Pandemic Diaries - Self Care and staying hopeful during a pandemic

Posted by Francine Manji on

The time since March 2020 has been spent under very unusual circumstances. Each time I hear the word pandemic, it makes me think of the word pandemonium ! Enough said !

At Urban Forest Soap we were pretty concerned, like so many other businesses, after month two, when all the stores that we supply to were still shut. We of course didn’t meet the threshold requirements for the small business benefits being offered by the Banks. Like a late March winter’s afternoon - the future was all starting to look rather bleak.

However, this first ever Urban Forest blog post is not all doom and gloom – let’s tell you what’s been going on…

Fast forward to August 2020, and Stage 3 of Ontario’s re-opening….lots has happened.

Back in April, we decided to take the new normal in stride and spend the time refreshing the Urban Forest website. When Green Melon Inc  offered 5 local businesses a one hour consultation on all things social media,, we jumped at the chance and sent in our application. The ZOOM call with the crack experts at Green Melon consult was eye-opening. What stuck with us was Green Melon’s owner Robert Smith’s insightful comment  “your website is tragically competent” . We knew the website needed work – after all, the both of us had built it from scratch just eight months prior, and neither one of us were tech savvy, social media gurus. Yes, the website was functional, but Robert was correct - and had just confirmed to us, that it lacked personality.

As we were scratching our heads on how we would hire a professional social media expert on our shoe-string budget…. another stroke of luck -  it was now May 2020  and Algonquin College’s School of Media and Design was looking for design projects for the students in their graduating class. We quickly filled out the application form and sent it in JUST before the deadline. This was then followed by an invitation to make our pitch to the program’s Professors.  After a nerve wracking wait to hear back - we were told that we had been selected for a website refresh project!

As I write this, we are so very happy to report that we are just a few weeks away from the end of the website refresh project. The group of Algonquin College students with their skills in graphic design, marketing, coding and website design have been outstanding. It’s been amazing to work with such a motivated team of bright, creative young students, working under difficult circumstances – and all of it remotely. We can’t wait to see the final product and bring the new website live to all of our Urban Forest family!

The community spirit that the pandemic has fostered has been so heartening. We decided that we would do our bit by offering a 10% discount off all products on the website, as well as offering a complimentary porch drop-off for all orders in the Orleans area.

It was then our turn to receive, when Green Melon invited us to participate in their BytownBox program The program supports local businesses putting together a box containing products made by Ottawa businesses. We had the chance to supply our  lavender and lavender rosemary soaps to go with the beautiful stainless steel soap boxes by Dalcini Steel. The other local makers that were fortunate to be featured alongside were dairy distillery, Papa Jacks popcorn, Hummingbird chocolate , Mrs Mcgarrigle’s , Thyme and Again, amongst others.

Bytown Box

In July we were invited by the French Consulate in Toronto  to provide Urban Forest soaps for the gift bags to front line workers on the occasion of Bastille day. The bags contained goodies from decathlon, bastille bakery, hadrien patisserie and others.We had such fun wrapping up this assortment of  our natural, vegan soaps …..

Around the same time Andreanne King of Ottawa Artisans, very generously,  featured our business on her blog BIPOC-owned handmade businesses in Ottawa.  Just look at the lovely collage that she put together of our products!

 And as if that wasn’t enough …. Maija of Maijalisa Photography, who had already helped us take lovely picture of the  soaps that you see on our website, yet again donated her time and took the headshot pictures of us that we so needed for the “About Us”  page for the  website refresh project. Maija is so talented ….. DAMN she makes us look good!!

All these gestures of support from the local community have really been a silver lining during these very trying times. We still don’t know what this year or even the next year,  is going to look like for us, but the outpouring of support from so many quarters gives Francine and I the hope that we needed to sustain our spirit and enthusiasm for the future of Urban Forest Soap.

We hope that by sharing our “Pandemic Diary” stories it will also help you to feel positive and enthusiastic for your own future.  We will get through this, together!





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