#IMadeThis - Innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists
Ever wondered how successful entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality? What drives them to push the envelope, create change and advance their industries? We had the opportunity to ask Canadian small business owners how they transformed their ideas, goals and passions into reality.
Leslie Bradford-Scott shares how Walton Wood Farm first sprouted … then grew and grew and grew into a thriving business that offers body products made with love and care, charming and relatable stories for their customers, and support for rural Canadian communities.
Q: What is Walton Wood Farm?
Bradford-Scott: We’re like the Hallmark™ Cards of body care. We make bath and beauty products and target them as gifts. We’re not selling lavender vanilla; instead we make things like “Dear Mom Sugar Scrub”, for when I should have been sweeter. We attach a sentiment to each product.
Q: How did Walton Wood Farm evolve?
Bradford-Scott: When we first moved to the farm I didn’t want to commute to the city so I looked at a home-based business. I looked into growing high-value crops.
I started researching woody ornamentals — those dried branches that make up floral arrangements. I also looked at specialty crops like hemp and sunflowers — I tried to think outside the typical crops. I quickly discovered I don’t have a green thumb. After planting many things and killing every single one of them, I thought about what I could manufacture in my kitchen — and earn an income without having to leave the farm.
Successful businesses are started in order to solve a problem. So I thought: What’s the problem I need to solve?
I looked at my own life. I’d had challenges over the years, and I couldn’t afford vacations. My vacation was the bathtub. I would light candles, put on soft music and tell the kids to not even think about bothering me. That 20-30 minute break let me cope with all the stress in my life. When I thought I couldn’t get through another day I would take a bath. They allowed me to hit the reset button — I felt renewed and the next morning I would wake up recharged.
I figured “that solves a problem” and wondered how many people felt the same way.
Q: How did you take that idea and turn it into a business?
Bradford-Scott: I looked at all the things from my life — like a week from hell — and created labels and stories that people could relate to, using a bath as a means to recover from them. I bought books, researched on the internet, and learned how to make bath salts.
I made five bottles at a time in my mixer. I decided to do a real market assessment and made enough to fill up my pickup truck. I told my husband, “I’m not coming back until this is empty.” I would take them up and down Main Street Canada, lugging 55lb boxes of salt into a store and saying, “Do you want to buy my bath salt?” I got very few ‘no’s’ — if I was in front of the buyer, I would sell the product.
Within a few months, our whole house was a bath salt factory. We were labeling at the dining room table. The first floor was a warehouse.
My daughters said, “These are really cool but what about guys?” They had a hard time finding gifts for their boyfriends so I thought: What can I do that is cool for men?
I looked at the wall of fragrance at the drug store and discovered that men’s fragrance looked very feminine. It was not built for ruggedness — I wondered how I could create something that I could tie into the farm.
Our men’s products are made from soy waxes and butters, alcohol free, and are fragrance with built-in moisturizers. Guys can throw it in their bag, use it on cracked elbows, in their hair — I wanted to theme the products in such a way that spoke to men. I wanted to identify with them through packaging and appeal to those who would want to buy them as a gift. Turns out women love them, too.
Q: How do the stories and labels distinguish your products?
Bradford-Scott: Each bath salt comes with a fun little story – about how life sometimes hits you like a wrecking ball, and how you can beat it by taking time out. On other products, it’s a label – like our Week from Hell Hand Rescue says, “Soft hands can handle anything.” Our Dear Mom Hand Rescue says “For the hands that made me”. The label turns a utility product into something useful, yet fun and sentimental.
Women’s products are developed for emotional occasions. For men, we tend to target archetypes as we feel that’s the language they speak.
Q: How is Walton Wood Farm helping grow communities in Canada?
Bradford-Scott: We’re in a rural community in Peterborough county. For those who live in rural communities, it can be hard to find meaningful work — there are not a lot of job opportunities. So we hire mostly rural women. They take on new challenges and build new skills —whether they stay with us or not doesn’t matter — they are building a strong portfolio for themselves that will provide years of opportunities.
And money that comes into the business goes back out into the community as much as possible. We hire local businesses to support our business. We also offer coaching to other rural businesses. Even though we are not in the same business, practices are relatable — especially when it comes to marketing, social media, leveraging the internet.
Q: What are your biggest day-to-day challenges and how do you overcome them?
There are a million little threads — you don’t just come up with a product, create it and ship it. That would be easy! Technology is highly complex and getting all the systems unified is the biggest challenge, hands down. The most expensive learning curve, too.
Creating products is the easy part. The infrastructure that runs it — getting form point A to point B — that’s the difficult part.
Q: Did you ever have moments when you thought this wasn’t going to work?
Bradford-Scott: I have those moments a lot, because the business is very cash intensive. Growing takes cash, and bad things can happen. Products can get damaged or systems can go off the rails. As we get bigger, the mistakes get more serious. Some days I feel we’re riding a really thin edge, and wonder, “Are we going to survive another day?”
You have to push through the obstacles — and need to know what levers to pull to get out of a tricky situation. You also need sharp financial partners.
In November 2018, 23 women were recognized at the 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. These exceptional women, and their trail-blazing companies from a variety of industries, share a common goal — to be the best at what they do.
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