Born in the quaint little town of McLennan and raised in the Grimshaw area, many locals may recognize todays feature, Claudette of Deer Meadow Soap. This feature is unique, because Deer Meadows Soap is Claudette’s side business, she’s a full time teacher, who although is not in the classroom this year, has a passion for teaching students to read!
When I asked Claudette to tell me about herself, she admitted that she’s always been a busy gal, interested in all sorts of things; Running, yoga, swimming, teaching, baking, cross stitching, photography, cake decorating, gardening, and the list could go on! She also said that she is known for being a little frugal and a tad crunchy, saying, “We used cloth diapers and glass bottles for our kids, hung laundry to dry, baked treats for the kids' lunches, and even tried using one of those push mowers that don't use gas or electricity.”
Claudette is someone I always enjoy getting to chat with. I hope you love this feature just as much as I do, so without further ado let’s dive in!
Can you tell me a little bit about how your business began?
I have always loved artisan soap and would treat myself to a bar when going to a market. Naturally, I wanted to try my hand at making some myself.
When researching how to make soap, it seemed overwhelming and dangerous, but I always wanted to try it out over the summer holidays. Every year, I would chicken out. This went on for three summers, Then I finally jumped in.
I researched and concocted a recipe I thought might work, and donned all the safety gear I could think of. With visions of an explosion in my kitchen, I hesitantly poured the lye into the water. No explosion occurred, and I didn't burn my skin which was already a win! After putting the soap to bed and waiting for the magic to happen over the next 24hrs, I excitedly unmolded my not quite full loaf (let's blame miscalculation) and… had to wait another four weeks to test it out. My first attempt ever was a brown masterpiece (so I thought), sprinkled with cocoa powder that I not only enjoyed using but, surprisingly, so did my husband.
Eventually, I shared it with friends and family, who also had positive feedback. After that first loaf was a success, I was hooked. Wanting to make all the scents and designs, I had to start figuring out the logistics of selling them so I could supply and sustain my newest addiction.
There have been many trials and errors in the process. I learned that you don't add cinnamon to body products as it makes you itchy. Certain scents can seize the soap, making it resemble a cross between spam and brains, and when you do an outdoor market, make sure you have a sturdy tent that you have secured very well. Three years later, I am still learning how to get the right amount of swirl, figuring out what customers might desire for their seasonal scents and which scents I must always have in stock.
Is there a story behind your business name?
The business was named after our incredible little sub-division, Deer Meadow Estates. This name was created by the daughters of a wonderful man who created the subdivision. From what I understand, many deer were in the surrounding area when they moved in, so they thought it was a fitting name. We have the best little community outside Peace River, and I adore their family. It fit my creative business perfectly because I hoped to build a community of soaping customers as fabulous as my home community.
What does a typical day in the life look like for you? How and when do you find time to make?
In the morning, I usually wake up before my alarm. If I do, this is my treat to be able to get ready for the day and use my spare time to hang out in my soap room. I usually spend this time prepping soaps for customers, cutting loaves into bars, preparing labels, and organizing my shelves.
After work, I do the family thing, prepping meals, baking snacks for lunches, and doing a few household chores. After dishes are done and a walk with the dog has been completed, it is time to focus on my destressing soap activities. Some days I may make a new batch of soap in the evening. In contrast, on other days, I focus on some of my other products or even spend some time on the organizational parts of the business (updating spreadsheets, ordering new supplies, social media, and labelling).
The time with my soaps is the relaxing and destressing part of my day.
How do you balance work/life/side hustle?
Sometimes the balance is a little tricky, but I try and get in about half an hour before work and at least an hour in the evening. On weekends, all of my spare time that I can scrounge up is spent on my side hustle.
What was your introduction to creating?
I have always enjoyed creating things of all kinds. Both my Mom and Memere craft, so I have been around making and crafting my whole life. They both like working with fibre; that talent did not wear off on me. I stumbled my way through different types of projects before I discovered my love for soaping.
Can you please describe your creative process for me?
I love coming up with new designs and fitting scents to what I envision the soap will be. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out as planned, but I have learned that there is always a customer for what has been created. The bars I enjoy creating the most, are the ones that take the most time. Ones with embeds, like little dolphins or hearts, and unique ones like bubble tea or watermelon bars.
Where do you find inspiration/what inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by the changing seasons and the upcoming holidays. I like to design unique bars of soap that make my customers want to jump into that next part of the year because they can start the day with something that makes them smile.
If you can remember, how did you sell your first piece?
My friends and family are the reason that the business is in the place that it is. Even though the loaves were ugly, cut by hand with a regular kitchen knife, and may not have smelled as great as they do now, they still supported me by buying bars. Without that, I wouldn’t have had the need to make as many more batches and grow my skills. I am ever grateful for that early love and support.
What is your favourite product to make?
I do make other products like bath bomb bark, bath salts, deodorant, salves, lip balms, and a few others, but those are products I make because people request them and have their favorites. Soap brings me joy and makes me whistle while creating (true story).
A good day is a day when I can make soap. The more intricate soap, the more it brings me joy (other than if it was frustrating, like that darn Cloud 9 I just released that did not bring joy by the end).
Why do you do what you do?
I am determined to make cute, unique, and affordable bars of soap that are not just a treat for someone to buy at the market. I love hearing when customers are using the product as their everyday product. I take every step possible to keep the price per bar down so my customers can continue to do this. I love homemade and crafting. If it wasn’t soap, it would have been something else, but I am not sure if that something else would have brought as much joy.
What is one tip you would like to share with other artists or entrepreneurs?
One of my biggest lessons is to do your own thing. Do what brings you joy and what you are proud to showcase to others. During certain times of the year, being an entrepreneur is exhausting. If you are not doing what you love, there is little reason to persevere. Realize too, that your product or art might not be for everyone, but on the other hand there is always someone out there that thinks your creations are exceptional. Find those people, they are who you want in your corner. Those are your people.
Do you have any message you would like to share with other women in business or women who are thinking about starting their own business?
Being a woman in business is A-MAZING.
There are so many people out there that are happy and willing to support you. Getting to know your other women in the business crew and working together in different capacities is empowering. So many other women in business are willing to share, help, and support, and it is a privilege to be able to help other women grow their businesses as well.
If you are considering getting into something new, try it. It might not be a craft or creating, but if you have debated a change for a while and it seems the time is right, try it! You would be surprised at the number of people in your corner. Even those who are strangers to you quickly move to your corner if your intentions are good. If you jump in and the change is not as successful as you thought, you can always hop out and try something new, but in contrast, you could end up with something wonderful.
Claudette is a shining example of someone doing what they love and making their schedule work for them. If you’d like to find Deer Meadow Soaps you can find them at the following links: