By: Barbara Shaw
KAWARTHA LAKES-The idea for Gridley’s Herbs and Aromatherapy, the boutique soap factory in Woodville, Ontario, was planted years ago, before owner Michele Sauve even knew that she was sowing her future success.
Michele has always loved cooking and there’s a bit of laughter in her voice when she explains all she wanted to do was grow some fresh herbs. So, with her heart set on some fresh flavours and garnishes, her garden exploded into an aromatic landscape with over 75 different varieties of herbs to inspire any chef.
Michele says her herb garden brought her great joy. She was commuting to a job in Toronto, working in a factory and the time she spent in her garden was life changing.
“The herb garden brought me great joy,” she recalls. “I would spend all day thinking about getting back to the garden and I when I was there I would work away until it was too dark to see anymore.”
Michele says she has always had a life filled with passion – that she can always find something to jump into. So, in 2001, while wondering what to do with all of her herbs, she decided to check out a soap making workshop.It was an unknown process for Michele – a chemical reaction called saponification when all the different ingredients are turned into soap. Fragrances are added and anything else you like and then the mixture is poured into molds, it’s cut into bars when it hardens and a few weeks later you have soap.
The alchemy and the aromatic potential of the process stole Michele’s heart and she started creating and crafting her own bars of inspiration.
And while it might have made sense to follow her new passion at that time, work took Michele in a different direction. She landed a dream job working in restorative justice and with that, she partially closed the door to her soap room.
Michele has a background in criminology. She studied in Ottawa and when she was there, she shared an apartment with a couple of older students. One of the guys called her “Gridley” and it stuck.
“He had thought my last name was Gridley,” Michele laughs. “It was actually Bradley and he had just mis-heard and it was so funny and when it was time to name the business, it just seemed like the right name to use.”
Michele didn’t need that name for a long time. She continued working in Toronto and she says it was a special time, full of amazing opportunities. But then funding cuts hit, and her job was suddenly gone and she had an opportunity to find a new path.
“I had a real opportunity during a hard time,” Michele says. “I had been making soap for ten years as a hobby and it was time to decide what I wanted my life to look like. I had been squeezing-in my passion and I wanted to make this the biggest part of my life.”
So, Michele jumped from the not for profit world into what she hoped, would land her in the realm of making profit from herbs and soaps.
“I knew what I wanted to achieve,” she explains. “I had a vision and goals and I wanted to build a company on values like mindfulness, passion, respect, balance and integrity.”
So this is what Michele infused into every product that she created.
“When you buy a bar of soap in the store you don’t know who made it, they don’t tell you there are animal ingredients, you really don’t know what’s in it,” she says. “Mostly, it’s not soap – it’s detergent.”
Detergents will dry your skin, Michele explains, which is how moisturizers get sold. Gridley products treat the body, and the soul, with care and kindness. No animal products are ever used and even the packaging in mindful with most products being packaged in glass or aluminum.
Michele is thankful that she took the leap of faith to start the herb garden so many years ago and that she has now grown a successful, small-scale business. She employs a small team of amazing people who help to sell product at markets, mall kiosks and gift shows. They also help with mail order and manufacturing products.
Her product line includes powders, oils, body whips, sprays and of course, a long list of beautiful, aromatic, naturally crafted soaps and Michele loves them all. When asked to choose a favourite, she reluctantly decides on her line of salt scrubs that are made with an oil base to provide tons of moisture.
“I use the oil because once you use water you have to use a chemical preservative,” Michele notes. “This product exfoliates and moisturizes.”
She even gets fan mail about the salt scrubs.
And that’s part of why Michele is excited to keep growing her small business. She’s got a loyal following and thanks to the Internet and being added an arts and heritage trail in Kawartha Lakes, she’s connecting new people to her products all the time.
“I’m on their printed guide and interactive map,” Michele says. “So, I’m looking for more ways to expand by developing demonstrations and giving talks.”
With a plan to grow her passion and the joy from connecting her vales to her work, Michele Sauve and her herb garden and sure to keep Gridley’s Herbs and Aromatherapy blooming for a long time.
For more information on Gridley’s go to https://gridleys.ca