Spotlight on Clara Challoner Walker

by Handy Mag
Published: Updated:

Clara is the director of Cosy Cottage Soap and is passionate about natural, sustainable personal care products.

What is your background and how did the Cosy Cottage Soap story begin?

In my previous career I was a chemist and an associate of the Royal College of Science. When I became unwell with cancer, eight years ago, I became interested in the impact of chemicals in our personal care and household products, on our health and wellbeing. As I recovered, I carried out research and started to create some prototype items for a range of skincare and beauty products at home and Cosy Cottage grew from there.

Do you make all your own products and where are you based?

We make all our own products and we also make products for other companies to sell under their own brands. All our soap is made in our workshop at the top of the alleyway from Market Street to Talbot Yard in Malton, and everything else is made in our second workshop at Malton’s Navigation Wharf. We also run our soap and candle making workshops in our Navigation Wharf workshop. They’re really enjoyable events where groups of people join us for a morning or afternoon creating beautiful things to take home with them to keep or gift to family and friends.

What does a standard day look like in the Cosy Cottage Workshop?

No two days, weeks or months are the same! At the start of the year, we spend lots of time experimenting and developing new products and by April, we are already thinking about Christmas! All this around making our products in our two Malton workshops, chatting to and serving customers in our Malton store, and sending out orders to our online and trade customers across the UK and worldwide.

What is your favourite fragrance?

My absolute favourite is geranium. I find that geranium plants smell a little bit odd, but the distilled essential oil has a lovely rose-like quality and imbues some fabulous, uplifting aroma therapeutic properties.

Which natural skincare product could you not live without?

Our rejuvenating skin serum—it contains a blend of natural, nourishing oils.

Tell us an interesting fact about soap that we might not know?

Many people swear that popping a bar of soap under your sheet at night is a cure for ‘restless legs’. An old wives tale, maybe! But it’s a sound sleep solution that many of our customers swear by!

What is your best-seller?

Currently our natural deodorant. Our customers love it for its gentle, natural and super effective formulation.

What are the challenges in soap making?

Soap making is an enjoyable and therapeutic process and our team are so well-practiced that we seldom have any issues. Many of our customers come and join us in the workshop for one of our popular soap-making workshops, where they learn all about the history, chemistry and techniques associated with soap making and, importantly, the key safety measures which need to be observed throughout the process. Some people do find the process challenging but we make absolutely sure that everyone goes away with some of their own soap at the end of the session.

Which of your products unexpectedly turned out to be highly useful and effective?

We always envisaged that our household soap would be great for household surface cleaning but we have been amazed at the breadth of beneficial uses our customers have found for the product; from motorbike cleaning, carpet sprucing, delicate clothes washing, through to hob brightening.

Who can use your products?

All our products can be used by anyone over 3 years old. They’re fantastic for anyone with sensitivities or allergies because they’re completely free from all artificial surfactants (e.g. SLS), fragrances, colours and additives. We were delighted to win an award for being the Best Sensitive Skincare Brand in 2023 in the British Made Awards. In the UK, there are (thankfully) strict safety rules around which products may be used for babies and infants and our baby soaps and our goats milk soaps have been specially assessed and safety-released for under 3s, so we appeal to all the family.

Are your products vegan?

All our products are cruelty free. We never test anything on animals, we do not commission any other bodies to do so on our behalf and we do not export to countries where animal testing is required. Everything is vegetarian and we have many vegan products in our range.

How do you decide which products to create and selecting which essential oils or fragrances to use in them?

We always listen to what our customers tell us and take all feedback and suggestions on board. Each year, we look at the distillation of our customer feedback alongside some of the trends in natural cosmetic and beauty research, to formulate our experimentation schedule for the year. It always starts with the customer.

Tell us a little bit about your latest products?

Our latest product is our skin serum and it’s proving to be a favourite with our customers. We are seeing a rapid increase in demand for effective, natural beauty and skincare products with high quality ingredients. Consumers tell us they are getting tired of paying high prices for products made of water, emulsifiers, preservatives and a raft of complicated looking chemicals which go in and out of ‘fashion’.

Do you have products for people with skin allergies or sensitivities?

Allergy UK cite the major triggers of allergic reactions as artificial preservatives, fragrances, colourings and other non-natural additives found in cosmetics and bathing products. All our ingredients are from nature at Cosy Cottage and while plants and flowers can cause reactions in some people, our concentrations are well within safety margins. Our soaps contain no SLS, detergents, sulphates or preservatives. Also we do not add water to our products so need no heavy duty preservatives such as parabens which are not only cited as damaging to skin but also as potential disruptors of the endocrine system.

How can people buy your products?

Our products are all available in our store on Malton’s Market Place and online 24 hours a day. Our in-store team love talking to customers about skincare and recommending products which are beneficial for any skincare or beauty issues they customers face. Products sold though our website are delivered all over the UK and abroad. For our wholesale and trade customers, we have a dedicated wholesale website and many independent stores across the country stock items from our range.

How does your ‘sudscriptions’ service work?

Lots of our products have become regular must-haves for our customers and we are delighted to offer a subscription service. We send items out at monthly, bi-monthly or three-monthly intervals and offer discounts and free postage on our subscriptions.

What does the future look like for Cosy Cottage Soap?

We have lots of great ideas for exciting new products, an expanded retail premises, and we will be increasing the number of participative activities we offer too. Our soap making and candle making workshops have already been very popular and we plan to complement these in our expanded retail store and in our workshops later this year. We will also be launching some exciting new natural beauty and wellness treatments which customers will be able to book via our website and in-store, working closely with an expanding team of local therapists and beauty professionals.

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