Business Q&A: Victoria Clark, French Soaps
Last updated Mar 13, 2024
Photo of Victoria Clark, owner of French Soaps in Harrogate.

This is the latest in a regular series of Business Q&A features published weekly.  

This week, we spoke to Victoria Clark, owner of French Soaps in Harrogate.

Tell us in fewer than 30 words what your firm does. 

We’re the largest importer of French soap in the UK. Our products are all natural, traditional soaps made in the Provence and Marseilles region of France.

What does it require to be successful in business? 

For me there are two things. Firstly, people. You’ve got to have the right people around and you have to look after them, and that starts from the top. ‘People’ also includes customers. People should always come first.

Secondly, having a focus: knowing what you’re good at and sticking with it. Own your space. Know it, love it, and be brilliant at it.

What drives you to do what you do every day? 

The customers and the product. I love my products and I love surprising people, delighting people, and having happy customers.

What has been the toughest issue your company has had to deal with over the last 12 months? 

Supplies. We work with some big savonneries in France and also with some small, family savonneries. Last summer, it was particularly hot and a lot of our products are handmade, and there were a lot of problems in terms of being able to make product in sufficient quantity when it was cool enough.

Which other local firms do you most admire and why? 

To have a successful business, you need to have a focus, stick at it and be brilliant at it, so for me, that has to be Bettys. They do what they do really well, and they haven’t tried to go out of area or do anything that they can’t manage and control.

Who are the most inspiring local leaders? 

Any business needs to evolve, and the best often do that through a constant series of small changes and tweaks that keep things fresh and alive.

For me, the people that do that really well are the Mackanesses at Rudding Park. They’re always looking at what they’re doing and moving it on.

What could be done locally to boost business? 

Improve parking to make it easier for people to use the facilities in the town. We need 10-15 minutes of free parking in the centre of town, not big pedestrian zones or hour-long car-parking charges everywhere.

If you live in an outlying area like I do, you just want to go in, do what you need to do, and leave. I don’t want to be parking and getting a bus – I’m not there for a day-trip, I’m there to use the facilities.

Best and worst things about running a business from Harrogate? 

I love working in Harrogate and running a business here. Our customers love the fact we’re in Harrogate, and there’s a perception that it’s a good brand fit: a nice product in a nice location.

The worst thing is that prime retail locations are so expensive! My company needs a prime retail location because that’s what the brand needs, and I’d need the footfall to make it viable, but the cost of doing that doesn’t work for me with the size of business I have at the moment.

Photo of packets of French soap flakes on a shelf at Harrogate business French Soaps.

What are your business plans for the future? 

We’re going to start doing some shows, so this year you’ll find us at the Harrogate Flower Show in April.

We’re also working with some other brands and there are various new launches coming along, although I can’t say too much about that at the moment. We’ve always got something happening

What do you like to do on your time off? 

I play golf, love pilates and yoga, and enjoy dog agility and scent work – so I’m busy most of the time.

Best place to eat and drink locally?

In Harrogate, Konak Meze, the Turkish restaurant on Mount Parade.

Slightly out of town, our favourite place is Harewood: Muddy Boots Café and The Hovels. But I’m always open to trying new places.

  • If you know someone in business in the Harrogate district and you’d like to suggest them for this feature, drop us a line at [email protected]. 

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