KZN Mid­lands

go! Platteland - - 6 ENTREPRENEURS: SOAP -

Kate and Chikondi both stud­ied first-year chem­istry and used this knowl­edge to make soap eight years ago when they lived in Malawi and couldn’t find any nat­u­ral soap for sale.

They sold their soap at school fairs and gift shops ev­ery now and again, but it took six years to build the con­fi­dence to start mak­ing soap in greater quan­ti­ties and es­tab­lish the business they called Ron­davel. “We’ve al­ways loved the sim­ple yet func­tional de­sign of this small African home, and wanted our soap to re­main equally true to its roots,” says Kate.

Two years ago they boarded a bus with their soap pots, equip­ment and three sons and came to South Africa, con­vinced the business would be more suc­cess­ful here.

Is soap-mak­ing a prof­itable business? Yes and no. It’s hard work. We re­alised this again the other day when there was a power cut, but we could still make, cut and wrap soap. As with other crafts, it’s best not to work out what you’re be­ing paid per hour – all it takes is be­ing stuck in peak traf­fic once to re­mem­ber how blessed you are to have your own business and work­ing hours. Life isn’t only about profit. What makes your prod­ucts unique? Our prod­ucts stand out be­cause we source the raw in­gre­di­ents – es­pe­cially in­dige­nous es­sen­tial oils – from sus­tain­able com­mu­nity projects and small-scale farm­ers. We de­sign our own pack­ag­ing – our Land­scape col­lec­tion is based on seven beau­ti­ful South African land­scapes, printed on pa­per made from sugar-cane waste.

Big­gest mis­con­cep­tions?

Mak­ing good soap isn’t only about fol­low­ing a recipe. Un­der­stand­ing the chem­istry be­hind the process is very im­por­tant, so you can work out why some­thing went wrong. For us, the whole process re­quires a cross be­tween a mad sci­en­tist and a cre­ative baker.

Top tips

• Re­search and know how the soap-mak­ing process works, and think about what you want to achieve. • Don’t start us­ing ex­pen­sive es­sen­tial oils un­til you’ve mas­tered the process. Some failed batches can be sal­vaged, but many will have to be binned. • Use long gloves, safety gog­gles, a full apron, closed shoes and a mask for mix­ing caus­tic soda into the wa­ter (never the other way round).

face­­davel soaps ron­dav­el­

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