Born into an entrepreneurial family, Laurence quickly developed a passion for marketing and the business world. She combined her university studies with her hands-on involvement in her family’s restaurant business, which had two locations before the pandemic. During her MBA studies at Université Laval, the idea of a venture to capitalize on her own vision, ideas and expertise started to take shape in Laurence’s mind. It was then, in October 2018, she founded SOJA&CO. What began as a school project for her MBA studies then became a sideline to make ends meet, and rapidly took on a large scale which now not only allows Laurence to make a living from her passion, but also has a team of 10 people. Almost 3 years later, and now partnering with her brother and her best friend, Laurence can honestly say that SOJA&CO has wind in its sails.
Laurence found that there was place in the market for locally made artisanal candles with a variety of fragrances. A top-of-mind awareness was missing. This was the genesis of SOJA&CO. The goal was to create a company that offers quality products for the home (and for the soul!), but above all that has a positive ecological footprint, and encouraged the local economy. The company, located in La Prairie, deals only with Quebec-based suppliers and artisans, offers products made of superior quality ingredients packaged with recycled and recyclable materials, and has established an annual partnership with Tree Canada. A percentage of each sale goes to the organization which plants trees. SOJA&CO also makes sporadic donations to other organizations, including One Tree Planted.
Concerning the products themselves, the distinctive feature of SOJA&CO is its wide range of fragrances. Almost 3 years after its founding, the company now has more than 25 candle fragrances, and continues to create 3 new ones each season. In additional to its candles, SOJA&CO offers selected bath essentials, reed diffusers, essential oils and more. Laurence also revealed to us that a linen water will soon be available.
How do you, as both a CEO and restaurant owner, succeed in managing everything and achieving your goals?
“When it comes to SOJA&CO, the pandemic was beneficial to us, since people spent more time at home and were looking to create a comforting atmosphere. However, it was more difficult on the restaurant side — the pandemic cost us one of the two locations of our restaurant. The location that is still open is well established in its neighbourhood and very successful, so I am still involved. However, since marketing is my passion, my role is primarily focused on branding, communications and promoting the restaurant. My brothers, with whom I am involved on this project, are in charge of management and operations. That gives me the opportunity to divide my time between the two businesses.”
SOJA&CO’s strength is its wide range of fragrances. How do you find the inspiration for them?
“We work with a fantastic perfumery! They work with both large companies like L'Oréal as well as small businesses like us, and are able to perfectly understand our ideas and needs. Personally, I like being involved in the creative process from A to Z. I often think of scent combinations, and in just a few weeks we can achieve an interesting result for a new candle. We also keep up with the seasons and trends. Otherwise, we like to push the envelope a bit further and come up with concepts. For example, we just established a collaboration with Le Club des Petits Déjeuners. We created a candle scented like cereal! In September, $5 will be donated to the Fondation for each candle sold.”
You sell online and have several points of sale throughout Quebec. Do you plan to have a storefront?
“Absolutely! On September 1, we will open our very first physical store at the Quartier Dix30 in Brossard. We are thrilled to be able to test the concept. Otherwise, we do sell online and offer worldwide delivery. And yes, from La Prairie! As for our points of sale, we currently have 75 carefully chosen retailers. It is important that they are companies that share our values and philosophy. We are even available in a few stores in the United States.”
Finally, what helps you stay healthy these days?
“In the past, I was extremely anxious. In fact, I used to light candles to create a calming atmosphere which helped me manage my episodes. This is a habit that I have kept, even though I am much less anxious today. Otherwise, I try to eat well most of the time, and despite my busy schedule, it is important for me to be active at least 3 to 4 times a week, either by working out or cycling. As well, I discovered a rather unusual interest in electronic music. I recently started mixing pieces myself, and that has a really therapeutic effect on me, as well giving me the chance to give free reign to my creativity. And finally, I think it is important to remember to keep a balance in everything. It’s the key to success!”