Interview with Mama Pacha: Part 2

 

mama-pacha-19-300x300.jpgToday I’m pleased to share part 2 of my interview with Tara of Mama Pacha.  If you missed it, be sure to check out part 1 from yesterday.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Being a mom of two kids and also having another part time job besides mom and wife and owner of Mama Pacha, I would say that there is no “typical” day ha ha. I try to get full days in the kitchen I use to make my products whenever possible and am very efficient at getting lots done when I am there. Sometimes that means I have the kids with me, or one of them, and sometimes I am on my own. Once product is made and packaged the labeling usually happens with the help of friends or family. My son has even learned to put on the lip balm labels. Other than kitchen/production time, I spend a lot of time answering emails, answering questions on social media, researching new products and sending out the orders via Natural Cycle, my bicycle couriers to local customers.

What would you tell someone who is looking to buy more natural skincare products – what should they start with? What is most important to look for and stay away from while choosing skincare products?

I often tell people that if they are looking at making the switch to more natural skin care products, AWESOME! You are making a great choice! If you can’t the jump and switch all of your products over at once (and really, most of us can’t) I would say start with the things you use most often. Remember that everything you put on your skin is being absorbed into your body so start with what you use the most. It will most likely be lotion, deodorant, lip balm. From there, as your current products run out, replace them with locally made all natural ones.

Do you have any skincare routine advice?

My skin care advice is the less you put on your skin, the less you have to take off. Let your natural beauty shine through, use gentle cleansers, and completely eliminate petroleum from your skin care routine.

What has been the most surprising thing in starting this business?

I think that a big surprise with my business is that things have just kept falling into place. When I think I need to make a change, things just seem to fall into place to let it happen. If I need help, a friend or family member will offer out of the blue. It’s pretty amazing.

What challenges have you faced?

I would say the biggest challenge I have faced so far is related to time. As I mentioned, being a mom, a practitioner of German auricular acupuncture and reflexology, an administrator and then also making all of the Mama Pacha products and doing all the business side of things, time, or lack there of, has been the biggest challenge. The great thing however is as the business grows, it allows me to find some help.

Where can we find your products?

My products can be found online at Mama Pacha and  Greenwood Naturals.

In Winnipeg you can find products at:

Generation Green at the Forks

most Vita Health stores

The Exchange Uporium and FLASH boutique which are 2 pop up shops that are open until Christmas.

You can find me at The Scattered Seeds craft sale in October, and the Vineyard Christmas Craft Sale in November.

Outside Winnipeg you can find me at:

Metamorphosis Spa in Killarney MB

Our Best to You Art & Craft Sale Nov 14-16 in Saskatoon

 

Thank you so much, Tara!  

Interview with Mama Pacha

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Today, I’m pleased to share the first half of my interview with Mama Pacha.  I’ve been using her products for almost a year with great results, and I was thrilled when she agreed to share more information.  Here it is!

How did Mama Pacha get started?

Mama Pacha started in January of 2012. That being said, I have been making most of these recipes and products for over eight years. I have been very interested in plants and herbs, especially ones that grow around here, for as long as I can remember. I know which plant to pick if you have poison ivy, I know which leaf will help heal a cut etc. Eight or nine years ago my dad was really suffering with arthritis and he asked if there was anything I could make to help him out. I started experimenting and researching and came up with a salve that worked really well on his arthritis. He then started passing it around to friends and family who also suffered and they loved it as well. From there the product line grew.

When it came to picking a name for my company, Mama Pacha came naturally. My husband is from Argentina and we have spent a lot of time there since we got married. My first child was born there as well. It is like a second home to me. Mama Pacha or Pacha Mama in Argentina (and most of South and Central America) means Mother Earth. Since all my products come from the earth it was a good fit for a name.

Tell us about the progression of your company since it began.

