Welcome to Kalabash: Meet the founder
Kalabash is a UK based eco-luxury venture, bringing you high-quality Caribbean--inspired natural and organic bodycare and cold process handcrafted soap one batch a time. Our products are made from vegan friendly natural plant based ingredients that are kind to your skin and to our environment. Because we want to keep things natural we use herbs, flowers and clays for colour and mood boosting pure aromatherapy grade essential oils for fragrance in preference to synthetic dyes, pigments and perfume.
HELLO FROM OUR FOUNDER - SHARRON JENKINS
I first started Kalabash, back in 2006 when after years of working in a London office, I re-discovered my childhood passion for plants, gardening and creativity. So while on maternity leave, I enrolled a Royal Horticultural Society course in horticulture and an accredited Garden Design course. I studied for 2 years whilst getting my hands dirty in several North London gardens as a jobbing gardener. As soon as I felt confident enough I set up Sharron Hardy Garden Design, specialising in plants and planting design.
As I worked outside year-round, I began to notice that the British weather and London pollution played havoc with my sensitive skin and stripped it of its natural moisture. Like you, I wanted nourishing natural plant-based beauty products that were kind to my skin and to the environment.
This was way before the green beauty revolution when very few natural skincare products were around and many mainstream products were chemically laden. Sustainability, ethical sourcing, addressing waste and the environmental impact of the beauty industry, were often overlooked.
So, I put all my plant knowledge and experience to use, rolled up my sleeves and set about creating my own body care range. I trawled the internet for information, (Youtube was very new then and beauty bloggers and their armoury of knowledge were thin on the ground). But, I stuck with it and after a lot of experimentation and hours of research, I began making handmade soap, body butters balms and moisturisers infused with pure essential oils. Thankfully my friends and family loved them.
Kalabash pays homage to my Caribbean heritage. In the late 1950s, my Windrush parents left Dominica, the aptly named “Nature Island of the Caribbean” and settled in the UK, met, married and started a family.
I still have vivid memories of our only family holiday. It was my first trip 5000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to the “Nature Island” when I was 9, my bother 10, sister 5 as well as our new baby sister! (My parents certainly enjoyed a challenge) and packed us all on a 9 hour BOAC flight from London to Antigua with a short connecting LIAT flight on to Dominica. - Can you imagine keeping track of all that luggage, 3 kids under 10 and a newborn baby? ....
I was smitten from the moment I first saw Dominica. Looking back, this evocative and lush tropical island was where I first discovered my passion for tropical plants and gardening. I'd never been outside London before and was instantly transfixed by the array of colour and warmth that enveloped me. The smells and tastes of fresh mangoes, bananas, cocoa, coconuts, oranges, limes, avocados and much more hung ready to pick and eat from trees all over the island.
The memories of my parents’ Garden of Eden homeland, with its dense rainforests, hot natural springs, hiking trails, looming mountains, beaches and tropical gardens, watered by 365 rivers and streams which crisscross the island made a lasting impression. (According to Dominican folk law, the island soil is so fertile that a walking stick would sprout leaves after a few days if you left it in the ground)! It's not surprising that Dominica used as a location for 2 of the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
Dominica captivated my imagination so much that I kept a daily journal complete with illustrations of our 6-week adventure. Back at school during “Show and Tell” I was rewarded with my first and only gold star from a teacher, who trust me, didn’t give them out lightly. I was delighted!
Dominica's lasting impression sparked trips to Dominica as an adult and later the creation of Kalabash Bodycare from its UK Headquarters, (my kitchen in Finchley, north London).
So, after taking a soap making business course in 2006 I set about combining the warm tropical scents, exotic ingredients and fragrances I remembered from Dominica into natural handmade soap and body care treats. Kalabash or Calabash Handmade as it was known then, was an instant hit with a growing international following. An extract from the website testimonial page reads:
"Your soap is so rich and gentle - it's like washing with a high-quality moisturiser! "
Sadly divorce forced me, like many other women, to press the pause button, pack my dream safely away for another time and return to office life for a more stable income as a single mum.
Fast forward 2018 with a successful career in project management and business development behind me, my children have grown up, are very independent and guess what? I still love gardening and creating skin nourishing natural body care products (especially cold process soap). With my new found independence, I'm firing on all cylinders and back in the entrepreneurial game. I'm very excited to announce that Kalabash is back too!
The headquarters has relocated to a Bedfordshire thatched cottage which came complete with an Aga (which has proved to be brilliant for making soap) - who knew?. The entire range has been reformulated (removing all traces of palm oil) resurrected, revamped and refined just for you. I've spent the past year testing, formulating, painstakingly researching and ethically sourcing high-quality Caribbean inspired ingredients including skin nourishing mango seed butter, coconut oil and organic cocoa and aloe vera butters as well as pure aromatherapy grade essential oils for their fragrance and natural therapeutic and healing powers.
Tropical Sunshine handmade soap from the Kalabash Bodycare range
As a creative midlifer, my mission is to make natural and organic tropical treats one by one in small batches to ensure freshness and quality for you to enjoy during your self-care rituals.
Guided by my husband, a qualified personal trainer, Kalabash will also promote holistic well-being and fitness. Kalabash aspires not only to help you get great healthy skin but also to evoke momentary soothing Caribbean escapism from the stresses of work and daily life, so you feel energised, empowered and ready for whatever life throws at you.
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Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time ...