Joanne Arnold is the founder and creator at Soulful Sister Aromatherapy here in the West Shore. A chartered herbalist, it was obvious when I was speaking with her last month, that she creates her unique and amazing line of products because of her passion for essential oils. She only uses natural, organic and fair trade ingredients and 100% pure essential oils.
She cares deeply about the products she makes and about the customers who use them. She has customers worldwide! Joanne and her family live, work and play in Langford.
Q: What was it that motivated you to set up an essential oils business?
A: Twenty-five years ago, I apprenticed in Vancouver with an herbal apothecary that made their own herbal compounds. I learned how to make compounds, bottle and label essential oils, take a formula and use herbs to make an exact recipe. I fell in love with the whole process. It inspired me to continue with my studies of herbalism. Yet, it was always essential oils that I loved the most. About five years later, our family moved back to Victoria. I was at home with my kids for a while and began making my own massage oil. I called it ‘Soulful Blend’, because aromatics are very soulful and holistic. I sold the oil at my husband’s clinic [Chiropractic for Life]. Everybody told me how amazing they thought the product was and that I should make more. So, I did. I still sell that product today. It’s called ‘Peace & Love’ and is one of our most popular blends.
Q: What does a day in the life of an aromatherapist look like?
A: As an aromatherapist, I study essential oils, each of which have different properties and safety regulations. I also need to be aware of their differing uses for my customers, such as if they are pregnant or have certain pre-existing conditions. I have to be very knowledgeable about what these essential oils can do in order to guide them therapeutically.
Q: So, it’s not just having product knowledge, it’s also about guiding people about correct usage?
A: Yes. There is a lot of usage information out in the world right now and a lot of it is incorrect. People come in with questions almost every day: “I’ve been told to do this. Is this correct? Should I be doing this with my [medical] condition?” To ensure those questions are answered properly, everybody who works here has studied aromatherapy.
Q: You’re actually creating the product. Can you tell our readers more about that process?
A: Yes, we’re the only company in the West Shore making and selling our own aromatherapy and body care products on site. For almost 20 years, I’ve been purchasing pure essential oils from distillers all around the world. A lot of them, such as Cinnamon, Patchouli and Lemon Grass, come from very hot countries. The only oils we get from Canada are black spruce and balsam fir. Once we’ve purchased the raw ingredients, I combine them to make our sprays, massage oils, salves, and roll-ons. All the recipes are mine. I’ve created every product here [in the store].
Q: Amazing! So, it’s like an aromatherapy test kitchen?
A: Yes. Testing often takes close to two years before a product gets to market, because I don’t always get it right the first time We know what the essential oils do and, for example, that they get stronger when combined together. If I have one oil for sleep, like lavender, and I combine it with another oil, like chamomile that is also for sleep, they both make each other stronger, the aroma lasts longer in the air and it just works
better because it’s more powerful.
Q: I heard you were on the Dragon’s Den. Tell our readers about that experience.
A: In 2013, my graphic designer, Victoria Mitchell and myself auditioned for the Dragon’s Den in Victoria. They loved us right away and said we’d be perfect for Dragon’s Den. We decided to show off ‘Bitchy Babe’, a product for women who are cranky! Our ask was eighty thousand dollars for a third of our business. We got an offer with Jim for our ask—but he wanted 50% of the business! We worked with his company for a few months and got a meeting with Rexall. But, I didn’t feel good about it as a place for Soulful Sister products. Too pharmaceutical. And Jim’s deal only applied if I got a deal from a store. Still, I wanted to see this process through, because I’d invested so much time, money and effort. In the end though, I turned Rexall down. What was also devastating was Dragon’s Den didn’t ever air [our pitch]. There were a few technical problems on production site that happened during our filming. So, after all that, the deal didn’t come to anything—except the experience was still amazing!
Q: Well, if nothing else, it put you on a path that brought you to where you are today.
A: Yes, for sure. It made me firmer in my conviction to go ahead and be amazing with or without [their support]. I mean financials are important in business, but Soulful Sister is about making products that help people have a better life. That’s really our goal. When people turn to essential oils, most often, it’s because they’re stressed or they don’t sleep. Maybe a family member is ill or maybe they just want to put oil in their diffuser to relax when they get home. And as they breathe in the aroma of essential oils that come from Mother Earth, a connection happens in the brain that recognizes the fragrance as something real; a very
primitive place where we all are from.