Interview with Just the Goods – Part 2

getupandgo

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:

 

20140923_081712Miles 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.

20140923_120958Fall is here.  Lochley and I have been enjoying the nice weather this week and getting in walks, visits to the park, bike rides, etc.

20140923_121108The 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.

Photo 2014-09-06, 14 57 16Recently, we went on a church retreat where Miles tried archery for the first time.

Photo 2014-09-23, 18 39 09And we’re back for year two of ballet (and year one of jazz).

20140923_191714And the little guy is standing like a pro but not quite walking yet.  He’s also started waking up at 6 am, so…

 

20140924_132207I’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!