Saturday 16 November 2019

Australian road trip was spark for handmade Irish soap opera

LOUISE McBRIDE

A ROAD trip around Australia proved to be more than just the holiday of a lifetime for Co Meath man, Donagh Quigley. It was also the inspiration for The Handmade Soap Co -- a company which he and his wife, Gemma McGowan, set up in 2009.

Quigley came up with the idea for the business in January of that year after visiting a market in a rainforest near Cairns, Queensland where handmade soaps were sold.

Quigley was working as a thatcher in Ireland at the time -- but was also rethinking his future.

"Roof thatching was never really a growth industry," explains Quigley. "It was very tough work. but the nail in the coffin was when we had three bad summers in a row. All the rain meant that we only had enough material to thatch for five or six months a year -- if that."

When he returned home from Australia, Quigley used all the money he made from roof thatching that year to fund his training in making handmade soaps. After showcasing their soaps at a show in the RDS in 2010, the couple got a major order from the retailer Carraig Donn.

"We spent the next few weeks working flat out for that order, making the soap in two pots on the kitchen stove," said Quigley.

Since then, about 90 other retailers have started to sell their products, including The Kilkenny Shop and Avoca.

"We had a turnover of €160,000 last year -- and we expect to triple that this year," said Quigley. "Our growth up to now has come from Ireland, but now it's all about exporting."

As well as selling soap, The Handmade Soap Co sells hand creams, shower gels, bubble bath, aftershave, body butter, lip balm and other associated products.

The company will soon be launching a kitchen soap with coffee grinds, which Quigley says, "gets rid of kitcheny odours such as the smell of onion and garlic that's left on your hands after chopping them".

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