Nia Hafsia wanted a change
Nia Hafsia left Wales in 2005 to start a business in Bergerac making soap and a range of natural cosmetics, including avocado body butter, fruit serum, beetroot & celery soap. The opera singer and piano teacher wanted to do something different…
Nia runs Passion Savon with her husband, growing some of the fruit and vegetables they use to make their products in the back garden. Opting for the traditional cold process method of soap making (which does not involve heating the ingredients) helps keep the precious, beneficial qualities of the oils intact says Nia.
She explains, “During this cold kettle method of soap making, vegetable glycerine is produced naturally during saponification, to enable us to offer the moisturising qualities of naturally produced glycerine soap. We use organic ingredients whenever possible and blend top grade essential oils.
“Not only do these blends smell gorgeous but they give various positive benefits to the skin. Our olive oil soaps are further enhanced with fresh fruits and vegetables. The addition of herbs, flowers, spices and plant pigments produce interesting textures and designs.”
The workshop is currently housed in a barn at their home in the Dordogne but the couple are soon to move to a new house with room for the family – they have four grown-up children who like to come and visit – and larger premises for their expanding business.
But that’s not all. “This new property will enable us to develop the business” reveals Nia, adding “We will have the workshop, a shop, a café and our home in one location. There will be around 300 natural products for sale and an opportunity to explore our atelier.”
An organic skincare range (Kariad) is nearly finished and a range of natural mineral make-up is in the pipeline she tells us, “Being able to say ‘Made in France’ means a lot. French beauty products are respected and coveted worldwide”.
Of course, it’s not all been easy. One of the most challenging aspects has been dealing with the administrative side of the business. Nia also admits that the cost of moving from the UK to France was huge, “I was not only moving myself, I was moving the business, with all the raw materials.”
Lucky then that she was able to save some money by opting to buy in France, “There are so many fabulous properties in this area. You are spoiled for choice and the prices are much cheaper than in the UK. You get more for you money here, that’s for sure”.
Marrying a Frenchman must have helped her integrate as well. Nia says “Without him, I think it would have been much more difficult. I see many individuals and couples seeking out other expats rather than finding friends that are French. Having a mix of both is the best compromise”.
In getting to grips with the language, Nia had another trick up her sleeve… “I found that because Welsh is my first language, it was easier to learn French. The two have similarities; they have a feminine and a masculine for example. I also think my musical ear helped me to ‘hear’ words and remember them.”