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Soap maker enjoys sweet smell of success

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Spacious and bright: Genelle John inside the Salt Spray Soap Bermuda shop in St George’s. The store sells a range of handmade, natural soaps and other beauty products

The fragrance of natural, handmade soaps is turning heads in St George’s, and that is good news for the Salt Spray Soap Bermuda.

The shop on Water Street opened late last year and has enjoyed a steady growth in business.

With the summer season approaching, owner Genelle John is optimistic that sales will continue to improve. She has been impressed by the friendliness of the town’s close-knit community, particularly the supportiveness of fellow businesses.

She is passionate about the soaps she makes and is pleased with the way the shop has evolved, helped by a spirit of collaboration with others involved in niche businesses.

If there is one key thing missing, she believes it is the presence of a mentor to guide her further along the path of being a successful entrepreneur and getting her products more widely distributed on the island, and ultimately overseas.

Ms John is on the lookout for a guiding spirit to provide such advice as she develops Salt Spray Soap Bermuda.

“My goal at this point is to somehow find a mentor. Someone who may have been down this path and is not adverse to assisting a new business owner navigate the retail, wholesale, hiring, and overseas shipping challenges. I see myself able to learn by trial and error, but would like to skip some of the ‘error’,” she said.

A collaborative approach has worked well for her already. She has teamed up with two niche businesses to cross-promote merchandise.

While her range of soaps take centre stage, one section of the shop contains swimsuits and fashions, many of which are Bermuda-centric, from A2Z Fashions, which has an outlet on Queen Street in Hamilton.

Meanwhile, two of the window displays feature gourmet handmade cookies and officially sanctioned America’s Cup cookie jars from Confections.

Explaining the collaborations, Ms John said A2Z’s owner Angel Burgess is a longtime friend and they had agreed to share space in each other’s shops.

“It’s a hugely beneficial collaboration for the two of us. She’s very open about sharing the knowledge that she has accumulated to date and we’ll sit down, think of a way to help each other, say ‘let’s do it!’ and the next day it’s in motion. I’m sharing space in my store to carry a large selection of her clothing and swimsuits and she has made a section of her store in town available for me to stock my entire line of skincare products,” she said.

It means customers seeking Salt Spray’s natural soaps can purchase them at a central location. Ms John said the two friends also help one another by sharing tips and advice.

It is a similar collaboration with Ms Smith, who runs cookie company Confections.

“She has been at this a bit longer then me and has developed a brand based on beautifully packaged traditional sugar cookies. She gives me timely suggestions about branding and distribution.” Although they are in different lines of business, they are learning from one another as they seek to get their products distributed wider, such as in hotels and guesthouses. Ms John has a fully-equipped workshop at the rear of the shop where she makes her unique range of natural soaps that reflect the bright colours of Bermuda. The soap fragrances include coconut lemon grass, black amber and lavender, banana split and crisp pear. The shop also sells body butters and other beauty products. At present the items are available at her shop, and at A2Z Fashions, in Hamilton, and Pulp and Circumstance’s outlet at LF Wade International Airport.

“I’m at the point where I need to respond to requests to provide soap to hotels and guesthouses as well as through overseas shipping,” she said.

For now, she is pleased with the shop’s success, which has seen strong interest from locals who want to buy a natural soap product, rather than have to go online to order from overseas.

“The soap shop is a concept that appeals to Bermudians who are already looking for natural products as well as tourists who want something made in Bermuda,” said Ms John. At Christmas demand was exceptionally high. “I was cleared out.” She is enjoying being based in the heart of St George’s, and praised mayor Quinell Francis. “She comes by and listens to my ideas and is very receptive to suggestions. It’s a very tightknit community with a feeling that the successes of the businesses are intertwined. Candy Foggo, from the Corporation, might be walking by for lunch but stops to talk about whatever is a current concern.”

Since opening the shop Ms John said each month has exceeded her expectations. She is looking forward to the summer when visitor numbers traditionally pick up.

“I feel pretty optimistic about it. This is the perfect street and town and country for this product. I feel perfectly positioned for success. People are walking in off the street and locals have been wandering in and then returning for refills.”

Salt Spray soap has a Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Saltspraysoap/

At work: Genelle John perfecting natural soap at Salt Spray Soap Bermuda in St George’s
Optimistic outlook: Genelle John one of the range of handmade, natural soaps available at her shop, Salt Spray Soap Bermuda, in St George’s
Optimistic outlook: Genelle John outside Salt Spray Soap Bermuda, in Water Street, St George’s. At the shop she makes her own natural soaps and other beauty products
Something special: Soap made by Genelle John of Salt Spray Soap Bermuda