Skip to main content
Milena Placentile says she was on her first real vacation in years when she decided to leave her career as an art curator and start making natural skincare products full-time.

It was in the fall of 2013 and what had started as a hobby around 10 years earlier had become a thriving side business.

“It sort of fell into place,” she says.

Her business, Just the Goods, was not only doing well, she was enjoying it more than her other work.

While there was “a lot of pressure to juggle” the two, she says getting away gave her a chance to realize where “all the signs were pointing.”

She hasn’t looked back.

Photo by Kelly Bik

Her products are carried at seven retailers in her hometown of Winnipeg, along with one in Montana.

She also sells online to customers around the world. On the day she spoke to The Globe and Mail, she was preparing orders for customers in Norway and Australia.

Ms. Placentile says she first became interested in alternatives to mass-market skincare and grooming products in the late 1990s.

“A lot of products don’t contain soap, they contain detergent,” she says.

While soaps are made with fatty acids, either from vegetable oils or animal fat, detergents are synthetic and often contain petroleum.

“Petroleum can be really, really drying and artificial scents can cause allergic reactions,” she says.

While plant-based products existed, Ms. Placentile, then a student, says she found them too expensive.

“In many cases these alternative products are branded as luxury goods,” she says.

Still, it took a couple years before she started to make her own.

“The very first thing I made was shaving cream,” she says. Her partner was struggling to find a commercial shaving creme that didn’t cause his skin to break out, she says. So, out of desperation, she tried a plant-based recipe.

“I couldn’t believe it, but the very first try worked,” she says.

For around six years, Ms. Placentile kept it hobby.

Photo by C. Poulsen

But with interest starting to grow beyond her friends and family, she began to sell her products at craft sales in 2009.

It went over better than expected.

“I started getting emails from people that said ‘you changed my life,’” she says.

An e-commerce site followed.

“I wasn’t putting much effort into receiving orders but orders were coming in,” she says.

Even though Ms. Placentile’s business has grown since then, she tries to take as much of a do-it-yourself approach as possible, still making her products by hand.

Part of that is motivated by a desire to keep prices low. While the products she couldn’t afford as a university student were marketed as luxuries, she takes the opposite approach, eschewing graphic design and fancy packaging, a commitment referenced by her business’ name.

While she admits that might slow growth, as a sole proprietor running a self-funded business, that’s not a problem.

“I’ve never had to convince anyone but myself of what I was doing and why,” Ms. Placentile says.

Follow Report on Small Business on Pinterest and Instagram
Join our Small Business LinkedIn group
Add us to your circles
Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.