Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal care, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with K. Dee Howard, the founder of SOOTSOAP, a line of personal care products in Port Hope, Ontario.

Tell us all about your business...

SOOTSOAP is a line of all natural, personal care products that was originally designed for firefighters to detoxify, deodorize and sanitize from the toughest impurities, toxins, pollutants and odours. Harnessing the power of the highest quality Binchotan White Charcoal from the branches of the Japanese Oak Tree and other powerhouse natural ingredients, SOOTSOAP provides the deepest, most natural clean without stripping your skin and hair of their natural, healthy oils.

What's your background and motivation to grow as a business owner?

I initially began to develop SOOTSOAP for my husband and our fire family to combat the notoriously hard-to-get-rid of smell of smoke that is pervasive in the fire service - he could shower three or more times, and yet that smell of smoke and fire and chemicals would come sneaking back through his pores. In my research, I discovered the cause of the odour, and the many carcinogenic toxins to which our firefighters are exposed daily, and focused on developing a line of products that would address the need for holistic personal decontamination. We now work hard to continue to fill the gap of decontamination for firefighters, but for all of those who face occupational exposure, exposure to chemicals and pollutants through everyday life, and who just want a deeper clean without resorting to chemicals.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I'm incredibly proud of each and every product we have developed - those in market and those making their way there. It's easy to get caught up in the tides as an entrepreneur (or as a human being in general), but to sit back and look at what you've created over years of paddling (and perhaps a bit of drowning) - to see and hold what you've started and what you've put into play - it's so rewarding.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being an entrepreneur?

The obvious challenge that comes to mind is of course time - there is never enough time! But the big one for me is trying to use the pressure that comes with having investors and shareholders to drive me, versus allowing it to bury me. It's one thing to feel that pressure of success and ultimately profitability for yourself, your partner, and your family it's a whole other level when you are beholden to others.

Feeling the confidence and faith (and hard earned funds!) of others in your product, your brand and your abilities is immensely gratifying and often imperative to help a company build and grow... we just have to make sure we are constantly reminding ourselves of how much we believe as well, and use that force to push us forward versus allowing it to hold us down, or to bring on imposter syndrome.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run or grow a small business today?

1. Develop an insatiable thirst for learning. There is so much you don't know, and gobs more that you don't know you don't know. It really helps if you love - or convince yourself you love - to learn, because starting and running a business is non-stop education!

2. Accept (and ask) for help and mentorship. As they say - if you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room. There are so many brilliant people out there who have done what we're looking to do - they know the process, and they've made the mistakes. Sometimes accepting help is difficult, but in most cases, those folks are happy to help you. If you don't know someone, seek them out - just make sure you are an attentive listener and that you take the time to properly appreciate and thank them for their mentorship and value their time. This is learning smart not hard (see #1), but it also helps to speak your ideas aloud, and encourages networking, both of which are invaluable.

3. Breathe. There's a lot you want to do, and it feels like zero time to do it in. I will give the advice a kind mentor gave me (see #2) - go slower. Take the time to think through every step you take - whether it's branding or packaging or your go-to-market strategy - so you know you are doing it just so. You don't need to grow at lightning speed. So just breathe.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Entrepreneurs these days are much more synonymous with the maker movement / maker economy, which is of course a creative outlet at its core. I have discovered recently that my environment so strongly effects how productive I am, because it helps or hinders my creativity so greatly. The final insight into my psyche that I would love to pass on is the importance of your environment. Take the time to determine where and how you work best what fuels your creativity and energy. Think about the furniture, the mess (or is that just this mom...), the lighting, the sounds, the smells... how it makes you feel, and how it helps you produce. What is getting in your way? Can you eliminate it? At the end of the day, your thoughts, insights and sheer grit are what's driving your business. Make sure you're nurturing your process and your business will benefit.

Where can people find you online?

If you like what you've read here and have your own story as an entrepreneur or business coach that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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