Sḵwálwen Botanicals

Sḵwálwen Botanicals (skwall – win) is an Indigenous business creating botanical skin care products. Honouring traditional Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) plant knowledge, we incorporate sustainably harvested plants and organic, high quality ingredients. Our wild plant ingredients are harvested in a respectful way and each product has a Squamish name to honour the place where this plant knowledge comes from. Founded by ethnobotanist Leigh Joseph of Squamish First Nation, Sḵwálwen is plant medicine for skin and spirit, incorporating respectfully harvested botanicals, organic oils, nourishing plant-derived butters and steam distilled essential oils. Our products are handcrafted and our business is Indigenous owned and operated on the Unceded Territories of the Skwxẃu7mesh (Squamish) First Nation.

Question: How are you supporting other local businesses?

Answer: We focus on working with sustainable suppliers especially for our botanical ingredients. About 80% of our suppliers are based in B.C. and I have direct relationships with all of them. Some of our ingredients are grown locally. We wild-harvest a portion of our ingredients, and we source nettle and wild mint from Chickadee Farm, which grows all of their ingredients in B.C. I source other ingredients from B.C. or Canadian suppliers, including Voyageur Soap & Candle (Surrey) and New Directions Aromatics (Toronto). Working with local businesses gives me the opportunities to build partnerships. For instance, we’re working with Valley Buds Flower Farm (Squamish) on growing some of the wild plants and native species (e.g. yarrow) we need in order to reduce any pressure that wildcrafting might have on local ecosystems.. We’ve also worked with Valley Buds to bring Squamish Nation youth out to the farm to pot native plants, connecting them to their communities to plant. We’re also collaborating with Saanich Native Plants (Vancouver Island) on growing wild plants for our products, and together, on National Indigenous Peoples Day, we’re launching The hiýáḿ Project — which will distribute the seeds of native plants to First Nations communities.

Most of our services come from local businesses. Our labels are from Sticky Business, a small print shop in Victoria (Sticky Business). We are partnering with Vancouver-based businesses on marketing and packaging design.  Our accountant Burkett & Co. is based in Victoria.

We also have fantastic retail partners that carry a selection of Sḵwálwen products, such as  Billies House in Squamish, Bill Reid Gallery, Lattimer Gallery, The Garden Strathcona, The Federal Store and so many other great shops in the lower mainland. We have many other retail partners across B.C. and Canada. Our products are  also featured in Holt Renfrew as part of their H Project, which highlights sustainable brands.

Question: What social and environmental practices are you proud of?

Answer: As an ethnobotanist, researcher and community activist, my aim is to contribute to cultural knowledge renewal in connection to Indigenous plant foods and medicines. It is foundational and central to the business to contribute to the Skwxwú7mesh Nation and other First Nations communities. And knowledge renewal is a big part of this – we harvest ingredients on the land together, and share knowledge. Pre-COVID I did community-based teaching and held plant celebrations at the Skwxwú7mesh Nation community hall. At those events, we share knowledge about plants and share a meal made with traditional plants. Through the business I’ve also been able to hire 4 women from the Skwxwú7mesh nation, two of them are youth. Providing meaningful employment to them is really important to me. We also raise funds for Indigenous communities or partners. We donate 10% of the sales from our craft release program the Ceremony Series. We’ve used the proceeds to support the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Youth Centre in Dawson City  We have also supported the local organization Indigenous Women Outdoors with a portion of sales donated from a special promotion.

I’m part of several business groups, and we collaborate and support each other’s businesses. One of them is the Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs (IWE) from LIFT Collective.  They coordinate two regular calls; one is educational and the other is being in circle together. I’m also part of The Fireweed Fellowship, an Indigeneous Entrepreneurship Accelerator program, and SHE-EO, a women’s entrepreneur network that provides investments and support to build women-owned businesses and bring out the best in each other. I’ve collaborated with some of the other businesses in these groups on joint product giveaways on our social platforms and to amplify each other’s businesses.

Sḵwálwen is proud to craft natural skincare products – each batch is made with care and intention, and we never use harsh chemicals, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, synthetic colours or parabens. We are also working to be plastic free – we switched all shipping materials over to paper, and are transitioning our packaging to glass and cardboard. And of course we have a sustainable and ethical lens for our ingredients, especially the raw botanical ingredients. It’s a priority to  minimize any impacts on the land,  so our supply chain  model is evolving as we grow the business.

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