Maker Mondays – Simply Gorgeous

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Happy Monday! If you are joining us from the Maritimes today, I hope that you are somewhere safe, warm and with a shovel near by!

Today, we are happy to introduce you to Emily McDonah, of Simply Gorgeous.  Having always been passionate about natural products and concerned about the chemicals that were potentially harmful to hers and her family’s well-being, Emily was inspired to create a line of natural skin care products,  which she now offers for sale on her etsy site.

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Thanks for joining us today, Emily. Could you please start by providing a brief bio about yourself and an intro to your shop.

My name is Emily McDonah, my husband, our two boys, two dogs and two cats have made our home in Glen Margaret, NS (which happens to be where I grew up).
I’m a graduate of Saint Mary’s University – my education and work experience left me prepared to become an entrepreneur – but it’s my passion for natural ingredients and the environment that have made Simply Gorgeous a success. Simply Gorgeous is my line of hand crafted, all natural body care products available exclusively through my Etsy shop.

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Your interest in natural products stems from personal health issues. Can you speak a little about this, and why you suspected the issues might be related to the products in your home?

I’ve always had great concern and awareness for our environment as well as a deep respect for traditional ways of life and wellness, so a few years ago when one test or surgery after another revealed more and more tumors in my body‎ without explanation, I started to look at our environment at home.

A little research went a long way, and it became clear that almost all the products we were exposing ourselves and our kids to were laden with chemicals – many of them known carcinogens and hormone disruptors.

I decided on the spot to empty our home of almost every cleaning and body care product, leaving me with a lot of holes to fill! A trip to any health store will tell you that starting from scratch for so many items is expensive, prohibitively so. A bit more research and a lot of trial and error lead me to sharing my concoctions of our most necessary items with family and friends for testing. They were a huge success (except the one that turned into its own goopy biology study…) and so, Simply Gorgeous was born!

My goal through my business is to provide all-natural products without sacrificing any of the benefits we’re used to from traditional products and making them accessible financially in comparison to many of the natural products in stores.

It’s since been determined that I have a genetic condition called Neurofibromatosis Type 2, and while my (dozens and dozens) of nerve sheath tumors aren’t caused by our environment, limiting exposure to harmful ingredients is one way I can feel I’m making a difference to how the tumors grow and develop. Not to mention – keeping my family healthy.

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You have also been inspired to start a charity which brings awareness to Neurofibromitosis. Here’s a platform for you to share some info.

After my diagnosis of this rare condition (1:25,000), it was really, really hard to find information, other people with the condition, or any kind of local support. That took its toll on me more than the scary diagnosis and I was inspired to fill that hole.

The Neurofibromatosis Society of Nova Scotia was founded in May, 2014 and we’ve already managed to raise nearly $10,000 to help work towards our goal of providing a source of reliable information, raising awareness, connecting and supporting Nova Scotians with NF (there are 3 types, NFSNS includes all 3), and to sponsor youth with NF to attend inclusive summer camp programs where they can have fun and finally spend time with peers who understand their life with NF.

We’re currently working towards CRA registration, as a community non-profit, however, we’ve met phenomenal support that is very inspiring!

Your products are made from natural ingredients. There are many times that consumers believe that they are buying “green” and/or “natural” but there are some sneaky additions in our products. What should we be looking out for when buying natural products?

That’s a big question! Firstly, in order for any product to be mass-marketed, it needs a considerable shelf-life and that tends to come as the inclusion of chemical ingredients. Some products are better than others, of course.

As a rule, when buying any products for our home, I won’t buy any with these ingredients: sodium lauryl sulphate (or variations thereof), PEG-anything, pthalates, perfume (this can encompass dozens of chemicals that need not be listed for proprietary reasons), or colours.

There are so many easy recipes for household cleaners that are very, very economic and 100% natural – it really is easier than you might think to start making changes to your household products.

Another great resource is www.ewg.org/skindeep – the Environmental Working Group has an extensive database of products and ingredients so you can check out products before buying them. I’d just say, give yourself a break and focus on avoiding the worst ingredients (or else you can be very overwhelmed).

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What is your favorite product from your shop?

Hands down, the Gentle Eye Makeup Remover. It’s so gentle and nourishing, and wipes off waterproof mascara, lipstick, you name it, with no effort.

Your home and workshop are off the grid, as well. What types of energy do you rely on? How did you make the transition?

As I mentioned earlier, the environment has always been a priority for me, so when we built our home in 2011, it was a no-brainer for us to go off-grid. We’re about 1km off the paved road, tucked on top of a hill with solar panels and a wood turbine. We’re not tied to the NS Power system, so have a propane generator for extended periods of cloud/calm.

Our home is outfitted like any other, TVS, video games, full-sized appliances – for the most part it’s life as usual, however we’re conscious of conserving, turning things off when not in use, and limiting consumption on cloudier days. Basically, visit when it’s sunny and the rug will be vaccuumed!

It’s a great lesson for our kids to see this as the norm and to understand how we don’t have to rely on less environmentally-friendly power sources, because I think that will only become more important as they grow up.

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What will we see from your shop (and you) in 2016?

This will be a year of growth for me, and that will translate in different ways for my business and foundation. Simply Gorgeous will be more streamlined and more focused on our top products and seasonal promotion. NFSNS, I hope by year’s end, will have CRA designation as a charitable organization, and will have sent no less than 3 kids to camp (last year we sent one to camp in Utah with the Children’s Tumor Foundation, and one to Camp Tidnish with Easter Seals). I also hope to put more time into my personal blog that chronicles life on our hill and my journey with NF and explore my love of writing.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to shine a light on so many aspects of my life, it’s been fun to talk about everything!

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Thank you, Emily!  It was great to meet you today.  Thank you for sharing so much of your story with us, and we wish you all the best in your endeavours this year.

Remember to check out Emily’s shop, SimplyGorgeousBath on etsy, and if you are interested in any of the products shown, simply click on the photo to get more details.

(written by Carol of stringmelong and ThisBorrowedMoment on etsy.)