From that first product, I moved onto some of the products that we use every day, lip balms, body butters etc. I wanted to make products that were safe for families to use that didn’t contain petroleum or harmful chemicals but also were affordable. It seemed that every time I was vending at a craft sale or farmers market, people would ask me to make something for them because they had problems with this or that. Most of my products come from specific requests from clients and then work so well they get added to the line.

What are you most proud of?

I am passionate about helping people reduce and/or eliminate chemicals from their lives. A big part of that is in health and beauty products. Everything I make is chemical, petroleum, paraben free. I am proud of being able to offer local products that are also affordable. I try to keep costs down while still making a quality product. I do this by using a lot of the same size packaging, labels etc. and working with some local producers. I am a mom on a budget so I know what it’s like trying to do the best and safest for my family all while making it work financially.

I am also proud of being able to give back. I am a small company but I think that we all have something to give, no matter the size. Starting end of September, Mama Pacha is excited to be able to provide North End Women’s Centre with our natural skin care products to help with their mission of serving women on their path of change. They are an amazing organization that I am so proud to be a small part of.

What is your favourite product in your line?

This is a tough question. I really love all my products. The products that I love to use are the healing salve and lip balm. I use the deodorant and body butters as well. I really love the men’s line as well, which I do not use myself, and have had so many people tell me how much they love it.

Tell us about the process of sourcing ingredients.

When sourcing ingredients I take a lot of things into consideration. I try to find the highest quality ingredients while still keeping an eye on my costs so that I can keep the retail price down. When I can, I purchase local ingredients like my beeswax, and I have a local grower who is going to be growing the majority of my herbs come next year. When I do have to purchase non local items I try to purchase from Canadian companies whenever possible.

Walk us through the process – what happens between you thinking of an idea for a product and it being available to purchase?

The process from conception to it being ready to sell is a fun one. When someone asks me for a specific product it usually starts with research. From there I will start to test out products myself, then send them out to a test group. Once I have made any adjustments, then it goes into production.

Thanks for sharing, Tara!  You can find Mama Pacha at her website, facebook, and twitter.  Check back tomorrow for part 2!

September Review: Introduction of the Sidebar

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Time is flying and there are a lot of time-dependent posts coming up, so my Fair-ly Newsworthy posts will be taking a break for the next couple weeks.  I started sharing monthly reviews of the blog last month, and here is my second installment.

Although September wasn’t a record-breaking month in terms of traffic on the blog, reader engagement was great and some fantastic things happened.  In August the blog started showing up on search engines, and this month the Nisolo discount code has been clicked on a few more times, which is very encouraging!  I don’t really understand the very important behind-the-scenes part of blogging – SEO, reading analytics, using keywords, etc.  I would way rather listen to great music and type away, but it’s something I will need to put more effort into learning.  Here’s to an educational October!

Two great changes on the blog:

The introduction of sidebar ads.  You’ve probably noticed ads popping up on the sidebar.  I’m honoured that these fantastic companies have agreed to be part of this blog – would you click through and check out their products?  It’s the perfect time to start shopping for Christmas gifts!

The introduction of interviews.  I’ve shared the interview with Milena of Just the Goods (part 1, part 2).  So far I’ve received answers back from three companies, and it has gone way, way better than I expected.  Initially, I asked all the interviewees really similar questions, thinking each would respond to 4 or 5 questions.  When Milena sent me her answers I was amazed that she would take so much time out of her busy schedule to thoughtfully answer my questions.  Then, the second set of responses came in, also with all the questions thoughtfully answered.  And so when the third set of answers arrived in my inbox, I was nearly in tears – every single question was answered.  And they’re a great mix of informative and inspirational – I can’t wait to share more.

If you know of anyone (or are someone) who might like to be involved in the sidebar ads/interviews, please let me know!  It’s easy and free, and my email address is jesswithaflourish(at)gmail.com.  Have a great weekend!

Ethical Christmas Shopping

Sorry about the lack of post yesterday – the kiddos and I came down with something on the weekend, and they hopped out of bed cheerful as ever on Monday morning, but I did not.  Here’s to giant mugs of coffee.

