1. Hi Carly! Tell us a bit about Fair + Square Soapery. What do you do, and how did the business come about?
I make natural soaps using the cold process method. It is a traditional practice, dating back 6000+ years. Fair + Square Soapery was born out of a desire to create high quality, luxury products for everyday use. I wanted to bring simplicity into my life without compromising on quality. I have always been intrigued with how our ancestors lived wholesome, simple and often very healthy lives, and take real pride in creating a product that has been in manufacture since the beginning of human civilisation. A lot has changed in the last few thousand years of technological progression, but soap has always been a main stay in the course of the human life.
I was given a soap-making kit as a gift a long time ago and was instantly hooked. The business it is today actually came about organically, I was not intending to make soap for a living. It evolved from a hobby to a business over the course of the last 10 years.
"I take real pride in creating a product that has been in manufacture since the beginning of human civilisation."
2. You’re based in Northland, and we note you sometimes include Northland rainwater in your soaps. How important is location to what you do?
I love living up here in Northland; the climate, the slow pace of life and the stunning coastal landscapes are all great inspirations in my life. I feel so privileged to live in this beautiful rural area. Because we have no town water supply, we collect and store all the water we need from the rain. I consider this rain water a real blessing as I know that I am not putting any chemicals into my soaps via the water content of the recipe.
3. Tell us a bit about your product range and how it came about.
My product range has been a gradual development over many years of trial and error. I tested all sorts of different essential oil scent blends and natural colour techniques, rarely putting down one batch the same as another. When I saw that my craft had well and truly outgrown the hobby stage, I decided I needed to standardise my range for logistical reasons. I whittled it down to the 13 varieties I now make. I have soaps for hair, face, body, hands, pets and household.
I wanted to create an experience that all my customers can not only enjoy, but also be sure that it is truly good for them. It’s near impossible today to get away from all the nasties in our world, and with a beauty industry heaving with products, I wanted to create simple, honest, beautiful and useful items.
"With a beauty industry heaving with products, I wanted to create simple, honest, beautiful and useful items."
4. Your products all have really creative names. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I usually do a messy sort of brainstorm on a piece of paper; writing down words as they pop into my head; things that the soap reminds me of or words and phrases that rhyme with those words. Then I venture off onto long tangents from one word to another, until something feels about right.
5. When did you first discover natural cosmetics?
My family have always pursued a natural lifestyle and so I don’t think I really ever discovered it as such, as it has just been the norm growing up.
6. Have you had any mishaps in the process of making your own cold processed soaps?
I have had so many failed experiments along the way. I don’t think it's possible to get a deep understanding of something without having those failures to teach you, so I see these mishaps as an integral part of my never ending journey to mastery. I have so much to learn still, I feel like I am just scratching the surface!
"I see mishaps as an integral part of my never ending journey to mastery."
7. What's the coolest thing you've learned in the process of running your business and making your products?
I have really enjoyed learning the business side of business! First and foremost, I am a soap maker, but now I find myself a small-businesswoman with no clue as to how that came about. Learning about marketing and packaging, how to portray a strong brand identity and the importance of weaving your own personal story into your brand. Authenticity and openness and sincere customer service are all things that I have loved about being in business.
8. What natural beauty products or ingredients do you find yourself recommending most often?
For the beauty product it has to be shampoo! I recommend everyone to try a solid shampoo bar if they get the chance. It so easy, and I’ve not talked to one person who has regretted it!
9. Who are your favourite social media follows for inspiration?
I adore the work of NZ soap maker @sphaera.co.nz. She has beautiful branding and a stunning eye for simplistic beauty. Her scent blends are incredibly well thought out and balanced, such an inspiring brand.
@nurturing_soul is another favourite of mine. Becs is from Scotland and makes beautiful soaps and perfectly merges her personal story and family life into her feed with stunning photos.
I also love the work of @charliemackesy – If you love animals and beautiful truths, you are sure to love his work.
10. If you could return to the beginning of your business journey, what advice would you give yourself?‘Team work makes the dream work,’ and ‘aces in their places’. When I first started out, I had the view that I could do everything myself. I think I thought that it would be something to be proud of to attribute 100% of any success in business to myself. I am a pretty stubborn person and I am not good at asking for help, so lowering those walls was quite a challenge. When I finally took my blinkers off and opened my eyes, the possibilities were endless and super exciting.
By outsourcing my packaging and branding to professionals, we were able to compliment my product with a clean modern and professional looking packaging. We were able to create the brand identity I had dreamed of, but never had the skills to obtain. My very first piece of advice to anyone starting out in business or trying to find a better way is to do what you do best, and leave the rest to the professionals! You wont regret it!
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