Queen of clean
W100 ranking #88
Co-owner,Rocky Mountain Soap Company, producing100-percent-natural bath and body products2011 revenue: $2–$5 million
Employees: 50 full-time, 50 part-time, froma single storefront with two employees in 2000
Why we love her: Because she knew whatshe wanted and didn’t stop until she got it.
While shopping for Christmas presents in 1999,Karina Birch and her boyfriend, Cam Baty, learnedthat the quaint soap shop they often visited wasfor sale. Karina had dabbled in making her owncosmetics, and she and Cam, both business grads,were looking for an opportunity, so they bought theshop. Despite their education, she says, “we werevery green. We had a lot to learn.” Today, they have10 stores in Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba,as well as a 9,000-square-foot production facilityin Canmore, Alta. (along with a marriage certificateand three children).
“We train, train, train. ‘Customerservice is an extreme sport’ is one of our corebeliefs. To keep it top of mind, employees tellsuccess stories at the start of each meeting, andwe reward the best ones with a $100 gift card.”
“Initially we pursued toomany things, like doing both wholesale and retail.If we’d focused our goals, we could have gotten towhere we are now in half the time.” Over the pastfew years, the company has developed a strategycentred on the creed “Remove toxins from theworld. It gave us focus and re-energized us.”
“Cam’s the tactical guy,and I have the vision. We complement but don’tcompete. In the beginning it was tough. We hadto make rules, like if one person doesn’t wantto talk about work at home, we don’t.”
I’m not smarter thananyone else, I’m just really committed.”
Over the next six years,the company plans to launch 25 more stores.And this fall it’s opening a shop in Canmore that’stoxin-free and built from repurposed materials.