Meet Mumbai-based online soapery creating a lather with a range of delicious dessert soaps
Cupcakes, doughnuts, eclairs, macarons, popsicles, ice lollies...the sight of Rishika Nayak Shetty’s products will set you drooling.
Till you realise that they’re all soaps!
Mumbai-based online soaperyspecialises in a range of handmade soaps that look and smell like delicious desserts. Rich in cocoa and shea butter, SLS and paraben-free, and with skin-safe colourants and bio-degradable glitter, they come in fragrances like lilac, rose, black raspberry vanilla, spearmint, Argentina lemon, peony, and more.
However, soapmaking wasn’t what was on Rishika’s mind initially. The business graduate, who had a major in finance from Welingkars Institute, did a master’s course in brand management from Istituto Marangoni, London, and knew one thing: she wanted to “run my own business”.
She began by running a womenswear brand with another co-founder and although she loved the creative aspect, the “wastage of the industry used to bother me”.
“Earlier I used to look at my wardrobe and find nothing to wear, but I reached a stage where I used to get overwhelmed by the amount of clothes I had although nothing had really changed - except my perspective. So, I wanted to start a sustainable brand but was unsure of where I was headed,” she says.
Finding inspiration in soap suds
In 2017, Rishika landed at a farmer’s market In Sydney during her travels.
“I came across a woman selling cold-processed soap bars - these were regular bars but scented with exotic fragrances such as key lime pie, chocolate espresso. Up until now, to me, handmade soap was boring and meant essential oil fragrances.
"I used the soap and loved it; this was the beginning of my soap journey. I thought why couldn’t these be made and my curiosity led me to dessert soaps and The Sass Bar,” she says.
The Sass Bar offers a range of handmade soaps that look and smell like delicious bakery products such as cupcakes, doughnuts, and more.
Rishika started off, thinking of the venture as a hobby. “I began at home in 2018 end with less than Rs 25,000 investment and posted pictures on my social media. One of my friends bought and subsequently people she gifted bought more; and it spread through word of mouth. I had to shift to a workshop within two months,” she says, adding that she launched The Sass Bar “full-fledged in 2019”.
The Sass Bar, as the name suggests, is all about “living that sassy life”.
“Our USP are our innovations and packaging, and we are bringing back soaps in a fun, sassy way. Normally, handmade soaps are associated with earthy colours and fragrances…we are changing that with quality products and ingredients,” the founder says.
Prices start at Rs 185 and go up to Rs 350 per piece. The Sass Bar also offers a range of gift boxes starting at Rs 1,500 onwards.
“Our French pastry soaps such as the Mille Feuille and eclairs do really well. Recently our Christmas collection - with penguin, reindeer, and snowman popsicles – was a huge hit,” Rishika reveals.
The handmade soap brand claims to have catered to more than 10,000 customers till now. “Our customer return rate is about 15 percent and we sell approximately 3,000 soaps a month,” the founder says, refusing to divulge any profit or revenue details.
Rishika Nayak Shetty, Founder of The Sass Bar, always wanted to start her own business, and started making handmade soaps as a hobby.
Market and the future
Rising awareness regarding skin and beauty care coupled with high demand for chemical-free skin and hair care products is driving the market growth, and the demand for handmade, chemical-free soaps is set to grow further in the next few years.
Rishika says The Sass Bar competes with “anyone and everyone in the handmade soap and bodycare business”.
The top competitors include biggies like Forest Essentials and Fab India, along with new entrants like Juicy Chemistry, Vaanya Soap Co, Fiducia Botanicals, and Bon Organics. It also competes with smaller brands like Bare Essentials, Ruharoma, Soaps by Kadambari, PaNee, Almitra Sustainables, Chennai Soap Company, and Mud and Moon.
Apart from its signature dessert soaps, The Sass Bar offers a range of gift boxes and lifestyle prducts such as candles.
But Rishika believes there’s room for almost everyone, saying The Sass Bar’s journey has “really been amazing”.
“We sell out faster than we can make. Now we have reached production where we are somewhat able to manage the demand and supply, but there’s still a long, long way to go.
"Our growth has been very organic, with brands like Dune London (Reliance), Vero Moda, Face Shop, and Amazon reaching out to us for their influencer gift boxes,” Rishika says.
The Sass Bar had a successful run with their Christmas collections, and is now focusing on two new box launches.
Rishika believes the only way to do good work is to keep improving your products. “It’s also vital to create a brand identity and stick to it because in the beginning you can get really confused. Doing more of what works for you is the key,” she says.
The soap startup was part of India’s first season of Shark Tank, and Rishika and her X-member team enjoyed the experience.
“We got lucky to be funded by two amazing sharks and can’t wait for the next step for The Sass Bar. We are hoping to scale our company in a big way,” Rishika says.