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Riding the wave: Ocean Bottom Soap Company 25 years in the making

Monday, March 21, 2016

By: Natasha Marar, Business Advisor

Ocean Bottom Soap Company's Tecumseh retail store

Ocean Bottom Soap Company opened its Tecumseh storefront just last November, but the natural skincare company has existed in different forms for 25 years.

Located at 152 Lesperance Rd., Ocean Bottom was initially started by owner Charmaine Gillis in her Almont, Mich. kitchen as Iron Kettle Soap Company. She started making handmade soap to clear up her skin and to move away from traditional skincare products that contain sulfates and other chemicals.

After living 10 years in the U.S., Gillis moved to Kingsville, Ont. “I ran [the business] out of my home … kind of like a retail outlet. Fast forward, I moved to Tecumseh. I rebranded, changed the name and did a focus group. I wanted to reformulate some of my recipes, so I increased my (product) line and started making deodorant,” she said.

Twenty-five years later, Ocean Bottom is now shipping worldwide and its products can be purchased from 10 retailers, including Caesars Windsor, Windsor Regional Hospital, various Pure Nature Nutrition Centres and most recently, The Green Goose in Kingsville.

Items at the shop include Ocean Bottom’s line of body bars, lip balms, deodorants Dead Sea mud products and diffusers, certified organic make-up, and the only local aromatherapy blending bar. A certified aromatherapist provides educational workshops on site. Ocean Bottom also features natural health products and supplements recommended Dr. Natasha Zajmalowski, a local naturopathic doctor and owner of Proactive Health Care.

Ocean Bottom products are non-GMO and include ingredients such as olive oil, sustainable palm oil and coconut oil, Shea and cocoa butters. Nut-free, vegan and unscented products are also available.

Gillis plans on highlighting the health benefits of her natural products by commissioning a video for her website that addresses the impact that chemicals in products have on mental illness.

“I deal with a lot of people with skin problems and health problems – people from the cancer centre come in. We sell to the hospitals,” said Gillis. “The quality is there. We have high-end ingredients that set us apart from the rest.”

“It’s the way we blend and package – because we’re plastic free,” she added. “We love that we do that because plastic’s really bad for you and the environment.”

Those living outside of the region can purchase Ocean Bottom products online and from The Big Carrot, a natural food market in Toronto. When asked if she intends on expanding distribution outside of Windsor-Essex, Gillis responded enthusiastically, “Oh yes, all over Canada. My goal is to be in all the hospitals.”

Charmaine Gillis is WindsorEssex Small Business Centre client. You too can receive support in launching or expanding your small business. Contact us for more information.