A soap factory in rural Yukon celebrates 10 years in business by moving into a new building, which the owner hopes will not only help her meet growing demand, but also benefit her community .
Joella Hogan has owned the Yukon Soaps Company, which has been specializing in handcrafted bar soaps from ingredients gathered in the territory, for a decade now.
While she largely operates it from her home in Mayo — a community of about 460 people about 400 km north of Whitehorse — Hogan, a citizen of Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation, will soon be moving the production to a newly constructed space on Second Avenue.
Called Raven’s Landing, a nod to Hogan’s clan, the two-story darkwater building not only contains a 2,000-square-foot soap-making workshop, but also two affordable one-bedroom units, including the one is wheelchair accessible. , and a third apartment for short-term rentals for visitors.
Hogan told the CBC housing is a ‘critical’ issue in Mayo, with the community struggling to house residents and attract qualified people for key jobs – something he was concerned about as he considered building a dedicated location for Yukon Soaps.
“I thought, ‘I have an opportunity here to contribute more to the community and not just to my business,’ so it really made sense to add housing to this building,” she said. .
Dozens of people attended the grand opening of Raven’s Landing on April 8, where they had the chance to tour the still-empty workspace and apartments.
Among the attendees was Ranj Pillai, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. The company provided the Yukon Soaps Company with $160,000 from its Housing Initiatives Fund to build affordable housing.
“I think for all of us, we can say, after what we’ve just been through for the past two years and what’s been going on in the world, we need more good things and we need more Joellas in the world. world for good things to happen,” he told attendees at the opening ceremony.
Simon Mervyn Sr., Chief of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation, was also present at the opening.
“We are very proud of [Hogan]“, he said, adding that it is good to see more infrastructure in Mayo and that citizens are creating more economic opportunities for themselves and other members of the community.
“Moving forward with the dreams and aspirations of young people like Joella is commendable.”
“Some days I miss someone else to tell me what to do”
Hogan is the third owner of the Yukon Soaps Company, purchasing the business in 2012 and establishing a local customer base in the territory and beyond.
In addition to bar soaps, the company also sells other products including essential oils, bath salts and scrubs containing Yukon-harvested plants and flowers such as fireweed, wild roses and juniper berries, with product names and packaging featuring the Northern Tutchone language and local Aboriginal work. artists.
The business, Hogan said, has started to grow “much faster than I thought it would,” and it hasn’t been able to keep up with demand for years now.
“When I started, I never could have imagined this would happen and the company would achieve this reach, so (I’m) super proud and super nervous,” she said, adding that she hopes to hire more people from Mayo to help her increase her production.
“Some days I miss someone else telling me what to do… But I have a great team and I know this business is really well supported by so many people and especially Yukoners. I was really stuck and wanted to give up, you know, there was always so much love and appreciation and support to keep going.”
As well as creating both housing and employment opportunities in the community, Hogan said she’s also proud that Raven’s Landing is entirely Indigenous – it was designed by architect Alanna Quock with Regenative Design. and built by Van Fleet Construction, which, like Yukon Soaps, are Indigenous-owned businesses.
“The fact that (Raven’s Landing) is owned, designed and built by a Yukon First Nation is really, really exciting to me,” Hogan said.
Another significant fact, the building is located near the Stewart River, the name of the Northern Tutchone from which the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation derives its name. Areas near the banks of the river were traditional gathering places – and Raven’s Landing reclaimed a bit more of that space.