Clare Wilson was an early adopter of solid bar soaps and cleansers and the way they eliminated excess plastic and packaging but she was less of a fan of the way they turned soggy in the shower. Her solution? The Block Dock, a colourful, powder-coated aluminium wall-mounted holder for solid beauty bars and other bathroom necessities.
Made in Dunedin and sent out worldwide from Invercargill by Southland disAbility Enterprises, the Block Dock is designed to dry bars fast, so they last longer.
If you haven’t tried one of the new generations of concentrated solid body washes, shampoos and conditioners that save on plastic waste, or you found their use a bit messy, it’s well worth trying one alongside a Block Dock, that keeps them neat and easily accessible.
We spoke to Clare about her growing business and how to get the best from solid beauty bars and her Block Dock storage solution.
What gave you the idea to start Block Docks and how long have you been doing this?
I came back from living in Bangkok with a desire to adopt consumption habits that were more environmentally considerate. I had used shampoo bars in my travels and liked the hair-washing part, but disliked the mush that came with them.
I came home with a determination to start my own business and have sovereignty over my time. I knew I had a skill-set broad enough to cover to some degree all aspects of establishing and running a business. I had a list of criteria in my mind for what I thought would be more likely to succeed, including permission to consider ‘boring’ categories. I looked for a genuine problem that could be solved within a growing market. When that intersected with seeking out bars at home, I knew I was on to something. I’d identified my nut to crack! Piece by piece the idea came together, culminating in an actual a-ha moment one morning. It was like a kinetic jigsaw in my mind for a few months.
What makes block docks so useful?
They’re useful because they’re vertical soap dishes. I’ve designed them to drain bars quickly, combining logic and gravity. They dry bars fast because there is all side airflow – no side of the bar lies down on the job. Because they suction or nanotape to vertical surfaces, they outperform traditional storage which is often bulky and messy.
The Block Dock is a small, stylish, and super practical solution. It’s easy to fit several in a shower so everyone can use their own bars for every function.
How do you use solid bar products in your own life?
I use shampoo and conditioner bars, bar soap, face cleanser bars, solid deodorant, occasionally a solid body moisturiser and some solid face care – though I have struggled to find products to suit my skin. As a side note, watch this space, I’m working with my favourite maker this year to solve this!
My shower is a bit block-dock-and-bar-crazy because I’m always trying new bars made by many brands in consideration for adding to the range on my website or using in the various sample sets that I curate. These are small pieces of several bars that come with my rating system, designed as a starting point for people who are hesitant to make the switch. It can cost quite a sum to trial and error your way to a favoured bar and my sample sets exist to make this cheaper and easier for people to do. I see them as opening the gateway to bars.
What are some easy steps into bar use for someone that’s in the habit of bottles?
The easiest step is to think of the time you’ll save cleaning the bathroom when you switch from bottles to bars! There’s no bottle clutter, no spillage and no accumulated grime. It’s like a minimalist bathroom renovation without the price tag!
When you use a bar stored in Block Dock, the residue will go down the drain while you shower. Being wall-mountable you can locate it outside the water spray. The Block Dock just needs a regular clean with your finger while you shower and a complete dry off now and again and it will give years of service. That’s a LOT less bathroom cleaning.
Living in a Block Dock, bars last much longer so they save money as well as mess. Plus the obvious saving of plastic waste. If it’s not made, it can never become pollution. When we buy bars and not bottles we can stop plastic waste at source.
Actually using bars is a cinch – wet yourself in the shower, pick up the bar and rub it wherever it’s designed to be used. A swipe or two over your hair is enough. Pop the bar back in the dock and lather away! No faffing around with bottles.
You have thought about many parts of your business from NZ manufacture to working with disAbility Enterprises. Why is that so important to you?
I’ve long believed it matters where we spend our money. I like mine to go as far as possible and do more than one layer of good in the spending.
My gut wouldn’t let me do anything other than manufacture in New Zealand and I’m so lucky to have found my perfect partner in Dunedin – just a couple of hours north of the Block Dock’s birthplace of Riverton, Southland.
I’ve been working with Southland disAbility Enterprises from the early days of my business. They were in the local media because their funding was at risk from public decision-makers who were focused more on finance than humanity. It made me angry, and I decided I should do something about it. I made contact with SDE, discussed my ideas, made a straightforward agreement and it’s really just grown and grown from there. Honestly, it makes my heart sing. I visit them often and when needed jump in and give them a hand.
What are you most proud of when it comes to your business?
I’m pretty chuffed that I’ve invented something that is genuinely making a difference for the planet and for everyone who is using it. Lots of people are willing to give bars a try, but they can get quickly turned off by traditional storage.
My business is not just about encouraging people to ditch bottles and switch to bars, it’s about ensuring they stay switched – because that’s the real gain for the planet. The Block Dock makes using bars a compellingly better alternative. I believe that’s what it takes to achieve widespread consumer change, and that change will influence producer behaviour. It’s happening. We’re already seeing big brands moving into shampoo bars. Almost everything we habitually use in a bottle can be found in a bar, and in NZ especially there are lots of brands making very good ones. When all’s said and done, there’s really no good reason not to be using them.