Making seaweed soap is more a joy than a job for Jo

THE smell of soap as I walk into Jo Baskett’s house is delicious and the location is just the same. Jo shows me around her tiny workshop that is fit to bursting with soaps of almost every recipe you could think of. We head outside, overlooking the river Tamar, to talk about the business.

Sapooni means soap in Greek and was an idea formed four years ago.

Before moving into the soap business, Jo and her mother ran the Notter Bridge Inn in the early Nineties.

When Jo’s daughter was born she decided to sell the pub and did various community and voluntary roles in Saltash.

The family then decided they wanted a change of scenery and planned to stay in Cyprus for a year, four years later they returned to Cornwall.

Jo explains: “When we were in Cyprus on holiday I bought a bar of soap and it was disgusting.

“It turned to a mushy mess when it got wet, had no lather and no scent.

“When we moved to Cyprus at a later date I started to make my own soap.

“I used to go to an olive mill a few villages along from where we lived.

“The mill owner used to save virgin olive oil for me, in Greece they just use the extra virgin oil – which is the first press, everything else gets thrown away.

“When we came back last summer, I decided to carry on with the business over here and set it up as a limited company.”

Jo was able to set up her business with help from Oxford Innovation.

She was given a business coach and had support and business mentoring to launch Sapooni.

Now the soap business runs as very much a family affair.

She says: “It’s not my husband’s full-time job but he does help out.

“He has done computer work before so he helps with the website and bits and pieces like that.

“My mum does all the wrapping for me and helps at fairs.

“The children do their bit – so really we’re all involved in some way.”

Both Jo and her husband’s families are old, Cornish families and Jo is keen to get involved with the wealth of producers on her doorstep.

She currently has products with Cornish tea, beer, clay, honey and seaweed.

She says: “People like to have something that’s from where they live or where they are from. They like to know the providence of the ingredients. They like to know that it hasn’t travelled very far, there’s not many air miles and it’s got a low carbon footprint.

“We’ve got bees in the garden here and the lady who supplies me with honey has bee hives not far from me, so I like to think that the honey I use in the soaps and the skin care has been made from flowers in the garden.

“The locality aspect is very important and it’s important from a business point of view as well.”

One of Jo’s latest creations, already proving a big hit among her customers, is her range of seaweed products.

The recipe was born when Jo had a creative session and sat down and wrote a list of all the local producers she could work with.

She came across Tim and Caro, founders of The Cornish Seaweed Company.

“If something is certified to be a food ingredient then generally I can use it. I came across the Cornish Seaweed Company and got in touch.

“I have a range of seaweed products – I’m just bringing out a face scrub, there will also be a body scrub.

“I knew that seaweed is full of nutrients and minerals, but I didn’t know a lot more than that about it so Caro and Tim have educated me on all the different types of seaweed we can get here.

“The soap is very pungent – especially when you’ve just made it. It smells like walking along a beach covered in seaweed and will smell like that for a few days.

“It’s got over 40 minerals and vitamins in it and they can be absorbed through the skin.

“I probably have 400 bars at the moment sitting down in the workshop.”

Jo uses a combination of Bladderwrack, Kombu, Dulce, Nori and Sea Lettuce seaweeds in her new range of products.

Not even a year old, the family-run business is proving to be a huge hit not only in Saltash but further afield.

Jo’s hard-working nature and laidback attitude has made her the perfect business founder and her relationship with local producers has made Sapooni a perfect, limited company.

She says: “I don’t actually know where I want the business to go – I’m enjoying the moment. I’m seeing where it takes itself really. I’m enjoying the journey and we’ll see where it goes.

“I do believe it’s going to be a good, successful business. I don’t want it to be a monster, I don’t want it to be this huge business but enough for us to live and employ a few people.

“I think it would be hard if you didn’t enjoy your business but I love what I’m doing.

“It’s not work for me, it’s not a job – I really enjoy making soap.”

 

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