For the founders of Bro Brick and Westmount Soap Co., one thing is certain: The scent of squeaky clean comes from handmade soap. What’s less clear, however, is whether it smells like where you live, or what you love. The two local startups have taken different approaches to the business (and branding) of bubbles.
MacKenzie Proudlove, creator of Bro Brick, entered the world of personal hygiene products after first dabbling in scents for the home.
“I wanted candles for the house, but all my wife had were these floral scents, which wasn’t really what I wanted, so I created ComMANdles,” he says, “but, after a while, I realized that men weren’t really in the market for candles. Soap – that was a different story.”
As his candle-making venture went up in smoke, Proudlove began pairing fragrances and household ingredients to create a lineup of soaps that men would love, including scents of rye and ginger (using real Canadian rye), beer and wasabi, and oatmeal stout. His intuition was right and, three years later, Bro Brick has received international acclaim. After being included in the September 2016 issue of British GQ, Proudlove saw sales in locations as far as Iceland and the United Kingdom.
And while Bro Brick’s cheeky branding encourages users to “smack the filth off,” Ryan Lister’s Westmount Soap Co. has a quieter, yet distinctly Edmonton feeling. Using only essential oils, he developed custom scent profiles for neighbourhoods around the city, including lavender and vanilla for Glenora, orange and spearmint for Oliver, and coffee and vanilla for Old Strathcona.
“When we started Westmount Soap company, we asked around to find out what kinds of scents people thought of with each neighbourhood,” he says, “we wanted to keep everything 100 per cent natural, but customize the scents and neighbourhoods we featured to meet our customers’ requests.”
And though their approaches differ, Proudlove and Lister have both seen steady growth through support from local shops and markets. What started out as a part-time hobby for both men has turned into a pair of increasingly successful ventures.
“People are happy to support local products, and they want to be connected to how those products are made,” says Lister.
Neither is certain about what the future looks like for their businesses, but they agree that there’s something about handmade soaps that just makes sense.
Lister says, “The way commercial soaps are made takes out a lot of the good ingredients that are there in artisanal products.”
“There’s no comparing the two. Handmade soap just gives a much richer lather, leaves your skin feeling better. I’ll be using it for the rest of my life,” says Proudlove, “and I’ll never stop making it either.”