Rural entrepreneur brushes up on ‘eco-friendly’ products for male grooming

From Knockbawn, Spink, Co. Laois, to an olive grove in Alentejo, Portugal, rural entrepreneur Sile Headen has gone the distance to develop her Machado men’s grooming range.

Having worked with cosmetic and natural product start-ups over the last decade, she devised her own collection just over 14 months ago.

“I studied natural science with the open university and worked in a microbiology laboratory before undertaking natural skincare courses in Forres, Scotland,” Sile said.

She began investigating men’s grooming products after attending a trade fair in Hamburg three years ago.

“I noticed that 95% of the products at the beauty and wellbeing fair and on the market in general were female focused and had much higher quality ingredients than the few male products which were on the market.”

Organic ingredients

The Laois woman who was raised in a rural family-run pub in Spink and still works there two nights a week, helping out her mother, identified an opportunity and began research. She worked on the production of natural formulations for men’s products using organic ingredients such as beeswax; sweet almond oil; jojoba oil; and organic olive oil.

Sile’s partner Joao is a pharmacist and acts as the creative director within the business.

“Joao is from Portugal and his family have an olive grove in Alentejo which led us to using organic extra virgin olive oil from the area as one of the main constituents in the products. The olive oil from Alentejo is renowned internationally for its high quality,” she said.

“Myrtle essential oil which comes from the myrtle plant is the signature scent we use in the products. Myrtle grows wild on the bogs in Ireland and Scotland and offers many properties including a clean, refreshing woody scent,” said Sile. “We have just begun using Irish rapeseed oil in our luxury myrtle shaving soap.”

Hand-blended

The Machado range focuses on hand-blended, environmentally friendly products including beard oil; beard balm; shaving soap; beard care kits; gift sets; and accessories for male grooming.

“They are free from sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and parabens. The product contains no artificial fragrances or colours. Packaging is minimal, recyclable and where appropriate is sought from recycled and ethical sources.”

Machado men’s grooming recently won an award for being innovative from Laois Enterprise Office. Sile received a micro export grant to attend the Barber UK trade show for product research and regularly contacts Laois Local Enterprise Office with arising issues the business faces. She has also availed of its mentoring sessions.

“I’m looking to export into the Middle East and the US markets so having access to up-to-date market research from various enterprise offices is important,” she said.

Another positive development for the venture is being selected to take part in eBay’s national retail expansion programme, being run in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland and the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland.

Sile and Joao are in the process of developing a sustainability plan which will see lots of bee-friendly hanging baskets and pots at their laboratory in Portlaoise and 0.5ac of native wildflowers being sown outside the office at Knockbawn, Spink.

Luckily we are already surrounded by mainly organic farmers in Knockbawn so the wildflowers will be a welcome edition in the current pollination initiatives in the locality.

“As a female entrepreneur in rural Ireland it can be a lonely and difficult road at times. To combat this, I have applied for the ACORNS programme which supports women in business in rural Ireland.

“My application was successful and I have nearly completed the ACORNS 4 programme, which I highly encourage all women in rural enterprises to apply for,” she said.

Sile is particularly pleased with the added quality the Irish rapeseed oil gives to the luxury shaving soap which comes in a 100g tin. “It gives a rich creamy lather and contains skin conditioners for the very best shaving experience,” she said.

“We are getting a really good reaction from all our customers. They love the softening and hydrating effect the oil and balm has on their beards. We don’t have a full skincare range as of yet but it is something we will look into further down the road.

“I have noticed a change in attitudes towards men’s grooming. Men want the same quality products as women. It’s now more acceptable for men to discuss products openly with confidence.”

The range can be bought direct online at: www.machado.ie; or through stockists in Ireland, Portugal and Spain, listed on the website.

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