Dominique Del Col is an advocate for the farm-to-table philosophy. Having grown up in the Niagara Region’s. countryside, Del Col was always surrounded by farmland, vineyards, rivers, trees and craftsmen. She remembers spending ample time with handmade goods, meeting wonderful people throughout the journey. In 2009, Del Col moved to Toronto and hoped to take her passions to the big city.
Now, Del Col is the Shop Owner and Wildcrafter of Botanical Potions at the a rustic market collective that opened in April 2015 in the city’s east end.
“We love being a part of such an interactive and healing craft relating to making of botanical skincare. The cyclical ritual of growing the herbs and flowers on my family’s property, tending to their care and eventually harvesting what we’ve sewn is tremendously gratifying and humbling,” Del Col said.
“We work alongside many local growers and wild crafters as well, and often share our provisions. The community is wonderful and full of such incredible people. The act of transforming ingredients into healing products is the icing on the cake. There is nothing more peaceful then walking into my sunny little studio space in the early morning and readying my ingredients for a day of mixing and making. It’s a job that I always dreamed of, and now have the incredible privilege of performing every day. It’s a blast,” she added.
I met Del Col at the Trinity Bellwoods Flea and had the pleasure of interviewing the artisan, entrepreneur and leader via e-mail. Here is her story and how ROWAN and WILDWOOD came to be.
1. How did you come up with the name ROWAN Homespun Market/Apothecary?
The name was inspired by the Rowan tree, and the pagan folklore surrounding the history of the tree. We wanted a name that represented our love of nature and botany, and as well as something that would invoke a sense of whimsy and mysticism. The Rowan tree was once known as the most sacred of all flora in the Scottish Isles. Rowan twigs were often placed above doorways and barns to protect the inhabitants against misfortune and evil spirits. It was also said to increase the healing and psychic abilities for those who practiced magic!
2. What does the term “rustic market collective” mean and why is it so important?
We like to think of our shop as a rustic collective in the sense that we represent an eclectic community of local makers and artisans, and sell their goods with the same passion and love as we would with our own work. We feel that it is incredibly important to support and encourage makers like ourselves. It builds a wonderful environment for creativity to thrive.
3. ROWAN makes handcrafted goods, small-batch holistic skincare, artisan preserves, natural fibres and vintage finds – what are some of the most common products that ROWAN sells?
The bread and butter is primarily our shop-crafted skincare brand, WILDWOOD. We are so fortunate to have a following of such wonderful people who love our products as much as we do! We also sell a magical variety of vintage curiosities, handcrafted pottery, jewellery, crystals, soap, local preserves and wood work.
4. Which products are your favourites?
I really love our new WILDWOOD Regenerating Facial Elixir for dry and mature skin. It’s incredibly reparative and hydrating, with a blend of blue cypress, frankincense, myrrh and Egyptian geranium. It smells heavenly and really helps to work on fine lines, hyper-pigmentation and elasticity of the skin. I’m also a huge fan of our scrumptious kombucha flavours from Alchemy Pickle Co. We keep our fridge stocked full of their delicious ferments. My all-time favourite is their Pear + Tarragon kombucha.
5. You use all local ingredients for your stuff, purchased at local farmers’ markets. Why is buying local and supporting local so important to ROWAN?
For us, it’s not about being on a soap box and preaching. We are just so passionate about sharing the botanical magic that the earth has to offer in its most natural form. I grew up on a farm where we grew all of our food, and made most of our household products from cleaning and herbal medicine to beauty remedies using simple and organically grown ingredients. Our skincare line is free of artificial preservatives and fragrances, fillers, emulsifiers and sulphates. We use only pure oils, extracts, herbs, flowers and butters. Being cognizant of what our personal care products contain and where their ingredients originate from helps us to better understand what we are putting on and in our bodies.
6. The ROWAN store is located in The Beaches. What are the benefits in being in Toronto’s east end?
It is such a beautiful community, full incredible people. The beach and water are just a stone’s throw from our shop, and the walk along Queen St. E. delivers so many eclectic shops and restaurants. We are so grateful to have discovered this location as the home for ROWAN and WILDWOOD.
7. What’s your favourite part about the east end community?
It really feels like a family. We have wonderful, lifelong connections with the folks in this neighbourhood that continue to grow the longer we’re here.
8. We met at Bellwoods Flea. Would you encourage other entrepreneurs and artisans to join festivals and events to sell their products? Why?
That’s a tough question to answer as every market and flea is different. We have had great success and always love the experience. We encourage other makers to find an event that fits their product and caters to a complimentary demographic. It’s always great to start with smaller events and add or remove as you grow.
9. Do you rely mostly on festivals, like the Bellwoods Flea, and Etsy? Or, do you sell your stuff in other stores, besides your own?
We really enjoy participating in local festivals, flea and farmers’ markets. It’s a great way to meet new makers, get to know our community on a deeper level and participate in events that help continue to shape our city into the amazing place that we love to call home. We do sell WILDWOOD in a number of shops throughout Canada and the US, and our website for online sales will be up and running next year. For now, folks can shop at ROWAN or through our Etsy store.
10. How does e-commerce benefit your business?
Our ROWAN website is a great space for us to share more detailed information about our events, workshops and products. Our WILDWOOD website is still in the development stage, but we hope for the same!
11. What role does social media play in your business plan?
It’s incredibly helpful in allowing us to reach out to broader audiences. It also allows us to share a more intimate experience with our client base.
We really enjoy the visual aspect of Instagram. It’s a great platform for expressing creativity and sharing the most impactful information that you’re trying to get across, without loosing readership in excessive text.
12. What was your first job? How has, or hasn’t, your first job helped you in your own business, today?
The journey started when I was quite young, my maternal grandmother who is a traditional healer, and yoga instructor would take me on adventures in the fecund forest behind our family farm in search of wild herbs, mushrooms and flowers which we would use to make infused oils, herbal salves and teas.
I learned early on to deeply appreciate the power of herbalism and wildcrafting. When I moved to Toronto seven years ago, I began keeping a small garden of herbs in my windowsill and would make small batches of tea and body care products for friends and family as gifts. I continued to study herbalism and holistic healing, taking a number of courses along the way as my passion for the subject grew. This eventually formed into a little side business, and when I wasn’t working as a corporate events and wedding coordinator, I was at the farmers’ market on weekends selling my potions. I loved working with like minded folks, and being intertwined in the farmers’ market circle. After lots of wonderful feedback from my customers, I decided to quit my job and work on ROWAN and WILDWOOD full time.
13. Are you a one-person show? Or do you have other staff to help you out?
Other than myself we have a couple of wonderful staff who are intimately involved in the process. We are so lucky to have such an incredible team.
14. What is a day in the life of Dominique Del Col like?
Usually pretty busy! My days are typically eight to 12 hours long, and consist of prepping our wildcrafted ingredients for our WILDWOOD products, and then making all of our potions. We hand bottle and label every single product that we sell in our shop which takes a fair bit of time. I’ll also be working on collaborations with our makers, merchandising our ever-changing stock of vintage items, and scheduling our upcoming events and workshops!
15. What is the hardest part about your industry?
I think it’s mostly trying to balance independent production of goods. We want to continue handcrafting every single WILDWOOD product, and have no intention of outsourcing. So, the difficulty is in finding a balance and remaining organized as the business grows and our wholesale increases.
16. What has been the most rewarding experience so far?
It all comes back to wonderful people, and being able to do what we love. While it’s exhausting at times, it never feels like work. We truly love what we do!