How I started my own skincare business

Samantha Worsey lives in Portsmouth and owns soap and skincare business Southsea Bathing Hut.

Samantha Worsey lives in Portsmouth and owns soap and skincare business Southsea Bathing Hut.

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to leave my job and be my own boss.

I’d been making soap as a hobby and friends would say, ‘you should do this for a living’. But I never took that seriously.

Then, one day, I stumbled on a newspaper article about a forgotten aspect of Portsmouth’s history.

I learned my home city was once known for soap-making.

The industry started in the 1600s, providing a laundry service for ships. By the 1930s, Portsmouth was home to two large family businesses which exported around the world. Both collapsed in tough economic times.


A new chapter

I imagined the next chapter in that story: turning my love of soap-making into a business and reviving a long-lost aspect of Portsmouth’s heritage along the way.

Everything I made would be natural, vegan and cruelty-free. After all, I love animals and I don’t think soap would be high up anyone’s shopping list in the event of environmental apocalypse.

Finding the right recipe

I got to work developing unique recipes. On a chilly Saturday morning in April 2015, I pitched up at a street market to try my luck, trading as Southsea Bathing Hut.

If you want to build a business selling products, I highly recommend markets. You get access to the best focus group around: real shoppers.

Markets and events – from garden shows to music festivals – were the mainstay of Southsea Bathing Hut for its first three years. They’re a great way to road-test products, get direct feedback, and establish a customer base. I taught myself to grow beyond soap and make all kinds of skincare products if enough people asked for them.

Growing the business

During those years, I gradually moved production from the kitchen table to a small sub-let room, to an industrial unit.

I built a website for online sales and developed a small network of stockists.

After three years, I had enough of a range and track record to secure investment to open a shop.

A year later, on the eve of the business’s fourth birthday, I expanded into the shop next door.

Hard work pays off

I have to be clear: every step has been tough. I’ve given up evenings, weekends and normal working hours, and often paid myself a pittance (because when growing a business from scratch, so much of the money that comes in gets invested rather than banked). No decision ever felt easy.

Every move forward was a risk. The support of family and friends was crucial. There is nothing easy about being your own boss.

But I didn’t become my own boss for glamour, riches or prestige. I did it to be in charge of my own destiny, to do something I could be proud of, to create products that help people.

An inclusive skincare brand

One decision I made early on. As a female entrepreneur, I had no interest in calling this a ‘beauty’ brand. It’s about natural skincare. Why? Because taking good care of your skin has nothing to do with making yourself ‘beautiful’.

I want every Southsea Bathing Hut customer, whatever their gender identity, to feel comfortable in their own skin. Because to me, that’s beautiful.

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