Meet The Maker
All the products in the Truly Artisan collections are all handmade by the founder of the business, Mark John Geary.
Mark is someone that wants to do good, his personal mantra is "be good, do good and make good things happen". A mantra that is the founding principles of Truly Artisan.
At sixteen, Mark had a dream, to make natural skin and hair care products that were cruelty free. The year was 1991 is leaving school after his GCSE's, he was a Saturday/holiday at The Body Shop where he fell in love with the products and the ethos of the business. This was the time of acid rain, deforestation, Fairtrade and of course cruelty free. These headlines inspired Mark and he campaigned at school and at college on environmental matters. Mark would return to activism years later, this time for LGBT+ equality, a matter still very close to his heart.
So, back to 1991. Mark went off to college to study business (which he hated) and left college in 1993 with dreams of making products but obviously no one would take him seriously (and why would they). From here Mark set off on a career journey which would see him take roles such as restaurant manager and nightclub manager. In 2000, he decided to quit management to follow his other dream and he became a DJ, a career choice that took many by surprise, Over the next seventeen years, Mark built a successful career working in many high-profile venues and building a stellar reputation. During this time, with the rise of the internet and the birth of social media, Mark studied hard and developed a keen interest in online marketing, website development and social media management. Also, during this time, he campaigned for LGBT+ rights and helped organise Warrington Pride and was a founding member of Bolton Pride. He also became and ambassador for the George House Trust, an honour that he is still very proud of.
In 2008, Mark met Andrew and after moving in with each other later that year, things became serious, and the life of a DJ didn’t really fit into their vision of a long-term relationship. By the time Mark was 40, he was falling out of love with the late nights and the changes in the nightclub scene and he decided start taking a step back from DJing and other commitments. But what would he do next?
The intention was to launch a business that was made up of handmade soap and skincare, but this wasn't going to be easy or quick as there was a lot to learn and the testing process is not cheap. So, whilst freelancing as a social media manager for some of the busiest night-time venues in Manchester, Mark started to study the art of soap making and creating products for friends and family to try. He also wanted to test the market and get hands on stall experience so he set up Suds U Like, a retail business which would sell soap, shampoo bars, bath bombs and bath salts. On a very cold day in February, Mark debuted his stall at the Makers Market in Whitchurch and proceeded to attend markets until the end of the Summer. The intention was to always make products, reselling products that were made elsewhere was great for experience, but it wasn't the dream. Mark shelved Suds U Like and continued to study, research, and try out new products as he worked towards his goal of launching his own collection of artisan skincare products.
On a flight back from Australia in 2019, Mark started drawing up the blueprint for the new business would look like. Bee Happy Hive would be a collection of artisan soap, skincare, bath, and shower products plus home fragrance. Mark pulled together all his notes and journals and started to curate the first collection. As the new year started, the first two products got signed off and Mark started to build the social media platforms and website. The night before the big launch, Mark's younger brother Philip, rang to say that he just didn't get the Bee Happy Hive vibe and he thought that the "bee thing" had been "done to death"... not the most comforting of words but was he right?
Bee Happy Hive went live on March 17th 2020, the same day and Boris Johnson declared the UK was to go into lockdown. Despite the national lockdown, the launch was a great success but as the pandemic went on it was clear that markets were not going to happen for some time and Mark had to look for an alternative way of selling. In June 2020, Mark launched a Facebook group, M33 Artisans, with the clear intention of creating an online community of local makers and people who wanted to shop local and support small business. The group took a while to take off but by the Autumn it was a hive of activity with makers, bakers, artists, and creatives all showcasing their work and connecting with local shoppers. The group has been key to the success of Bee Happy Hive, it has established Bee Happy Hive as a local business with free local delivery and great customer service.
"I honestly thought that if we could create a community of about 500 members then it would be a success. It could possibly help my business and others get through the pandemic. Today we are almost at 4000 members, and we are on the verge of launching a podcast, a monthly maker social and hopefully a monthly shopping event. I am so grateful for the support that the local community has given to M33 Artisans, it has been a lifeline for so many of our local makers" - Mark,John Geary, talking about M33 Artisans
In May 2021, with lockdown restrictions lifting, Mark was able to get on the road with market stalls in North Yorkshire and more locally in Stretford, Preston and Levenshulme. The markets were a great success and they have been vital in building a strong customer base. However, something wasn't right. Customers loved the products, but they didn't understand the company name. A lot of visitors to the stalls thought that all the products were made with honey and beeswax, or they thought that Mark was a beekeeper and had "hives of happy bees". After the Royal Lancashire Show, it was clear that the name just wasn't landing with customers and to create a positive shopping experience and the brand identity had to be redefined (do you remember Philip's comment? Maybe he was right after all!!!). So, after much brainstorming (conversations over wine) it was decided to rebrand to Truly Artisan.
"Truly Artisan, it does exactly what it says on the tin. Artisan skincare, handmade in small batches using bespoke recipes and the finest natural ingredients. From our hands to yours." - Mark John Geary talking about the rebrand to Truly Artisan.
"Truly Artisan is the business that I dreamt of at sixteen years age, long before I knew about single-use plastics, climate change and plant-based. The business is the highest form of authenticity, it truly reflects who I am as a person and as a maker. I truly believe that it is a modern business, a business with its customers and the planet at its core. As a business, we are always evolving, we are only just getting started and if anything, Truly Artisan is a tribute to the power of dreams. Dreams do come true." - Mark John Geary, founder of Truly Artisan.
To find out more about Truly Artisan, click here.