Mum-of-two Ashley Millan, 35, started making handmade soaps from her kitchen table as a hobby during the first Covid lockdown – it has now become her full-time business
A woman who started her own business with just £200 in the bank says her handmade soaps are now turning in five figures.
Ashley Millan, 35, from Edinburgh, is the founder of soap brand Coast & Company.
The married mother of two started her business at the height of the first lockdown, after being inspired by her own struggles to find the right skincare products while stores were closed.
“The inspiration for Coast & Company came to me during the first lockdown,” Ashley told The Mirror.
“I found it difficult to find products that are natural and eco-friendly but also feel premium.
“I wanted to buy natural products that look great but also give me that high-end shopping experience, with great service, branding and a sense of luxury – I felt that just didn’t exist,” she said.
“Coast & Company started small, at my kitchen tableexperimenting with soaps and other skin care products, as well as candles.
“It started as a hobby that grew into a business. Today we make lifestyle products that can help both customers and the planet.”
Ashley started Coast & Company with just £200 and began experimenting with ingredients at home. “I realized I wanted to create a clean, luxurious, and affordable product,” she said.
coast and society)
“In March 2021 I launched the website.
“In May 2021 I took my soaps and candles to a farmers market and made a small profit which I then put back into the business. Each soap is sold at £6.
“Since then, the company has grown organically without loans or grants. Everything I earn goes back into the business.
“In July 2021 we hired our first employee.”
Coast & Company has only been trading for a year, but Ashley says it’s on track for five-figure sales by the end of the fiscal year.
The company’s latest project is to develop a biodegradable bottle made from wheat and sugar cane, she said.
But Ashley admits it’s been difficult to balance motherhood with starting a business.
“It’s challenging sometimes, I have two children and I also run another company. I handle marketing, accounting, farmers markets, postage, packaging, product and development.
“It’s relentless, but it’s what you sign up for when you start a business. I was able to hire a part-time employee to support me, and my next hire will allow me to relinquish control of the farmers markets and take on responsibility, freeing me up to focus more on product development.”
She added: “I’d never worked in retail before and it didn’t click as it was 24/7 – there’s no break in the evenings or weekends as people can shop anytime.
“Since Coast & Company started, I’ve worked almost every weekend and late into the evening to make it a success.
“Each part of the business requires very different skills – it’s one thing to sell a product and quite another to then retain that customer.”
coast and society)
With the business still in its infancy, Ashley says she’s not only the founder, but also the cleaner, the CEO, and everything in between.
“My aim is to expand our wholesale base, we believe our brand sits well in the national outlets and as such we would like to stock in places like John Lewis where we have already done a pop up, ASOS and Boots .
“I want Coast & Company to become a recognized lifestyle brand across the UK.”
Ashley and her employee now run the business from a studio in an arts center in Edinburgh.
“It’s a place for creators and doers, which means it’s affordable,” she said.
coast and society)
“We store, produce and pack the products there.”
She says the “business is going from strength to strength”.
Ashley uses challenger bank Starling to manage Coast & Company’s finances.
She said it offers handy integrations with accounting services like Quickbooks and Xero, which have helped her focus on growth.
She even has celebrity clients.
“We have a number of dedicated customers who keep coming back and recommending us to their friends and family. I am amazed at what we have achieved in one year and excited to see what we can achieve over the next three years.”
Ashley says a highlight was when Alan Carr bought one of her candles at Edinburgh’s Grass Market.
“After working every Saturday all year round, I decided to take this Saturday off.
“My colleague immediately told me about it and I decided to send him a message Instagram to thank him and he replied I couldn’t believe it. ”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/mum-who-started-candle-business-26546937 Mum, who started the candle business with just £200 over lockdown, is now making five figures