Written by Karen Kwan
Don’t underestimate the power of a determined mom.
When Patrice Mousseau’s daughter Esme was suffering from eczema, she wasn’t looking to launch a natural skincare business that’s growing phenomenally, but was just desperate for some relief for her baby. “Esme was just eight months old and she’d scratch so badly in the night that there’d be blood on her crib sheets,” says Mousseau. A doctor’s visit confirmed that Esme was suffering from eczema and the physician prescribed topical steroids. But having seen the news stories on the dangers of using steroids on small children, Mousseau set out to do her own research for a remedy.
Digging to find answers wasn’t anything new to her; she’d worked for years doing research as a broadcast journalist. Mousseau started by looking into natural anti-inflammatories, medical research and academic papers and anecdotal evidence. Then, she got out her crockpot and started concocting formulations in her kitchen.
With the resulting homemade remedy, within two days, Esme’s eczema was cleared up. Outside of sharing the leftovers with fellow moms, her natural skincare product might’ve ended right there, but a year later, Mousseau ended up attending a women’s entrepreneur conference. It was here that the light bulb blinked on in her head for developing the cream into a environmentally friendly-focused business.“These women doing extraordinary things in business, they’re successful but also staying true to their values. That resonated with me, to not be in it to make a lot of money but to be helping people and to secure a future for myself, as a single mom, and my daughter.”
Inspired by what she witnessed at the conference, after a year of attending conferences, developing packaging, and applying for organic certification, she launched the lotion (which has no fragrance, hidden chemicals or fillers) as Satya Organic Eczema Care in 2013. At the beginning, she sold Satya at farmers markets, craft fairs and a a neighbourhood shop that carries baby goods and it was soon available in 70 retailers in lower mainland B.C.
Then Canada’s largest distributor of health-food products, Purity Life Health Products, came calling, and Mousseau had to scale up—the crockpot production in her kitchen wouldn’t cut it anymore—so she quickly found a manufacturer. Now. in addition to selling online, Satya is available in over 700 stores across Canada and is starting to export into Hong Kong.
The business has come a long way from its first farmers market where she sold $110 worth of product. More wins: In 2017, Mousseau was Indigenous Entrepreneur of the Year, she won a pitch competition and was chosen as one of the ventures to win funding from SheEO. And while it might seem like a runaway success, Mousseau has been hard at work the entire time. “Being a woman in business is very tough. It’s hard to get capital—only four percent of all venture funding goes to women,” she says. Mousseau names the wonderful network of women, including the activators who’ve put their money into the SheEO fund, as an incredible support system.
Mousseau, who is Ojibway from Fort William First Nation, Ont., hopes to, through her business, inspire and support other indigenous women. “This is something that not only is possible, but we are really good at. Culturally, as indigenous women, we are far more used to working in a community and having everyone’s voice heard versus a typical Western hierarchy. We are a lot more circular and I think that’s the direction a lot of business are going to—the idea that everyone has value—and we as indigenous people do that naturally.”
Currently, Satya employees four people. All are moms who work from home when they can find the time to get the work done (“So they’re also able to take care of their children, there’s not a lot of opportunities for women like that,” she says). And in the future, Mousseau would love to have production set on a First Nation and hire even more Indigenous moms.
But for now, Mousseau is beyond pleased to be instilling a fearlessness in her daughter by being the best role model she can be as an entrepreneur, sticking to her values (Satya’s maintained its focus on being an eco-friendly brand; the company is carbon neutral and all of Satya’s packaging in reusable, recyclable or compostable), while also helping people with her products. “I get an email or phone call every day telling me how Satya has made a big difference to themor the life of their child or elderly parent. That’s a huge deal.”
Photo supplied by Satya