It would be fair to say that Jessica Knopp of The Guilt Free Soapery in Suffolk has had a very busy year. Here she describes how living in a seaside shack in her early 20s was just the start of her self-sustainability journey
What led you to Suffolk and whereabouts are you based?
I’m from Braintree originally. I moved to Ipswich in 2014 after a quick life detour where I left my hometown on a whim and lived in a seaside shack during my early 20s. After sufficient ‘finding myself’ time, I decided to come here to attend university for a mental health nursing degree. I’m keen on gardening, good plant based food and social justice.
And what led you to starting The Guilt Free Soapery?
After some years at university I’d started on a bit of a self-sustainability journey. I’d taken on two allotments and was making everything from scratch that I could. One day I decided I’d had enough of the unpronounceable ingredients and all the worrying things that I was seeing in the news. I couldn’t find a company that was 100 per cent vegan, palm oil-free and plastic-free as well as organic, so I decided to make my own soap. It was never meant to be a business so I pride myself on the fact that ethics, rather than profit is central to what do.
Where do you source your ingredients from?
I have a focus on fair trade, also, so I like to go directly to worker’s cooperatives. I source my ingredients from communities in Ghana, India and Spain but, if I have to, I go through a third party. I choose Suma which is a larger group that’s been in business for 40 years and is very trustworthy.
As a soap maker, have you had a somewhat busy year?
It’s been very busy. I supply some smaller zero waste shops and that side of the business went a little quiet due to the pressures they were under – but I also have my own shop front, online, where I ran a sale for the duration of lockdown in the hope to help people out a bit. That certainly kept me busy.
How have you juggled parenting a 10-month-old with making soap?
It’s been a matter of just cracking on where possible. The pressure is definitely on but I’m extremely thankful to be able to work from home doing something that I am passionate about.
Would you recommend that everyone has a go at making their own soap?
There’s quite a lot involved but I would encourage anyone, who felt able to, to give it a bash. I often get questions about the process and what’s involved, which I absolutely welcome – I just warn that it’s very addictive!
Any future plans?
So very many. Just got to find the time. I’m now finishing my bird-friendly pure olive oil soap range. I also have new triple butter and hemp soap in the works, and a hemp and apricot kernel body butter to go with that as well. I also quite fancy some balms, particularly a CBD balm. I am trying my hand at botanical bath bombs which a lot of people are excited about, too. And I’m constantly learning and get new ideas and requests every week so who knows what I’ll do next. I guess that’s part of the fun.