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Finding the right suppliers: Cosy Cottage Soap

Finding the right suppliers - Clara

Cosy Cottage Soap is a brand that began on Founder, Clara Challoner Walker’s kitchen table and has gone on to benefit countless customers and businesses. Clara’s inspirational approach to building relationships and finding the right suppliers has helped her business to be kind to the skin, kind to the planet, and kind to the community.

Modern Retail had the pleasure of speaking with Clara about her company’s impressive growth, as well as revealing her experiences and top tips for finding the right suppliers and staying true to your beliefs.

Meet Cosy Cottage Soap

Cosy Cottage Soap makes natural bathing, skincare, petcare, baby and cleaning products. Free from plastic, palm oil and additives such as SLS & Parabens, Cosy Cottage Soap makes products that are kind to the skin, kind to the planet and kind to the community.

Finding the right suppliers - The Cosy Cottage Soap Company

How Cosy Cottage Soap began

Clara explained her inspiration for creating Cosy Cottage Soap.

“Until five years ago, I worked for a large, international technology company. I have been fortunate to have experienced lots of travel, responsibility and some great, interesting projects, which I loved. But discovering I had breast cancer was the trigger for a big re-evaluation of my priorities. I decided that when I was well, I would create a business of my own, offering an alternative to commercial personal care products: not ‘traditional’ products re-badged as ‘green’ but something that was genuinely different, better for the environment, better for our communities and better for our health.

“With a degree in chemistry and cell biology, I felt well placed to use my knowledge to create natural, effective alternatives which are accessible for customers. I’ve always been interested in cosmetics and bathing products and how their chemistry impacts our bodies and the environment. The idea for Cosy Cottage was born from this long-term passion and the trigger to make it happen was my recovery from breast cancer, when I learned more about the potentially harmful ingredients found in cosmetic products.”

Finding the right suppliers for local products in retail

Impressive growth

What began as a small, home-run business has gone from strength to strength, with Clara growing her product range, opening her first retail store and continuing her ambitious growth plan. Her work has involved finding the right suppliers and building relationships to deliver first-class products that meet her objectives.

“I literally started the business from my cottage kitchen table in the rural hamlet of Ganthorpe in North Yorkshire. From experimenting with making palm oil and SLS free soaps from home, the business has grown and grown. We’ve developed the product range as we’ve gone along. From soaps, skincare and bathing products to dog shampoo, baby products and multi-use household soap.

“We now work from two workshops, located in the Yorkshire market town of Malton and we opened our first retail store in 2020. We are looking for opportunities to open further stores across Yorkshire in the coming 12 months.”

Creating a community with soap-making courses

During lockdowns, Cosy Cottage Soap continued to engage customers, pivoting to meet demand and create a sense of community. To create a feeling of togetherness, soap-making courses were introduced, utilising technology to engage with customers.

“We’ve also developed soap-making courses which really increased in popularity during the lockdowns when people in rural communities felt isolated. By sending the necessary ingredients and holding the classes via zoom, we were able to provide some sense of community to our customers.”

Cosy Cottage Soap products

A business with a mission

Cosy Cottage Soap is on a mission to make a positive difference to customers’ health, the environment, those in the team and those in the local community. Clara explained how she measures her success.

“First and foremost, I measure success of the business by being able to make a positive contribution to my customers’ health and to the environment. Secondary to that is also being able to offer enjoyable, flexible employment opportunities to a diverse workforce, as well as contributing to the local community and supporting selected charities. The town of Malton supports a circular economy, promoting re-use of one another’s waste, such as boxes, packaging materials and a wide range of other items. Local, independent businesses work together to raise awareness of the town, one another’s businesses and any festivals or events which draw visitors to the area.”

Finding the right suppliers and partnering with those that share the same values

Cosy Cottage Soap has built relationships with suppliers and likeminded businesses exceptionally well. This has enabled Clara to deliver on her brand values, as well as showing the benefits of partnerships between small businesses. Here’s what Clara had to say about finding the right suppliers.

“I think it’s vital for retailers to work collaboratively with other businesses, charities NGOs and people who share their passion and values. That’s what drives the business forward and if you are aligned in your thinking, it will give strength and purpose to any partnership. 

“The days of the traditional supplier/purchaser relationship are over. There are opportunities to create much more productive partnerships founded on shared values which enable greater contribution, not only to the bottom line, but also to the environment and local community.

“For example, we share the same ethos with one of our newest partners, Yorkshire Lavender. Both our companies believe that natural ingredients, such as lavender offers fantastic cleansing, healing and relaxation properties and don’t need to be combined with detergents and chemicals often found in commercial brands. It’s a good foundation for us to work together. Yorkshire Lavender is just one of a number of businesses we have worked with to create their own ranges of personal care products. We are really proud that the partnerships are fantastic examples of profitable partnerships between small businesses.”

