A Gorey student is paving the way for more eco-friendly and transparent cosmetics with a handmade soap company that puts humans and the environment first.
The brainchild of transition year student at Gorey Community School, Niall O’Shaughnessy, Clonough Handmade Soap has been going from strength to strength since it first launched in 2021. In the months that followed, he has attracted customers from around the globe, expanded his range and seen his products stocked by two local retailers. Niall has also picked up some awards for his innovative idea, including Overall Senior Category in the Student Enterprise Programme for Wexford and Best Business Report in the national final of the programme.
It was a gift coupled with a gap in the market that inspired Niall to set up Clonough Handmade Soap.
“My mam got me a soap-making kit when I was younger so I had one in the house. I tried it and realised how easy it was to make. If you make a mistake, you can just remake it and go again,” he explained when asked about the inspiration. “Everyone in Ireland uses soap so it is something that is needed. There was a bit of a gap in the market for an eco-friendly soap bar so I decided to look into it.”
At the beginning of his business journey, Niall carried out market research to determine what people wanted from a soap bar. He conducted a survey of people around the community, asking them about their preferences when it came to scents, colours, shapes and other aspects. This helped him to create the products that he stocks today – all of which are made using environmentally-friendly ingredients sourced from Wicklow.
“I use all environmentally-friendly ingredients and dyes that more or less everyone can use,” he explained. “The most popular product I’ve sold is the summer berries gift set. There was also an interest in shampoo bars which I started at a later date.”
Being mindful of the environment is important to Niall and, in addition to ensuring the soap’s raw materials are gentle on the environment, he also is committed to using plastic-free packaging.
Niall creates all of his products by hand in his family’s kitchen in Gorey. Sharing the kitchen works out well, he said, as he can do all of his work while his Dad works on the farm each evening. All of his family members have also supported him in making the products, he added.
Clonough Handmade Soap has garnered great reviews on Niall’s Etsy Shop, with customers complimenting the ‘lovely scents’, presentation and the skin-smoothing effects of the products. In addition to Etsy, the products are also stocked in the Refillery in Gorey and Rathwood in Carlow.
In the coming months, Niall plans to bring additional items to his range of handmade soaps.
“A few weeks ago, a lady from America contacted me and asked if I do conditioner bars, which I had never heard of as I don’t condition my hair. So I looked into that and was able to source ingredients to start making them.”
He also hopes to see his products stocked in other shops, with the Avoca shop being top of his wish list.
Niall will be juggling his business with the senior cycle as he is currently preparing to go into fifth year this September. What advice does he have for other budding young entrepreneurs?
“If you have an idea, just go for it. If you want to get your product into shops, just ask. The worst thing someone is going to tell you is no. Nobody is going to give out to you for asking or for trying something different,” he said. “If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no.”
All of the items at Clonough Handmade Soap are eco-friendly, natural and handmade, while the ingredients are fully traceable. They can be purchased through the Clonough Handmade Soap Etsy page, or from the Refillery in Gorey or Rathwood in Carlow.