Whale blubber soap takes off... even Justin Trudeau likes it
Iqaluit couple makes beauty products out of beluga, narwhal and bowhead fat
A couple from Iqaluit who are making soap out of beluga, narwhal and bowhead blubber say their business is taking off — even hearing that Canada's prime minister is a fan.
It started three years ago, when Bernice Clarke got some beauty products shipped to Iqaluit.
"By the time my wife ordered two body butters from down south, it came to nearly $100," says Justin Clarke. "We were like, wow, this is crazy."
So they decided to make their own products with natural, organic ingredients.
The couple started by gifting some soaps, and then entered a local craft sale — quickly selling out of their products, and Uasa Soap was born.
When an elder later suggested that they add whale oil to their products, Clarke — who's from Newfoundland — says he was "shy" about the idea. But he started researching how blubber was used by Newfoundlanders, Labradorians and Nunavummiut in the 1800s, and decided to go for it.
"It did smell, the first batch," Clarke laughs. "So we threw that one out, we tried it again. It came out really good."
He says each bar of soap has about a tablespoon of whale blubber in it, which was donated from a community hunt a couple of summers ago.
"We're not out there hunting those whales just for this soap," Clarke explains. "Instead of letting that whale biodegrade on the beach, we'll take it home and we'll use it in our soaps."
He points to other traditional uses for hunted whales, including heating homes with blubber and building houses from the bones.
Trudeau's a fan
In January, the Clarkes brought their products to the Northern Lights trade show in Ottawa and Bernice was able to drum up business from a big name — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"My wife, she handed off a basket to Justin because Valentine's Day was just around the corner," Clarke says. "And yeah he got it! They love the soaps."
The couple recently got a phone call from Trudeau's housekeeper, Roger, who told them the family loves the soaps and body butters and would like more.
"The demand is there. It's kind of scary looking at it," says Clarke.
And Uasa Soap is not slowing down. Clarke says a new hotel in Nunavut wants to put the products in its rooms; they're selling soaps to a basket business in Yellowknife; and his wife has made connections in the South.
"It's going far," Clarke says.
The demand is piling up on the couple, who both work full time and have ideas to expand. Clarke says at some point you have to jump in head first and see what happens.
"You know everybody has a full time job, it's comfort," he says.
"But you're not living. Some people you have to take a chance, and that chance is soap for us."
with files from Lucy Burke