Connecting you with the people of Scotland by sharing their stories
Hi Sara, please tell everyone a bit about yourself and introduce your brand.
Hello, I am Sara and I live on the east coast of Scotland, near Edinburgh, in a small town called North Berwick. We moved here from London when our 2 boys were babies, they are now 16 and 17. My husband is a lobster fisherman, working out of our harbour and also the stunning Seacliff harbour. We also have a very fluffy grey cat.
My aim with Castaway Scotland soaps is to take things back to the simple basics: the soap bars all have natural ingredients and are packaged in recycled/ recyclable paper wraps. Free from nasty additives and free from plastic packaging.
Can you take us back to where it all started and how you have developed over time?
In 2018 we airbnb’d our house and went travelling for 6 weeks. We spent the summer in the Caribbean in a small fishing village and we didn’t have access to many of the commodities easily available at home. The soap we bought was locally made using natural ingredients and I loved it! My son’s eczema completely cleared up (though that could also have been the climate) and I decided I needed to try making soap for myself.
So when we returned to Scotland I did a soap making course and absolutely fell in love with the process. It is the reaction between the acidic and alkaline ingredients which produces the bubbles and carefully balancing the scents and oils really appealed to the geek in me!
I started just making soaps for family and friends, but at that time, whenever I saw ‘natural soaps’ in shops they were either packaged in unnecessary plastic, or just had ugly packaging because they were playing on their eco credentials. I wanted to produce soaps which were environmentally friendly, but also looked tempting and desirable.
After getting approved for retail, I asked my local coffee shop if they would be interested in selling a few and things took off, with the soaps being amazingly positively received and selling really well.
Then when the covid lockdowns started and I could no longer sell through a real shop, I decided it was time to build a website and sell directly to customers which kept me going until things opened up again. It was great when high streets opened up again and I now sell through over 30 beautiful, independent shops and cafés mostly in Scotland.
You use coffee grinds from Steampunk Coffee in some of your soaps, can you tell us more about the ingredients you use and where you like to source them?
I love the ability to use local ingredients… and even better when that ingredients would otherwise go to waste. The coffee grinds act as a great scrub for naturally removing grease and grime, a non-harsh alternative to many of the harmful chemical cleaners out there. And our local coffee roaster, Steampunk Coffee, often have waste coffee from roasts that weren’t quite up to their high standards… so a perfect match.
I use dried lavender flowers from my garden (you can’t get more local than that) in the insomniac soap and Scottish oats and other local ingredients where possible.
As well as local coffee roasters, are there many other small businesses nearby- What’s it like in your community?
North Berwick is a small town with a lot of exciting small and independent businesses. Our high street has a lovely mix of shops, with a few big names residing in the bigger premises.
The independent shops are fantastic! As they are only small they have hand picked and carefully chosen stock and there is little need to go elsewhere.
There are also a lot of very talented crafters, makers, musicians and artists based in North Berwick and the whole town really comes to life during the Edinburgh Fringe, when we have Fringe by the Sea. As well as big name performers, it feels like a real showcase for local produce and artists.
Could you tell us a bit more about your beautiful illustrated packaging?
My plan with the soap packaging was to entice people in to have a closer look. I wanted customers to feel like they were buying themselves a lovely treat, not just buying the soap because of the eco-credentials (although that is a good reason to buy them!)
So, inspired by living by the sea (my fisherman husband often comes across weird and wonderful creatures bobbing about and films them or brings them home), I drew a series of Scottish sea beasties to illustrate the packaging… a gentle reminder that we share the planet with a whole load of other cool animals.
When you’re not making soap or drawing, what could we find you doing?
I am slightly addicted to knitting. I really got hooked when I moved to Scotland and wanted something to do to keep me warm and occupied during those long, dark winter months. I love teaching knitting to beginners and I am also in the process of making a series of online tutorials.
And then in the summer months you can find me in the garden growing as many edible things as possible!
Now that we can travel more easily again, I am looking forward to some more travel adventures, both in beautiful Scotland and hopefully overseas too.
Are you working on any new products at the moment?
I am working on a few new drawings and doing something a bit different with them, hopefully getting some t-shirts launched later this year.
What 5 things at Castaway HQ could you not live without?
2. pizza (Castaway HQ is fuelled by coffee + pizza)
3. walks on the beach
4. a garden