This week's feature artisan is Shelby Cook, a longstanding friend of Calvin. Shelby is a Gananoque native and frequent visitor to her hometown, so we are proud to support her and carry her luscious line of organic home care products.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised just outside of Gananoque and have slowly made my way to Guelph, On. I moved to Guelph with my partner Jonah and our dog Winston so that Jonah could run his business. He specializes in marketing and advertising. We are so proud to live in such an Eco-friendly city with composts on the streets, repair cafes, community gardens and a huge group of Eco-conscious people.
Are you completely self-taught? Did you go to school for your work?
I am self taught with a few business courses under my belt as well. I have felt like a self starter for years and am so glad that I put in the hard work to allow myself to be partially self employed and hopefully fully self employed some day. My grandfather and his grandfather were also entrepreneurs and both were the owners of a business that is now 80+ years old. I think that they would be very happy to know that I was running a business.
Can you explain the techniques used to make your products? Where do you draw your inspiration from? My first idea for Spiffy Naturals happened one night at my local juice bar. They were juicing and throwing the organic rinds into the garbage. I asked them if they could compost at their location and they said that the municipality wouldn’t allow compost pick up on the main street. I thought this was such a shame so I went home to research a use for citrus rinds. A few months later I began to create our surface cleaners, which are now available in seven natural produced scents, all are made from upcycled citrus rinds.
When was the first time you sold your products? How did it make you feel?
It was actually a large store called the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto that first took my products. I called for weeks and finally received a response for a meeting. I remember I brought all of my five or so products to the store in my little red riding hood basket. The labels were printed from my at home computer and every product appears very home made. I truly didn’t think I had a shot and I was very nervous, what made the difference was that I believed very strongly in what I was doing and that I had something special to share. The buyer saw this and she took a chance on me. Four years later and counting they are still my most prominent client.
When did you decide to start doing this on this scale? How have you found balancing your two careers? The business just grew the more work that I did, so I don’t think I had very much choice in the growth of the business. One order led to another and one day it was just rolling and I went along for the ride. My partner Jonah is always saying that the more you do, the more you can do, so I think that helped greatly. It is still written on our whiteboard years later. As for balancing two careers, that is still a work in progress and very challenging. I would say that prioritizing, planning my schedule a month in advance and just taking each day as it comes has helped me. I also set aside certain days to just work on the one business.
Do you have a favorite product? Why?
I am biased of course and love them all and have been using my own products for years around the house. If I had to choose then it would be our new line of bulk products. I have become more concerned about packaging and waste so it is pretty exciting to be able to offer a zero waste option. My second favourite product is the Lemon & Eucalyptus room spray or laundry soap. This is tough question, I love them all haha!
What projects are you working on right now?
I am working away on the bulk options and am planning to have all of our products available in bulk in the next year.
What would you like the future of Spiffy Naturals to be? Is this a hobby or do you want it to become your full-time gig?
It would be a dream come true if Spiffy Naturals could be full time. In the meantime I will keep working away and with more and more local stores supporting us then we hopefully one day it will be full time.
Why did you join Arts & Craft Collective? What's part of it do you find the most exciting?
I joined Arts & Craft Collective because one of my closest friends Calvin is the co-owner. I am so thrilled to a part of this beautiful store and I feel even more thrilled to know that some of my friends from school are also a part of the store. I hadn’t realized how many talented people were raised in Gananoque. Thank you Arts & Craft Collective for this opportunity and for creating a platform for so many local artists.
You can connect with Shelby directly here: