The Founder Series: WoodlotMaya Porebska-Smith
April 12, 2020
At Botanica Health, we love supporting local Canadian businesses. We caught up with one of Woodlot’s founding partners, Sonia, to find out more about her journey from navigating a business, to being a mom, and maintaining time for self-care.
1. What’s the story behind the brand?
My partner Fouad and I both love to make things with our hands. He grew up in Lebanon close to an olive grove and learned the tradition of soap-making through his family. Woodlot was a fun hobby project we started together that has turned into something far more meaningful over the years. Today, we’re motivated by our incredible community we get to share our products with on a daily basis. Now that we’re parents, we’re really motivated and inspired by rituals and traditions focused on the next generation.
2. What does self-care mean to you?
N-E-S-T (Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep and Time for myself). I am a new mom with not a lot of time each day to do something big when it comes to self-care so my new motto is something small each day as these small rituals around self-care really go a long way for me.
3. Are there any health goals that you have?
I’m constantly striving to be as strong and physically fit as I possibly can be. I find that when I exercise, all my other health goals fall into place beautifully. Exercise these days can look like at home yoga, quick 30 minutes of exercise or chasing after my toddler.
4. What are your favorite super foods/natural products? Why?
Turmeric is definitely one of my favourite superfoods. I grew up in a South Asian home where turmeric is a staple. I add it to everything (soups, juices, smoothies). I am such a fan of Botanica’s Turmeric Liquid Herb. I love dropping it into sparkling water.
5. What do you think wellness in the twenty-first century should be?
It should feel simple and easy to integrate into your lifestyle and should be inclusive and somewhat affordable.
6. How do you balance being a young mom and business owner?
I don’t really believe there’s such a thing as balance when you’re running a company with your partner and being a mom. I’ve realized that the secret for me feeling good is being as present as I possibly can when I’m with our son and then the same when I’m working. When things start to feel too much, I know it’s a good time to get outdoors for a bike ride, long walking meditation or yoga class.
7. You mentioned that you hoped your products would “ignite conversation.” What kinds of conversations are you hoping to inspire through Woodlot?
I love when customers reach out to us and tell us how a certain product made them feel. It’s exciting to hear how a particular scent, whether it be from a candle or a facial care product or a bar of soap, inspires someone to pause, and really notice how they feel. Some products will evoke memories. Some create connections. I hope that our products will inspire people to question themselves, like, how am I feeling? What feels good right now? What do I need?
8. Ritual seems to be an important part of your brand. What are some of your favorite rituals?
Why are they important to you and what do they bring to your life? I love face masks. I especially love clay masks that I can blend with other ingredients like honey or yogurt. I love burning incense as this is something I grew up around and I just love the scent experience. I also love to move my body daily and I find that exercise keeps me feeling energized and positive. Rituals keep me grounded, and often can remind me that I am still in the driver’s seat of my own life. Being a mom, running a business, and just life in general, can be really unpredictable. There’s a lot of up’s and down’s, and I’m okay with that – but it’s important to have things that help me find my centre.
9. Your company is “rooted in tradition” and brings ancient traditions together to create your products. Can you expand on some of the traditions you draw from?
I remember my mom sharing really beautiful mask recipes with me using ingredients that she had around the house. I believe that beauty rituals, and wellness in general, used to be a lot simpler. I think that some cultures are still connected with the idea that aging is something to be celebrated, not prevented – and that beauty rituals are about being kind to your body and caring for it through all the seasons of life. I like the idea of blending a mask for what I believe my skin needs on a particular day, the same way I would consider my whole body when preparing a meal. And I love the idea of sharing ideas and recipes for skincare with other people, and understanding the intention behind each ingredient. It’s these traditions of playfulness, thoughtfulness, and sharing that inspire me the most.
10. How do you honor the cultural significance of the ingredients in your products?
One of our big focuses this year, as a company, will be education. It’s important to us that our retail partners, our customers, and anyone who is connected with Woodlot understands where our ingredients come from, what cultures and traditions have inspired our products, and what they mean to us – but we’re also always interested to learn what they mean to other people. I think people enjoy learning where an idea came from, and learning about the origin of rituals and traditions, but I also believe that rituals are meant to be passed down from one generation to the next. Hearing how people use our products will forever be my greatest motivation for doing this work.
11. One of the features of your philosophy is that “beauty and wellness should be …inclusive.” What does that mean to you?
I believe that beauty and wellness should be accessible to anyone and doing something small for ourselves – whether it be lighting a candle and taking a few moments to relax, or using a facial product to self massage, reading before bed, evening walk, warm milk before sleeping or even just practicing one moment of gratitude. I think that keeping rituals open, and flexible, and inspiring people to personalize them goes a long way in creating a community where everyone feels welcome, and that they are enough, on any given day, to be a part of something.