Although a relatively quiet success story here in the Cayman Islands, Beach Bubbles, a business that sells natural soap products made on island, has taken off on TripAdvisor, one of the leading sources of travel information globally.
Proprietor and soap maker Nina Squires says years of hard work in getting her products noticed has finally paid off, as she has seen positive growth for her business in 2013.
“I wanted to find a product that was reasonably priced that visitors could take home with them after their stay. As well, the product needed to be reflective of the colors of the Cayman Islands,” she says. “Soap was a great choice.”
Having “dabbled” in soap making 15 years ago, it was only after a period of turmoil in her private life a few years ago that Squires became motivated enough to get her business off the ground.
A particular focus for her soap making has been to incorporate as many natural and healing ingredients as possible, thereby setting her product in front of the competition by creating a unique selling point.
“I started to incorporate Neem in my soaps and also skin lotions and the response was phenomenal straight away.”
The Neem tree (Azadirachta indica) is an evergreen endemic to the Indian subcontinent but is found freely in the tropics, including the Cayman Islands. Neem oil has been used in India for creating cosmetics and soaps and has been lauded for its healing powers when it comes to skin disorders.
“I’ve had so many people return to my shop and tell me that their skin feels so much better since using the Neem soap,” Squires says, adding that buyers should note this particular soap has a unique odor of garlic and peanuts, which comes from the Neem. “It’s also an excellent mosquito repellent,” she says.
Most of her soaps are either buttermilk or goats milk-based and incorporate an entire menu of natural and enticing ingredients, including coconut oil, mango nut butter, macadamia nut oil, peppermint, lavender, avocado oil, kukui nut oil, Moroccan Argon oil, white grapefruit, orange and lemon. Squires also takes great care in the appearance of her soaps, using layering techniques to bring a unique design to her products.
In addition, Squires also sells lotions and hair tonics, as well as edible powders such as that made from the Moringa tree (Moringa oleifera), also known as the drumstick tree, again found in the tropics.
“Moringa is one of the most nutritious foods you can possibly consume, with far higher iron than spinach, far more vitamin A than carrots and more protein than yogurt,” she says. “My customers make a tea out of the powder and it is excellent if you want to detox. It also helps you sleep and is good for women in menopause.”
No. 1 on TripAdvisor
Visitors to Cayman have been particularly receptive to Beach Bubbles products and the retail store in Bodden Town, where Squires makes all of her soaps in the back room, is now the top store for shopping in the Cayman Islands on TripAdvisor.
“I have achieved this success only through word-of-mouth,” Squires confirms. “I’ve managed to become something of a landmark for tourists who now email me lists of order requests even before they have arrived on island.”
Squires attributes her recent successful growth to her enjoyment in showing customers around her small store and her passion for what she does.
“Located out here in Bodden Town, I get the chance to spend a good while with my customers. I love telling them all about my products and they get to meet me and my pet rabbit, who is always a fun feature for visitors!” she says. “I think what I offer is a great way to showcase the islands as a whole. When customers buy some Cayman-made products from me, it’s a fantastic souvenir of their holiday. People call me an ambassador for the islands.”
Commercial success took a few years to manifest itself but Squires says now that the value of her product has been realized more entities are interested in having her products to sell.
“I have just started to supply the Cayman Islands Turtle Farm with my soaps, and I produce soaps for weddings as a lovely little gift in the shape of a cluster of roses for guests,” she says.
Squires would love to see better promotion for Cayman-made products, which are still few and far between.
“My business has recently been featured in the “Made in Cayman” video series shown on Cayman 27 and I am grateful to them and to Dart for making that happen. I would love to have Cayman-made products reach a wider audience through entities such as the Department of Tourism standing behind small businesses,” she says.
“I try to make a visit to Beach Bubbles part of a visitor’s vacation experience, and I’m getting a really positive response. It’s a great thing we are doing for the island.”