Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Valerie Lamirande, owner, and founder of RavenSong Soap + Candle, located in Campbell River, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
RavenSong Soap + Candle Co. is a luxury soap & candle company based on Vancouver Island, BC - artfully blending the craft of cold process soap making with a deeply rooted honoring of Indigenous culture, traditions, and healing. The RavenSong experience connects customers with products through story, scent, and knowledge. Over the years, I have added more affordable luxury products, including candles, bath bombs, and other body care products that embody the same time-honored traditions as the Artisan Soaps.
Tell us about yourself
I started making soap in 2003 after a friend gifted me a bar of handmade soap. Although I had a full-time job in the corporate world, I was instantly hooked on soap making. I spent every spare moment studying and perfecting the craft. As my knowledge grew, I began to incorporate designs from my west coast and indigenous roots. I slowly became confident in my soaps and began doing markets and shows on the weekends, and demand for RavenSong products grew.
In 2013, with my husbands' encouragement, I decided to pursue my passion full time. I quit the corporate world and moved into my first commercial space. With the extra time, I put more effort into growing my line and started incorporating Indigenous Herbals into my soaps and products through infusions, teas, and herbs. Customers would tell me their emotional stories of healing by using my products. It would drive me to continue creating, formulating, and making.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I am most proud of my commercial space that houses all of our products as well as a beautiful retail showroom. I obtained this space in February of 2021 and spent three months renovating it. We moved into the new space in May of 2021 and had our Grand Opening in July. All of our products are produced and sold under the same roof, as well as our wholesale and website sales.
I am also proud that I am able to provide full-time work to others that are satisfying and enjoyable with a stable income. This is my biggest accomplishment to date, but other notable achievements include: Invited to be a speaker at the National Soap Conference in Banff 2016. winning first place (Best Soap in Show) at the International Soap Making Conference in Las Vegas 2017. Catching the attention of Shark Tank's Kevin Herrington in 2018.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest part for me has been the transition from a craft to a thriving business. This meant giving over control to others as my business grew. I was doing absolutely everything as my business from research, development, creating, making, accounting, sales, promotion, website, shows, photography... the list goes on and on. As my business grew, I started hiring and training others to do jobs that I would love to do myself.
It has been a steep learning curve for me to let go of some of the control but a necessary step. I have no regrets, and I have an amazing staff. I still have control over all of the creative, research, and development, but I have had to turn the making over to my master soap maker. So times, I miss making soap every day, but the rewards of owning a thriving business make up for that.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Oh my goodness... the learning curve for me has been so steep, albeit long. If I could go back to the beginning, I would do so many things, but then again, I would not change the experience for anything. Every misstep has been a valuable lesson and every setback, a reason to pick me up and dust myself off.
- If I had to give advice, I would choose something you are passionate about. Research, research, research. And be aware - working for yourself means doing the things you love to do on the days you don't feel like doing them.
- Find a mentor, someone in the field who is willing to guide you or give direction. If you know someone, join online groups through Facebook or other social media outlets. Be active in those communities. Learn from them. Do not be afraid to ask questions - but give back when you can. Share your experiences and knowledge. Never give up. Every failure is the opportunity to learn.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
RavenSong Soap is a women-owned Indigenous business. I am Haida, from the Raven Clan of Skedans. My mother once told me to share my stories through my craft. This foundation gives me creative intention behind every RavenSong product. It is in sharing this knowledge and weaving a sense of story into everything I make. Every Scent tells a Story.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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