Primal Suds are probably the most unusual soaps you've seen. They look like fossils, are full of clay and smell 'like you think a caveman would smell.'
Behind all this are Andrew and Jen with their own story of recovery from rock bottom to creating their business and making it obvious that better soap is out there for more people. We're really excited to share Primal Suds with you as part of our Bars theme this November. Here's our interview with both:
Tell me about Primal Suds
We're an all-natural soap company with no plastic, all vegan friendly and cruelty free. We wanted to change the way natural soap was marketed. That's how the wash revolution got started.
I've got psoriasis and using synthetic chemicals wasn't working for me. At the time, natural soap was expensive. The driving force for starting to make soap was wanting an alternative lifestyle. We were at a low in life - rock bottom really. Jen and I had our own problems and helped each other through it. This was our year to regroup. We made a big change.
And that's where the soap started. We weren't planning to have a business, but we joined a business development course and it meant a total change in our life direction. I like my life now! I don't even know what day of the week it is and I don't care - all that structure is controlled by society anyway! We work from home. It's about 200 hours a week between the two of us! We're always working - we like it that way, talking, discussing... Primal Suds has taken over and that's probably why we're moving so quickly. Jen and I work really well together. It's just perfect.
What's your approach to sustainability?
We offer a bathroom solution to your plastic problem. 100%. We try things and we look into things - like toothbrushes. If it's too complicated, f*** it... we'll leave it.
We don't want to come across as arrogant in our marketing in any way. It's just for fun.
We want to build a tribe. That's what we set out to do - it's soap but a bit more. It's about the mindset and the community. Online people talk to us and each other and become friends. It's emotional! There's been so much support. Yes, our soaps make a mess, but most people like it and we don't get hardly any complaints.
Our dirtiest soap is Caveman Black, but it leaves you feeling so clean. Back in Roman times, people ate charcoal to cure illnesses. It sucks up all the 'orrible little toxins! People say they never felt so clean after a wash with it.
Hours and hours of research go into each soap. Some of the successes we've discovered in soap development came about by accident - a lucky fluke!
What's the process from idea to bar?
We had a vision of what we wanted right from the beginning. There was a moment when we lived in a bedsit. We had no money. We got a little tub of coconut oil and scrabbled around for some essential oils. We had nothing.
I knew I wanted to make my own soap. My mate said to try bicarb of soda. It wasn't working. I mixed bicarb with essential oils and made a lump of stuff that looked like mud. I thought I could do something really good with this.
At the time, I was losing weight and on a diet. I'd go cold water swimming. One day the tide was out and I went in anyway. There was barely any water so I got covered in mud. I could feel it eating into my psoriasis. Jen and I took some of it home. We couldn't use it - it had worms! - so we bought in clays.
That's how we made Caveman Black. It's what you think a caveman would smell like. We got it right first time. We were lucky...
We were just going to be for men. The plan was to call it Caveman Soap. People got back to us and wanted it for women too, so we developed it into Primal Suds. All the soaps we make smell a bit like Caveman Black. Most soap companies put 2-3 essential oils in. Most of ours have more than 6! You can smell it. They're more complex scents.
We have formulas. In the bedsit we'd stay up till 4 in the morning sniffing all the different formulas. It often worked, but sometimes it didn't. That's why our soaps have their own names because we couldn't name them after the scents. There's a percentage of essential oils that you're meant to put into soap and we go up to the limit, regardless of the cost.
It's because money isn't our driving force. We're out to make a difference and to do something for ourselves. It's natural soap for normal people - not just the ones who shop in 'the posh shops'. We want to make it obvious for people that they can get a better soap.
We stand out. We get all types of customers - younger people, bush craft people... We try to appeal to everyone. We had this meaty, tattooed Hell's Angel guy message me. He said, 'I love this soap. Can you do a pink one for the missus?'
When we first tested the soap, our soap assessor thought we were mental. He said we'd probably sell 100. We disagreed. We thought it would be a big success. Now it's brilliant.
Based on all your story, what advice would you give to people?
Anything is possible - I know it's a cliche - if you make the right decisions and cut out negative influences, whether that's people, substances or thoughts. Trust in your creative thoughts. You can do anything! If you're confident and stay humble, you'll get there.
Battling with alcoholism in the past, I thought things were never going to get better. Jen too with domestic abuse. But you can. You just have to believe anything can happen.
It's like jumping from a high point into a river. Be brave. We control everything carefully and think about the stuff we post on social media - we look spontaneous but we aren't. We don't want to be arrogant. We don't want to big up Primal Suds. Instead we stay thankful to people who have helped us. That's the key to our success so far.
People in the eco-friendly movement aren't stupid. We give them respect.
Thanks Andrew and Jen!
We've picked our favourite Primal Suds soap and shampoo for you to try in the November Home Box - get yours here.