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From the Den to Canada's Store


How Canadian Tire Helped Validate an Eco-friendly Dream

Growing up, Montreal's Anie Rouleau felt like no one was listening. Her parents ran a business making equipment that built power lines. The business had an emphasis on local, Canadian suppliers, but not the environment.

"I'm not that generation that was brought up environmentally focused, the way we bring up our children today where composting and recycling is second-nature, where we don't waste water and always turn off the lights. My family ran their business, but resources were always unlimited and that really bothered me," says Rouleau.

Eight years ago when she started The Unscented Company, she made sure her products were all natural, bio-degradable, locally-sourced and refillable to reduce their plastic footprint.

She had just given birth to her second child and their daily routine meant she was always cleaning. But there were a lot of products, with ingredients she didn't agree with, generating a lot of plastic waste.

"I'm also personally intolerant of fragrances, and when I was holding my babies I wouldn't wash their bed or bassinet sheets in something that had a strong smell because there's nothing natural in fragrances. They're mostly chemically made and I wanted to offer something different."

But the public wasn't ready.

"When I first asked people, 'Would you buy eco-friendly products?' the answer was always, 'They're way too expensive and they don't work.' When I'd point out unscented options, I'd get, 'If it doesn't smell like lemon, it isn't clean,'" says Rouleau.

It almost put her in financial ruin, but she didn't give up. She stayed involved in the industry educating people.

"Growing as a business person means getting out of your comfort zone. If I would have ten people afterwards coming up to me and asking questions, those ten people gave me that willingness to say, 'I can't stop now,' and I'm happy I didn't," says Rouleau.

Now with the power of Canadian Tire behind her, Rouleau believes a green revolution can't be far behind. Rouleau always loved Canadian Tire, but never dreamed a national retail powerhouse would ever take an interest in her small body care and cleaning company.

"I grew up going to Canadian Tire with my parents. Now I have kids and I go get their rain boots and lunch boxes at Canadian Tire. But now that I'm doing business with them, our relationship has taken a different dimension. They are great to work with - and they're Canadian retail legends," says Rouleau.

But with opportunity comes challenge - Canadian Tire ordered 100 pallets of product. Prior to this, Rouleau's biggest order was 17 pallets, two years ago.

"I fell on the floor when I got the order because really, it doesn't happen. These types of deals are once in a lifetime. Not even Canadian Tire knows how it will turn out, it's something completely new for them as well," says Rouleau.

Thankfully, she'd upgraded her production two years prior, hoping that a big order like this may one day come along. That, combined with eight years of treating suppliers well -- like her parents did -- is helping her complete the biggest order in The Unscented Company's history.

"You can't succeed alone and the biggest partners you have are your suppliers. We saw the opportunity we all had and we could all share."

Rouleau will no longer have to educate the country about the value of environmentally-friendly cleaning and body products. Now she has Canada's largest retailer backing her vision, which gives her the confidence that she was valuing the right things all along because it turns out, the place where she buys her children's rain boots and The Unscented Company have much in common.

"I feel like I've won the lottery because not only did Canadian Tire believe in my product, they believed in a woman-owned business, they believed in a B. Corp certified business, a green business and a mostly local business. They really made those values that I cherish so much, a part of their willingness to bring my business to the next level," says Rouleau.

What is that next level? Rouleau envisions a greener country and The Unscented Company and Canadian Tire teaming up to spread awareness toward more mindful consumption and a greener tomorrow.

"My voice to talk about unscented, our plastic footprint and the importance of bulk is not big enough. But with Canadian Tire, imagine what we'll be able to promote. People will change their consuming habits because with me alone, out of Montreal, it's tough to get the message out, but with them by my side, we will change habits!"

*This is paid content produced on behalf of Canadian Tire. This is not CBC journalistic content.

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