Soap company a 'natural' fit on the Eastern Shore

PORT HILFORD, N.S. — There’s no mistaking the sincerity in Leigh McFarlane’s voice when she speaks about the support she’s received during a seven-year journey as an entrepreneur.

“I am grateful,” she said in a soft tone, her voice beginning to crack. “I’m getting all kinds of teary thinking of that because people have believed in this and they’ve used the products and they’ve told other people about the products; and the amount of trust that people have put in us to create things with our hands that they then take with their hands and they use on themselves or their loved ones. I mean, that’s a privilege. So I’m just full of gratefulness.”

McFarlane is owner of The Soap Company of Nova Scotia Ltd., a business located near Port Hilford, Guysborough County. She vividly remembers the day she registered her company at Access Nova Scotia in Truro – Oct. 23, 2013.

“I just remember that clearly, going in there, going ‘here we go.’"

And go she did.

In the beginning, she made products in a 10-by-12-foot room and sold them from a front-porch shop in Sherbrooke. Business has grown exponentially since those humble beginnings, and today, McFarlane’s soaps and skin creams are made in a 1,200 sq.-ft. factory and sold in stores throughout the Maritimes – including Sobeys in Nova Scotia – Quebec and Ontario, as well as online

McFarlane’s business, she says, was born out of a personal need. As someone with scent and chemical sensitivities, she was always on the lookout for natural products.

“I needed them for myself and I figured there were other people that needed them too,” she said. “And at the same time, I decided I could start a company that could create economic development out here on the Eastern Shore.” 

Her product line includes soap bars, shampoo, deodorant, laundry powder, creams, oils, baby products and candles, among other natural, scent-free items. 

“What we’re creating are products that people need, and we need them,” she said. “So we don’t create anything that doesn’t have a reason or is just gratuitous; everything that we’re creating has a purpose.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, McFarlane said wholesale sales suffered while online retail sales soared. The soap company qualified for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy last spring, which allowed for rehiring of workers. The subsidy was later extended to the end of August, however, McFarlane and her staff set their sights on success without further government funding. 

“We were going to make a stretch goal so that we didn’t want to qualify for it anymore; we wanted to be on our own, and so we achieved that. We went higher than our goal, which was really great. So we’re just maintaining the momentum,” she said. “So COVID had an impact of decreasing our sales – yes. But it also had the impact of giving us the financial support, because of what was put in place, to get ready to grow and thrive through this experience as opposed to go off into the sunset.” 

McFarlane currently employs four full-time workers – including an operations manager she hired in July. She hopes to have six full-time employees by next August.

“It takes more than one person,” she said. “You can’t do this with one person – you just can’t, so that’s what I’m really proud of is that we’re doing it together and we’ve got a really positive team and it’s people who care, who want to be here, who are excited to come back to work after they go on vacation; that's so amazing to me.”

One of the many products made at the company’s factory near Port Hilford, Guysborough County. - Contributedemail sharing button