In September 2021, a group of six students from Ballakermeen High School took part in the Junior Achievement Company Programme. Named after Atlas, the Ancient Greek Titan, the group went on to develop an environmentally-friendly soap called H2sOap.
After months of planning, production, problem-solving, marketing, and selling, Atlas was chosen as the island’s ‘Student Company of the Year’ and will travel to Estponia in July 2022 to take part in the European finals of the competition.
Creating a winning product that reduces unnecessary waste
The Junior Achievement Company Programme, aims to provide students an understanding of how business works and how employment is created. Students are given a free rein on the types of products they choose to create and promote.
So why did Atlas decide to focus on an environmentally-friendly soap?
Atlas wanted to create a hand sanitation solution that can also reduced plastic and carbon emissions. Their mission is to “make a quality product that reduces the amount of CO2 and plastic pollution by eliminating unnecessary waste.” (Atlas Business Plan).
The group came up with the idea of an effervescent soap tablet that users pop into water to create a foaming hand soap. The key benefit is that they remove single-use plastic packaging. Instead, customers purchase a reusable glass soap dispenser alongside their first reusable cotton bag containing five soap tablets.
Moreover, to continue their pursuit of antibacterial properties, Atlas carried out agar jelly experiments using swabs of bacteria taken from hands before and after washing with H2sOap. These experiments proved that the product contained antibacterial properties that didn’t diminish over time.
To make the product appealing, the soap is available in a range of scents: Orange, Citrus, Woodland, and Refresh.
By working together with the Manx Blind Welfare Society, each box of soap is labelled in braille with tactile hazard triangles (safety message), to ensure that the product is accessible to all.
Although the target groups for H2sOap are people in their 20s and 30s, Atlas hopes that by focusing on an environmentally friendly product has made their peers at school more aware of the pollution issues caused by plastic.
Overcoming challenges while developing H2sOap
Despite four of the team being knowledgeable in chemistry, it took weeks of experimentation in the lab to finalise the product and get it to a stage where they could produce it more easily at home.
Despite their dedication, there were other challenges.
Josh explains, “With our product being water-soluble, we needed a foaming pump to make it work. A normal soap pump, won’t work. The solution will come out watery and not foamy.”
“I had to contact over 40 companies before we found a glass bottle that would work with our soap tablets.”
However, the only glass bottle supplier they found is based in China, which conflicts with their intent to reduce the carbon footprint.
After deliberation, Atlas were left with little choice but to buy the bottles from this supplier and set about ensuring the rest of the product was kept as close to home as possible, sourcing materials and packaging from the island and the UK.
From chemistry to business – Atlas’ journey through marketing and sales
Atlas are keen to give thanks to their sponsors, Tours IOM, Magpie Digital, and Much Better, which are the local businesses that provided valuable marketing advice to them. They also helped with funding the website and assisting with the product research and development.
Atlas introduced a reward scheme “Reduce, Refill, Reward”, where customers are encouraged to reuse their cotton bag. Every time they refill using Atlas’ cotton bag, they will receive an extra soap tablet.
Their products were completely sold out by the time they reached the Island’s finals of the competition.
What does the future hold for Atlas and H2sOap?
Atlas are looking forward to the Junior Achievement European finals and are optimistic that they’re in with a great chance of winning. With regard to the future of their product, it’s a little uncertain.
“Right now, we aren’t too sure what will happen with the company once the finals are over. The team will split up as we head to university. So our current focus is continuing to develop the product and selling as many as we can before the finals in July.”
The team at Net Zero Isle of Man wishes Atlas all the very best with their product and presentation in Estonia and hopes that this isn’t the end of their innovative journey.