Welcome to The Localite Lounge. Today we are getting to know the owner of Yukon Soaps Company, Joella Hogan, a member of the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation and of the Crow Clan. Joella lives in Mayo, Yukon and creates beautiful, hand-crafted soaps, shampoo bars, essential oil blends, and so much more!
Hi Joella, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Could you tell me about the ingredients you use in your products?
I try to use as many local ingredients as possible – so this means plants that I harvest, plants that I grow in the garden to locally roasted coffee, Yukon Honey and anything else. The main ingredients such as olive oil and coconut oil are shipped all the way up here.
I see that you have developed an essential oil kit, with proceeds going to community initiatives. Can you tell me about that?
I am always thinking about ways that I can do better – whether this is more eco-friendly packaging, ethically sourced materials but also social good. I know, because I see and live it, that our people are stronger and healthier when they are connected to the land and have cultural teachings. I wanted a way that people who purchase my products could contribute to this. So I had a vision – but I didn’t know what product. At the same time, I was working with Artist Lianne Charlie @littlesalmonwoman on some kind of collaboration, but we didn’t know exactly what and had been brainstorming for a few years. And also at the same time, I was getting more and more requests for essential oil blends. So eventually all of brainstorms and ideas merged into this beautiful idea. Soothan de ik’anate, means to “take care of yourself” in Northern Tutchone (my grandmother’s language) Proceeds from each gift set go directly into my home-community of Mayo to support initiatives that include: training indigenous youth in traditional-medicine, small business skills development, language revitalization, and financial donations that go to local charities and community groups for indigenous cultural revitalization. These blends honour indigenous ways of knowing and being and are inspired by the boreal forest. There is so much goodness in this single purchase. I sold out instantly! (available on backorder)
What is it like having a business in a small northern town?
There are many great things but also absolute challenges. I strongly believe that we are able to find local solutions to local problems though. Challenges include shipping and everything is imported except for what I harvest. This means delays and higher costs. I also feel like I have incredible community support – friends and family are the first ones to jump in when I need help!
I love the packaging with the beading designs on it. Can you tell me a bit about the beading?
I learned how to bead later in life and have continued to this day. The Northern Tutchone women of our community are known for their incredible bead work and I felt like using the images in the soaps. It helps to share their stories and their work and that means a lot to me. Each soap includes a brief story about the artist and the traditional piece that was photographed. Some of the artwork is very old, belonging in collections of their family members, others are from more recent bead work. The beading comes from moccasins, clothing, scissor cases and even a beautiful baby belt. Each soap shares just a snippet of this beautiful craft.
What is your background?
My academic background is in environmental science and community planning and my “other work” not related to soap is about connecting people to place, culture and language in ways that support their personal path to wellness and build healthier communities.
Do you have any advice for new entrepreneurs?
Stay true to your values and ethics. Go slow. Do research and build your team of people – you can’t do it all!
The Yukon Soaps Company was winner of the 2019 Indigenous Business of the Year in the Yukon and was featured by HuffPost US as one of “14 Native-Owned Beauty and Skin Care Brands to Fall in Love With”,
All the best Joella and enjoy the Yukon summer!