From flowers to fragrant foams
A queer-owned venture, Transmutation Soap Studio upcycles discarded flowers into handcrafted paraben-free soaps
Two bags of marigolds and roses over a couple of months became a carton of scented and colourful soaps. Within a year, it became an online business catering to customers across the country. The roots of this business, Transmutation Soap Studio, lie in an impulsive decision by palliative physician Dr Sneha Rooh. “After the Deepavali celebrations (of 2021) at my office when I saw that the flowers were being thrown away, I asked the housekeeping staff to not do that. I went home wondering what to do with it. I just knew that I couldn’t throw them away,” says Delhi-based Dr Sneha, whose roots are in Chennai. Along with her then-partner, she searched the Internet about the medicinal properties of the flowers and everything they could make with it.
“We started off with drying the flowers and, I remember, our 2 BHK apartment was full of newspapers with flowers. These then became oils, which was a good four-month process. Finally, we turned it into soaps,” shares Dr Sneha, owner of Transmutation Soap Studio, a queer-owned venture that upcycles discarded flowers into handcrafted paraben-free soaps.
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Experiments with extracts
With more than 25 varieties of handcrafted soaps, of different bases including glycerine, shea butter and activated charcoal, for different skin types, Dr Sneha has been experimenting for the past one-and-a-half years. The best-selling ones are vanilla soap, potato extract anti-tan soap, and cinnamon turmeric shea butter neem soap, she notes. She has recently launched coffee body polish, foot scrubs, handmade ubtan, tooth powder, carrot and aloe soaps.
From soap-making to packaging and branding, she manages everything on her own. “Initially when I started the business my romantic partner was also my business partner. When she left, I wanted to end the business as it reminded me of her. But after much thought, I realised that the venture was more of my baby and what I was doing was important. Handcrafted paraben-free soaps should reach people. Even though it is challenging to balance my therapy practice and the business, the pleasure from the process of soap-making keeps me going,” she shares, adding that soap-making is a creative and sensual process that invigorates all the senses. Her collection also includes soaps of different shapes from tiny hearts to pride flags.
A queer venture
Dr Sneha is an arts-based therapist who was always interested in lotions and potions. She grew up making and using home remedies for skin care during her teenage years. Even though her passion drives her, there are challenges to face.
She belongs to a business family but was never included in the family business and was even told that women of the household don’t belong in the family business. “My family does not really think of this as a business venture. It is just a hobby for them.” The business was a queer venture right from the beginning. She says, “People viewed it as a queer business from the start because I am bisexual. At that time I didn’t realise the importance of calling it a queer-owned business.
Now I understand its importance. People would rather spend on big brands rather than on small businesses. They think that spending money on a queer business is almost like charity. My focus is to contribute to changing that notion by affirming that I am queer, the business is a queer venture, the products are of good quality and nothing less than any branded product.” During the Pride Month (June), almost every day she was putting up pop-up stores at corporate offices. But she concurred that from this month there will be fewer opportunities.
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Despite all the difficulties, Dr Sneha plans on expanding her business. “I am open to collaborators and venture capitalists. People can collaborate to take up my business or invest money so that I can hire more people. I don’t sell via any other platforms as they have a time-bound delivery system and also charge extra taxes. But the plan is to make people understand the quality of the product and reach more people,” she says. Through her products, she also promotes sustainability by avoiding plastics and sticking to paper packaging.
“Our soaps have natural products that are easily available and good for the skin. We all know that neem and turmeric are natural antiseptic yet we don’t have them in their pure form in our skincare products. We know orange peel and potato extract reduce blemishes but they aren’t found in our washroom cupboards. Our attempt is to revive that knowledge and make it accessible at an affordable price for the current generation,” she signs off.