A Gorey student is leading the way in more eco-friendly and transparent cosmetics with a handmade soap company that puts people and the environment first.
The brainchild of transitioning student at Gorey Community School, Niall O’Shaughnessy, Clonough Handmade Soap has gone from strength to strength since its launch in 2021. In the months since, it has attracted customers from around the world , expanded its range and had its products stocked by two local retailers. Niall has also won awards for his innovative idea, including the Overall Senior category in the Wexford Student Business Program and Best Business Report in the national final of the program.
It was a gift coupled with a gap in the market that inspired Niall to create Clonough Handmade Soap.
“My mum gave me a soap making kit when I was younger so I had one at home. I tried it out and realized how easy it was to make. If you make a mistake, you can just do it again and start over,” he explained when asked about the inspiration. “Everyone in Ireland uses soap, so that’s something that we need. There was a small gap in the market for an eco-friendly bar soap, so I decided to find out.
Early in his professional journey, Niall conducted market research to determine what people wanted from a bar soap. He conducted a survey of people in the community, asking them what their preferences were in terms of smells, colors, shapes and other aspects. This helped him create the products he stocks today – all of which are made from eco-friendly ingredients sourced from Wicklow.
“I use all the eco-friendly ingredients and dyes that more or less anyone can use,” he explained. “The most popular product I’ve sold is the Summer Berry Gift Set. There was also an interest in solid shampoos which I started later.
Being environmentally conscious is important to Niall and as well as ensuring the raw materials for the soap are environmentally friendly, he is also committed to using plastic-free packaging.
Niall creates all of his products by hand in his family’s kitchen in Gorey. Sharing the kitchen works well, he says, because he can do all his work while his father works on the farm each evening. All of his family members also supported him in making the products, he added.
Clonough handmade soap has garnered great reviews on Niall’s Etsy store, with customers complimenting the products’ “pleasant scents”, presentation and skin-smoothing effects. As well as Etsy, products are also stocked at the Gorey and Rathwood refinery in Carlow.
In the coming months, Niall plans to add additional items to his artisan soap line.
“A few weeks ago an American lady contacted me and asked if I made conditioner bars, which I had never heard of because I don’t condition my hair. So I looked into that and was able to find some ingredients to start crafting them.
He also hopes to see his products stocked in other stores, with the Avoca store high on his wish list.
Niall will juggle business and the senior cycle as he currently prepares to enter fifth grade in September. What advice does he have for other budding young entrepreneurs?
“If you have an idea, go ahead. If you want to get your product into stores, all you have to do is ask. The worst thing anyone can say to you is no. No one will let you down for asking or trying something different,” he said. “If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no.”
All Clonough Handmade Soap items are eco-friendly, natural and handmade, while the ingredients are fully traceable. They can be purchased through the Clonough Handmade Soap Etsy page, or at the Refillery in Gorey or Rathwood in Carlow.