To stay in the loop with the latest features, news and interviews from the creative community around licensing, sign up to our weekly newsletter here
Joash Nelson-Piercy, Director and Services Manager at Labre’s Hope, on the design process behind the firm’s luxury soaps – and the cause that drives the business.
Joash, thanks for making time. To kick us off, can you give us a little bit of history and background to Labre’s Hope?
Labre’s Hope was born out of Founder Aaron Probert’s University of Sheffield Business Management dissertation. He formed a bond with a rough sleeper who slept near his University flat and channelled this desire to fight homelessness into his final thesis.
Aaron is a self-taught soap-maker and candle-maker, but skincare was always a passion of his. He knew he wanted to start a social enterprise tackling homelessness, and he loved natural, handmade soap. He just had to put the pieces together.
Diving into that, Labre’s Hope works with Crisis UK to help homeless people. Can you explain how you work with the charity?
We have a fantastic relationship with Crisis UK, most notably, Crisis Skylight South Yorkshire. We work closely with them in the following ways.
• Recruitment: People experiencing homelessness will seek help from Crisis, who support them primarily with their housing situation. When that Crisis beneficiary is ready for employment, Crisis will refer them to Labre’s Hope, where we either employ them on our part-time basis – the staff member works for 4 hours a week, accessing our key support services – or on a full time basis, where the staff member works for 35 hours per week, accessing our support services and crafting soaps and candles.
• Wellbeing development: We host two hours of weekly group wellbeing development classes and two hours of one-to-one employment coaching sessions per week for all of our staff members. Crisis South Yorkshire come in every Wednesday to run the Wellbeing sessions. They have trained strength and skills mentors who do sessions on; mindfulness, positive mental health, managing stress, budgeting, among many others.
We have had so many success stories from those who have worked at Labre’s Hope. Some of these can be read and watched on our website here: https://www.labreshope.co.uk/pages/our-impact.
Brilliant. Hats off to you and the team. Now, the soaps you produce have very distinct fragrances. Can you give us some insights regarding the development process?
We formulate all of our products and essential oil blends. We take the science of aromatherapy – which is based on blending a variety of scents or ‘notes’ to create layered aromas – to transport the user to a blissful happy place.
“We are the only organisation in the world to fight homelessness by offering a 3-in-1 solution through cosmetics.”
We use natural essential oils to scent our bars and these have a diverse range of qualities. For example, lavender and geranium rose oils are both highly relaxing, whereas may chang and blood orange essential oils are more stimulating.
When our bars are used in the shower or bath, the essential oils diffuse into the air, creating a calming, invigorating and beautiful smell which can contribute to mental health remedies. This process is known as aromatherapy. To formulate new scents, we run social media polls to harvest data directly from our customers and followers, to get the rawest feedback possible.
And packaging-wise, this is all done in-house too?
Yes, all of our products, packaging and branding have been designed in-house. We wanted our packaging to stand our compared to other soaps brands by using bold, vibrant colours which reinforces our social mission and the premium nature of our products.
All of our packaging is sourced from FSC approved supply chains and are printed using Soy Ink, which means they are more eco-friendly than the industry standard petroleum ink. The organisations we use also strive to reduce their carbon footprint by replanting trees and using clean energy where possible.
All of these unique selling points culminate to biodegradable, designer packaging which is meant to uplift the aesthetics of homeowners as well as their senses – touch and smell. As an ethical organisation, we ensure that our supply chains match our values.
Great stuff. Are there other brands in the personal care and soaps market you admire and look at for inspiration?
We look at Ethique and Lush with great admiration – particularly the latter given their global nature. Both organisations are proudly ethical and make great products. We have a social mission of homelessness of course, which they do not, but their products are naturally and sustainably made, which we absolutely love!
Another organisation we love is The Wash Co, organisation with a social mission helping those blind, disabled or other disadvantage people.
I met you at Top Drawer. How did the show go for you?
We absolutely loved Top Drawer. It was our first time there, so didn’t know what to anticipate, but it was such a great bustling environment, and a fantastic opportunity to meet loads of people in the industry and exhibit our lovely products.
We galvanised a lot of interest from buyers and had a great deal of orders placed. What was really incredible though was visitors, buyers, as well as other exhibitors stopping by to offer support in any capacity they could – be it was donating time, sharing expertise or giving connections. It’s awesome to see so many people wanting to help us end homelessness.
“We may be starting in south Yorkshire but we want to become a global organisation that transforms communities all over the world.”
Another highlight for us was giving out 60 goody bags, packed with soaps and candles, to lots of different buyers and shop owners. To put our products into the hands of people interested in buying them wholesale is so exciting, as we know how good they are.
How do you see the Labre’s Hope brand developing over the next two or three years?
Our traction has continued to snowball since launching back in February 2022, so I can only see Labre’s Hope growing. We are the only organisation in the world to fight homelessness by offering a 3-in-1 solution through cosmetics, so there’s a real gap in the market there.
Being able to tackle homelessness through a product like soap is awesome because everyone sees the effect of homelessness to some extent, and everyone needs a cleaning product – either for their hands, face, body or all three! So everyone can get stuck into Labre’s Hope.
There’s also symbolism in our brand, particularly candles. In today’s world, we all need to find a bit of comfort now and then, and our ‘hope candle’ flickering in people’s homes does just that. Our candles transport people away to a fonder place.
Joash, before I let you go, how can our readers engage with Labre’s Hope?
Buy our products! We are a non-profit so everything goes straight back into the business. All purchases go directly towards keeping those experiencing homelessness, or those at the end of their homeless journey in employment.
We believe that homelessness can only be solved if people from all industries and walks of life to come together, so we’re always open to any suggestions people have on how they can help.
We may be starting in South Yorkshire but we want to become a global organisation that transforms communities all over the world; giving people experiencing homelessness the tools and resources they need to thrive. We also don’t want to compromise on the sustainability of our operations though to achieve this. We believe that every activity we take part in needs to align with our values because customers invest in us for these exact values.
We strongly recommend that you experience our soaps or candles for yourself so you can form your own opinion. If you buy one of our soaps, you will get what we call a ‘soaper card’ inside the box which tells you which person your purchase has supported today. It’s that personal touch which helps you feel as good on the inside as you do on the outside.
Fantastic. Huge thanks again Joash. Let’s catch up again soon.
Enter your details to receive Brands Untapped updates & news.