Enterprising Beth Clark not only had her first child in lockdown but launched her first business too. MAXINE GORDON has the story

LOCKDOWN will be memorable for all of us - but Beth Clark has two reasons never to forget the past 12 months.

The former contemporary dancer pirouetted away from a life on stage and took a leap into the world of business - and motherhood.

Not only did the 28-year-old from York launch her BE SO handmade, all-natural, soap brand, she gave birth to her first child, Millie, on Christmas Eve.

Beth said: "This really has been an incredible year. Juggling the baby and the business during lockdown has been pretty intense and there have been positives and negatives. With the pregnancy, it sometimes felt like I was going through a lot of it alone, but the business helped because it kept my mind off it."

So congratulations to Beth - who is this week's trader of the week!

If you would like to nominate a trader of the week, click here to fill out the online form or visit: yorkpress.co.uk/trader/

Handmade soaps are a crowded market - how can BE SO make an impact and find customers?

York Press: Beth makes her soaps by handBeth makes her soaps by hand

"You're right," begins Beth. "There are so many beautiful soap companies out there. But for me I personally hadn't found what I wanted, which was a product with simple but effective ingredients that I trusted including eco packaging.

"I was so tired of going through plastic bottles in the bathroom! Our soaps are vegan and cruelty free - there are no nasties and no chemicals. Our process uses 100 per cent natural ingredients and 100 per cent natural essential oils. They are soaps that are perfect for gifts but just as good to use every day."

Beth first had the idea for an eco-friendly soap bar while travelling in Australia for a year and noted all the plastic containers she had for hair and body products. Ideally, she said, she would like to launch eco soaps to wash and condition hair.

But first the big push is on building the brand, stockists and sales.

She has already outgrown 'cooking' up batches of soap in her York kitchen and has moved into more spacious premises in the South Bank part of the city.

And she has struck up a successful collaboration. "We had a wonderful opportunity to team up with York Gin in March. They asked us to do some slices of soap to accompany their Mother’s Day boxes."

Although the world of business is new to Beth, she has built up a strong team around her who have key skills.

York Press: Be So soaps - made by Beth ClarkBe So soaps - made by Beth Clark

She said: "I have been very lucky in the fact that my partner is bit of an entrepreneur. He has some great friends around him who are also in the business world and amazingly believed in my product and vision.

"We have had no funding yet but we are looking at a funding scheme called PAPI which supports and awards grants for small businesses."

One of her biggest supporters - and one of her biggest inspirations - is her father, Graham.

She said: "He has always been able to create something amazing out of nothing. He is an incredible chef, and he is a bee keeper who makes his own candles and honey. My parents have an orchard next to the house where they grow all kind of fruits to make wines, cider and gins. Christmas at ours is great. He and my mum even built their own eco house. And his next project is making a steam boat. So, if anything, he has really taught me anything is possible if you try hard enough."

While Beth acknowledges that lockdown had its advantages in affording her time to work solely on BE SO, it has had challenges too. "The biggest challenges have been not being able to be on stalls and interact with the public about my products and also not being able to talk with store owners.

"But, at the same time, this lockdown has given me all the time in the world to focus on the product itself and other things, such as the creative side of the business and the website. This has been very important because, during lockdown, buying online was our saviour."

Needless to say, social media has been a lifeline in launching the business and building sales. "We use Instagram and Facebook massively and also word of mouth. People have been very supportive. The fact that the products are all natural is key - that is what people are into."

York Press: Beth - hard at work making her soapsBeth - hard at work making her soaps

It was through trial and error that Beth learned how to make the soap. The process is very much like following a recipe, she adds, but you have to ensure you have the right balance of ingredients. All products are independently safety checked too before they are put on sale, she adds.

As the business grows, one thing Beth won't let go off is making the soaps herself.

She said: "The process I use is actually quite unique. It's called hot process and it involves cooking and hand stirring the soaps in a crockpot. I chose this process because it gives the soaps a natural rustic look to them which I adore."

Beth has been equally hands-on in the design of the brand and its packaging. As for the name, that came from her mum. "It stands for 'Beth' and 'soap' - I love that because I wanted it to be true and honest; 'be so' simple, calm and natural."

As for juggling a new business and a new baby - how is she managing?

"It's been difficult as the baby has colic - so it has been intense for us. I have a lot of Zoom meetings with her on my lap. And my mum has been amazing too."

Finally, where does she see the business in five and ten years' time?

"Being local to York is important to me, but I also see our soaps in beautiful towns such as Hebden and Harrogate. I have made BE SO for an audience like myself who are interested in natural ingredients and eco conscious. Being kind to your skin and the planet at the same time. I see BE SO providing natural organic soaps to retailers, hospitality industry and wholesale."

Beth is now selling her products upstairs in the Yorkshire Candle Company in Goodramgate and will be holding two stalls on Bishy Road in the summer: Saturday June 5 and Saturday July 3, outside Rae and Rae Opticians, next door to the Pig and Pastry from 9am until 4pm.


If you would like to nominate a trader of the week, click here to fill out the online form or visit: yorkpress.co.uk/trader/