Nicole Gibson’s husband was frustrated that he could not wash his hands in the laundry due to the sink because it always occupied with clothes soaking. At the time she lived on acreage in Queensland with water restrictions, reduced dam levels and with a grey water recycling system.
Nicole was told by her husband to stop wasting water in the laundry sink and make it more user friendly for him to wash his hands while she was soaking clothes. Nicole accepted the challenge and designed a water saving laundry soaking system, which she launched through setting up her company Soka Australia.
Determined to design an innovative concept that allowed multiple items to be separately soaked in different solutions, Nicole also wanted to design a product that could be the solution to many other household problems, reducing the need for impulse purchases contributing to household clutter.
“When you live in a drought-stricken country, every drop counts.”
Her concept was simple – increase the usability and functionality of the laundry sink whilst saving water, detergent, space, time, money and sanity, whilst allowing access to the drain and the tap for rinsing. She determined that her innovation should solve the most common laundry complaints of mums, namely:
- Having a wasted laundry sink space.
- Dripping water to the machine after soaking.
- Using too much water in the sink for one item.
- Using too much laundry solution.
- Not being able to recycle that water easily.
- Not being able to rinse things when an item is soaking in the sink.
- Having a backlog of different stained items waiting for soaking.
- Reducing skin contact with dirty water.
- Eliminating the risk of children drowning.
The outcome of Nicole’s efforts is the Soka Tub, which is made up of one large main tub and three removable, smaller compartments.
“This allows you to separately soak three different items in three different laundry solutions, making multitasking easier in the laundry,” Nicole explains.
The Soka Tub is ergonomically designed to lift lighter loads and once individual compartments are lifted out, the draining lids reduce skin contact with waste water. The draining lids also double up as an effective mixing tool during the soaking process. The main tub can also be used for larger items likewise the lid is also the perfect size for spot cleaning.
Every drop helps
The Soka Tub is ergonomically designed to save water by having smaller compartments for soaking and handwashing.
“By using less water means you need less laundry solution,” Nicole says. “If you use the internal litre measurement indicators it will also encourage a more accurate water to detergent ratio conducive for cleaning and stain removal. Team this up with earth friendly and biodegradable laundry solutions it then allows that wastewater to be recycled safely in the garden.”
By making this sustainable switch, the Soka Tub can save between four and nine litres of water in the laundering of a basic man’s shirt.
“This may not sound like a lot, but when you live in a drought-stricken country, every drop counts,” Nicole opines. “If the average Australian family soaked one item once a week, and there are 6.7 million families of two or more people, that’s between 23 – 60 million litres of potential water saving per week. Incredible to think how such a small contribution can have a significant impact on our environment and subsequently our dam levels.”
Adaptability brings greater reward
The Soka Tub is also BPA free, increasing the versatility of its applications. With a focus on a circular economy, the Soka Tub finds can solve other problems around the house.
“One product with infinite uses is a must have when space is a premium,” Nicole says. “When storage space in most homes, apartments, caravans and boats is limited, it is great to have a stylish, practical and versatile homeware that meets the needs of all ages and generations.”
With a detailed ethical business plan incorporating sustainability development goals, it is pivotal for Nicole that that the Soka Tub’s packaging is made out of recycled cardboard boxes including biodegradable and newly-implemented paper packing tape.
While so many businesses struggle with the impact of COVID, the increased focus on the health and hygiene of the family home has seen Nicole record significant growth, with record sales and engagement since the pandemic took hold.
“The ability to separately wash personal protective equipment without the fear of cross contamination is of the utmost importance during pandemic times,” Nicole says.
As the product is made in Brisbane Nicole hasn’t experienced the supply-chain issues that so many manufacturers have had to battle.
“This alone has been a blessing to not only be able to meet the needs of my customers and suppliers, but more importantly continue to support local businesses in my community along the way through difficult economic times,” Nicole says. “I always say it takes the support of a village to stay in business, and as a country we have certainly witnessed Australians supporting local and buying Australian made.”
Paying it forward
Nicole says that her business is all about encouraging everyone to save water and educating them about how to create an ecofriendly laundry space. She is also determined to support those living in water restricted areas with strategies to save water around the house. In order to fulfill this mission, Soka Australia launched the City to Bush campaign late in 2019.
“The campaign supports farming families affected by drought conditions who already know how to make every drop go further,” Nicole says. “Australians can pay it forward by gifting a Soka Tub, distributed via community support network groups around the country, to help drought-affected families save water in the laundry and more, importantly, to show that we care.”
This story first appeared in issue 30 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine