my Nourish recipe was born.
Nourish Soaps Spreads her Wings
By 2013 business had picked up and I was now in a few shops and doing local markets here and there. I set up a website to give me a larger platform to sell from. I also worked with a web designer to make the look of Nourish soap more polished. Starting Nourish Soaps as a business took up much of my available time. I loved it though! My soap space had become too cramped and I moved my entire business. The new premises were what used to be our home-school ‘classroom’ in a cottage in the forest on the edge of our property. Here I finally had the space to set up a more ‘professional’ soap crafting set up.
In September of 2013, I was interviewed on the local radio. An article I wrote about soap making ended up in a magazine as well! My clientele was growing and I started selling further afield. I still did not expect to ever go further than my immediate local area with the soap sales but all that was about to change!
Market Exposure for my soaps!
Shortly after my interview was aired, I was approached by the team who run the Wild Oats Market in Sedgefield. They wanted to see if I would be interested to have a permanent stall on their world famous farmer’s market. It was a real honour to be able to join up with this prestigious market and I was beyond thrilled! This came at a time when I was missing the contact with my customers and timing couldn’t have been better! In August I packed up my soapies and started at the Wild Oats. Thanks to that platform I was able to access a much wider market than previously.
2014 was also the time that I started branching out through the use of agents. These wonderful spokespeople have done a lot for starting Nourish Soaps and helping it become successful. Each and every one of them sells my soap because they wholeheartedly believe in it. I also spent time upgrading my website to include a shopping cart and online payment facility. This made it easier for my customers to find me. All this time my exposure to nationwide clients grew. Mostly thanks to Nourish Soaps’ weekly presence at the Wild Oats Community Market.
In 2015 I took a step in a new direction by taking on lines of customized products that I make according to the customer’s specifications. I hired an assistant who helped make the basic soap range once a week. This allowed me time to focus on developing other products. I also started a range of Nourish Detergents; laundry and dishwasher powders. Later on I added a multipurpose household cleaner made of 100% coconut oil liquid soap. These new products complemented my soaps well and my customers were enthusiastic about them.
Early 2016 I decided that I needed my Saturdays back and that my business was now established enough for me to ‘retire’ from the Wild Oats Market. The Saturday after I resigned from the Market, a plan was proposed that we build a workshop on our property. My current forest workshop had reached its limits. It was time to design a place that was accessible and spacious enough to accommodate some more growth for Nourish Soaps. We handed the plans into the municipality and three weeks later the OK came through.
Thanks to this new work space, an exciting new chapter has started for Nourish Soaps. In the last two years I’ve branched out into new products and new packaging for my soaps. After being fairly open and rustic looking for years, I transitioned to FSC approved kraft boxes in 2018. This allowed my soaps to be available to a greater range of outlets and shops like Weylandts and Spar started stocking Nourish on their shelves.
2019 was another leap forward as I took on my first ever full time employee and we are excited to keep growing Nourish and supplying you all with delicious products. All along, my customers have been an incredible source of inspiration and support. I love the fact that I can share what I love making with people who love using it! I’ve never had a business plan for Nourish Soaps but from the start I’ve held a rock solid belief that these soaps would do well. My business is a fluid entity that seems to know where its going. I am excited to see where this journey will take me in the future