A Soap Affair was founded by advertising copywriter Celestine Lau (right) while Belinda Hiew helps with order fulfilment.
A few months back, I wrote about Harmini Asokumar, who specialises in handmade fashion accessories. Going the handmade route is something niche yet popular as people aspire to move away from a cookie cutter world of generic products. But one thing you probably did not expect to be handmade was soap.
These days, bars of soap are already pretty uncommon, what more handmade versions of these. But, A Soap Affair, founded by advertising copywriter Celestine Lau, is carving a nice niche for itself in a world dominated by liquid soap.
This handmade soap company, which began business early this year, is a small, part-time endeavour by Celestine, who owns the brand and makes the soap, and Belinda Hiew, who helps with order fulfilment. Both have a passion for handmade soap.
Celestine insists that handmade soap is not created for artisanal reasons but because they are genuinely better soap. “These are soap that contains all the basic natural ingredients that help to nourish the skin while cleaning,” she says. “Soap that you’ll want to leave your current shower washes for, to have an affair with – thus the name of our company.”
When she started dabbling with soap-making, she learned what she could through Google searches and watching YouTube. “My first batch of soap turned out to be hideous-looking bars, which were cut too big and had no desirable colours or shapes,” she recalls. “But I considered it a success since they set well and I could actually use them in the bathroom.”
Since then, and after much trial and error sessions, Celestine’s soap-making capabilities have vastly improved. “I use the Marseilles formula, which is 72% Olive Oil and 28% Coconut Oil,” she says. “In go all the beautiful natural additives such as Essential Oils, Yoghurt, Clays or Powders.”
The result is a far superior soap over what you can get in the supermarket. “Manufactured soaps are cheap but it’s because they contain a lot of synthetic materials that replace more costly natural ingredients – for the purpose of bringing the price down, prolonging shelf-life and making the outcome more consistent,” Celestine explains. “Buying handmade soap is buying the assurance that no manufacturing process has been applied to alter what soap should be.”
Like many part-time start-ups, A Soap Affair, operates largely online, especially through Facebook and Instagram. But unlike many entrepreneurs who make full use of social media ads, Celestine prefers organic reach. “No social media ads, no marketing campaigns, no contest or promotions but purely through word of mouth,” she says.
And so far, the word has been positive. Business has been growing even though soap is not the first thing most people think about when they say they prefer handmade products. “I think it’s great that there are soap connoisseurs out there,” she says. “It shows there’s a growing awareness of what hand-made soap has to offer.
She says one of the most surprising things that people discover when they try handmade soap is that they can actually feel a difference compared to mass-produced soap from the supermarket. “It’s a difference that will forever change your idea of what soap is,” she says. “Good soap cleanses without stripping your skin of its natural oils. The skin becomes more balanced – it doesn’t feel so tight after a shower, and hence it doesn’t overcompensate in oil production later in the day. Naturally, problems that are related to oily or dry skin, such as acne or eczema, become less common.”
With the success she’s had with handmade soap, the natural question to ask is, what’s next? It would make sense for her to expand beyond soap and produce other related products.
“Our natural progression would be going into other skincare products such as body butters, balms and scrubs,” she says. “But I find that so expected. Still, I would like to expand into something else. I just haven’t decided on what yet.”
Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.