From passion to product: Sohma Naturals brings natural skincare to the world
Monday, December 14, 2020
Eliza Desmarais, owner of Sohma Naturals, is passionate about natural and organic skincare. A manufacturer based out of Digby, Nova Scotia, Sohma Naturals has been producing organic skincare products since 2018.
“I’ve always really been in the alternative holistic world,” says Desmarais. “My mother owned a health food store when I was born, and I became a massage therapist, and so it's always been my lifestyle.”
Upon deciding to start a family, Desmarais began to look for alternative options to use for toiletries and started playing around with creating her own made from natural and organic ingredients. It was by way of this process that she started to consider selling her skin care creations, and once she got pregnant, she decided to go into business.
“I didn't want to do massage therapy full-time when I was having my child, so I decided to sort of go full-throttle,” says Desmarais. “I just said, let's see where we can take this.”
A keen chemistry student, Desmarais enrolled in several cosmetic chemistry courses and built her first lab. She teamed up with her mother, a former distributor for natural healthcare products, and together they put her database of more than 4,000 doctors across Canada to good use.
Leaning on this established network of connections allowed Desmarais to focus in on developing her high-quality products.
“We started with the eczema cream because I did figure something out to use on my daughter when she had an angry diaper rash,” says Desmarais. “And we've been constantly growing, inch by inch, little by little from that point on.”
Now, that eczema and diaper rash cream is on track to be used in the neonatal unit of the IWK Health Centre.
“They've wanted to move to a more natural product for a long time, so we're the first company that they're actually taking on as a natural product,” she says.
Though the product roll-out within the Health Centre is currently on pause due to the COVID-19 ongoing state of emergency, Desmarais says there are several other hospitals interested in adopting the cream once the product is in use within the IWK.
Like many businesses, Sohma Naturals has experienced challenges in the face of COVID-19. But they’ve also found opportunities in the creation of a new product: a moisturizing hand sanitizer featuring certified organic ingredients.
Pivoting to meet the growing demand for hand sanitizing products at the beginning of the pandemic, Desmarais created a formula and moved into production in late March to great success.
“We were on CBC TV in Halifax. Elizabeth Chiu interviewed us. That was great,” says Desmarais. “It got a lot of awareness out about who we were, because some people hadn’t even heard about us.”
And it never hurts to have help in your corner. Desmarais credits her mother’s business acumen as well as her strong relationship network for much of Sohma’s success in exporting. She’s also found help from government support organizations such as Nova Scotia Business Inc. and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Desmarais says she frequently reaches out to Nova Scotia Business Inc. with questions to receive guidance and support. And through the Export Growth Program, Desmarais accessed funding to attend trade shows throughout Canada to expand her network.
“We’ve been really so, so, so lucky with this province,” says Desmarais. “I’ve just been so thankful and floored and blessed – feeling blessed that we’ve had so much funding help with organizations like NSBI.”
As for her advice on starting your business’s export journey?
“I would say really figuring out where your product is going to perform optimally,” she says. “It takes a lot of work, so why not figure out where you’re concentrating the best energy possible?”
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