They enjoyed their newfound hobby so much that they began giving away surplus bars to family and friends, as well as residents of nursing homes.
The positive response to their soaps prompted them to take the next step and have their recipes evaluated by a licensed cosmetic chemist so they could sell their products to the local community and beyond.
Working from home, they make small batches of soaps using essential oils and other natural ingredients and traditional methods.
“We started in 2019 when Xime bought me a gift certificate for a soap making workshop and we learned how to make soap using products you found in your kitchen,” says Karen.
“I suffer from eczema and have incredibly dry skin, so it was nice to use something made from natural ingredients and not have a reaction,” she adds.
Her business, named 7Soaps after her hometown of Stourport-on-Severn, grew quickly and they are now available in 12 stores across Worcestershire as well as online.
Karen and Xime both share a passion for the environment and wanted to make their products as eco-friendly as possible.
“Xime is a biologist and has worked in the rainforest. She was concerned about all the chemicals found in regular soap and shampoo and their impact on the environment,” explains Karen.
Their natural soap collection contains a blend of coconut, olive and sunflower oils, which they say nourishes and moisturizes the skin.
Fragrances come from essential oils like lemongrass, coconut, metha piperita, and tea tree, as well as other natural products like cinnamon leaf.
Karen and Xime try to use local ingredients as much as possible and have a range of soaps made with Droitwich Salt, which is derived from naturally occurring brine springs.
The salt is harvested by hand at Churchfields Saltworks in Droitwich Spa, where the gentle process of crystallizing the natural brine into pure salt occurs using renewable energy.
The 7Soaps packaging is made from recycled cardboard and is 100% compostable. Your clamshell soap box doubles as a soap dish, meaning it’s easy to take with you wherever you go.
To make their small batches of soap, the friends use two different methods; cold process and hot process.
The former sees the oils combine with lye at room temperature to produce a chemical reaction called saponification.
The hot process combines hot oils and lye to begin saponification, then heated over a slow cooker to speed up the curing time.
“We make all our soaps at home with buckets and a hand mixer. Hot processed soaps can be ready to use after 24 hours. Cold processed soaps take about six weeks to set. Soap making is very therapeutic,” says Karen.
“My favorite is our orange and cinnamon bar. I take some cinnamon sticks and crush them in the mortar. I pass them through the soap for a gentle exfoliation. It has a lovely aroma when you use it in the shower,” she adds.
Besides catering for humans, they also have products for our canine friends.
Their dog shampoo bars, which contain coconut oil to repel fleas, neem oil to help with an itchy scalp, and castor oil to reduce inflammation, are proving very popular with customers.
“If the dog has rolled into something nasty, you can wash him with this knowing it’s helping him and the environment.
“I used to get really itchy hands when I washed my dog. It’s nice to spoil my pooch now,” says Karen.
They all create their own recipes, which are reviewed by a chemist before being made available to customers for purchase.
“I’ll say to Xime, ‘Can we do this?’ and as a biologist, she’ll say, “Yes, but to do that, you have to use A, B, and C,” says Karen.
Earlier this year they were commissioned to make bespoke items for the Severn Valley Railway to sell in their shops.
Launched at the Engine House in Highley, they come in two scents – rosemary and charcoal and lavender and charcoal.
The soaps are also made with Droitwich salt and the packaging was designed by Kidderminster-based Sally Chambers of Venalicium Creative Marketing.
The charcoal is a nod to the coal used in the combustion chambers of the locomotives on the line and the red clay represents the red rock around Highley.
Karen and Xime also have plans to work with Churchfields to develop a line of cosmetics and will be teaming up with two local beekeepers to create beeswax-infused products in the near future.
They have also come full circle as they now offer their own soap making workshops and classes giving people a chance to try their hand at the craft.
“It’s nice to teach people how to make their own soaps. We teach them the basic recipe and they get to choose their own essential oils,” says Karen.
The two have been blown away by the response to their creations and say they are excited by the opportunities that have arisen since the company was founded.
“We love making our soaps because it’s therapeutic and we’re both crafters, so we love creating things. We still can’t believe people keep coming back to buy our soaps. We get great feedback from our customers,” says Karen.
For more information on Karen and Xime’s soap making workshops, visit www.7soaps.co.uk