Analyst turned alchemist creates ‘Alkamy’
Kay Armatage has developed a collection of organic beauty products and fragrances under the Alkamy name which are being sold in retailers across the region.
Her handmade lip balms, body lotions, hand creams and linen mists as well as the soy candles are proving popular since she launched her first business less than a year ago and her aim is to expand the products on offer even further.
Talking passionately about the venture at her home in Whitley Bay, her relaxing lifestyle brand is a far cry from her former life as an IT analyst for a major City bank in London.
She knew it was time to step off the corporate ladder when, engrossed in the latest project, she found herself alone in a pitch-black office at midnight with no one for company but the security guard downstairs.
“I thought “this is ridiculous, I’m not saving lives or making a massive difference to the world”. I was very well looked after but I was just part of a money-making machine,” she said. When her son, now 12, was born she decided to escape the rat race and moved back to her native North-East with her family nine years ago.
She was a full-time mum to Jamie and his sister, Isobel, eight, until last year she decided it was time to set up her own business.
“Being a parent is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, I’ve always wanted to work for myself and my husband, Paul, would say “just go for it”.”
“I went for an admin job at Newcastle University and, although I didn’t get it, it having an interview and talking passionately got me really fired up.”
“It made me think about what I love – fashion, film and skincare. I have very sensitive skin as do my children so I would stay up until 4am researching ingredients, formulations and the safety assessment process but I realised the skincare range I wanted to produce was going to cost thousands.
“My daughter was obsessed with lip balms, and they weren’t natural ones so I decided to start with those and then think about what would sit nicely alongside them which was how I came up with candles,” she explained.
“I use them every day to scent the house and, rather than the paraffin ones, which are available everywhere I was determined to make my ones that were completely natural with no synthetic colourings. Because we use only pure soy wax, we add a greater quantity of fine quality fragrance oils to ensure a deeper and longer-lasting impact in a living space.”
Through online research and help from suppliers, she created her first batch of fragranced candles and then dished them out to family and friends to test – the response was overwhelmingly positive.
When Kay’s husband suggested she sell them at nearby Tynemouth market she was nervous but excited. “I was scared of failure and looking a fool, I was literally terrified like the first day of school,” she recalled. She took along a batch of about 40 candles and sold more than three-quarters of her stock, customers liked the fact her stock was handmade in Whitley Bay and were keen to support her fledgling business.
“Being paid in physical cash felt amazing but the next day in bed I had the closest thing I’ve ever had to a panic attack as I worried “What if they don’t light properly? What if the candles burn someone’s house down? I had all these racing thoughts until I got to the point where I had to tell myself “you’re being ridiculous”.
Upcoming Alkamy fairs:
- Sat Oct 10, Acomb WI Fair, Acomb Village Hall, nr Hexham
- Sat Oct 31, Nissan Winter Fair, Sunderland
- Sun Nov 15, NEVFEST Vegan Fair, Stadium of Light Sunderland
- Sat Nov 21, Vallum Christmas Fair, Vallum Farm East Wallhouses
- Mon Nov 23, Ladies Evening in aid of The Toby Henderson Trust, Gosforth Park Marriot Hotel Newcastle
- Sat and Sun Dec 5 and 6, Woodhorn Christmas Fair, Woodhorn Museum Ashington
- Sat and Sun Dec 12 and 13, North Shields Victorian Christmas Market North Shields
Mouth-watering candle scents include white pomegranate, fig and orange, Persian almond and a limited edition pink champagne and pomelo. Floral water linen, pillow and room sprays come in Rose Water, Orange Blossom Water and English lavender and the organic hand and body cream made with sunflower oil, cocoa butter, shea butter and aloe vera are available in lemon and coconut or mango and passion fruit.
Kay’s Alkamy products are now sold in five shops across the North-East, she has a host of Christmas gift fairs lined up and she is dreaming about expanding her best-selling black pomegranate fragrance into an organic shower gel and body oil collection which would continue to be free of parabens and Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) which can cause skin irritations.
“If my son has a flare up of eczema he now slathers on my body cream base and it goes away. It’s a wonderful to know that I’ve created something full of goodness that can help calm any outbreaks ” she explained.
“The business has grown quickly, it’s just taken off from being a little idea that has literally, grown organically, and I have lots of thoughts on how it could be grown further,” she added.
“I want to show my children that you can do anything you want but you have to work hard and, if you fail, you just pick yourself up and try again. I want to show them that as important as doing well at school is, learning is more than just passing exams.”
The organic Alkamy range can also be ordered direct from www.alkamy.co.uk