Leigh Joseph has many interests and passions; she’s an ethnobotanist, researcher, community activist, and the owner of Sḵwálwen Botanicals, a luxury Indigenous skincare brand based in Squamish, B.C.

Sḵwálwen Botanicals is a culmination of Leigh’s study of the relationship between people and plants. A member of the Squamish First Nation, her company unites ancestral traditions with modern beauty rituals and incorporates sustainably harvested plants and organic ingredients. Her company is increasing Indigenous representation in the world of beauty, while honouring cultural plant knowledge, science, and self-care rituals.

A budding business

Sḵwálwen Botanicals has developed an impressive following, selling through their e-commerce platform, and with products in 40+ retail locations across Canada. The business has also been honoured with nominations for the Small Business BC Awards in Best Community Impact and the Premier’s People’s Choice.

With interest in her company building across Canada, word had gotten out about Sḵwálwen’s high-quality products. Leigh started receiving frequent inquiries from the United States and Europe, which led her to consider exporting outside of Canada. Through Export Navigator she was connected with Export Advisor, Oriana Brueggemann.

“While our focus is on exporting to the United States, particularly the Pacific Northwest, we have met some exporting challenges, particularly ensuring our products meet necessary certifications, tax reporting, and labelling requirements,” says Leigh. “Oriana has connected us with reliable and creditable businesses and exporting experts.”

Strong root system

With Oriana’s support, and a lot of learning and research, Sḵwálwen Botanicals is now on track to officially start exporting to the United States in early 2022.

“We were able to plan before exporting, ensuring that we had a full understanding of what we needed,” reflects Leigh.

Being able to effectively reach international customers has allowed the business to continue expanding. “We have hired one employee to assist with our growing international demand, and our last fiscal year we grew our revenue significantly from direct-to-consumer online orders. We are also currently working with a co-packer to upscale our production to ensure we can meet the demands of exporting and our growing domestic business,” says Leigh.

Paving the way

Through Leigh’s passion for Sḵwálwen Botanicals, it’s evident that it is so much more than just a business.

Sḵwálwen (skwall-win) translates roughly to “heart” or “essence of being” in the Squamish language. This name honours our inspiration: building connections to the land through working with plants in a way that feeds one’s heart and spirit. It’s a powerful guiding light for the business, and aligns with my aim of contributing to Indigenous cultural resurgence.

By employing people from her community and changing the beauty space through Indigenous representation, Leigh sees global impact in the future. “Our goal is to be the leading Indigenous plant-based luxury skincare brand that is top of mind internationally while giving back to the land and Indigenous communities in a culturally grounded way,” Leigh states.

Sḵwálwen Botanicals is proof that a social purpose, cultural mission and good business can go together hand-in-hand. With Oriana’s support, Leigh has been able to expand her reach and transform more lives through Squamish teachings. “Export Navigator helps you realize your exporting plans by guiding you through the process and recommending where to go for help. I would definitely suggest businesses meet with an Export Advisor,” recommends Leigh.

 

 

 

Oriana Brueggemann