A fresh start for toiletries firm Ness

A fresh start for toiletries firm Ness
The Herald Scotland, by Greig Cameron

THE assets of toiletries manufacturer Ness Soaps have been bought from liquidation by the Calman Trust.

Five members of staff lost their jobs when Ness – a social enterprise, which provided training for people with learning difficulties and mental health problems – ran out of money amid difficult trading conditions and called in liquidators from RSM Tenon earlier this month.

Now Calman has had its bid to take on Ness accepted and hopes to use its experience of running the Cafe Artysans social enterprise – which is next door to the Ness site in Inverness – to continue providing opportunities for vulnerable young people. Isobel Grigor, chief executive of Calman, said: "We will try to rebuild the [Ness Soaps] business and in the long run we would like to re-hire the people who lost their jobs.

"We have seen the order book and our sense is this is a brand, which within the Highland area and further south, is very popular.

"So initially we will be rebuilding relationships with customers who have been in touch to say they would like to order the product again."

Many of Ness’s customers are in the hospitality and tourism markets while it also sells to independent retailers.

In the longer term it is hoped to widen the number of outlets at home, abroad and online, which sell handmade Ness products such as soap, handwash and moisturising lotion.

Ms Grigor said: "Artysans already have international customers so we would be looking to use our international sales network for the Ness Soaps products.

"I would anticipate we would be approaching some of the larger retail outlets [in the UK].

"The quality of the Ness Soaps product would sit happily in somewhere like John Lewis."

Iain Fraser, of RSM Tenon, said "We are delighted the future of this important social enterprise has been secured by Calman and wish them success."

Calman’s business development manager Scott Murray, added: "We’re confident this is a good time to build the business as people are more conscious of how they spend their money.

"Customers buy Ness Soap products because they appreciate their high quality as well as the fact they’re making a difference by trading with a business which supports young people in our community.

"From our work at neighbouring Cafe Artysans, we see how much young people benefit from learning the skills for work as the staff team in a real business, and this will enable us to do more."

Calman, which has offices in Inverness and Alness, was set up in 1998 to combat homelessness but has evolved into providing support and training for young people who leave home.

In the last year it worked with 400 youngsters.