Two years ago professional cook Sadie Hubbard knew she wanted a change in career and to follow her passion for nature. Based in Clonakilty, Sadie had worked in kitchens from the age of 15 but felt it was time to do something different; she was exploring online courses such as herbalism and aromatherapy when she suddenly decided she wanted to make soap with local seaweed and call it Wild Atlantic Soaps. “It was completely out of the blue, as I’d never made a bar of soap before or any other type of skin product! I immediately bought the domain name and so my life as a small producer began.”
Wild Atlantic Soaps is a perfect example of how following your instincts can allow you to grow a simple idea into a viable business. Sadie explains how she got started. “My friends, co-workers, partner and family were very supportive from the get-go; they were my guinea pigs and encouraged me to sell my products and to do my first Christmas market. From there on the response and support I received from the public was unbelievable. I knew then I had a good product and a reason to proceed with my business venture.”
Sadie began by going to her local beaches in Long Strand and Owenahincha, gathering freshly washed up bladderwrack and kelp and also bottles of seawater. She now uses these precious ingredients in all of her products.
“I dry out the seaweed using a dehydrator, then grind it up in a coffee grinder to use as an exfoliant in my soap bars, which also contain lots of shea butter and sustainable oils like organic coconut oil, hemp seed oil and rice bran oil.
“I also have a very popular solid shampoo bar where the seaweed is rehydrated and blended in for moisturising, along with West Cork honey for conditioning. I infuse the seaweed into my nourishing lip butters and use a pinch of the powder in my bath bombs. I am also developing a full vegan range of products, a conditioner bar and a natural deodorant, and hopefully the list will go on.. I’m testing more and more products by the day!”
Sourcing the best ingredients locally and at a reasonable price is one of Sadie’s biggest challenges. At the moment a lot of ingredients have to be sourced from outside of Ireland and her shea butter, which Sadie insists is certified Fair Trade, comes all the way from Ghana, West Africa.
Sadie works from her kitchen, with lots of moral support from her boyfriend. She finds the lack of space is hard at times, as the house is taken over with soap supplies. “We call it ‘the four letter word’ these days!” she says laughing. She is really loving her new career though and is always inspired to create new recipes and products. Using the flowers and herbs from her garden and gathering seaweed and seawater from usually deserted and unspoilt beaches is the most personally rewarding work she has ever done.
When asked about the impact of the pandemic on her business Sadie is sanguine: “I was just about to go into my business full-time, as the restaurant I worked in for six years closed its doors on New Year’s Eve. I took the closure as a great opportunity to put everything into Wild Atlantic Soaps. To be honest, the pandemic has only delayed the start up for a few months; I am now raring to go and I have just been approved for the Back To Work Enterprise Allowance, which will be a great help to start me up.”
Sadie thinks West Cork is THE best place to be a producer because “the support from everybody is so encouraging. I don’t think it would be the same anywhere else.” Her advice for others interested in starting up a business is to “believe in yourself and don’t worry what people may think about your product, just get out there and start experimenting. Feedback from the public is everything and the support you will receive is what will keep you going.
Wild Atlantic Soaps has its own market stall at the popular markets in Kinsale on a Wednesday, Clonakilty on a Friday and Skibbereen on a Saturday. It is also on the ever growing NeighbourFood app and is now also branching out into a few local shops. You can also buy on-line shop via its facebook page.