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Soapstone
 

story Heather Brissenden    photography Steve Uhraney

Let your hair down, turn off the lights and close the door.

Light a candle, draw a bath and turn on some sultry music. Lower your body into warm and fragrant water and indulge in one of the world’s oldest art forms, the art of bathing, that is.

For thousands of years humankind has sought solace in water - adding fragrant herbs, oils and salts to lift spirits, improve health, cleanse skin, treat illnesses and simply relax and unwind.

In today’s modern world, what could be better than treating your body and mind to environmentally-friendly, spa-quality products made in Ontario’s majestic Muskoka?

Now Mississaugans can celebrate the ancient art of bathing with delicious, handcrafted soap and skincare products made by Muskoka’s Soapstones. This young Canadian company is proud to sell its line at Mississauga’s newly opened Bare Indulgence Bath Boutique, located in the heart of Sherwood Forrest Village.

Now spa aficionados can take home a piece of Muskoka (and a bit of Canada for that matter), every time they visit Bare Indulgence in Mississauga.

By the way, the products are divine. Made with the highest quality vegetable oils, cocoa butters, mineral rich clays and essential oils, one is overwhelmed with their gourmet nature and overwhelming appeal to the senses. Creative products like ‘Muskoka cranberry body scrub’ and ‘pink sugar soap’ offer a fresh and inspired take on traditional soaps and creams.

Some of these products smell so good, you won’t know whether to lick them, or apply them to your body! Soapstones offers exclusive product lines for men and babies, all with natural products free of parabens, sulfate, phithalate, phosphates or any of that other bad stuff for that matter.

It was on a glorious summer day that we made the trek up Highway 400 for the opportunity to catch up with Darla Stipanovich, owner of Soapstones, at her flagship store in Huntsville. This sunny place, just off the main strip, is where the magic of the Soapstones products begins.

A creative workshop in every sense of the word, the female-dominated atelier is stacked to the brim with organic soaps and products open for sale to the public. In the back of the store, in the soap laboratory, is where we manage to get a word with Darla.

Shelves filled with soap ingredients and organic components tug at my attention span as employees are hard at work mixing batches of soap and carrying out the day’s labours. 

“I’m just delighted to be selling my products at Bare Indulgence in Mississauga,” gushes Darla. “It’s amazing what the store owners Lisa and Anthony Caruso have done to showcase the line.” The hard-working and innovative entrepreneur shows why she is the creative and business mastermind behind the company’s success. Soapstones is proudly sold in a number of Canadian locations including Sarnia, Mississauga, Ottawa and Bracebridge through unique business partnerships at various bath boutiques and retail outlets.

“For years, women would stop at our store here in Muskoka and buy products while they were enjoying their stay in cottage country. Many of these women would bring our products back home with them to Mississauga or wherever they were from. Lucky for us, Lisa Caruso was one of those women who fell in love with our products. One day we got to talking and the rest is history! We are so pleased now to be selling our products at her store, Bare Indulgence in Mississauga.”

The passionate baby-boomer revealed that her initial idea for her Soapstones business was born out of creative play. While living in British Columbia, Darla tried her hand at soapmaking with her daughter. She fell in love with the creative process and dreamed of opening her own bath boutique. Not long after, Darla began putting together her business plan. Armed with oodles of self-confidence, extensive experience in retail, business, marketing and a passion for people, Darla took the steps to make her dream a reality.

“I’m not intimidated by risk. Back in Victoria, I started out selling my soaps at the markets. Once we decided to come to Ontario, we built up the business from a grassroots level. Today it’s bigger than I ever could have imagined!  When we were just starting up, we were heavily involved in the local community, with the Muskoka B.I.A. etc. Any local event run by four women and a stand, we were at!  We are now celebrating ten years in Huntsville. This is truly a family business-my husband is an enormous support to me. He’s done every job. He helps with the finances. He did all of the shelving here at the store.”

Having originally learned the art of soap making from her grandmother, Darla admits she is fascinated with the labour intensive process of soap making. Not lacking in the self-promotion department, Darla is pleased to boast the benefits of her products.

“Using our products just feels different. It’s a different experience. You come to be comfortable in your own skin. We make good choices to create our products out of socially and ethically responsible ingredients. Our products aren’t chemically enhanced. We don’t offer any false promises, but we can promise you that you are safe to use Soapstones products on your babies, on your pets and on your men.”

Any advice to the ladies out there looking to start a business of their own?

“Learn as much as you can! Prepare yourself by getting educated with market research. Fully understand your passion from a business perspective. There is really and truly so much help available for women to make a solid business plan. Start out by writing down your idea.

As for me, I’ve got too much sense to be scared. We weren’t making money for the first few years, so we were teaching classes, and we were doing birthday parties. You know, make your own bath balm. You’ve got to be creative.”

So, whether you’re a looking to launch your own business or you are simply a tired human being in need of a little R & R, a good hot bath could truly benefit us all. After all, the Greeks didn’t call bathing an art for nothing.

Bare Indulgence Bath Boutique is located at 1900 Dundas Street West, Boutique #8 in Mississauga. Please call 905-403-0007 or visit www.bareindulgence.ca.  For more information on Soapstones, visit www.soapstones.caGL

Soapstone
LEFT TO RIGHT Maryanne Smith, Darla Stipanovich, Nicole Verzyden
at Soapstones, Huntsville, Ontario

Anthony & Lisa
Anthony and Lisa Caruso, owners of
Bare Indulgence, Sherwood Forrest Shopping Village.
Photo by Peter McCusker






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