A FORMER yoga teacher and trained beauty therapist is pursuing her passion for producing hand crafted, sustainably sourced aromatherapy products from her home in Pontypool after receiving a Start Up Loan from the British Business Bank.

Summer Birbeck, 25, owner of Lila Alchemy, is creating a range of wellbeing products for both body and home, made from 100 per cent natural ingredients and essential oils, including English grown lavender oil, eucalyptus extract and coconut wax.

Her products include body oils, pillow sprays, room mists, candles, anti-stress sprays for dogs and her best-seller, poo drops, which are intended to be dropped into the toilet bowl post-flush to neutralise odours.

Born in Singapore, Summer spent most of her life growing up in Australia where she trained as a yoga teacher. She moved to Buckinghamshire with her family while pregnant with her now five year old son before moving to Wales.

The idea to start making her own products came when Summer realised the benefits that essential oils could have on the body, both physically and mentally, through her holistic approach to her yoga practice.

After studying beauty therapy, Summer’s interest deepened further, and she began doing her own research into how alternative, natural products could be sustainably made.

Summer said: “Going to beauty school gave me that extra level of insight into skin care. I began questioning the use of ingredients and trying to work out more natural alternatives that could be used.

"Then when I became pregnant, I felt it was even more important to pay attention to the products I was using both on myself, and in the home. For example, I hadn’t realised that most candles contain paraffin wax which actually isn’t great for children or animals. It furthered my desire to be able to access, or make, my own products.”

Summer applied for a Start Up Loan to help develop her business further, and in June she received £6,000 of funding from the British Business Bank.

Now, Summer’s business is flourishing and she’s making her products in bulk to be able to sell both online and in independent shops.

She is currently displaying and selling her items in two shops in England but hopes to be able to display her Welsh-made products here in Wales in the near future, as well as continuing with the already established online shop.

Summer said: “The loan I received from the Start Up Loans programme allowed me to purchase all the ingredients, oils, bottles and jars I needed to be able to make enough products to last for a few months’ worth of stock, allowing me to make my products in bulk before selling on.”

She said: “I wasn’t really sure where to start with applying for a loan, so I looked on a few websites but the British Business Bank website was just so easy and user friendly, that I ended up applying on the spot and I was contacted really quickly by someone who was there for me every step of the process. Three weeks later my loan was approved, it couldn’t have been easier.”

She hopes to develop her line of products for dogs, called the K9 range, and is exploring the creation of nose and paw balm to go alongside the lavender water she already makes.

The British Business Bank Start Up Loans programme provides government backed loans of up to £25,000 per individual, up to a maximum of £100,000 per business, facilitated through delivery partners in Wales like Business in Focus based in Bridgend. In addition to finance, successful applicants receive free mentoring, access to resources and advice.

Jess Phillips, senior manager for Wales at the British Business Bank, said: “Summer is a great example of a young, female business owner who is pursuing her passion and using her specialist knowledge to build a successful business.

"Lila Alchemy brings a viable and sustainable option to the wellness market, committing to only earth-derived and vegan ingredients. We wish Summer all the best for the future and we’re looking forward to watching Lila Alchemy grow and flourish.”