Louisa Mundy's divinely fragranced handmade soaps produced in her Bridport kitchen are proving a real success. Joanna Davis finds out more.

While baker Louisa Mundy gets creative in the kitchen for work most mornings, at home she's creative in a different way.

Her products smell just as good as anything she bakes - but they're certainly not edible.

For Louisa has set up her own successful soap company, West Dorset Soap.

She established the business around a year ago, based in her Bridport home, and has created some unique soap varieties such as gin and tonic, charcoal and mint and lemongrass and geranium.

Louisa, who moved to Dorset from Essex five years ago, makes the soaps after finishing work for the day, which involves a 6am start at the Hive Beach Café bakery at Manor Farm.

She said the idea to start making soap came about after thinking about her Christmas presents.

"I've always quite liked the solid soaps rather than the liquid ones. I would always get bars of soap for Christmas, they've always made a good present and one day I thought I would have a go at making them," she said.

"I work in a bakery full-time and it's sort of similar to baking. There's a few of us at the bakery who are quite creative and a couple of the girls are also making things and selling them. It's nice to be surrounded by creative people because it gives you quite a positive spirit.

"You can be quite creative with it. When I gave it a go I ended up making more than I could use so I started giving them to my family and friends."

Louisa discovered how to make soap through following accounts on photo sharing app Instagram.

She said: "I'm really pleased with what I've achieved, my recipe doesn't use any palm oil or animal fat and I'm really pleased with how the soaps have turned out.

"The only thing I found is that in America there don't seem to be as many regulations but over here you have to have all the soaps approved. That was really the only stumbling block I had. It's quite expensive to have them certified."

It's hard to juggle her small business and daily life, but Louisa manages.

After she finishes work, she begins making soap in her kitchen - 'it does tend to take over the kitchen', she admits.

She adds: "I try to do a little bit of soap making every day. It's a bit of a juggling act with the job.

"My partner James has been extremely supportive and a great guinea pig for all new soaps and of me taking over the kitchen too!"

Louisa said a lot of patience is required when it comes to soap making.

She said: "I make a loaf of soap at a time. It takes two hours to make the loaf and then you have to let it set. They are created using a cold process recipe; rich oils and nourishing butters are combined, natural colourants, inclusions, and essentials oils are added to create a luxurious nourishing bar of soap. Each bar of soap is then left to cure for sometimes up to four weeks before they are ready for use.

"My brother made me a soap cutter which is a bit like a cheese cutter. I've discovered that four weeks is the best amount of time to leave it to stop it from going mushy."

Louisa does her best to use local ingredients - she uses essential oils from Natural Life in South Street, Bridport and uses a stamp from Dorset-based the English Stamp Company to imprint her logo. She's particularly proud of the compostable wrapping she uses for the soaps.

She said: "I really enjoy the process of it and I like it when people give me nice feedback about the soap."

One particular fan of Louisa's soaps is her grandmother, who likes to keep them in a drawer because of their fragrance.

Louisa said women seem to prefer the floral and citrusy smelling soaps, while the charcoal and mint variety is most popular with men.

Having sold the soaps locally at Christmas shows, Louisa said the gin and tonic variety proved most popular, over the festive period.

She is currently working to devise some lotion bars, shampoo bars and new varieties of soap.

"I'd also like to take it up a notch by expanding to do a soap subscription service," Louisa said. She added: "I'd like to look at selling them with facecloths and soap dishes in the future. "

*West Dorset Soap is on sale at the Hive Beach Cafe in Burton Bradstock and Collate Interiors, Trinity Square, Axminster. Louisa also sells it at the Bridport Artisan Market, which is held regularly at Bridport Arts Centre.