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Andrea Killick has started a soapmaking business alongside her work as a senior social worker and she says it has helped give a better sense of balance to her life.
Last new year’s eve, Andrea Killick was helping her daughter with a children's soap making kit. She was surprised at how fun it was and wondered how hard it would be to make soap for adults. Andrea, a senior social worker, had been thinking for a while about doing something different and had had some time off work due to a car accident the month before. Over Christmas she had attended a fair where she saw a mum selling chilli sauces and thought she could do something similar. “I felt quite envious, but I couldn’t think of what I wanted to do,” she says.
She started researching soap making. “I thought it would require lots of equipment,” she says. She devoted January to researching and doing online tutorials. She ordered ingredients and “tinkered about”, asking her friends what they thought of the results. “I tried different ingredients and tested what they felt like on people’s skins,” she says. A few months later she had the safety certificates she needed to trade and had registered her company, Little Nannies Soap Company. She paid extra to get a website up and running. She says: “The company is named after my Nan who when I gave birth to my first child never wanted to be called Great Nannie (even though she is) so we called her Little Nannies, and when I needed a business name I wanted it to be a name that meant something, so Little Nannies was born.”
Andrea, who lives in Woking, has worked in social care since she left school, qualifying as a social worker in 2002 and now specialising in adult mental health. She has three children, aged 18, 10 and seven and has always worked full time. Not only that, but when her middle son was born she was also doing a degree and when her daughter was born seven years ago she was doing additional training at the same time.
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She loves her job, she says, but in the past few years she has changed how she has viewed it. She says much of it has become “about ticking boxes rather than making any meaningful intervention”. As a result she feels “slightly disillusioned”.
Doing the soapmaking has given her a new lease of life. “It’s so exciting. I haven’t felt excited by something for a long time,” she says. She’s 40 this year too which has given her an extra motivation, but she admits she is not a natural saleswoman. “I’m getting better at it. Now I invite people to smell the products [which include lip balms and body butter] and the feedback is usually good and I use the comments people have given when they have used the products,” she says. The hardest part of her new line of work is trying to get her soaps into shops, she says, and this is again due to her lack of sales confidence. “I just need to step out of my comfort zone,” she states.
Initially she sold her soaps through friends and then found the UK Craft Fairs website on Google, She pays £10 a quarter to be listed on it and has been approached through it to sell at craft fairs, school fetes and some corporate events. It’s still early days and she says she is booked up in July with fairs, but will devote August to more strategic work, such as developing social media.
Andrea has recently gone down to four days a week in her social work job and uses that one day a week to make soaps. All her equipment is stored in the kitchen in a cupboard that used to be allocated to biscuits and crisps. She also logs on to do administrative work most nights after the children are in bed and is often up until midnight or later.
Her children are supportive and her daughter helps out at craft fairs, takes in sample soap bars to school and helps sample the different fragrances. She reels off some of the different ingredients she uses. There are vanilla with chilli soaps, lemongrass and lime and a mix of basil, sage, rosemary and mint. The rosemary leaves are at the bottom of the soap and are good for exfoliating.
Working one day less a week on her social work job means she can be around more to pick up her two youngest children who have been with the same childminder since they were babies. “It’s another motivation to do the soapmaking that I can pick them up another day a week,” she says [she also has one afternoon working from home when she can do pick ups]. Her mum has them one day a week too and they go to the childminder the other two days. Her husband, who works for Virgin Media, does odd hours so it tends to be Andrea who does school drop-offs.
Her plans for the future include possibly developing other products, such as scented candles. Ideally she would like to run her own shop, but she doesn’t want to give up on social work. “I would like to earn enough money from this to be able to have choices,” she says, adding that the soapmaking has also helped relieve the stress she was under in her job. “Having something else that is positive to focus on has been good. I have felt trapped for the last few years and now there is another option,” she states. “I am working all hours, but it is at home and I am making something so mentally I can zone out. At work I have to make important decisions all the time. Already this has given me a better sense of balance.”