Every year, even with the best intentions I leave some Christmas shopping until way too late, and then instead of looking through fairtrade stores and handcrafted websites, I end up buying that one last person an awkward gift that I obviously didn’t think through and obviously isn’t in line with my normal shopping habits.  But this year, that ends!  This year, everyone will end up with a thought out and ethically made Christmas gift.  Here’s how:

I’m going to start early.  And buy early.  I make my Christmas lists really early, but I’m so guilty of seeing a fantastic item, and then thinking “Christmas is still 3 months away, maybe I’ll find something even better”, and suddenly it’s December 23rd and I’m kicking myself for not buying it.  It takes time to find that perfect item, and if you’re buying online it takes time to ship.

Now, I have a few “go-to” places.  Etsy is great, and so is Brika and Great.ly. Locally, Ten Thousand Villages is one of my favourite places to go during the Christmas season (mostly for the gifts, but partly for the free chocolate and coffee)!  Local shops and craft shows are also great.

I’m learning to plan for craft shows.  Last year a friend and I went to one of the best craft shows in Winnipeg. We arrived as the doors opened, and within 20 minutes there were so many people crowded into the space we could barely get close to the tables.  It was overwhelming (in the best way – it’s exciting to see such interest in hand crafted goods).  But beforehand I had read through the list of exhibitors, been on their websites and I knew what I was looking for.  So even though we didn’t wander leisurely through the show, coffee in-hand, we did get what we wanted because we planned ahead of time.

I’d love to hear from you – what’s your Christmas shopping strategy?  Any tips?

Interview with Just the Goods – Part 2

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Today we have a treat: part 2 of my interview with Milena of Just the Goods.  Grab a cup of coffee and join us for this great read, and if you haven’t had a chance to read it, check out part 1!  You can find Just the Goods on their website, facebook, twitter, and blog.  Here we go:

What is your favourite product in your line?

I think my answer to this question changes each time I’m asked, but I’d have to say my exfoliating face wash for acne prone skin is quite high up on my list… especially after such a humid summer season ;-) I’ll switch back to lightly foaming face wash for oily/combination skin when the weather becomes cooler and the air is more dry.

You must wear a lot of hats – what does a typical day look like for you?

Ooh, I’m pretty sure typing this out is going to make people laugh, but here goes:

The first thing I do when I wake up is check my email because it can potentially alter my day. For example, if someone tells me they had a problem with the website, I’ll naturally want to address this as fast as I can so others are not similarly inconvenienced. Apart from that, I try to respond to as many questions as I can concerning product recommendations, ingredients, shipping, etc., and I try to do this as fast as possible, so customer service always comes first, even if it takes several hours, which it sometimes can.

When I get into the lab, I input the orders that arrived overnight into my accounting and order management software, then I start to pack as many orders as I can using products that are already in stock to ensure I’m always shipping out as fast as possible. During this time, I’m often answering the door to receive deliveries, meeting with local clients picking up their orders, and/or handing off parcels to couriers or Canada Post. If I have multiple appointments in a single day, I use the in-between time to place orders for raw materials, follow up on correspondence with suppliers/retailers, and/or maintain my website and/or financials as required.

It isn’t really until about 5 or 6 p.m. that I can start making products because I really do need large and consistent blocks of quiet time to concentrate thus ensuring the smooth production of a batch from set up to labeling. I tend to work quite late, especially on the eve of a shipping day. So parcel packing and shipping can continue until 3 or 4 a.m. And then it starts all over again <=-). Social media, new product R&D, product photography/editing, and the design of graphic support materials is something I fit in when I need a break from the more fast paced nature of things =-).

What are you most proud of?

