Everything Om Touches Turns to Glass
Om’s story is not that unique - we started where many grassroots natural product companies get their start: in our home kitchen, creating lotions and potions. Where Om differs is that the products we craft are made using ingredients we wildharvest or grow ourselves on our little Omstead Farm. Whether it’s the Okanagan Violets that sprout up in clusters around our vegetable garden, or the thickets of Wild Roses dotted around our property, our land provides many of the ingredients that are essential to our products.
This is all part of our Sustainability Model. We can’t go on about Sustainability if we don’t have a plan or an end game. You can only be sustainable to a point and then that will no longer cease to be true.
For some companies, this “point” may be getting their product line into a certain number of stores or for others it's a specific dollar amount. For us it’s TIME.
About 10 years ago, when Om was still in its infancy, Graeme and I went to a Farm-to-Table dinner at Crannog Ales in Sorrento. It was a potluck and I specifically remember this sumptuous Beet Chocolate Cake with Beet Pink Icing…but I digress! At this dinner, Brian MacIsaac and Rebecca Kneen of Crannog (truly inspiring thinkers and leaders in Sustainability) talked about the concept of “Enough.” They could easily GO BIGGER, they could SELL MORE, they could GO NATIONAL or GLOBAL…or they could know that where they were at was ENOUGH. It’s this place where their needs/wants/goals are met. This feeling where they are living their best life, earning a great living, giving back to their community and still loving what they do. As Brian joked, why would he want to be the CEO of a company when he gets to be the guy who makes the beer?
Graeme and I talked about ENOUGH the whole way home. Would we ever get there? How would we know if we reached that point?
Recently, I went to another talk Brian and Rebecca gave on Sustainability, and again they talked about the concept of ENOUGH. I asked the question: “You know with inflation, etc. obviously ENOUGH changes, how do you stay sustainable with the cost of everything going up? Their response was simple - WE CHANGE TOO!
So their concept of enough today is different than it was 10 years ago and 10 years from now it will be different again.
We have come to realize that it is the same for us. What is enough now could look very different in a few years, or even months. Summer is approaching and we want to enjoy this time with our young family. Perhaps, when our kids are older, they’ll decide they’d like to take on more responsibility with the Omstead and Om Naturale. Whatever happens, we can adjust our version of ‘enough’ to reflect our needs and wants.
In 2008, I left a full-time social work job to fulfill a dream and start Om Naturale. In the last decade, we have continued to meet goals and fulfill dreams. We moved several times until finally settling on The Omstead in the fall of 2012. We welcomed our first son in 2013, and our second in 2017. We grow many of the plants we use to create our products. In addition to larger amounts of lavender & garlic, we grow vegetables for our family and we raise chickens (both pasture-raised laying hens and broilers).
Graeme has gradually pared down his “Off-Farm” employment until last Fall when he started full time for Om Naturale (well as full time as possible when there are two boys and a farm to look after).
In that short span, Om reached its point of ‘ENOUGH.’ Only, at first, we didn’t realize it.
Enough came with not just me, but Graeme and I, working nights making and labelling product until all hours. Enough came when we started having to cancel markets—which is an important connection with customers and friends—to meet our wholesale obligations. Don’t get me wrong; Om would not have reached its current status without the unbelievable support of our retailers. The stores who support Om, who also believe in our mantra “There Is Nothing Green About Plastic,” and who are willing to support a small, family-run, local company - These are our people.
We joke about building the “Om Empire,” but world domination has never been our goal. Heck, going national would take us too far from our core beliefs, as we feel there is nothing LOCAL about selling across the country, to places that have their own local companies in need of support.
The volume we have reached, and the level we are at, gives us the opportunity to GREEN UP even further. We are able to buy ingredients/packaging right from the manufacturer, or right from the source, in BULK and by the pallet instead of by the bucket. This greatly reduces our CARBON FOOTPRINT, cuts out middlemen and keeps our products affordable.
What we are starting to realize is that the more stores you are in, the bigger you get, the more unmanageable it is to make everything yourself. It reaches a point where you start to need more staff, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers…the list goes on. Not only does this make doing business more cumbersome, it distances the company from its customers.
