âJobs of the Futureâ is a series focusing on career paths, local employment opportunities, programs and success stories that highlight North Bay’s diverse job market.
Oak and Willow is a local North Bay company that focuses on green household products and cleaners and company founder Haley Massicotte says it all started out as a happy accident.
âI had started making our best-selling product, our eco-friendly toilet pod cleaners, for myself and had a few extra jars that I put up on our local buy and sell on Facebook. In 24 hours I had over 200 orders and from there I continued to expand our product line.
Massicotte says she started making these products because of her cats.
âI have four cats who like to drink from my toilet, so I came up with toilet cleaners for this purpose, mainly because I’m a neat freak, but also to protect cats. “
Massicotte says opening a business was a chaotic start.
âIt started with just me in my dining room, and as it grew, my partner and I took over a room in the house. At the same time, I was pregnant and had preterm labor. We started with the toilet pods in February, we officially became a business in March and my son arrived six weeks earlier at the end of March, âexplains Massicotte.
âWe wanted to launch our website and all the other products in early April and my son was in the neonatal intensive care unit. We hired our first part-time employee around the time, and she’s been here all the time and we now have two full-time employees.
Massicotte says they renovated his house to make room for a basement workshop. She says owning her own business and being able to offer two jobs is a very rewarding experience.
âIt’s nice to be able to nurture my own ethics and my own morals in the workplace. For example, what we do differently is that my two employees earn exactly what I do, I don’t earn more than them, we share the profits, âexplains Massicotte.
âWe went to a Christmas market in Mississauga and inside of it we had predetermined the percentages of the profits that we were going to reinvest in the business and after that we completely split everything up. “
Massicotte says that line of thinking came from a video she saw on social media app TikTok.
âI’ve never been a huge fan of minimum wage, but I’m not sure I would have gone this far in my business model without seeing this video from TikTok Personality Madeline Pendleton who runs his own clothing business as a self-proclaimed “communist business model” where everyone earns the same amount of money. I really respected this model, âsays Massicotte.
âObviously her business is a lot bigger than ours, but it was a video of how she bought new cars from all of her employees at the end of the year because her goal is to have a profit $ 0 at the end of the year; it all goes back to the company and the employees. So this is something that I wanted to integrate into Oak and Willow and so my employees are doing the same as me. I think it’s really important because it means my people are going to work really hard and they’re going to be really thankful because people are used to working the bare minimum and giving the most they can.
The Massicotte company flourished under this model and in less than a year, its products were sold across Canada.
âBefore being a company, The workshop on Lakeshore Drive in North Bay approached us and told us they would like to put the toilet pods in their store. I agreed to do that, but we also didn’t have a business name or business cards or anything and so in less than two weeks we had all of this up and running our website. We also then did our wholesale inquiry and from there the stores just started contacting us. We never contacted a store which is great considering that we are now in 25 to 30 stores from BC to Nova Scotia, âsaid Massicotte.
Massicotte says she never envisioned the business growing to what it has.
âWhen we got all of these orders initially, I didn’t think it would happen. I’m really bad at saying no and so I was just saying ‘you can come and get it all tomorrow’ to the people ordering even though I was super pregnant at the time and my partner and I are driving for all the groceries trying to find the things we need for our ingredients, âshe says.
âSo as the week went on and we continued to receive orders, we started to envision what this could be like as a real business. Not necessarily a product extension or what we’re doing now with employees, but there was a point where I just thought it would be great to be able to make this work so I could stay home with my son. and plan my own work.
The Oak and Willow line of business has now expanded to include dish soap, room cleaning sprays, hand soap, soy candles, dishwasher tablets, and more.
âIt took us months to prepare for and plan for product expansion. I investigated each ingredient and where it came from, researched who our wholesaler is and made sure that the place we get them from has the same kind of ethics as we do, including fair compensation for the employees, âexplains Massicotte.
âI think it would be pretty hypocritical if our employees get it and where we don’t source it. I really think in a business like this there is no hierarchy, the business couldn’t run without me, but it also couldn’t run without the employees doing what they are doing, and it was important to find that elsewhere.
And by staying true to that integrity, Massicotte says that the benefit of shopping with Oak and Willow is the contribution of local customers to zero waste.
âLocally, we are organizing a recharging program. All of our products, no matter what they come in, you can return that bottle or jar and have the product refilled at a reduced price. By repeating this model, we keep everything at zero waste, âshe says.
Looking at their future goals, Massicotte says the goal is not to get rich from this company, but rather to push other companies to rethink the way they manufacture and distribute their products.
âI hope more companies will do exactly what we’re doing, I’m okay with them embracing this idea,â says Massicotte.
âOur goal is not to be Walmart or any other big corporate brand. My goal is not to have outside manufacturers because once that happens then it is difficult to have complete quality control and not only with the ingredients but also with the labor. Oak and Willow will never do a franchise, or if we do, it will be small. For us, these are the benefits of having our own business that we control. I work 60 to 70 hours a week, while my partner stays at home with our son.
Massicotte adds that supporting a local business goes much further than you might think.
âI think it’s really important because it all comes down to supporting our local economy. We are in the farmers market and so when you buy something from us it is almost always directly spent back from other local vendors. It’s the same with working with local businesses, it means you make connections and then you don’t need to source products from big companies because someone in your own backyard. has what you need.