This is a good question, and not something I’ve actually given myself an opportunity to think about before. But, thinking about it now, I’m glad I’ve cultivated an opportunity to address the many intersections between healthy body products, environmental protection, handmade and cruelty-free production practices, and media representations of the body, gender, aging etc. I know that sounds like a lot, but having conversations with people about, for example, the way conventional “beauty industry” marketing makes us feel bad about ourselves in order to sell us toxic chemicals that hurt animals and the environment while offering possible alternatives is pretty cool =-).

What do you wish people knew about choosing skincare products?

Great question. I wish more people knew that vegan doesn’t necessarily mean healthier as there are far too many vegan skin care products that contain a troubling quantity of synthetic ingredients that are bad for the environment, especially with respect to the extraction and disposal of petrochemicals as mentioned earlier. Animals need clean drinking water, too! The more chemicals we use, the more we hurt their bodies and homes in the wild.

Do you have any skincare routine advice?

Actually, I do! And, since this is a question I’m asked quite often, I created a FAQ at my website, which I’d love to link, if you don’t mind!
Thanks, Milena!

 

Fair-ly Newsworthy

Happy Friday!  We have had beautiful weather in Winnipeg this week so we’ve tried to make the most of it.  This morning I started my fall tv watching – anyone else super sad that Parenthood is on its last season?  Just a couple links today:

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary has been writing about ethical consumerism on her blog, and started a pinterest board last night gathering websites for fair trade companies.

If you missed it yesterday, I shared an interview with Milena of Just the Goods, a vegan skincare company.  I’m excited to share part 2 on Tuesday, and bring you at least two more interviews shortly.  The ladies I’ve interviewed (so far – there are some guys coming up too!) have given a really insightful look into their businesses and advice on choosing natural products.

I’m on instagram!  I’ve only posted one photo, but I’ll work on it.  It’ll likely end up being full of pictures of my kids and mugs full of coffee, but if you’re interested please follow along.  And if you know of any great or beautiful accounts I should follow, let me know!  I’m also pinning stylish and fair trade companies on pinterest and doing basically nothing on twitter.
Have a great weekend!  See you here on Tuesday for part 2 of my interview with Just the Goods (cannot over-hype this enough – it is awesome)!

Interview with Just the Goods – Part 1

about-facesmaller-400x380I’m so excited to share my first interview on this blog, with Milena of Just the Goods.  Just the Goods is a Winnipeg-based skincare company, specializing in natural, vegan skincare. I first bought a sample pack like the one in the picture above from Sew Dandee back in 2010, and loved knowing I was putting only good ingredients on my face (and got great results).  I only know Milena via the internet, but her love of her job is evident in email and in the interview.  She really thoroughly answered all my questions, so I’ve split this interview into two parts (the second part will show up on Tuesday).  Thanks very much, Milena!

How did Just the Goods get started?  Tell us about the progression of the company since it began.

Thanks for asking, Jess!

In Autumn 2007, my partner developed a painful rash after shaving, which we came to realize was an allergic reaction to the various chemicals present in the conventional canned shaving cream he had been using for years. Referring to various online resources, we tried all sorts of alternatives ranging from oil based formulas to ones containing dairy, weird as that was. Some worked, but none were genuinely suitable. I eventually figured out that he needed a good, pure soap offering antibacterial support, so I consolidated various ideas into a single recipe and it worked on the very first try.

Through this process of self-education—which was in fact a renewal of thoughts initially planted by my Naturopath in the late 1990s—I discovered that our favorite “natural” toothpaste and lip balm brands had been purchased by multinational conglomerates that produce toxins and lobby governments to continue producing doing so. I decided, at that moment, to reduce our reliance on all chemical-based skin care and grooming products.

I started experimenting with the creation of other items and shared the results with friends. They enthusiastically offered their positive feedback and encouraged me to make my creations more widely available, so I opened an Etsy shop in May 2009, and started posting items for sale in October. I participated in my first local craft show in November of that same year, then hosted an open-house in December. Response from the wider community was incredible in all cases, and since then a great deal of enthusiasm for Just the Goods has spread word of mouth around Winnipeg, and now around the world.

