- 05 Dec 2016
- Rheanna Mathews
Sarah Jane John’s FIG revolution is here to make a difference. She creates artisanal soaps made from the best of ingredients, both Indian and exotic, and wrapped in art created by her friends. WtzupCity had a conversation with this enterprising entrepreneur with a social conscience.
Who came up with the name, FIG Revolution?
Ever since I decided to start my business I had been trying to think of a suitable name, but nothing really fit. The name "The FIG" came to me in a dream and I remember waking up and writing down "The Future Is Green" (which is what The FIG stands for).
What did you do before deciding on this path? Why the shift?
I had just completed my Masters in Accounting and I was looking at different opportunities for a while and ended up experimenting with soap making which then turned into a business! I wanted my work to be a labour of love and the FIG gives me the satisfaction of having my own business which includes art, research, natural ingredients, chemistry, accountancy and marketing. The work is wholesome and my vision keeps me motivated.
Why did you decide to start with soaps? Why not, say, moisturiser?
Soap is something everyone uses so many times a day and we don't really know what we are putting on our body. My interest in this field began while I was taking a shower and happened to read the ingredient list at the back of the label and it was pretty scary because I had no idea what I have been putting on my body all these years. Soap is basic, which is why I started with it.
Have you had training in soap-making? Have you tinkered with such things before?
I am a self-taught soap maker, I learnt everything about soap making online. I'm always learning something new, running tests and discovering new things this way! I guess I have experience with chemistry, working with my dad in his manufacturing plant. I was lucky to have a laboratory with a chemist at my disposal while doing my experiments.
Why do you have art on the cover? How did you choose the artists?
Art turns the mundane into something more magical. My soaps themselves are artistic; an artistic blend of ingredients and I use patterns and designs to give them personality. It would've been great if the packaging was see-through but I didn't want to use plastic. So I had to capture the essence of the soap on the cover using art. The artists who did the sketches are my friends, and I’d seen their work before. So it was just a matter of letting them work their magic!
How do you develop your recipes? Do you have a favourite?
I come up with a theme first and develop the soaps over a few months based on the effect I want them to have on the skin. I can't have favourites; they are all my babies! Every soap has something distinct and special in it's own way.
You mentioned a special soap for Christmas?
I am making a soap called "In Remembrance" with some special ingredients like Frankincense, Myrrh, Rose oil, Lemon oil, Grapeseed oil and Kokum Butter. The soap has Myrrh, Gold and Frankincense on it to represent the gifts the three wise men brought Jesus at his birth. The red and white are recognizably the colours of Christmas.
If there are interested soap-makers or hobbyists around, would you consider doing workshops with them?
I would love to do this, but probably not any time soon. I'm focusing on the soap selling for now and researching and developing new products.
Are there other soap-makers you're connected with? On social media?
Yes, my soap gurus are quite active on social media.
What sort of infrastructure do you need for your soaps? Do you have a separate unit or is home where all the magic happens?
I have a separate unit that is registered, so The FIG is quite official!
Do you plan to have an extended line of products? Hedonists would die for shower gels, body butter and the like, surely. And thus provide opportunities for female employment, perhaps?
Oh yes, I plan to have all these products available for sale in the near future! I would definitely hire women once we start production on a larger scale! I want to bring the cottage industry back in a sustainable way.
Your artisanal soaps use the best of ingredients, yes, but the price of one bar of soap is at least Rs 200. Is healthy/green/clean living only for the bourgeois?
The soaps are a little pricey when compared to commercial soaps available in the market because the ingredients I use are on the expensive side, and I use a comparatively higher proportion of the good stuff. Especially when you use essential oils the cost of production shoots up! Healthy/green/clean living is the natural way of life which is how we had been living in the past but right now we are exposed to too much toxic chemicals in the products we use and even food, which is why there is a need for a shift in our lifestyle. Lifestyle change is sort of a trickle down effect that usually starts with the bourgeois! The FIG is here to make a positive statement about the future in spite of how the circumstances may seem, that the future is green!
The FIG products are available at HOH ( inside Thousand Things) at Panampilly Nagar as well as at Aambal, at Fort Kochi. They will soon be up for sale on Amazon. Take a look at their Facebook page and follow Sarah @thefigrevolution to stay tuned.
Words By: Rheanna Mathews