Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Canabelle Soap Womens Co-op: The Soap Making Process on Video

Here is set of videos and pictures to demonstrate the soap making process for the Women's Canabelle Soap Co-op in the fishing village of Canaries in St. Lucia. First I will give a brief background on Canabelle Soap and then show the videos on the soap making process. Lastly will talk about the soap co-ops development plan. Enjoy!

Augusta our treasurer with the accounting book.

Canabelle Soap has been in existence for 7 years. It was started as a project to teach rural women entrepreneurial skills with the promise that a factory would be opened in the area for these women to produce soap. This would have provided employment for Canaries village, a village that suffers the highest unemployment rate on the island at a staggering 30%.

Group Shot of some of the members.

At the same time another women's group was learning the art of basket making. At the end of the training both groups were left without mentoring or direct assistance in marketing their products. The factory never came and so the groups dusted of their shoulders and moved on to make their own way. The two groups merged together to form the Canabelle Soap Co-op. Canabelle soap does not receive direct government funding and is a initiative that is entirely run by the group.

The group has developed a wonderful product that through their own efforts has been marketed to the local drug stores and the island gift shops. So without a consistent market to sell the soap to and no distribution point the Co-op has struggles to reach a level of profitability for its members so soap is produced in intermittent spurts.

The soap by the way feels good, makes my skin feel nice in a way that I can tell a difference and I am anything but a pampering/natural product person. I prefer the Glory Cedar and Aloe Soap or the Sulphur Spring one.

Now on to the soap making process, please enjoy the video clips.

This first video shows the first step of laying down the wax paper in the soap form tray to prevent the soap from sticking when it is poured and dried.

Step 2 shows the measuring of the lye and some of the ingredients used.

Scale for measuring, the most critical component of soap making.

The main ingredients.

Step 3 The mixing of lye and soap with an explanation from the treasurer Augusta on the process.

A bag of lye.

Simple equipment.

Step 4 The blending process, it would take hours to stir the lye/water mixture with the oils, but with a blender it takes merely 30 seconds.

Step 4 1/2 Mixing and explanation of mixing process, also discuss safety needs. During this step the ingredients of the soap are also added. Sulphur, Glory Cedar, Nutmeg, Aloe, Oatmeal.

Step 5 Final Stage, pouring in mold, and explanation of last process.

The Soap in a drying rack, it takes 24hrs to harden, its recommended that it sits for one week before its ready for cutting and packaging. The yellow color will disappear within 24hrs.

The below pictures show the soap after it has been dried and cut the first time, it cut one more time for the soap bars and then packaged for distribution.

First Cut Nice Picture

Nice shot of Cyrillia with the raw soap that has just been cut.

Here are some final shots of the product, they have two different packages for the soap and their main brands are. Glory Cedar and Aloe, Nutmeg, Sulphur Spring, and Oatmeal Aloe.

Proud of their product.

Soap shot, alternative package using a string.

Completely all natural ingredients straight from the rain forest up Riverside road.

Canabelle is the ideal group to fund, its all women and in international studies women in developing countries return 80% of their income directly back into their family.

Outside view of the village.

The group is entrepreneurial generating real income and they have already survived the main steps of forming a constitution, getting licenses as a small business and they have developed a great product they have successfully sold with a proven track record or being in existence for 7 years.

There need are in marketing, infrastructure, and a building.

They building part is covered through the old church development project that I have been working on with Community Club, Father Goodman and the Parish Council with Mrs Jarvis. They will have the upstairs to use rent free for 10years so they can build up capitol. By having their own building they will also finally be able to get licensing through the St. Lucia Bureau of Standards and of course it will provide a distribution point for their product.

Picture of old work area above the community center, they were confined to working out of a 8 by 6ft closet. The balcony area in the old church will provide them all the area they could possibly need.

So bottom line what does this group need to move forward? They need some equipment. The first priority is safety equipment, if you watched video (step 4 1/2) you would hear how they mix the lye and are at risk for being splashed by it. With the old blender they are using that has broken gap at the top this is a very real possibility.


Lye while being mixed is extremely acidic, its burns skin on contact and will cause blindness if comes into contact with the eyes.

1. They need 4-6 sets of heavy rubber gloves and 3 plastic face shields or at the least some protective eye wear.
2. A heavy duty blender. The current one they use is on its last leg, without a working blender the soap making process stops.

Blender Base

3. A heavy duty mixer (the large ones used in restaurant kitchens)

Marketing is the next major component. Currently I am working on their promotional brochures and I should have them done at the end of the month beginning of August. We will begin printing them and I will begin meeting with the hotel association with the President of the group. The goal is to work through them to develop a sample soap for guests to use while they stay. If we could accomplish this our production could reach a level where the members begin receiving a return. Rough estimates show we need to produce 200 soaps per month. These promotional brochures will help us with marketing. We will need sponsorship in printing them since it is so expensive to print here. Around $100US would do it. I will also be taking the brochures and development plan to the coconut oil factory to discuss them donating oil, the main ingredients and discuss them selling it to us in the future in bulk at cost.

When these infrastructure needs are met and production is going we will need a few people to help market the soap to some of their friends a few local shops.

Thanks for reading and always thank you for your support for this fishing village.

Great group shot, go girls you can do it!

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