HOW does a hobby turn into a new way of life?
Someone with the answer to this question is Cotswold soap maker Emma Heathcote- James, whose pastime is now on the shelves of the country’s biggest supermarkets.
The former writer stumbled across soap making by chance when she realised most people didn’t share her passion for lathering up with a bar.
After a slow process she finally got a helping hand on how to make the best bars and the Little Soap Company now produces soaps that are in great demand.
Now passing her art on to people at her soap school in Ebrington, near Chipping Campden, Emma says one of the best bits has been meeting so many people along the way.
”I have met some amazing people,” she said. “A couple came over from Iceland and it turned out their land had the volcano on that created the ash cloud. They had so much ash, which had fallen on their land that they had to collect it up in bags. We even used some in the soap they made.
“I met another couple living in Kenya. The lady was married to a man who farmed tea. He decided to change his stock and began farming avocados. When they came over they made soap using their own avocado oil.
“When she arrived back home she set up a co-operative in a building on her farm for women in the area to make their own soap and use the money to send their children to school.”
Emma now holds two soap schools a week and invited me to try my hand. Being with an expert, the process seemed simple, but safety precautions were needed when handling the sodium hydroxide.
I chose rose geranium essential oil, avocado oil, pink clay and petals for my soap, which smelled good enough to eat.
The afternoon passed in a flash, giving me an insight into why so many people visit Emma in her cosy workshop cottage in the picturesque Cotswold village.
“My nan always used soap,”
remembered Emma. “It is because of her I used it still and in my twenties I experimented with making my own soap.
“Years on I was having my bathroom done. Everything went wrong and it ended up taking two-and-a-half weeks.
During the time I was going to my neighbour’s houses with my towel and soap to use their bathrooms. Nearly everyone asked why I had soap.
“A while later I went to a fete in Bengeworth, where I was living, and a lady was selling some soap. I got a few and when I used it it was like a lightbulb moment.
Mine had always been crumbly.
I rang the lady and eventually she agreed to help me. In the end I bought her recipes.”
Emma then spent her time at every craft fair and fete she could before approaching supermarket chain Warners Budgens, which eventually stocked her soap.
“We also stock in Waitrose and Tesco and lots of local outlets.
Nobody told me when you sell your own product that making it is the easy part.”
Aside from making and selling her soap and teaching others, Emma takes part in the Young Enterprise Scheme helping young people from around the country run their own successful business and has been recognised for her hard work.
This year she was a judge for the Gloucestershire BUG and Enterprise Awards and last year she won the Worcestershire Corporate Social Responsibility Award for The Environment.
To visit Emma or find out more about the Little Soap Company, visit littlesoapcompany.