Rondavel {interview and giveaway}

Friday, December 13, 2013

Happiness is not a goal, but a by-product - Eleanor Roosevelt

I'm sure this quote applies directly to the couple I am featuring today, Kate and Chikondi, the owners of Rondavel Soaps. They have such an interesting story about how they started their business and I couldn't wait to share it with you! 

Chikondi and I were living in Malawi, from when our first son, Jesse, was six months old. After reading the ingredients on many baby products - packed with petroleum-based byproducts - we decided to start making our own bum balm for his nappy changes.

This was so effective (with only two ingredients: macadamia nut oil and raw beeswax), and popular with friends, who suggested we start making other natural products like soap, using Malawi's rich and wonderful natural resources. With a combined background in Nature Conservation, Botany, Chemistry and farming, this was a great challenge, and I really enjoyed working with small-scale farmers and rural communities where marvellous plants like Baobab trees are found. Jesse is now eight, and we returned to South Africa (now with three boys) in June 2012 to spend more time with family and try the soap business here where the market is so much bigger than in Malawi!

What sort of products do you make? Do you also provide services?
Other than wonderful handmade soap, we also make lip balm, eczema balm, beeswax candles, and I am thinking of a gentleman's old-fashioned shaving range, but our main focus really is the soap. Soap is such a fantastic medium to experiment with, for example, using goats' milk instead of water to make a creamy, ultra-moisturising soap, infusing indigenous plant materials and oils into the soap, like Honeybush tea and Cape Chestnut seed oil.

 Designing and making the packaging is also exciting, with great potential to give a 'feel' to the soap before you use it. At the moment we are trying to keep up with demand, so don't provide any particular services, although we do make custom soaps for customers who order a whole batch, like a Backpackers Lodge in the Drakensberg who we make an all-purpose hair and body soap for. They like that is biodegradable and doesn't affect their wetland water purification system.

Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
One thing that living in a remote country like Malawi taught us is to Look Around! Inspiration is everywhere. And the more close to home, and to your heart, the better. I have a great love and attachment to South Africa's rich flora and wild places. This inspired our Local Landscapes range, where we centred the theme, and the ingredients, for each soap around a particular area we have visited and loved. For example, our Cape Chamomile and Geranium soap is inspired by the Fynbos of the Western Cape, with wildcrafted and indigenous essential oils sourced from S Chicken Naturals, an old family business in the Cederberg that source and cultivate plants like Cape Chamomile and Buchu sustainably.

How do you perceive the South African creatives/design landscape?
Compared to Malawi, the design landscape here is immense! It was a wonderful surprise to see how much it had changed and grown in the eight years we had been away. I have lived and travelled in the US and the UK, and personally think that there is a wider variety of materials, ideas and inspirations in developing countries like South Africa, and although the tilt can be Western, I think the vernacular is being interpreted in exciting ways here.

What are some of the challenges of being your own boss?
Well, we both think we are the boss, so that is challenge in itself! No, it is wonderful sharing a passion for Rondavel together, but we never seem to get away from talking about work, or both get time off together. One day I am going to count how many times a day we say the word 'soap'!

What is your favourite colour/ material to work with, and why?
Does creamy handmade soap count? For packaging I enjoy working with the natural textures of recycled papers (we use recycled sugarcane fibre paper for the Landscapes series). I also love using strips of local Shweshwe fabric like ribbons, and combining them with my watercolour illustrations of memorable places.

What would you do if you won the lotto?
Shout Hooray! And then buy a big doublecab diesel bakkie, throw the kids, camping and soapmaking equipment in the back and head off around the country using only the backroads. We would explore beautiful places, relax, and make soap with the aromatic ingredients and involving willing locals we find along the way!

Where to from here?
Don't ask me! I find it hard to think big, at least in business. Chikondi is better at planning our future growth, I am just happy that more and more people - here and around the world - are using Rondavel soap and loving it! In the short-term, when the mad Christmas rush is over, I will be working on some new Landscape thinking Bushveld with Acacia ingredients, and a Mistbelt forest inspired soap - since that is the area where we live!

What has been your proudest moment since you started?
There have been lots of small-but-meaningful Proud Moments along the way: from using a bar of our first batch of successful soap, to seeing my drawings on printed soap wrappers, to seeing Chikondi in The Mercury, a Durban newspaper that wrote a story about Rondavel in their Network section. Lots more to come, I hope!

All pics supplied by Rondavel

Aren't they so inspirational? I just want to start making things now!
And, guess what, you can win a hamper of their goodies!
Kate and Chikondi have been so sweet to giveaway 
this enamel bowl filled to the brim with their goodies! 

You will get the following flavours:
Baobab and African Bluegrass
Naartjie and Mieliemeal
Cape Chamomile and Geranium
Karoo Lavender and Honeybush
Blue Mountain Sage
Aloe Ferox and African Basil

All you have to do is fill in this rafflecopter form! A winner will be chose next week Wednesday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Carrott said...

Can you get any more african combination than Baobab and African Bluegrass?

femmegypsy said...

I make all my own soaps at home as I have VERY sensitive and eczema prone skin! My favourite combo is Rooibos and lemon essential oils :)

Gaelyn Cokayne said...

Oh wow this is my kind of hamper!!! What a great story and what gorgeous products!

Nicola Meyer said...

Blue Mountain Sage is wonderful
Chikondi and Kate are so lovely and their soap is divine!

Tracy Jacobs said...

I love all soaps, but would love to try the Baobab and Bluegrass, sounds heavenly :)

Carryn Paikin said...

I love the Naartjie and Mieliemeal combination!

Susann Deysel said...

Really inspirational. I would definitely buy RONDAVEL products if I see them on the shelves.

Carla da Cruz said...

I adore Rondavel soaps, it's the only soaps I use <3

REHANA said...

rehana seedat email: I love the Naartjie and Mieliemeal combination!

Andrea | Clever Bird Banter blog said...

Yes please! Blue Mountain Sage - divine!

♡♥♬ Carolsue ♡♥♬ said...

I like Karoo Lavender and Honeybush
(Is this valid in the U.S.?)
Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

Martina @ snapshotsandwhatnots said...

Ohh these sound amazing especially because I have very sensitive skin

Jess said...

Relaxing and great smelling Cape Chamomile and Geranium.

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