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The Soap Co (Edinburgh)

The Soap Co (Edinburgh) is a new social firm developed by Forth Sector. The social firm opened on Friday November 5th 2004.

Forth Sector is a mental health organisation that develops social firms to provide flexible, supportive employment and training opportunities for people with severe and enduring mental health problems in Edinburgh. The organisation now runs six social firms providing full-time, part-time and trainee opportunities for approximately 65 people with mental health problems in the businesses. One of these social firms (Six Mary's Place Guesthouse) recently demonstrated its commercial credentials by winning the Customer Service Award in its category at the recent Thistle Awards. Information on Forth Sector can be found at

The Soap Co (Edinburgh) produces and retails high quality, handmade soap, which is made locally from the base raw ingredients. Products are made using the original 'cold process' method of production with hand-built machinery being utilised for cutting and finishing the soap. "A number of our products have a large amount of essential oils," says Nicola Shaw, Business Manager "and we produce all the soap locally." The Soap Co (Edinburgh) also produces a range of bath and bathing-related products.

"Social firms are commercial businesses and we've developed this new social firm within a tight timescale to meet the expected demand for gifts in the run up to Christmas," says Nicola and she continues, "we have a range of gift packs on display and we can also make gift packs to specific requirements. The products make an excellent Christmas gift."

The social firm has been developed as part of the Social Firms UK 'Flagship Firms Programme'. This programme aims to identify the best social firms in the UK, develop approaches for replication and match these with community organisations that have the appropriate expertise and capacity to deliver. The Soap Co (Edinburgh) has been developed using intellectual property from the highly successful Shetland Soap Company, which is run by COPE in Shetland and provides supported employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities. The Scottish Centre for Regeneration provided funding support for a study visit to Shetland and the initial market research into the business idea. This market research identified that the large tourism sector in Edinburgh provided an ideal market opportunity for this type of business activity.

"We were attracted to this type of social firm opportunity because of the market potential and also because it offers a wide range of job opportunities for people with mental health problems. They can be involved in the retailing, marketing or production sides of the business," says James Belton, Business Development Manager at Forth Sector. "Social firms aim to offer people real work within a supportive working environment and we've identified that the Soap Co. can provide both these aspects," James continues.

The Soap Co (Edinburgh) has been developed through a combination of debt finance alongside capital and revenue finance from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. Following this the Soap Co (Edinburgh) aims to be sustainable within two years through a balance of sales income and service level agreements for providing supported employment and training places.

For further information, contact:
The Soap Co,
263 Canongate, Royal Mile,
The soap is made in an industrial unit in Craigmillar.

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Company Registration No. 278156. Scottish Charity No. SC 029210