We could say ‘Yes’ to Influencers or to Investors, we could GROW AND GROW AND GROW. But then what? I don’t want to work in Human Resources, I want to make lotions. Graeme doesn’t want to work in distribution, he wants to master the art of swirling our handmade soap!
In order to continue to do what we LOVE - which in our case - is to make products, to keep our hands in the dirt, to create new formulas, to research new sustainable packaging and to push the #plasticfree movement, we had to have a LIMIT. There had to be ENOUGH.
We have reached it. We now have a WHOLESALE WAITLIST.
It may open up once summer is over, or as our personal needs change, or our customers needs change. It’s an evolution and that’s totally okay with us. However, as of today, we have reached ENOUGH (there are 3 NEW Retailers joining the C-OM-munity in the next month). We have so many exciting dreams/goals for Om over the next year or two that we have to put a stop to its growth. We have reached our capacity for retailers at this time. If we are already in communication, then you are in and we are ready to receive your order. Any new inquiries will go on a waitlist (Between writing and editing, we have already added 2 names to the Waitlist).
We are working on creating a Refill Store at The Omstead in Armstrong. When we started, people weren’t ready for REFILLS or even GLASS. Now that the plastic-free movement is finally catching on in the mainstream, people are seeking us out because that’s what we've been doing all along.
As a society, we vote with our dollar, and people are voting for Om. I am seeing companies that, until recently, have packaged in nothing but plastic start to offer refills and now even glass! It’s amazing! Om was always a bit of a misfit (AKA Trailblazer) with our glass jars and brown labels. Now, brown is more popular than bleached paper labels, and glass is popping up everywhere.
It’s great to see this shift in buyer consciousness, and it only inspires us to push further and reach higher. How can we be MORE SUSTAINABLE? How can we DO MORE for the planet?
We now offer Refills at our Farmer’s Market Booths and at the Zero Waste Store in Kelowna. We hope to trial Bulk options in some of our other Retailers soon as well. When we make products we ask ourselves: ‘How could we offer this in Bulk? How can we refill it?’ Once the farm store is ready (we still have some work to do before it is) it will be easier as we won’t have to cart bulk containers to and from markets. You see, having bulk wasn’t good enough. We insist on having even our Refill options in Glass, too. What good is it if our products are sitting in plastic while waiting to be refilled. Yuck! That is not what we are about. As best as we can, we are always seeking the plastic-free alternative.
We recently attended a Plastic-Free Packaging Workshop - yes this is a thing! When you surround yourself with likeminded, Awesome people, you never know what can happen. Our nemesis continues to be lids. How can we get rid of lids? Even though the lids are recyclable and metal, they are not reusable (Health Canada regulations). Rebecca from Crannog, talked about those little jars and bottles with flip top lids - you know old-school canning jars. She had me at OLD SCHOOL!
So the research began. Low and behold, I found them. Quite a few suppliers said they no longer sold flip-tops as the demand had declined over the years, but we’re hoping to make this trend do a full 180. Fortunately, we have sourced a few suppliers that are starting to offer them again. We are currently in the trials stages of ALL-GLASS JARS!!
Since we began this journey in 2008, our motto has been: What goes into our products is just as important as what our products go into. No one puts a great wine in a plastic bottle, so why would we put a Botanically enriched, Farmcrafted lotion in one?
One aspect of our version of Enough is having the ability to give back. It’s not always formal and often the places/people we donate to don’t give tax receipts. Sometimes it’s a family who needs Free Shipping or a Single Mom who gets a discount so she can afford to pamper herself the way she deserves. Last year, Om gave 2% of its Gross Sales to those in need. When our Local Food Bank put the call out for toiletries last winter, Narayan and I headed in there with our Natural Toothpaste, Bamboo Toothbrushes & Organic Soap!
Om has so much to offer and will continue to do so in the cleanest, greenest and most sustainable way possible. We look forward to continuing to change the world, one glass jar at a time.
We’d like to wrap this up by thanking every single person who puts their money where their Facebook posts are by buying Om Naturale products. Thank you for supporting our dream of ditching the plastic, keeping it local and choosing Refilling over Recycling