West Melbourne living meets natural soap making
West Melbourne resident and business owner Emma Cook has made the absolute most out of her home office since moving to the area five years ago.
Not only has she and her young family settled into life as residents of the West Melbourne community, it was only up until just recently that she was also selling natural, hand-made soaps directly from her home office.
A former SBS Indigenous Affairs journalist and speechwriter for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ms Cook’s career took a very different direction nearly 10 years ago when she and her husband, Anthony, founded the Australian Natural Soap Company.
While the world of soap making might seem a stark contrast to journalism and politics, she told North West City News that the opportunity to travel around the country in her previous roles ignited a strong appreciation in Australia’s natural assets and its many producers.
Together with she and her husband’s long-held shared desire to want to start their own business, what began as “experimenting in the kitchen” has now blossomed into a success story that “champions” the best of Australia’s native essential oils and natural ingredients.
“I was writing speeches for the Trade Minister at the time [of starting the business], and he was talking a lot about niche manufacturing and how Australia just has some of the most amazing natural ingredients that we should really be championing to the world, and somehow I took that on board and started applying it to soap,” she said.
We get most of our ingredients from local suppliers, and particularly because we use pure essential oils, we’ve really learned so much about Australia’s native essential oils and how they have these amazing aromatherapy benefits.
With her husband, a doctor, experiencing dry, irritated skin from using antibacterial soaps in hospital settings, Ms Cook said he, as well as family and friends, were among the first people to benefit from the “soothing” effects of their natural soaps.
And it was that early feedback that she said made them both think, “maybe there’s something here …”
Since quickly outgrowing the kitchen and starting off with their first shop at South Melbourne Market, these beautiful, all-natural soaps and the sustainable philosophy underpinning their brand has seen Australian Natural Soap Company take off.
Made entirely from natural plant-based ingredients using a slow-set, cold-pressed method and devoid of nasty chemicals, cruelty and palm oils, Emma’s soaps can now be found in hundreds of stores across Australia and overseas.
As the business has evolved, so too have its products. Once realising that soap could “take the place of any cleaner or a cleanser” one uses at home, the business has since developed a range of new products, including soaps for dishes, laundry, hair and even dogs!
And until only recently, the business’s office and point-of-sale came in the form of their West Melbourne terrace home, but it’s since moved to their much more fit-for-purpose manufacturing facility in Dandenong.
But while it’s since scaled up its operation from producing a few bars each day to thousands, with online sales “really taking over”, Emma said nothing could ever take the place of talking to customers face-to-face from West Melbourne – a community she and her family are proud to call home.
“We would get people turning up at the doorstep wanting to buy soap, so we had to make it into a little bit of a shop front,” she said. “You’d get the locals, but also people from overseas who had read about us or had been told by a friend.”
“It’s not only made in Australia, it’s actually made from Australian ingredients, so a lot of people love being able to take a little bit of Australia back home.”
“It’s been quite a journey given the way that we made them in the kitchen to have to then scale that and make thousands every day. But, even through that, we’ve been able to keep the process exactly the same.” •
For more information: theaustraliannaturalsoapcompany.com.au