Taking the all-natural approach to soap
Genelle John has long been an advocate for natural products in her skincare regime, and now she's bringing that knowledge and passion to the America's Cup.
Ms John, the owner of the Salt Spray Soap Company, is producing a special all-natural America's Cup soap as one of the island's licensees for the biggest sporting event that Bermuda has ever hosted.
The lavender and vanilla soap smells “irresistible” and Ms John said having jumped at the chance to get involved her biggest challenge in becoming a licensee came when it was time to design the packaging for the soap, which will be on sale at her stores in St George and Dockyard.
“I don't feel like I am a traditionally artistic person,” she said. “Coming up with the packaging was the most difficult part for me. Ultimately, I opted to stamp the America's Cup logo on the soap and use a clear box. To me, it looks like I'm giving or receiving a trophy. I love it.”
There is a definite Bermuda feel about the Salt Spray Soap Co brand, with the bright colours of the soaps inspired by Bermuda's houses, and a luxurious feel combined with healthy skincare range that includes body butters, sea salt scrubs and lip balms.
“The result is a range of products that are both beautiful and beneficial to the skin,” Ms John said.
“Our soaps clean while moisturising and are safe and effective for normal as well as sensitive skin. We have soap with bentonite clay and activated charcoal for those who want to forgo fragrances in favour of a detox soap that is great for the face and body.
“Our sea salt scrubs exfoliate away dead skin leaving behind soft, smooth skin. Our lip balms are made from the same healing butters and oils as well as Bermuda beeswax, that leaves behind soothed and conditioned lips.”
Ms John has a special relationship with the America's Cup; the Salt Spray Soap Co opened for business during the 2015 Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series on Front Street. “The America's Cup feels like an integral part of our story,” she said. “We opened that following weekend in St George.”
Her journey to this point actually began some 20 years before when she began making and using natural body butters and oils on her hair and skin.
Her first foray into making something for someone else came when a family member was in hospital and needed their “extremely dry feet” soothed.
“I scooted off to the health food store to make sure I was able to formulate something for extreme dryness,” Ms John said. “The rest is history!”
It wasn't until Ms John, who had previously worked as a corporate administrator and ophthalmic technician, went back to school in Canada to study for a Masters in Interdisciplinary Health that she turned her talents to making soap as a hobby.
“Having oils and butters around the house — for use on the hair and skin — is a gateway to making just about everything for the body from head to toe,” she said.
Mostly natural, the single chemical component is sodium hydroxide, an essential ingredient for all soaps.
Using the chemical means that while making soap is a relatively simple process, a certain amount of knowledge is needed for handling the sodium safely.
Other ingredients include beeswax sourced from a local beekeeper, and salt from the sea surrounding Bermuda.
“The salt is a nice feature as a gift that is being taken or shipped overseas, but salt also functions as a hardener for a soap bar,” Ms John said. “It lasts longer in the shower as long as the soap is allowed to dry between uses.”
From humble beginnings Ms John's business has grown significantly over the past two years, and the America's Cup has played a large part in that. Originally based on Water Street in St George, there is now a second location in the Clock Tower Mall in Dockyard, and more employees than before.
The increased exposure has also led to a name change for a company that is branching out beyond soap.
“The product name is still Salt Spray Soap Co but we've changed the name of both stores to Island Life,” Ms John said.
“We have felt so welcomed as a brand that we find ourselves sharing our story and hearing other stories to such a degree that we feel that the name Island Life better represents the feeling that you get inside of our stores.
“Being in the heart of St George has exposed me to visitors, for the first time, who come to Bermuda annually for various lengths of time. These are normal people who save up to have more than a vacation here — they immerse themselves in the experience. These stories come to us in the stores organically, and we love it.
“A recurring theme is the feeling that most people who come to the Island Life stores leave as friends. We're at the start of our second summer in business and we're starting to see a lot of the same faces returning to shop and say hello again.”
That popularity has led to the introduction of clothing lines alongside the skincare products, and Ms John is spreading the word on homemade remedies through a series of workshops
“Expanding the store name allows us to emphasise the things that we love about Bermuda,” she said. “We have the Bermuda designer swimsuits, Island Life T-shirts, the Salt Spray Soap Co skincare line, as well as a section for doing workshops teaching and making all kinds of natural body care and household products.”
Starting her own business on the island has given Ms John a new appreciation for the entrepreneurs that have gone before, and what it means to visitors to the island to buy a little bit of the rock to take home with them.
“We had a fun and lucrative summer season with visitors taking to our handmade in Bermuda skincare,” she said. “But locals have also come through year round.
“It's extremely gratifying to have locals come in repeatedly to tell us how much they enjoy the products.”
To find out more about Island Life and Salt Spray Soap range follow them on Facebook (facebook.com/islandlifebermuda); instagram (islandlifebermuda); or at www.saltspraysoap.com