Smith Farms products not only look elegant but also contain the most lovely and often delicious ingredients, so how do you decide on the different elements and combinations?
I’d say it’s a combination of research and experimentation. It starts with an understanding of the ingredients and the properties they bring to the final product, and then a lot of trial and error to figure out the exact proportions of the parts to make up the best whole. We love it when ingredients are multifunctional and many of the ones we use serve more than one purpose.
For instance, if we look at our Shea Butter lip balm: Shea butter is a great emollient for moisturizing and healing lips, combining it with natural beeswax helps the balm last longer on the lips as well as delivering its own healing properties. Jojoba and avocado oil are both very high in antioxidant vitamins, so help to heal as well as increasing shelf life. We add in Vitamin E which acts as an antioxidant (preservative) and gives the balm a further healing boost. Finally the vanilla essential oil was chosen because it works so well with honey scent of the beeswax and the rich chocolate aroma from the cocoa butter.
How difficult is it for your company to maintain high production standards such as organic ingredients and environmentally friendly products and packaging?
It hasn’t been as difficult as we thought it would. Since we’ve started with the philosophy to be as natural, organic and eco friendly as possible, we’ve sort of let that guide us the whole way. Right from the start there were things that we knew we didn’t want in our products, so we started at the bottom by trying to find the best, safest options.
I think our size makes it both harder and easier at the same time. Harder because with our small order minimums (packaging and raw materials) there are fewer suppliers and options available to us. So often we must make a compromise, but we are committed to never compromising on quality or safety. Instead we will compromise on price (paying a higher amount for organic or eco friendly packaging) or on aesthetics (choosing a more environmentally friendly that might not be as attractive).
Our size makes it easier because at this point we do everything ourselves, so have complete control over the whole process. We are both committed to the same principles, so rarely does one have to justify a decision to the other. There is no pressure from other parties to compromise our ideals.
Are your products suitable for all skin types?
We haven’t done any widespread testing, but so far believe our products are good for all skin types and are also appropriate for people with sensitive or problem skin. We’ve received feedback from people who react badly to other products, that they find ours to be gentle and non irritating. Our products contain no harsh chemicals or synthetic fragrances or other ingredients that can be irritating. Some people may react to the essential oils we use to scent to product, but for the most part they are very gentle.
What do you consider to be the most essential element in maintaining healthy skin? And what do you personally try and avoid?
Personally I find well moisturised skin has always been a way to make me feel and look healthy. I exfoliate every few weeks and moisturize after every shower and or face wash. Beyond that I believe that healthy living and moderation is reflected in your skin. By that I mean I try and eat well, drink plenty of water and get a regular amount of exercise. I’m not a health nut by any stretch, but I just try and give my body what I think it needs. For me that includes getting sun on my face. Though it gets a bad rap these days, I feel a little bit of sun on a regular basis does wonders for one’s psyche and appearance. Again though, everything in moderation. So for the second part of your question, I personally try and avoid covering myself in sunscreen every day. I’m just not sure that the sun (that’s been around for all of time) is really worse for me than a cream that is able to absorb or reflect UV rays. I guess I just have more trust in nature than in synthetic products.
What was the most difficult challenge in setting up this company?
I’d actually say it’s the point we’re at right now- trying to market and sell our products. Since we do everything ourselves from formulation, production, packaging design, website design etc., we are now trying to learn more about marketing and sales. We really believe in our products, and feel confident that people will love them, but it’s getting our name out there and our products in people’s hands that can be difficult. Also, we’ve been hoping to sell online, but are trying to assess if that really is viable for an unknown brand or if we need to rethink putting ourselves into stores.
Generally speaking though, I’d say the biggest challenge is always the same: Staying positive and not allowing ourselves to become discouraged when problems arise.
A sister as a business partner might sound daring to some, how have you found it?
Definitely more positive than negative, but I think it depends on the two personalities involved, and your relationship. Becky and I have always been extremely close and work well together. Though we have distinct and different personalities, the way we perceive and understand things are remarkably similar, which I think comes uniquely from being raised together. We are always more likely to agree than disagree. That being said, there have certainly been some fiery arguments and times when we wondered if working together would ruin our sisterly bond! What helps is that we have distinct functions in this company (myself as product developer, Becky as marketing), so we naturally defer to the other in their own area of expertise (most of the time!).
For the city dwellers amongst us, how would you describe the ambiance of Western Quebec, where Smith Farms is based? And how does this area influence your work?
Well I actually split my time between our family farm in St. Polycarpe and NDG, and Becky lives here in NDG. The ambiance there is very peaceful and pastoral. I think it has been a big influence is guiding our philosophy. Having grown up on the farm, we watched our mum grow her own vegetables, have her own compost, make jams and pickles and collect fresh eggs from her beloved chickens. Once you have that example as a child, it’s something you always want to go back to. I think the “do-it-yourself” mentality that comes with country life is something that enabled me to think I could make my own soaps and lotions. Also growing up with that proximity to the natural world gave me the belief that if you try and let nature guide you, you can’t go too far wrong.
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Image credits: All images via Smith Farms Etsy shop.
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