What started as a way to source reasonably priced skin care products for eczema prone skin and as a way to create thoughtful gifts for friends and family, has turned into a steady business since the arrival of Covid-19.
Co-Owner of Reward Your Skin, Mahal Langston notes that she’s “always had really sensitive skin due to eczema and I was spending a lot of money on natural products. The products I was using before, I never had any breakouts, but it became really expensive!”
And it was during one of these moments of frustration, that Mahal saw soap making courses available at Granville Island and took the opportunity to try it for herself.
‘That soap looked really different to what it does now!” she laughs, “It was given to aunts and cousins and they were like, You made this? You should sell it. People will buy it!”
And that with that, Reward Your Skin was born, and has since flourished.
After a couple of years in the Vancouver flea-market scene, they moved onto the farmers market at River District and from there the Artisian Markets at Ambleside.
Into their second year, working with the Artisian markets, the current manager was leaving and Reward Your Skin were asked if they knew of anyone who would be willing to take over the role.
Mahal ended up taking on this role as well as managing the North Vancouver market.
But it wasn’t all lavender soap and coffee scrubs.
“Maybe it was part of their unconscious bias, as they (the vendors) would be disrespectful, they would yell at me, they didn’t follow the rules and regulations as were set out by the market terms and conditions. I had two vendors almost run me over on separate occasions as they weren’t abiding by the regulations in place regarding start and finish times. Regulations that are put in place not only for the safety of our customers, but also for other vendors.”
Leaving the managing side of the market behind, the goal for Mahal & the Reward Your Skin team was to focus on local festivals such as Pride and Car Free Days.
But the Universe had other ideas.
“Because of Covid-19, I was forced to create a website. Sometimes we need to be pushed outside our comfort zones. I had made a goal to sell 100,000 units and now I’m figuring out the means to do that. So for us, Covid has been great! We are getting our product out there and trying to do wholesale, and that’s proving hard, as stores can be a little wishy-washy (no pun intended!)”
The website is doing well and personally delivering the soaps is a way not only to connect with customers but also to do a little market research!
“It’s been great to find out how people are hearing about us. Some people have seen us from our market days and they remember us. So the markets, have been our marketing tool! If it’s good product, people will seek you out. If we didn’t have the website, we wouldn’t be getting any sales right now because we’re not out selling at markets.”
“The integrity of our product is #1. We, as Black people, have to make sure that our product is up to standard and then some. We don’t have a choice. We’re also not marketing ourselves properly. I feel as though we have brainwashed into thinking we need to be accepted.
We have to constantly prove ourselves and be experts of our product. It also takes time to build up that trust with customers.”
During the past few weeks, I definitely have felt more connected with the Black community here in Vancouver. We all need to support each other.”
“Creating a market that is diverse and respectful, and full of Black makers; I’m in!”
“Building up a community, a neighborhood, such as Hogan’s Alley, where we can all go, and support one others Black owned businesses and create communities, is the way to go. You look at Chinatown. Chinese immigrants make where they are, home. Why don’t Black people create communities like this?”
To follow Mahal and Reward Your Skin on Instagram.
To purchase your soap, go to https://www.rewardyourskin.ca/s/shop