Laura Smith and her partner Gram Schmalz started Corktown Soap in the summer of 2016 with the goal of creating natural soaps and an all-natural, handcrafted body care line made in Ontario. They focus on vegan and cruelty-free products, source ingredients from local suppliers and craft their products in small batches.
We chatted with Laura and Gram about their motivation to start an all-natural soap company, which ingredients you should look for if you have dry skin, and advice for other socially and environmentally conscious businesses.
WEHL: Tell us a little about yourselves and why you became interested in natural wellness.
L + G: Corktown Soap was founded by Laura Smith and Gram Schmalz in the summer of 2016. Laura’s background in Retail Management and Visual Merchandising paired well with Gram’s extensive experience in Graphic Design to produce a skincare brand with a focus on simple, natural ingredients.
We first became interested in natural skincare after reexamining our eating habits. We had been working towards eating minimally processed foods, free from unnecessary additives, chemicals, and preservatives. Those same philosophies began to expand to our self-care regimes as well.
WEHL: What are your philosophies on wellness?
L + G: First and foremost – simplicity. We believe that consumers should know and understand the ingredients that they consume for both inner and outer wellness. By eliminating unnecessary preservatives and chemicals, we can make wellness products more sustainable for ourselves (and the planet too!)
WEHL: What is Corktown Soap and why did you decide to start your company?
L + G: We are a Canadian company making small-batch soap and body care. We make all of our products using only all natural, vegan and cruelty-free ingredients. We strive towards creating as little waste as possible in our production process and ensure all of our packaging is reusable or recyclable.
Since transitioning our own personal care regimes to include only natural and locally made products, we saw an opportunity to make beautiful, small-batch body care products that we use ourselves. We wanted to participate in the amazing community of local craftspeople and artisans in Canada and offer our customers a range of products that we feel passionate about.
WEHL: What ingredients go into making your soap?
L + G: We are proudly palm-oil free and ensure first and foremost that all of our ingredients are natural, vegan and cruelty-free.
Our soaps are made with 100% olive oil, which provides a super gentle, mild cleansing bar of soap. We scent our soaps with all natural essential oils (and also offer some unscented varieties for customers who are sensitive to scent).
WEHL: You have a wide variety of soaps. How did you develop the different scents?
L + G: First and foremost, we started by selecting a variety of essential oils that we loved and used in everyday life. We particularly love fresh herbal scents like mint, lemongrass, and eucalyptus. We really wanted to craft a line of soaps that were very gender-neutral and overall crowd-pleasers.
WEHL: What ingredients do you choose to leave out of your soaps and why?
L + G: We chose to omit all synthetic and animal-based ingredients. It was also important for us to never use palm oil in any of our products. We strongly believe that companies can craft truly exceptional products without using ingredients which are harmful to our planet or animal friends!
WEHL: Which soap is your current favorite and why?
L + G: This is that hardest question to answer! We truly love all the different soaps but if we had to choose…
Laura – Pink Clay. I absolutely love the essential oil blend we use in this soap. It is Palmarosa, Blood Orange, and Cedarwood Essential oils. It smells so warm and fresh and summery.
Gram – Cedarwood and Fir. The blend of woodsy essential oils smells amazing and I love that the Balsam Fir needles on top are sourced from a local Wildcrafter who sells at the Leslieville Farmer’s Market.
WEHL: It looks like most of your soaps are designed as a body wash; are there some soaps that you can use as a face wash too?
L + G: While we specifically design the soaps for the body, many of them are wonderful for facial cleansing. I especially like the mineral-based soaps like Pink Clay or Charcoal which make my skin feel hydrated, soft and moisturized.
WEHL: Which soap ingredients would you recommend for someone with dry skin and why?
L + G: As a person with very dry skin, in the past, I really struggled to find a cleanser that didn’t leave me with dry, itchy, flaky skin. Having now transitioned to using our soaps for both face and body cleansing, I find I now don’t even need to use any kind of moisturizers after the shower!
Olive Oil soap is especially great for dry skin because it is such a gentle cleanser. The mild, creamy lather will gently wash away dirt but doesn’t strip away the skin’s naturally produced oils, which really helps anyone with dry skin stay moisturized and glowing!
WEHL: Do you have any advice for an entrepreneur who’s interested in building a socially and environmentally conscious business?
L + G: I think the main piece of advice is to don’t be afraid of making more environmentally conscious choices even if it means that the end product might be a slightly higher cost. Companies struggle to constantly compete to make the cheapest products, ultimately at the expense of the planet (and the customer who gets a poor quality product).
As consumers become better educated about the environmental impacts of irresponsible production processes, more and more people seem to be getting comfortable with spending a little more to purchase ethically made products that are better for their families and our planet too!
Connect with Laura, Gram and Corktown Soap: