Once my skin problems had been solved, I wanted to market the artisanal soaps that had saved my life on a large scale. I quickly had to face the facts : the family soap factory in question was only equipped for local and limited production. It could not have followed me in the Écrin de Fleur adventure!
From 2016 to 2017, I therefore searched in the yellow pages and on Google for larger French soap factories. All those I came across were mass-producing industrial soap, not compatible with the traditional cold process methods I wanted to promote.
I now knew where not to look for my professional partner!
Lesson number 2: it is not because it is from Marseille that one should exaggerate the qualities of Marseille soap!
The authentic Marseille soap has many assets. Artisanal Marseille soap, faithful to the original 100% natural and vegetable recipe, is only made in France by five soap factories. Its traditional method of manufacture gives a natural product, recognised for its quality.
Its major disadvantage lies in its hot saponification method. Cooking causes a loss of the beneficial properties of the natural raw materials. I therefore discarded this option, which was limited to a few good manufacturers, because it simply did not offer the same advantages as cold saponification.
Lesson number 3: the southern Dolce Vita boosted my project!
Thanks to the efforts of Laurence, my partner in the venture, we ended up with a list of artisanal soap manufacturers in France, almost all of them located in the south of France. I personally contacted all of them and visited the ones I felt were most trustworthy.
Most of the French artisanal soap factories have nothing in common with factories. They are small workshops with a kitchen, where two or three people work.
I was delighted to find that the owners of these artisanal workshops share character traits and life choices that fit in perfectly with the philosophy of Écrin de Fleur and mine:
- They love nature. They are all located in remote rural areas.
- They love natural products, from food to the cosmetics that they use.
- They care about the environment, not just in words, but through their concrete actions and daily stances.
- They favour a simple and healthy life, a slow pace of life, in harmony with nature; they cultivate satisfaction rather than the race for material possessions.
- They buy local ingredients as much as possible, from nearby organic farms. They know exactly where the ingredients come from and have a respectful relationship with the people who produce them.
- They also supply the local population and enjoy this regular and human contact with their local customers. The positive feedback from their local customers motivates them to maintain a high quality of production.
- They are fully satisfied with the activity of their workshops: selling more and getting more market share is not one of their objectives.
Lesson number 4: There is a flip side to every coin.
- Most of these artisans do not speak English
- Most of them have a simple French website and only deliver in France.
- They don't have many ideas on how to promote their products.
- The small size of their business does not allow them to produce large quantities.
My knowledge of supply chain management and international trade enabled me to overcome these shortcomings. I decided to work with several of these small workshops using the giant Amazon as a logistical and commercial channel. In this way, I have preserved the quality of these amazing products, which I can now deliver in large quantities to any corner of the EU member states.