- Category: Interesting People
- Written by Ailsa Windsor
Bev Missing – the founder of 'Rain', South African hand-made bath and body products, began her industry as a measure to prevent petty crime, by providing employment for the local inhabitants of her town. “If we are not impacting people, what is the point of being in business?” is the ethos which underpins her business. Bev has now written and published a book entitled ‘Rain book of natural soap making’ which can be purchased online from Metz Press
As a guesthouse owner in the town of Ladybrand, in the Free State – 18km from Lesotho, Bev Missing and her husband George, began the search for an “intensely handmade project” to keep idle hands busy while providing an income for indigent households. As a result, they began experimenting with the making of artisanal soap.
This was 17 years ago when the Internet wasn’t what it is today and the recipes were extremely hard to come by. “It was quite a closed secret,” says Bev, “the recipes for making artisanal soaps were not readily available. We also had a really bad signal where we lived, no adsl – only dial-up… and it seemed as though there was no-one out there to help us.
“Then one day I stumbled upon a soap chat-room and asked for help…” An American lady, Theresa, responded and so began a journey which spurned a South African industry. “I began making soaps using my kitchen pots, while still running the guesthouse,” says Bev, who then began to employ local residents once she had perfected the recipe.
Not wanting to grow old in the Free State, Bev and George decided to move to the Cape and 10 years ago they moved the ‘factory’. “Some of the staff even came with us,” she adds. “We bought a property and house, which would enable us to accommodate them and still grow the production line. At that stage the soaps were going well and the recipes were ‘right’.
“On the side, George was making wicker furniture and we used to take this to various Trade Shows, with soaps on display on the side… the response was so wonderful that less than six months later we had our own stand.
“And then we began to broaden the range as well as include hand-made coverings and containers for our products. We employed women who used to stitch bedding and changed the direction of their products. Crafting became very visible in our packaging and presentation.”
Wanting to make a product range which was uniquely hers, Bev set about finding a way to distill her own oils. “I am quite a purist,” she says. “This meant that the flowers had to be sourced and the methods of distilling researched.” This has resulted in a range of bath and body products which are comprised entirely of natural ingredients with African origins. Employment for this aspect has now been provided to 125 people with two to three women per group who supply the oils.
Employment has even been provided to a man who is blind. He grates down the remnants and moulds them into eggs. “He’s so sensitive in a tactile way,” adds Bev. “His fingers compensate for his lack of sight – amazing! We were able to create a special Easter soap in a bowl gift containing little eggs.”
Writing a book
Such is the success of the Rain products, that Bev was approached to write a book on the crafting of soap by Metz Press, known for their quality craft books. This, in fact, only had to be a gentle nudge because she knew how difficult it was to start the business and how hard it was to find the recipes. She felt it was only fair to share her knowledge. Thus, the birth of the ‘Rain book of natural soap making’ - which is available in English and Afrikaans. “It’s also good for the brand,” she says with a laugh, “it will get to places where we wouldn’t already be.
“There’s quite a lot of info which has been included on choosing ingredients, natural colourants and oils, plus almost 60 different projects documented step-by-step. At the back of the book there are the sources of the ingredients. If you want to know more, there are also 10 videos on YouTube where you can see the fun involved in practically making the soaps,” Bev concludes.
The ‘Rain book of natural soap making’ can be purchased online from www.metzpress.co.za