Amelia Milton is the nine-year-old entrepreneur behind Smelleez Soaps – which “makes soap for everyone and their dog”.
Her soaps, which are all handmade in her kitchen, contain a range of
natural ingredients and exfoliants, are free from the chemical
SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and are all vegetarian – with many of them
vegan-friendly. She is currently working on ensuring that her packaging
is as environmentally-friendly as possible.
She took her first range to GrowBiz to ask for feedback and since then
has received lots of advice and support from the enterprise facilitators
and has attended a number of learning, support and networking sessions.
Amelia is GrowBiz’s youngest client to date and in 2018 was awarded the community-based enterprise support organisation’s award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year. She also recently received a special rising star award in the Courier Business Awards.
Amelia first started crafting handmade soap in 2017 as part of a school competition and now concentrates on developing her business alongside her education.
She says: “There was a competition at school for young entrepreneurs and the prize was a place at a Christmas fair. We had to come up with an idea for a business and a business plan and I came up with the idea of Smelleez and selling handmade Christmas-scented soap.
“Before I made any soap, I did lots of research and then I took my very first range to GrowBiz to ask for feedback. They looked at my products in detail, asked lots of questions about my business plan and gave me loads of extra information that I couldn’t find by just looking at competitors.
“I had to go away and do more work on things I hadn’t given quite so much thought to and some things that I hadn’t thought of at all such as legal compliance and labelling. It helped a lot that they could tell me where to go to find out more.
“I went on to win the competition and the fair was great and I was invited to another Christmas fair by one of my mum’s colleagues and it has grown from there.”
The enterprise journey
Amelia credits her business success with listening to feedback from customers and talking to other traders and business owners.
She has also been inspired by David Attenbrough’s Blue Planet programme, and her business aims to be as environmentally-friendly as possible.
She said: “My soap is all handmade and I know exactly what goes in to it. They are all SLS free. We use natural exfoliants and try to source our materials and ingredients as locally as possible.
“I am also looking at making the packaging as environmentally-friendly as possible. When I first started all the advice was that glycerine soap had to be shrink-wrapped but we now use glassine which is made from wood pulp fibres and is recyclable and bio-degradable.
“I make shampoo bars for dogs and am working on shampoo bars for people too which reduce the need for plastic bottles – only nine per cent of plastic ever made is recycled so it is better if people just use less plastic in the first place.
“My soaps are also suitable for vegetarians and none of them have been tested on animals.”
Smelleez has a distinctly Scottish flavour to it, with soaps smelling of tablet, hot toddies, soor plums and Irn Bru. But of the 36 flavours currently available in the range, it is the mischieveously named monkey fart soap which is by far and away her best seller with customers of all ages.
Amelia has had lots of advice and tips from the team at GrowBiz.
She explains: “Some people find it difficult to believe that I am the owner of the business and that I am the one that makes all of the soap but GrowBiz never made me feel any different to any of the
other businesses they support.
“Having that one-to-one support has been invaluable and I have also found their peer support sessions and networking events extremely beneficial.
“Speaking to other small business owners is so helpful and it’s much easier and much more fun if you support and help each other. Even if your businesses are very different, lots of the problems and frustrations can be the same and I’ve found out a lot of useful things from other people at these events.
“The creative peer support groups have been especially helpful as I have been able to share new ideas and products and get feedback and suggestions from a wide range of people who are also makers and understand what I am trying to do. I always leave these meetings feeling very positive and with lots of new ideas to take my business forward.
“GrowBiz also has an amazing range of learning sessions. I have attended lots of them and
learned about how to use social media effectively and how create videos to better promote
my business online. I attended an event on funding and was then successful in obtaining a micro-enterprise grant.”
Looking to the future
Amelia has big plans for expanding her customer base – as well as attending markets and events, she is starting to supply some stores, including the Dundee Design Project and a zero-waste store in the city, The Little Green Larder. And she is also hoping to move out of the kitchen and into an outbuilding with more space to make even more soap.
The rural Perthshire-based youngster also wants to encourage others to look at what they can do, saying: “I hope that I can inspire other young people to look at what they might be able to achieve
within their own communities without having to move away. I want them to know that their community can support them and help them to succeed.
“Growbiz is my tribe - it’s vibrant and exciting and I feel extremely proud to be a part of it.”