WHEN Claire Lucey returned home from New Zealand with her husband Fergal; she had a new baby and started a new business - which became an addiction!
Claire, from Crookstown, is the creator of the vegan, plastic-free and hand-made Gubbys soaps, which she makes in her production unit - the garden shed.
“Dad converted the shed for me,” says Claire. “It is a great working space.”
It is her favourite place to be.
“I’m really happy working away in the shed!” says Claire, who is mum to Sadbh, nearly two years old.
“I’m as happy as Larry making my soaps. It is like an addiction!!”
Where did the name come from, Gubbys soaps?
“That is an interesting one,” says Claire.
“A lot of people assume that I use bee products in the soap because of the logo, but instead it is a celebration of St. Gobnait, the goddess of bees. St. Gobnait settled in Ballyvourney, which is where my mother is from. Mum is also called Gobnait and she is my biggest supporter, she champions my business and my success. So I wanted to pay tribute to her.”
Making soap happened by accident.
“It began when I lived in New Zealand,” says Claire.
“I was living there with my husband Fergal, who is a science teacher. He came home one day and he was talking about bath bombs that he had made with his students.”
Claire was fascinated.
“I was like, you can make bath bombs!”
She was smitten with the idea.
“Soon I started trying out recipes and when we came home to Ireland, I decided to try my hand at making soap.
“Globally, there is a really great soap-making community, in the UK and the USA, and there are about 120 soap-makers in Ireland.
“My soaps are available in small boutique outlets as opposed to big stores.”
Claire had good motivation to start her own ‘squeaky clean’ business.
“I wanted to cut down on my consumption of plastic,” she says.
“When I was recycling I realised just how many shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel plastic bottles were leading me to recycle so much.”
Sometimes it is hard to avoid plastic packaging.
“I realised I was bringing all this plastic to the recycling outlet and then going to the supermarket and filling my trolley with more!”
Claire decided there was a way out of the plastic cycle.
“I said ‘there has to be a better way of doing this’.”
The shed at her parents’ became the Gubbys soap laboratory.
“I was using the family kitchen until dad converted the shed for me.
“I was eight months pregnant when I began making the soap,” says Claire.
“I progressed from there and an Esty store followed late in 2019. It was a real lockdown project!”
Claire also found while she was making the soap, she was continuously learning.
“There’s a lot of learning surrounding EU regulations on cosmetic selling. That was a huge learning curve for me. There is a lot of science involved and a lot of it is self-taught.”
Her science teacher husband could be of help on that front?
“Sometimes!” says Claire.
Fergal is back to further education.
“He completed his PhD in UCC, leaving science and concentrating on the education system here.”
Claire sources her ingredients from Irish producers as much as possible. All the soaps she makes are made from vegan ingredients and are cruelty-free.
“I use oils like olive, almond and coconut and caustic soda. A process called saponification turns oils into soaps. I leave it to ‘cure’ and the water evaporates, making the soap last longer”.
The packaging for Gubbys soap is pretty.
“I wanted it to be eco-friendly too,” says Claire. “That was the whole idea.
“The packaging that I use for my dandelion soap is completely biodegradable and it can even be planted straight into the soil as it contains flower seeds.”
Claire is also passionate about protecting local wildlife, particularly the bee population, which is where her business name originates.
“I am celebrating St Gobnait, goddess of bees,” she says.
Was Claire celebrating her timing, starting her new business amid a pandemic and Brexit?!
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” she says. “I think the pandemic prompted people to do their best to support local. And I really do think people are trying their best to pump money back into our economy. I’m grateful for that.
“As for Brexit, I think people are more cautious about shopping in the UK, so it’s great for local businesses like mine.”
The pandemic hit when Claire and Fergal moved home.
“We said we’d move back home to my parents for six months in November, 2019. Then the pandemic struck and we’re still here!”
But they have a good thing going.
“Fergal works in the evening time. As soon as Sadbh goes to bed and he’s in his office, I’m out in the shed, happy out, making soap.”
Claire loves the creative process.
“I love going into my shed and working away on some soaps,” she says.
“I just really love doing the intricate original designs.”
Claire loves being in business.
“I am addicted to it!”
To purchase Gubbys soaps see Claire’s website https://gubbyssoap.ie/ or Shop in Ireland.