I had worked in retail health food stores for over ten years before deciding to start my own business. Most of my professional career was spent managing departments and geeking out on every single natural product out there from menstrual pads, vitamins, protein shakes to baby food. When I mean geek out…I really mean geek out. I wouldn’t just geek out on the ingredients; I would geek out on the company by attending their product information sessions, conference calls and even visited the manufacturing facilities. You know, ‘cause I’m visual. Although I had studied half those years as a nutritionist, a health food store felt like home. It was my job to make sure those products were the best of the best. It was a lifestyle and a job that I took very seriously and loved.
Customers came in for a million different health reasons. They often came to us when all options, doctors and specialists had failed or were baffled. One of the most common problems we would have is customers coming in with their children who had rashes on their armpits, chest and groin. Nine times out of ten, it was caused by the use of commercial detergents and would clear up within a few days of switching to a natural detergent.
Although thrilled with the results on their children’s skin, parents would come back looking for something that would yield better results or had more loads than 30 for $20. Kids make a ton of laundry-I’m not sure why, it is just a natural thing in their DNA that through multiple wardrobe changes, spills and falls-if you are a parent, you will be a slave to laundry.
Some parents were doing at least 10 loads a week and some were spending about $100+/month on natural detergent plus dryer sheets, brighteners and stain removing products . They came in looking for vegan products and ingredients that did not contain phthalates, parabens, EDTA, chlorine, sulphates, ionic surfactants, SLS, phosphates, nitrates and needed something that would be safe for babies. The cleaning section slowly became a full isle as I searched for better and more cost effective detergents; a mission that would prompt my entire life to change. Even though there were rows and rows of detergents, I had the same concerns as our customers and I was frustrated with what was on the shelf-mainly the ingredients list hiding elements that should be clearly labeled. After doing some more hard core research and reaching back into my chemistry days, I started to make my own detergent that encompassed all the features I was looking for as a consumer and a mom…and it worked…really well.
I started making my new detergent regularly, perfecting it over time. I started experimenting with cool scents which were natural, fun and smelled amazing. Most of all, I didn’t have to compromise on my morals or my wallet. My friends and family started wanting some as gifts. Key Lime Pie, Black Forest Cake, Bubblegum…I turned into the baskin robins of laundry, collecting new scents, mixing new scents-though some questioned my sanity-I only persisted more. Luckily for me, gumption runs on all sides of my family tree and stubbornness of course.
When we had a staff meeting at the health food store to introduce the new cleaning supplies that our large company was to use across the board, my heart broke as I looked at the ingredients list. The only “Green” thing about it was the colour of the sticker. We were one of the most influential health companies out there who promoted healthy people and healthy products who couldn’t stand by our mission statement. I was disgusted, crushed and felt the knots in my stomach begin to tighten. I even pointed it out during questioning time-and was asked to leave the room. After weeks of voicing my concerns, complaining, offering alternatives and total frustration along with a wrestling match between my finances and my gut… I quit my job; not the most intelligent thing to do when you have a little one, but it was what it was.
I started doing Youtube videos and blogs to share product knowledge with people. I wanted to empower people instead of scare them with hidden ingredients and carcinogens. It’s pretty depressing learning about how bad everything can be for you and stressful to constantly be on edge about your environment and what you put in and on your body. I wanted to show that there could be a balance of living in the real world and incorporating healthy alternatives. I started selling the detergents online and by word of mouth only, started to make our way into stores. Now in year 3, we’re nearing our 200th retailer. It’s been a phenomenal experience. Its pretty amazing what happens when you dive in head first into your dreams-not to sound lame, but it’s true. If you have seen the Holstee Manifesto-no truer words have been spoken.