This week we caught up with Camilla Marcus-Dew, Head of Commercial at CLARITY-The Soap Cọ, an innovative London-based social enterprise that is hoping to change consumer habits for good.
Where did the idea for the brand come from?
I was inspired to tell the story of a ‘no compromise’ luxury bath and beauty range made by people with varying degrees of disability, that operates as a competitive business, with all the protocols, acumen and attention to detail you would expect from the current industry giants.
Why do you think your company has been successful?
I think that we have tapped into an increasing demand for bath and beauty products that have a social purpose at their heart and also to a heightened awareness among consumers about the efficacy of the products that are used on the body and face.
Additionally, we have gone to great lengths to ensure the sustainability credentials of our business and have just been awarded The Planet Mark certification for the second year running for our reducing our carbon footprint.
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What’s been your biggest achievement to date?
I think knowing that just one person is helped back into work after a debilitating stroke or having gone blind, for example, is a huge achievement. 80% of our 115 employees have some kind of disability – so each of their stories is as compelling and it is uplifting.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
I think the fact that we put people over profits creates the backdrop to the challenges we face. We are committed to creating employment and training opportunities – and it’s definitely about the triple bottom line.
When you’re working with limited budgets, ploughing all profits into employment, operating without investment or favourable economies of scale, you simply can’t take as much risk, you have to really listen to what consumers want, but without trying to please everyone! You really need to get it right the first time, more than other brands and that adds a lot of pressure.
What’s your team structure like?
We have a pretty flat hierarchy in our commercial team. We have a strong work ethic and it really feels we are all pulling in the same direction.
We have an incredible mix of people working with us from all backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and cultures. The majority of our staff have some form of disability ranging from blindness to mental health issues. And almost everyone here has a story to tell whether it is a family member or a friend who has a disability of some description. But I think what binds us all together is a shared feeling of belonging to an extended family and a desire to do something positive in society by helping people who can really benefit and by creating products that protect the environment.
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What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own business or applying for a job at a start-up?
Have as many conversations as you can and challenge all your assumptions. Joining a start-up or starting your own business has many inherent risks so think carefully before doing it. I think to seek the counsel of experts in your sector and to do as much diligence as possible is key. Having said all that – fortune favours the brave! So if you have a realistic chance of gaining market share, go for it.
How do you measure success?
I think building confidence and skills among our staff and looking at the qualitative indicators we are seeing in people’s lives; how they build confidence and improve their skills at the same time is so key.
We also measure success by looking at how many jobs we create and the number of days of employment we generate through sales. Additionally, we also think it is a measure of success when someone goes on from here into the wider workplace with a renewed sense of confidence and purpose.
What’s your ultimate ambition?
I suppose that would be to see the statistics for disability unemployment in the UK fall dramatically – in line with Government targets. At the moment disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed in the UK and that is something that no one should be comfortable with.
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How can companies nurture a more diverse team?
Where possible we offer flexible working hours, allowing parents with kids to apply safe in the knowledge that they will be able to both work and raise their children relatively stress-free. We also where we can offer internship and bring in students and volunteers who might later decide that working for a social enterprise is what they would like to permanently.
We are proud of the diversity of people working with us. Of over 110 people employed at CLARITY-The Soap Cọ:
- 80% have a disability or long-term health condition
- 46% are female
- 36% are non-white UK-wide
- 50% are non-white at our London headquarters
What does the future hold?
Well, we certainly are never content to rest on our laurels! We have recently taken on two brilliant business development managers to help us bring our products both to consumers and business.
We have launched BECỌ – our new eco brand in both a bar soap and foaming hand wash – into major retailers – which we are naturally thrilled about. It’s a great water saving product and lessens plastic usage too. In addition, our 100% natural new bath and body oils from The Soap Cọ are available and proving popular.
Looking to the future, we remain dedicated to supporting and helping more and more people to work who truly need it and that means building brand awareness and increasing sales!