I recently had the opportunity to interview Rocky Mountain Soap Co. co-owner, Karina Birch.
Having been a long time fan of the brand, it was a privilege to be able to learn some new things about the world of skincare, and get to know the driving force behind the popular Canadian soap company.
To kick things off, tell us a couple things about yourself:
I grew up with 4 brothers…that says a lot! I ferment Kombucha and Kefir, my cupboards contain strange jars of bubbling brew. I like to do things by scratch such as sewing, knitting, gardening and cooking. I love to teach these crafts to my three kids.
What is the story behind RMSC? How did it start?
My husband and I purchased the company from Tricia Pearson in 2000. Tricia started it out of her home and we bought it a year after she opened her first retail location.
Describe how toxin-free living is important for both the environment and the consumer.
There was a time when we lived without all the chemicals we have today. I saw a glimpse of this life spending summers on my grandparent’s farm. They lived clean in order to protect the land and the water, which was their livelihood. As we went through the industrial era and became further removed from the source of our food and water we became naturally oblivious to the effects of our lifestyles. When you read about lakes full of microbeads found in toothpaste and face wash, that is what I am talking about. I am an advocate for being conscious about what we use on our bodies and the effect on our own health and the environment.
If you could name one “red list” ingredient for consumers to watch out for, what would it be?
Triclosan – Commonly found in hand sanitizers, toothpastes, body washes and cosmetics. Triclosan is a antibacterial agent. The Canadian Medical Association is concerned about “anti-bacterial resistant” superbugs and are calling for a ban in personal care. It is persistent and is showing up in our drinking water, breast milk, aquatic life etc. Hand washing with soap and water is just as effective as using Triclosan.
Share a couple of your favorite “green list” ingredients and some of their restorative properties with us.
Lavender Essential Oil – I use our Lavender Body Butter on my kids for burns and cuts. The Lavender Bubble Bath is great before bed. It’s a great all around ingredient to have around the house.
Coconut Oil – We use this ingredient in a lot of our products, I also cook with it and use it as a replacement for butter on toast and popcorn. It is great for your skin and metabolism.
Avocado – We use the pulp in our avocado soap and the oil in our Hydrating Face Serum. My skin is very dry so I eat a lot of Avocados as well. The oil is very rich in nutrients and vitamins and I like the way it absorbs nicely into my skin.
Does the toxin-free movement extend beyond body care? Do our food choices and daily activity play into this movement as well?
I put a lot of effort into sustainable store design so the environment we create for our customers is Toxin Free. I take the same care at home because I want good air quality for my family. Food choice is #1 for me. How I feel is directly impacted by what I eat. I juice weekly and most of my grocery shopping is done in the produce section. I eat mostly vegetarian and rarely buy meat at the grocery store. I use an organic chicken delivery service and my husband hunts so that we can have healthier meat. Exercise reduces stress and also helps our bodies eliminate toxins.
Many would describe you as a successful business woman, but what does success mean for you?
Success is quality time with my family as the first priority. It also means having a financially stable business that create jobs, improves lives and creates a positive social/environmental impact.
How do you find balance between business and your personal life?
I gave up the idea of balance and focus on a few priorities.
Aside from the RMSC and the toxin-free movement, what other passions and hobbies
do you have?
Cycling and sailing. These are like yoga for me.
If you could leave your children with one lesson to carry into adulthood, what would it be?
Step boldly into conversations. This is leadership and leads to a rich life.
Finally, would you mind sharing one of your favorite outdoor experiences with us?
A 12 day hike along the Arctic coast from Tree River to Kugluktuk with my husband. It was the first time anyone had walked this route. We did it unsupported and we didn’t see a single person the whole time except for Muskox, Grizzly Bear and Caribou.
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