Unboxing days smell truly incredible when I receive a delivery from Charleston Botanicals. Located just a few kilometres down the road from The Green Gecko on the banks of Charleston Lake, founder Angela Bourbonnais, mixes up recipes with complexity and care, formulating heritage-inspired skincare products that will pamper your body and your soul. If you’re shopping online, I can’t wait for you to smell these!
Angela started her business 23 years ago to solve a problem that existed in her personal life. When her eldest son (an infant at the time) developed eczema, Angela found there were limited natural remedies she could use on his sensitive skin. She took it upon herself to start researching and making her own formula, and through trial and error developed a blend that worked like a charm.
As is the case with many makers who create wonderful products, this generated interest with family and friends. “It became a little bit addictive,” says Angela “it was also lots of fun.”
…and Charleston Botanicals was born!
Over the years Angela has run the operation as a hobby business while working in a professional career. She now resides along the shores of Charleston Lake, she sells her products online and through partnerships with retailers like us while also balancing the operation of a seasonal lakeside retreat.
I’ve been impressed with Angela’s products from the start. It’s clear she takes great care in creating every part of the Charleston Botanicals line. Angela has seen an acceleration in her business as people become more aware of what they are putting on their skin.
“There are a lot of people with sensitivities that want to use products with essential oils rather than fragrance, or have the option for unscented. They want variety”.
As a small batch maker, Angela maintains full control over what she puts in each product and modifies recipes based on customer demand. She builds up her product portfolio by listening to what is trending and to her customer's needs.
“If I have a customer or a retailer who is looking for something, I take note and if I have enough requests for something specific I will start researching the ingredients and formulations.”
Her dedicated workspace smells like a patchwork of patchouli & peppermint, bergamot & blackberry, lemongrass & lavender - some of the natural scents blended into her products.
One of the best-sellers at The Green Gecko is the shampoo bars, customers rave about how well they lather and last significantly longer than traditional bottled shampoo. It’s definitely a product you’ll wonder how you did without!
Angela keeps her ingredients as natural as possible and follows industry regulations including safe usage rates and submitting her formulations to Health Canada for approval.
“I use safe ingredients that are good for you and affordable.” She’s explained to me it can be a delicate balance of sourcing what is natural but won’t be harmful to your health as even some seemingly natural ingredients can have a short shelf life or cause irritations. “Some natural products can cause damage and are not always the best option.”
I am always thrilled to add new products to the shelves, especially when I know that they will be well received by my customers. One of Angela's latest products that have become a personal favourite is the whipped sugar scrub which moisturizes, cleanses, and exfoliates all at once. The smell is divine. “I’m very proud of this product” notes Angela, “it took me a while to formulate this and get it right.”
At this stage of her business, Angela can tackle some very advanced recipes to evolve her product line and some present more challenging situations for development.
A challenge Angela loves to take on.
“The shower steamers have been one of the most difficult products to create as the formulation has to change depending on the season. The main ingredient is in powder format and you need a liquid to bind them. We live on a peninsula surrounded by water so the formulation changes based on the humidity in the air.”
Keeping up with trends is something Angela also thrives on, she then strives to make formulations of her own that will stand out from the crowd. “I will buy other products and trial them to see what I like and don’t like. A product that’s nice on your skin is suddenly not so nice when your shower floor is oily and slippery.” With over two decades of self-taught botanical blending, Angela can take her knowledge and experience and craft her own batch to perfection.
Her sustainable practices go beyond wholesome ingredients and I always appreciate her commitment to low waste packaging. Angela uses limited packaging, recyclable plastics, and sources her raw materials as close to home as possible for a truly local Canadian-made product. “There are always different options to use in a formulation so why not pick one that will help support another local business”
And when it comes to locally sourced, nothing is closer than your backyard. Angela grows and forages many natural ingredients on her lakeside property. Have you heard of horsetail, also known as shade grass? It grows right along the shorelines of Ontario lakes and is just one of the many natural products she uses to infuse her oils.
Angela has been a valuable partner maker of The Green Gecko since 2019, stocking the shelves with a variety of soaps, shampoo/conditioner bars, and other fabulously scented products. We share the same ethos that supporting local and entrepreneurship in business is a win-win. The Charleston Botanicals line will appeal to customers who are seeking natural and ethically sourced products as well as those who are simply drawn in by the gorgeous scents and quality items.
Ready to try out Charleston Botanicals for yourself? View the full collection.
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