Francois Schleblusch is a Graphic Designer by day and soap extraordinaire by night. He tells us of his life long love of soap and how he came to make and sell them himself.
When did you start making soaps and salts, and why?
I started making them just over a year ago now. I’ve always had an obsession with soap since I was little. When I was out shopping with my mum I would ask for a particular bar of soap. As soon as she handed me one, I was as happy as can be and left her to carry out her shopping in peace in quiet. A very odd thing to ask for I admit, but I suppose it’s better than crying over toys.
Then early last year I started thinking about potential wedding favours for our big day and I really wanted to make something. So the idea of soap popped into my head. I did tons of research and made my first batch. I was very surprised at how easy it was and how much I enjoyed it. So tried another batch and I was hooked.
I worked long and hard on the brand image first until I was 100% happy with it before thinking of flavours and products. From there it snowballed out of control really into what BōN is today.
I imagine it as quite a messy process! Does it take a long time and a lot of space?
Surprisingly enough it’s not very messy. I can make all the bars at home on the stove-top, it’s something you can make without a great deal of special equipment. To make one batch, which yields 10 bars, takes about 45 minutes from prep to washing up so not very long at all. I then cut and stamp the bars a couple of days later.
The tricky part is the curing process, during which the pH neutralises and the bars harden, making it safe to use on even sensitive skin. This is where the storage becomes a problem as they have to sit and air out for 4 weeks! So I’ve had to work my way around it and I have soap curing on top of cupboards where they are not disturbed.
How do you source your ingredients to keep your products natural?
This was very hard at first to find all the ingredients I needed. I could have easily settled for cheaper supplies, but I had a vision of wanting to use natural and organic ingredients and I stuck by it.
After lots of research I found some great suppliers in Glasgow, Northampton and Carshalton, in Surrey. I also source some special butters from Ghana as well as teas and essential oils from South Africa (where I was born). I finally managed to source all natural colorants as I never wanted to use dyes and oxides like some high street stores.
Do you hope to sell through shops, and who would be the dream stockists for you?
I would love to sell through some shops, but it would be very important that they are not mainstream high street shops. I’ve had my eye on a few, especially InHouse Space and Lavender Room in Brighton.
What advice would you give someone changing careers to do something completely different?
I had no idea what I was getting myself in for, but I went for it all the same. Put your heart and soul into your work, and your customers will see it and appreciate the hard work you’ve done.
People love to hear where an idea started, it shows that you are a normal person and it makes the products more special and unique. It takes hard work, lots of planning and lots of research but it’s all worth it.
Go to local craft fairs, you will meet fantastic people with extraordinary talent. And make sure you go to workshops and seminars, I always leave with a notebook full of scribbles and a brain ready to burst with ideas!
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