THE owners of a new business are looking to clean up after opening their first shop.

Ervin Hoti and partner Laura Hughes started the Oxford Soap Company last year and after successful trading in local markets, the business which specialises in hand-made soaps and cosmetics has set up in New Inn Hall Street, Oxford.

And customers can be reassured they are buying local, as all the products are made daily by Mr Hoti at the company workshop in nearby Upper Fisher Row.

Mr Hoti said: “We started out making items for ourselves as Oxford water is very hard and it is difficult to find the right soap or skin care.

“Then we tried it on our friends and family and started producing wedding favours and running courses for children in the workshop.

“After that we had a stall at the Oxford Castle Christmas market and everybody loved it because the products are local and smell really nice!”

Now the duo are working flat out to ensure supply keeps up with demand.

Mr Hoti said: “I work in the shop from 9am-6pm and then I go across to the workshop and work until 9pm to replace what I have sold.” Because only small batches are produced at one time, Mr Hoti says he can take personal orders for customers wanting something special for a wedding or event.

Mr Hoti managed to avoid the burden of paying huge rents for a shop in Oxford by sharing premises with the Strand hair salon.

He said: “It was a great opportunity as it has been difficult to get help with starting the business.

“The only way to do it has been through relationships with other traders. I have been very lucky.”

Despite his heavy workload, Mr Hoti is also looking to start supplying local hotels and bed and breakfasts with soaps and cosmetics as well as running workshops.

Originally from Albania, the 28-year-old former Oxford School pupil is carrying on a family tradition of soap-making and has expanded his knowledge by travelling around Europe to gain experience.

He added: “It is not just about running a business – I want to do something the whole community can be proud of.”