Our first ever batch of stock arrives on a pallet. It sits in boxes, unopened for a few hours. What if the pumps don’t dispense correctly? Maybe they’ll leak? Maybe the product won’t feel the same now it’s made in a scaled up batch?
So that is where we are now. A bit of a change from the pictures below - making up formulas in the kitchen in Summer 2015! Some brands make their cosmetic goods without a full manufacturing facility, and hats off to them. That won't be us - for the types of products we’re making we’d need some serious machinery, plus as someone who's prone to questioning whether the oven is on or off after leaving the house even though I know I switched it off, the quality control and safety reassurances of a facility sound like bliss.
The challenge for a new brand like ourselves is finding a manufacturer who have a minimum order quantity small enough. For many facilities this might be 10,000 which is way too big for us. Some do what they call small runs but even most of these are too large.
I find a few facilities that will run very small batches which is ok, though it doesn’t feel good to choose our manufacturers based on who’ll take us rather than for being a good match.
Then I find Statfold Oils. They started out as a cottage industry bottling high quality plant and seed oils from their farm. They were one of the first to get Soil Association accreditation for their organic crops in the 90’s. Since then they’ve expanded to source high quality plant oils from all over the globe, and now have cosmetics manufacturing facilities on site, amongst other things. It's all very impressive and their specialism in plant oils is a huge bonus. I cross my fingers that they’ll come back with a positive response. Sure enough not only are they happy to take on our small run, they can also source the ingredients. Sourcing ingredients ourselves sounded great before I realised how limited our choices are as a small buyer.
Statfold have no problem getting ingredients to our specific requirements and providing information about where our ingredients are from. Amongst other things we want vegetable glycerine that's palm free, fractionated coconut oil which hasn’t used monkeys to harvest the coconuts (yes, coconut oil isn't always quite as angelic as it seems) and some oils filtered with others unfiltered.
Despite the small scale of our order they’re incredibly efficient, professional and helpful. I always trust the people who are good to the small guys as well as the big ones.
They make up a sample of our product for approval, and once they have our labels and bottles we’re scheduled in. The whole process should take 6 weeks but my tweaking of the design means they have to wait a while before receiving our labels. Once our bulk is made, bottled, batch coded and labeled, Statfold conduct tests to make sure there’s no bacterial contamination, releasing the stock to us 5 days later when all tests come back clear.
The delivery man helps unpack the palette and takes all the boxes inside. It’s an exciting moment though unexpectedly nerve wracking. We’ve tested everything we can pre-emptively to make sure our product and packaging will work, yet now it’s piled up in boxes the stakes seem high. After many hours I stop procrastinating and get to road testing out our first stock. Everything works pleasingly well. We give out a few samples to test and the feedback is incredibly positive. Phew.