Innovative therapeutic soaps and creams developed by a Derry-based medical doctor and using water from a well at Dunfanaghy in Donegal are proving increasingly popular with customers from the British Isles to Australia and North America.
Marble Hill Naturally, based at Northside Enterprise Centre, has launched a range of handmade products with help from Invest Northern Ireland, which is assisting the entrepreneurial business with finance and marketing guidance.
Dr Maria McGee, who formed the company in 2005 to carry forward a longstanding hobby making soap, has created a range of products using natural plant oils, such as neem oil, tea tree oil, pharmaceutical grade shea butter, Jojoba, vitamin E and other organic ingredients.
The products are designed to help people with skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis, eczema, fungal nail infections, cracked heels and rashes. They can also be used to treat foot problems, including athlete’s foot and conditions affecting the elderly and diabetics.
The products are made without chemical additives, preservatives and artificial fragrances. Water is drawn from a well, long known for its purity, on the McGee family farm at Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal.
Dr McGee says: “The products are based on my own experience over many years in making natural soaps and creams for use by family and friends. The ingredients are all drawn from natural sources such as the neem tree which is used widely in India to treat a host of conditions and butter made from crushed shea tree nuts used throughout West Africa as a very effective moisturiser.
“We are now the only company in Ireland manufacturing pharmaceutical grade shea butter products that we have developed over two years’ of extensive research. My scientific background also helped me substantially in pinpointing, blending the ingredients and testing the products. We’ve also developed a specific product in response to a demand from local doctors and nurses for a soap to counter rashes from the requirement to wash hands regularly to prevent MRSA,” she adds.
Invest NI’s support is described by Dr McGee as invaluable. “The Start a Business Programme, for example, was excellent. It was very well presented and gave me the confidence to push ahead with my business idea. I also found the programme very economical in the time required. This meant that I gained a lot of essential knowledge about running a business over a short period of time,” Dr McGee says.
In addition to marketing the products through some independent pharmacies in the Derry area, Marble Hill Naturally has found the internet an ideal mechanism to reach a much wider audience. Orders, including much repeat business, have been placed electronically from customers worldwide through its website (www.marblehillnaturally.com).
“While we’ve taken part in niche market exhibitions we anticipate that our business will increasingly come through our website,” she says.
Mary Gormley, Invest NI’s North West Local Office Manager, says: “Marble Hill Naturally is beginning to benefit from the growing demand for products that use organic ingredients from natural sources in Ireland and worldwide.
“It’s an enterprising small business that is now harnessing the potential of the internet to develop an international market for its innovative range of products. Our support is geared to help the company to develop capability in key areas such as marketing, IT and financial management,” she adds.