Making people feel good is what Angela Bourbonnais does best.
The creator of Charleston Botanicals botanical skin care and aromatherapy candles, Bourbonnais chooses to go beyond the ordinary.
"What I wanted to do is give it more of a spa feel," she said.
Bourbonnais discovered the joy of handcrafting soap and skin care more than 20 years ago when she started making soap to soothe her son's sensitive skin.
That same oatmeal soap that set her on this path is still one of the mainstays of the business.
Over the years, Bourbonnais has honed and perfected her craft and branched out to include shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, cleansers, toners, and bath and shower bombs.
If a little pampering is what you're after Bourbonnais has it covered.
Kerry Paquette indulges in a number of Charleston Botanicals products for herself, her husband, her children and even her dog. Paquette has numerous allergies and sensitivities but also has nerve damage.
"The products are amazing because I know everything that's in them. I've stopped using commercial products. Her shampoo bar is wonderful because I don't have to deal with a bottle, and the conditioner is square so I can tell the difference by feel and my hair feels fantastic," said Paquette.
"I like the way these products feel on my skin and the smell is really relaxing," agrees Amanda Smith, another customer.
Bourbonnais also has a line of soy and coconut wax aromatherapy candles. It should also be noted that not all her products are scented.
"The oatmeal clay soap that I made for my son is not scented," said Bourbonnais, and she has numerous other products in every category that are scent-free, catering to those with scent sensitivities.
Although she has been making soaps for more than 20 years, her level of production has ebbed and flowed over the years. In the last four years she has stepped up production, and this year COVID has proven to be a boon to her online business.
"Since COVID a couple of my wholesale accounts have trickled off, but my online store is flying – and I rarely got online orders before," said Bourbonnais.
While that's a good thing, Bourbonnais is already extremely busy.
"I'm trying not to hire someone to help, and I may have to cut back on my product lines," she said.
Charleston Botanicals does have a very wide range of products, with numerous choices available within each line.
With the recent purchase of a small resort on Charleston Lake, Bourbonnais and her husband tend to guests, cabins, and gardens, run a skin care boutique and create the products that stock the boutique, along with all the back-end responsibilities that come with running a business, or in this case two.
"I do everything from bookkeeping to reservations, to laundry, to website design and content, to foraging, to processing to packaging and labelling," laughs Bourbonnais.
But busy is pretty much her preferred way of life, says the mother of three who also home-schooled her children when they were young, while running a business.
An accomplished researcher and a responsible producer, Bourbonnais registers all of her products with Health Canada, and is very careful not to claim any extraordinary powers, just quality, natural products.
"I look for inspiration from the plants I forage or grow; what scent, what is it going to be for, and then look for carrier oils, essential oils and what benefits they have for the skin, and pull together ingredients that work with each other," said Bourbonnais.
If people experience skin or mood improvements that's a bonus.
"The soaps and shampoo work like aromatherapy; you smell them while you're using them and it's very relaxing but you don't walk around smelling of them after – because it's not a perfume – it's just part of the experience of having a shower after a long day," said Paquette.
The environment is near and dear to her heart, says Bourbonnais, which is why she goes to extraordinary lengths to source and design eco-friendly packaging.
"I really like that they're all natural products with not a lot of packaging," said Smith.
Virtually every product Bourbonnais markets is packaged in zero- or at the very least low-waste materials.
Every item comes in either recycled paper or reusable containers. Her very popular shampoo comes in the form of a solid round bar with a minimal paper label, the conditioner also a solid comes in a reusable tin.
"One bar of shampoo equals three bottles of commercial shampoo," said Bourbonnais.
It's really important to Bourbonnais that customers enjoy the luxury of each item from the moment they lay eyes on the presentation to the very last drop or dollop. All her products are vegan and free from sulphates, parabens, and phthalates.
The business is located on Charleston Lake in Leeds and the Thousand Islands. More information is available at www.charlestonbotanicals.ca.
Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times