Coquitlam-based Sweetgrass Soap gives imperfect product an honest name—and a second chance
Body and skincare companies tend to romanticize their products and their process. But what happens when that ultra-satisfying soap cutting doesn’t go as planned?
When Indigenous entrepreneur Francesca Amine started making her own soaps, it took her an entire year to get the recipe and design just right. “It’s a whole art form,” she explains. Getting that perfect swirl is much harder than it looks, and the learning process yields many soaps that are less than Instagram-worthy.
Sweetgrass Soap founder Francesca Amine
Instead of trashing those less-than-beautiful soaps, Amine decided to sell them along with her regular product under the category “Slightly Imperfect.” While her standard soaps are named for their scent or ingredients (there’s Watermelon Lemonade, Black Cherry Merlot, Coconut Cream and more), she had a bit of fun naming the imperfect ones.
A slightly imperfect "Meat Soap"
Take the soap pictured above, for example. “I tried to do pink and white swirls—two of my favourite colours—and then when I cut into it, it looked like meat,” Amine remembers with a laugh. “So I was like, maybe I can market that—call it Meat Soap.”
Sweetgrass Soap’s Slightly Imperfect bar soaps have been popular at markets and online, both for their eye-catching names and appealing prices. Amine’s regular soaps retail at $9 a bar, and imperfect soaps are $6 (on sale now for $3).
A slightly imperfect "Squashed Bananas" soap
Amine assures that the imperfect soaps don’t have any chemical imperfections—they’re just a little too ugly to sell at full price (see: Really Ugly Soap). They’re also obviously not the main focus of her business, but an important component of the all-natural, eco-friendly brand she’s building.
A slightly imperfect "Pink Chaos" soap
It was after the birth of her son that Amine started making her own skincare products from home. She found that big-box skincare was irritating her baby’s skin. “After you have a baby, you tend to just go with whatever is most widely advertised and available, which is the traditional baby shampoo,” she says. That wasn’t working, and Amine’s DIY spirit kicked in. “I've always been the kind of person that likes to make things on my own.”
A slightly imperfect "Green Martian" soap
She joined soap-making Facebook groups and watched how-to videos on YouTube, learning that irritating sulfates are often added to increase lather—that’s why all-natural soaps aren’t as bubbly as the ones you find on drugstore shelves. Sweetgrass’s soaps, creams, salves and dish soaps are all sulfate-free.
Sweetgrass Soap's regular soap collection includes these beauties: Lavender, Black Cherry Merlot and Dark Waters
Amine has roots in the Lac Seul First Nation in Ontario, and her top-selling items reflect her heritage: there’s her Smudge Spray, used to encourage positive energy (and smoke-free) and her Lip Pointing Grease (“Widely known as lip balm, but I like to call it lip pointing grease because some of us in the Indigenous community like to point with our lips!”). Every product is created by Amine in her home studio, and her coveted bar soap design is inspired by the mountains around her.
Sweetgrass Soap Smudge Spray
Amine’s imperfect soaps might not be pretty, but they’ve got a certain charm. “I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they think they’re funny, and I don’t want to waste anything....If people love it, I’ll make more,” she says. Maybe the next batch of Meat Soap won’t be an accident.