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The female social enterprise entrepreneur bringing social change to the cleaning industry
07 March 2019
To mark International Women's Day on 8th March 2019, meet the multi award-winning Camilla Marcus-Dew, head of sustainable growth at social enterprise, Clarity-The Soap Co., bringing products with social purpose to the cleaning and hygiene sector.
Camilla is the co-founder of the luxury, ethical The Soap Co. brand and is one of many committed and dynamic women in the fast-growing social enterprise sector, worth some £60bn annually.
Camilla is a true female business leader promoting purpose in business, helping to shape mainstream business ethics and consumer buying trends - whilst benefiting some of the most vulnerable people in society and helping to build local communities.
Camilla is the winner of a 2018 NatWest Everywoman UK Gaia award for the most inspirational and successful female founder of a social enterprise who has combined strong community benefit with a sustainable business model. She also received the prestigious Inspirational Award at the third Variety Catherine Awards 2018 that celebrate and showcase inspiring women from the worlds of business and philanthropy. In addition, Camilla is a Blue Patch Female Business Leader and a PWC Building Public Trust judge.
Camilla, who is originally from Bournemouth, took her undergraduate degree at Durham University and did a post graduate degree at the University of Southampton before spending five years in management consulting, giving her a firm grounding in all aspects of sustainability, procurement, brand and strategy before working in disability and women’s empowerment internationally.
Camilla then completed the On Purpose (London) fellowship programme before, in 2015, launching The Soap Co. brand. She has since gone on to develop the latest The Soap Co. eco and bee friendly collection that is stocked in leading retail outlets including the John Lewis Partnership and the Conran Shop.
'Luxury brand with a heart'
“I wanted to prove that it is possible to create a luxury brand with a heart - where there really is ‘no compromise’,” Camilla says. “People are fascinated to know how products are made today. So prioritising transparency and honesty in all that we do was important. I also wanted those people who share our ethics and values - and who enjoy our products - to have a sense of engagement with our employees and each person’s unique story. I felt it was so important to talk about who is crafting the products. I was inspired to tell the story of a luxury bath and beauty range made by people with varying degrees of disability, that operates as a competitive business, with all the protocols, acumen and attention to detail you would expect from the current industry leaders and giants.”
Never one to rest on her laurels, Camilla was then the driving force behind the launch of BECO. Teaming up with Diane Cheung, marketing manager at CLARITY-The Soap Co., who came on board with a wealth of FMCG experience, BECO. has been successfully launched to the mass market. BECO. is a playful bathroom range comprising a water-saving foaming hand wash and triple milled bar soap in three fragrances that is now on sale in high street retailers including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op. BECO. is also being widely used in corporates from BNP Paribas to LV=, together with other businesses from Camden Market to The Cabinet Office and the Nederlander theatre group. As 2019 rolls out, the BECO. product range is set to grow to include a range of new eco-friendly household products.
Camilla says: “My motivation is clear; I have a couple of disabled relatives in their 20’s and I wonder what are the opportunities for them in say five years’ time? They are still in education at the moment - but will want to work - and are taking every opportunity to build up their CVs by volunteering where possible. Right now, those work opportunities just don’t exist. Some people also have very dated stereotypes about those with disabilities and challenging these is what it is all about.
“I’d love to think that what we are doing at CLARITY-The Soap Co. is actually creating hope for people with disabilities. On the employability side we are doing something magical; the wider charity has 114 staff but there are well over a million people with disabilities out there that don’t have the opportunity to work. I can’t deny it also gives me a buzz to see how well The Soap Co. and BECO. brands are doing both with businesses and consumers. Every day is an opportunity to work with my team to find ways to sell more and to create more and more social value hours of employment.”
Taking CSR more seriously
As International Women’s Day approaches, it is apposite to highlight the work that Camilla is undertaking to counter the high levels of disability unemployment in the UK that are running at twice the national average. “Switching soap for social good has never been easier,” concludes Camilla. “Our brands and products are now listed with many of the major facilities management companies and in national supply chains. We are starting to see many more businesses taking corporate social responsibility extremely seriously as it is a key factor in building and sustaining customer relationships.
“I hope that as a woman in business I can encourage other women to use their purchasing power to buy products with purpose and to change real people’s lives for the better.”