So how does someone with a background in restaurant management end up as a natural bath and body product entrepreneur? For Deidre Zervos, Owner of Botanical Propaganda at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, it was personal.
“My daughter suffered from cystic acne, and her doctors wanted to prescribe a medication,” she explains. Deidre started researching the side effects of acne medications and topical ointments and was concerned by what she discovered. She decided to look down a more natural path to see if there were any alternatives for treating her daughter’s acne. “I eventually found an all-natural oil product and learned about oil cleansing; that was the discovery that started me on my new path.” In 2015 she left the restaurant business and started Botanical Propaganda at the Market (she also operates The Bath Market in the Village of St. Jacobs).
Deidre began researching and experimenting with natural skin care ingredients. “I don’t have a chemistry background,” she says, “so I’m self-taught for the products I make. I’ve taken courses and classes, and I’ve done a lot of research. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s good for us. Poison ivy is ‘natural’, and we wouldn’t want to rub it all over our bodies!”
Deidre has strict criteria for the bath, body and wellness products developed for Botanical Propaganda. All ingredients are sourced from Canadian suppliers, and are not tested on animals. Toxic ingredients, like phthalates and sulfates, are never used and all of her products are vegan. She also follows a ‘less is more’ philosophy, and is developing more products that are package-free. “Our saying is ‘Ditch the Bottle’,” Deidre says. “We make shampoo bars that are package and waste-free. We want people to have a quality, reasonably priced product that also helps the environment by reducing plastics.”
While Botanical Propaganda is known for its bins of bath bombs at the Market, Deidre says her favourite product is the whipped sugar scrubs they make. “They are unique to us,” she says. “They are gentle, exfoliating scrubs that turn into a creamy, lathering body wash. They’re sulphate-free, scented, and they’re very aesthetically pleasing!” And with names like ‘Chubby Unicorn’ and ‘Be Flamazing’, they’re fun too.
Deidre loves being part of the Market culture and specifically choose the Market as the location to launch her business. “Here you meet the people who are making your product,” she explains. “It’s an opportunity for our customers to understand a little more about who we are, what our philosophy is and why we’re doing what we’re doing. We have fantastic conversations with our customers here!”
The relationships Deidre fosters with the community also go beyond sales. “We just partnered with Hope Springs Cancer Support Centre on a holiday fundraiser,” Deidre explains. “We met them through the Market, and were able to provide product for them. You don’t get that interaction if you’re just an online company. Here, you understand who your community is.”
Deidre also likes how the Market works with vendors on special promotions and events. For example, February is the Lots of Love campaign at the Market.
“Our customers can expect heart-shaped bath bombs for sure!” Deidre smiles. “We’ve also come up with themed scents for our whipped scrubs; there’s ‘Stupid Cupid’ and ‘Wine is my Valentine’. And there’s a special promotion where if you spend $40 with us, you’ll get a free sugar lip scrub – which is nice for all of the kissing that will be going on around Valentine’s Day!” Market-goers can also stop by her booth in Peddler’s Village to fill out a ballot for a large gift basket of pamper products, no purchase necessary.
And gentlemen – Deidre wants you to know she has lots of products available for you too. “We’re finding men are becoming more involved in ‘self-care’, and are open to the idea of purchasing products that are more natural as well.”
Deidre loves that her customers are so loyal, and says people are realizing the importance of paying more attention to the ingredients in their body care products.
“Our biggest organ is our skin. People are taking time to eat healthier and live cleaner lifestyles. So if you’re working hard to put good things into your body, doesn’t it make sense to put good things on your body too?”
Deidre also feels it’s important to listen to the needs and wants of her customers.
“Natural ingredients might be a little more expensive to use, but at the end of the day if that’s what people want and that’s what’s better for us and for the environment, then that’s what we’re going to choose for our products.”
Botanical Propaganda is one of the many makers you’ll discover inside Peddler’s Village at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market