Just the Goods Interview

 

If you are looking for a great vegan, natural skin-care line, our new sponsor, Just the Goods has the products for you. Here is my interview with Milena, the woman behind Just the Goods. 

 

When did you start making your products?

I started making natural skin care items for myself and my immediate circle of friends at the end of 2007. The feedback I received was very positive and I was encouraged to make these items more widely available, so I opened an Etsy shop in May 2009 and started posting items for sale in October.

I participated in my first local craft show in November of that year then hosted an open-house in December. Community response was incredible in all cases, and since then a great deal of enthusiasm for Just the Goods has spread word of mouth around Winnipeg, and now around the world.

I became an approved member of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics in 2009 and, as one of only 321 cosmetics and skin care companies worldwide, was granted Champion status November 2011.

What inspired you to start this business?

The precise motivation for creating natural skin care products arrived when my partner began developing a painful rash after shaving – more than just razor burn, he was experiencing harsh redness with flaking skin. It eventually dawned on us that he had developed an allergy to the chemicals present in conventional canned shaving cream and needed an alternative.

Based on internet-based research, I concocted all sorts of possibilities from oil based products, even going as far as using ones containing dairy. Some worked, but none were convenient.

I eventually figured out that he needed a good, pure soap with antibacterial support through essential oils, and I set to learning how to make such a thing, and it worked!

Upon learning that our favorite “natural” toothpaste and lip balm brands had been purchased by multinational conglomerates that also produce toxins and lobby governments to continue producing them, I decided to reduce our reliance on all chemical skin care and grooming products.

Some products required more research and development than others. For example, it took two years to develop a safe, effective and affordable deodorant that didn’t contain any of the ingredients flagged by the Environmental Working Groups’ cosmetics database. But on the other hand, I figured out lip balm almost instantly!

Your products are wonderful. How did you come up with your formulas? 

Thank you! I’m so happy to like them! I develop formulas based on research informed trial and error. That is, I learn about the properties of ingredients I would like to include, particularly with regard to the natural benefits they are known to provide, whether they be carrier oils, essential oils, etc. and  cross-reference every possible option with the EWG’s cosmetics database.

When I first stared, I would look at the ingredients of products I was already using and find inspiration there. For example, when I decided I wanted to stop using the mass produced chemical face wash I’d come to rely on, I saw that the only safe ingredients were water and shea butter.

They became the basis for the first face wash I developed in 2007 and still use to this day — the moisturizing variety for oily/combination skin. Now I tend to start completely from my imagination, all ideas being reinforced by research. It is perhaps my experience as an academic researcher that helps me sift through fact and fiction online, in books, etc. But again, I must assert that EWG’s cosmetics database is my first, most trustworthy go-to resource.

What inspired you to make them vegan? 

I have been completely dairy-free since 1998 and entirely vegan at various points of my life as determined by the state of my personal health/consultation with my naturopath. I always believe in living as kindly possible and, since I’m completely opposed to animal testing (especially when it comes to cosmetics), the decision to produce vegan items came very naturally.

Apart from this, I’m deeply concerned about the way vegan products are often up-marketed as luxury items, so I’m motivated to offer affordable vegan options as a way for them to become more widely available, therefore facilitating healthier living as part of increased consciousness about kind living, environment protection, and consumerism in general.

If it is true that, as relatively privileged people, every single choice we make impacts the quality of life of other beings, it helps when those choices are easier to access/make.

In the interest of full transparency, I would like to note that while Just the Goods offers a vegan lip balm (with candelilla wax and seabuckthorne oil), I also make one that contains beeswax and lanolin. The reason I continue to make lip balm with beeswax and lanolin is that I’ve discovered they are helpful ingredients for people seeking to end reliance on petroleum-based lip balms. I’ve also discovered that people prone to cold sores appreciate these ingredients to keep their lips as hydrated as possible, thus better protecting them from elemental triggers (i.e. dryness, over exposure to sun and wind).

The shaving brush I’m currently offering is probably not vegan. The supplier insists that it is, but I’m a little suspicious and don’t label it as such. Notes are available here under product notes: http://shop.justthegoods.net/?product=non-synthetic-shaving-brush. I’m still looking for an affordable synthetic vegan shaving brush that I can acquire and resell affordably. I highly recommend Omega’s synthetic shaving brush to anyone seeking a vegan option – this is available through a broad number of major retailers online.

Do you have any issues shipping to the US or other parts of the world?

I’m very happy report that Just the Goods has travelled to destinations as far-flung as Greece, Hong Kong, Scotland, Sweden, Australia, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Singapore… the list goes on =-) So yes! I love shipping worldwide! In fact, you might be interested to know that of all mail order sales, the US is my number one destination. I believe this has something to do with the strange policies of Canada Post which makes it more affordable to ship outside of Canada than within. So odd, but on the upside, this means I have the opportunity to communicate with people in so many places – I enjoy this very much!

What are your favorite products?

Ah! So many! How to narrow it down?  I adore my toner for oily combination skin, clove and orange toothpaste, lavender roll-on deodorant, and lavender hand and body lotion. My favorite body butter is lavender, bergamot and ylang ylang. Even making that body butter floats me to a happy place — the scent is completely transportive!  Oh, I should also add my new leave-in spray hair conditioner … I have never had softer hair in my life! I also love that such a tiny bit does so much. The bottle lasts a very long time.

Where do you want to take your company?

Great, and tricky question!

I never imagined Just the Goods would become as popular as it has, so I must admit to still not having a traditional business plan.  Thinking about the environmental and social impact of large businesses and mass production, I really do believe small is beautiful, so I’m truly committed to always making products in small batches to ensure freshness without artificial preservatives.

I therefore have no “growth” plan in a conventional sense.  It is true that I’m already starting to outgrow my small production lab, so it might be nice to one day have more space to better organize raw material storage so I can be more efficient, but whatever happens in that regard, I want to be sure people always get personalized customer service from a real human being that genuinely cares about their wellness and other specific needs =-)

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