Made In South Devon: Aromatika And Devon Soap Company

Lisa is the owner of Aromatika: Organic & Natural Skincare and The Devon Soap Company, manufacturing and retailing skincare, soaps, bathroom products and home fragrances. They have 4 shops, 3 beauty rooms and an online and wholesale business.

How long have you been in business?

We opened our first shop in 2009 but I had been selling products through craft fairs, shows and my website since 2006.

How did you get into organic skincare?

I was living in Australia and did an Aromatherapy course when I was over there. Natural Skincare was at the time more important to the Australians and so there was a far greater awareness of the natural skincare market there at that time.

Why organic and natural skincare?

I am a lifelong vegetarian who cares about what she eats. I’m also passionate about animal welfare and I love nature. Aromatika is very much a vocation and a passion, developed from my own personal values.

Do you make your products, or buy them in?

I hand-make all the Aromatika and Devon Soap products from our production unit in Chudleigh and have a wonderful young lady who helps me with potting and labelling, though we do also retail some other products like make-up and nail varnishes which fit with our natural and cruelty-free ethic.

You hand-make everything?!!

Yes, it is hard work but making everything by hand in small batches means that we can guarantee the quality, ensure the freshness and keep that personal element that you lose in mass production.

How many shops do you have?

Two Aromatika shops in Totnes and Honiton, plus two Devon Soap shops in Dartmouth and Teignmouth..Three of the shops also have Beauty Rooms for treatments using our products.

How many staff do you employ?

We employ retail staff, beauty therapists and one person to help me with the making; by the Autumn it will be approx 14.

You have opened two new shops this year when we hear the high street is struggling, are you not worried about this?

We think long and hard about where to open shops and need to know that it will work but it is still a gamble. We do however make sure we are not purely dependent on shop sales, so we have multiple sales streams – retail sales, beauty treatments, Internet orders and wholesale orders.

How do you decide where to open a shop?

Location, location, location. It needs to be the right town and the right part of town, it needs to be where our customers will be found, with similar shops nearby. We had been looking for the right location in Teignmouth for over 3 years.

You also closed a store in Exeter this year, why was this?

The rates had grown so much over the past few years to make that particular location untenable. We have been looking for an alternative location for over six months and will continue to look.

Why do customers buy from you?

For some it is all about the quality of the product and the freshness of our products; they want the best moisturiser for their face. For others it is the ethics of organic or natural or vegan or cruelty-free. For others it is because they have sensitive skin and our products suit them well.

What has been the effect of Brexit on your business?

Some essential oils have become a lot more expensive. There is obviously some insecurity for some people and also not knowing what is going to happen with some current EU cosmetics legislation.

What is your main advice for anyone looking to follow you into business?

Make sure you are passionate about what you do, be prepared to have it take over your life and don’t be afraid to try something new.

What is the secret of your success?

There are lots of answers to that. Obviously making something that people want to buy so getting the product right is massively important, plus having the right team members to support this. However the route to market is also massively important too; we need to have the right premises in the right location but also support them with effective marketing, including the websites, email marketing and social media.

What does the future hold?

Hopefully we will find the ‘right’ spot in and around Exeter. After that, who knows? If the right opportunity comes along we may look at other locations too.

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