“We also love working with brands such as Navy Professional who appreciate the importance of using natural and sustainable ingredients in recyclable, plastic-free packaging. The Navy Professional range is certainly kind to hands and to our planet and we’re pleased to be able to share them with our shoppers in Malton. We admire Rebecca and the team’s ethos and drive to champion quality British manufacturers, and it is great to be a part of her Yorkshire-based business’ success story.”

Finding the right suppliers - The Cosy Cottage Soap Company

Top tips for finding local businesses to work with

It’s not always easy to find the right businesses to join forces with. Clara explained the key steps required when finding the right suppliers, to ensure retailers partner with the right types of businesses.

“The first step in my opinion is to be clear about your own values and aligned objectives. To be able to succinctly articulate what you are about as a business and how you want to contribute. Looking at the business ‘in the round’ is a big part of that. Of course, the business needs to generate a profit to be sustainable but what else is the business there to achieve; that could be contribution to the environment, growth in and provision of jobs, charitable partnerships, creation of up-skilling opportunities, improvements to the vibrancy of a town or city. Once the values are clear, they can become the foundation for the selection of like-minded partners and other businesses to work with.”

Being driven by sustainability for the environment and local economy

The new range has been centred around sustainability for the environment and local economy, finding the right suppliers to turn this into a reality and giving customers the opportunity to make ethical purchases.

“The business was originally established to fulfil a need which we had identified; to provide consumers with kinder, gentler, more ethical and environmentally caring alternatives to the commercially produced personal care products which abounded at that time.  

“We have seen rapid growth over the last few years, since we started the business with a comparatively small initial investment. The reception from our customers has been and continues to be very positive as awareness of the adverse impacts of palm oil consumption, single-use plastic waste and other environmental and health-related and ethical factors has grown. 

“Over that time too, there has also been accelerated growth in competitive activity as many large corporate entities have identified ‘eco’ as a great marketplace in which to generate more profitability for institutional shareholders. There’s a lot of greenwashing going on. We are confident though, that customers are becoming savvy enough to see through the veneer and be thoughtful about their purchasing decisions.”

Chaps Gift Box

Benefits of building relationships with local suppliers

Clara shared her experience of building relationships with local businesses, as well as the advantages of finding the right suppliers.

“We find that the main benefit of working closely with local suppliers is the opportunity to make operating practices more sustainable. Working with a company five miles away means that costs and the carbon footprint of transporting supplies/products can be kept to a minimum. 

“Being based close by means there’s often opportunities to offer both local employment opportunities and community benefits too. In times of rising transportation costs, locality is also a very important risk mitigation strategy to ensure that supply line cost increases can be mitigated. That’s why we always look to work with independent, local suppliers, wherever possible.”

Cosy Cottage Soap makes natural bathing, skincare, petcare, baby and cleaning products. Free from plastic, palm oil and additives such as SLS & Parabens.

What’s next for Cosy Cottage Soap and how can our readers stay up to date?

While Cosy Cottage Soap has already achieved so much, this is only the beginning for the inspirational brand. Clara shared her plans for the coming years with Modern Retail.

“We acquired our first shop in Malton, North Yorkshire, in September 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, to run alongside our online store. Despite the difficulties we were faced with, I believed that experiential shopping locations in town centres, rather than large out of town malls, offered an exciting future for post pandemic retail. 

“I plan to open more stores, the majority in Yorkshire, over the next few years. To keep our offering fresh, we have generated some great ideas within our team for new products, ranges and strategies too.”

Summary – Finding the right suppliers

Finding the right suppliers does require time investment, however, once the processes are in place to work with local businesses, it can streamline operations and offer numerous benefits for the planet, customers and profits.

About Cosy Cottage Soap

Founded in 2015 by Clara Challoner Walker, who started making natural, handmade soap in her 350-year-old cottage in Yorkshire.  

When recovering from illness, the former corporate executive became aware of the number of harmful chemicals found in skincare and bathing products and sought to offer consumers an alternative. Using her Chemistry degree, Clara created a range of natural soaps and skincare products that were kind to skin and the planet. Cosy Cottage Soap products do not include detergents such as SLS and Parabens, do not use palm oil – a crop that is decimating rainforests – are not tested on animals and avoid plastic packaging. Since the launch of its Shampoo Bar, it has saved over 300,000 plastic shampoo bottles from reaching landfill. 

Dedicated to supporting economic growth in the local community and creating local employment opportunities, Cosy Cottage Soap sources ingredients from local suppliers. It hand makes its products in Malton, North Yorkshire and sells the range online and in its Malton store.

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