I became an approved member of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics in 2009 and, as one of only 321 cosmetics and skin care companies worldwide, was granted Champion status November 2011. Just the Goods was certified cruelty-free by the Leaping Bunny program in 2013.

 

You use natural ingredients. Why is this important?

If I may refer back to my thoughts above concerning the way various issues intersect, I believe natural ingredients offer a number of benefits for plants and animals, soil and water and our bodies. I realize there are still considerations around the methods of farming used to grow the plants that make essential oils, or the types of processing that synthesize them, but they leave a smaller footprint than, for example, the extraction of petroleum then turned into a petrochemical that has numerous ill effects on our health from causing cancer to disrupting hormones to triggering debilitating allergic reactions. And while its one thing to expose our bodies to these chemicals on an individual basis, it is worth remembering that these things also go down the drain and adversely affect water, soil and the plants and animals sharing our habitat. The less toxins we use, the fewer need to be produced, and the fewer need to be disposed.

 

Walk us through the process – what happens between you thinking of an idea for a product and it being available to purchase?

When I first started making products for myself and those closet to me, I opened my bathroom cabinet and examined each of my daily products, one by one, asking “what is in this?” and “which of these ingredients are reasonable?” In the case of the face wash I was using at the time, the only ingredients I thought were reasonable, were shea butter and water from a list of approximately 20 items. I started with those and built around them. I wanted the face wash to be soapy, I wanted it to draw impurities away from my skin, and I wanted light antibacterial support, so—drawing on knowledge accumulated through research—I added organic liquid castile soap, kaolin clay, and selected essential oils. I tweaked the ratios until I liked the results, and voilà! Just the Goods moisturizing face wash for oily/combination skin was born! That process was repeated for any of the items I myself use. In the case of other products (i.e. face wash for dry skin), I established the process in consultation with friends, and they tried the results, providing feedback as required.

Some products turn out right the first time, but others need a great deal of reformulation through trial and error, such as my deodorant roll-on—that took two years of research and testing under as many different circumstances, and with as many different people, as possible.

I often get requests for new products and have many prototypes on the go at various stages. The biggest challenge here can be getting people to return their feedback so I can find out exactly what they didn’t like about a particular trial. I think people are afraid to hurt my feelings! So ultimately product ideas are tested by friends that will be brutally honest – they know I need need complete information in order to proceed.

 

What has been the most surprising thing in starting this business?

The most surprising thing has been learning that I can run my project the way I want to, even when it contradicts normalized practices.

For example, I insist on offering public wholesale pricing even in the face of retailers from around the world telling me they won’t work with me until I raise my prices for my direct clients. I realize growth is the focus of mainstream society, but facilitating access to healthier options by offering the lowest prices I can manage is simply more important to me. I won’t pursue growth at the expense of my values, or on the backs of my clients.

There are other less expected things that apply to this, as well. For example, I refuse to editorialize the lives of my diverse clients by gendering my products, or creating ageist categories, and despite conventional branding practices, it has worked!

I also won’t hide shipping costs in my product pricing to create the illusion of cheap or free shipping because I value the work of Canada Post employees and think their contribution should be visible. Some people don’t like this and decide not to order because (as they tell me) they would rather pay for a more expensive product with invisible shipping, but others find it refreshing.

All in all, I like doing things differently and I’m thrilled that it works =-)

 

What challenges have you faced?

I would definitely have to say finding enough time to pursue all the ideas I have for new products and partnerships. Maybe one day I’ll be able to hire an assistant, but given my commitment of offering the lowest product prices possible, Just the Goods is currently sustainable for one person only. This is a challenge as Just the Goods becomes increasingly popular, but I have a few ideas of how to manage without raising prices rumbling around in mind brain ;-)

 

Where can we find your products?

Just the Goods is currently available at six bricks and mortar shops in Winnipeg, all of which provide the full convenience of retail shops. I also currently work with two online retailers (click here for the complete list). Since I make over 150 types of items (considering all size, scent and flavour variations), the widest selection of items can be acquired through me directly – justthegoods.net is my primary website and will re-direct to the new Shopify site as soon as I’m finished beta testing =-)

 

Thanks, Milena!  Join us here on Tuesday to hear what a typical day looks like, what Milena is most proud of, and some skincare routine advice!  You can also follow Just the Goods on twitter and facebook, and check out her shop on Etsy.

Lately

I know I’m a few years behind, but I just bought a smartphone and I’m getting used to taking pictures with my phone.  So for now, pretty well the only pictures I’ve taken are of my kids, and the only thing we’ve been doing is getting back into the routine of the school year…but here’s what we’ve been doing lately:

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Miles started grade 2.  Grade…2.  The transition has been really smooth…again.  So far his teachers and the kids in his class have been great every year.

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Fall is here.  Lochley and I have been enjoying the nice weather this week and getting in walks, visits to the park, bike rides, etc.

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The water was really too cold to be playing in, but he loves it so much I couldn’t say no.  Even after a good 20 minutes of sitting on the side and splashing in the fountain, he cried when we left.


Recently, we went on a church retreat where Miles tried archery for the first time.


And we’re back for year two of ballet (and year one of jazz).

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And the little guy is standing like a pro but not quite walking yet.  He’s also started waking up at 6 am, so…

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I’m drinking buckets of coffee.

You’ll want to check back tomorrow!  I’m so excited to share an interview with Milena, owner of a great skin care company called Just the Goods.

 

My Search for an Ethically Made Smartphone

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This is the phone I just replaced.  It was so old, at breakfast with a friend, her two year old kept reaching for my phone on the table because it is identical to his play phone at home.  This old flip phone was given to me by a friend and has become a bit of a joke because of it’s age.  A few weeks ago I pulled it out of my pocket in a heavy downpour and drowned it.  It’s had a good long life and I was excited for an upgrade.

In looking at ethically made items, there is often a clearly best option.  It’s usually expensive, and so I work my way down the ladder until I find something that is the most ethical that I can afford.  I tend to find it really easy to stay away from the most offensive companies, partly because of my own conviction, and partly because there are usually several other options.

In looking for an ethically made cell phone, there is one company that tops the list – Fairphone, the Amsterdam-based company producing ethically made smartphones.  Someday I hope these phones will be more affordable, but for now it wasn’t an option.  There didn’t seem to be any options at all.  Initially, I thought apple was at the bottom of the list, because of their well-documented labour rights violations.  I hoped Samsung would be a notch or two up on the ladder, and quickly found that they are on par with apple.  According to this article, Nokia is the company making the most improvements, but there wasn’t one that fit my requirements.

What can we do?  It sounds really selfish, I know, but I do need a phone.  We have no landline so the cell phone is my primary way to get calls from my son’s school, buzz someone up when they arrive at our building, etc.

Of course, the other issue with electronics is the need to always upgrade to the newest model.  And, as you can see by the picture of the phone I just got rid of, I can commit to using this phone as long as possible.  And maybe by that time, the Fairphone or another ethically made phone will be available and affordable.

This is a new topic for me – does anyone know of other great cell phone companies?  Please leave a comment and let me know!

Fair-ly Newsworthy

Yay for Fridays!  Today I got a new phone (one with a camera! and a data plan! and unlimited texting!) so I’ve been testing it out by taking pictures, texting, and even making a phone call or two.

Earlier this week, I made a list of places to buy handmade goods.  Since then, I’ve been looking for a few specific things.  Here are some favourites:

Crafter/blogger Elise made these beautiful clutches as part of her MAKE29 project, where she is making and selling one project each month.

My favourite necklace is back in stock at 31 Bits.  There is also an interview with 31 Bits founder Kallie Dovel on The Everygirl.

This print is beautiful, and a great price for the size.

And, in not shopping news, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is celebrating their opening weekend!  There are exciting things happening all weekend, check out this link for the schedule.