Small Business Profile: Melissa Condotta, Owner of Sunday's Company - Toronto

 
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Hi Melissa! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Toronto, thought I’d be a city girl for life. After getting married, my husband and I realized that we needed to escape. Urban living just wasn’t worth the hustle anymore. We yearned to adopt a simpler, unhurried life— to buy some land and expand our business The Dog P.A.R.C.  After a couple of years of searching, we planted our feet in Trent Hills, Ontario— 2 hours northeast of Toronto. I finally felt like I was home— this is where I was meant to be.

What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?Growing up there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be a teacher. I went to University for a year, but soon realized that my passion was in interior design— so I switched programs. I pursued a freelance career for a bit, but again, it was unfulfilling. After that, I dabbled in all kinds of things but failed to figure out what my soul purpose was. The only thing that was certain was that I needed to be my own boss… until I made the move to country life. It was here that everything changed. My priorities, my passions and my goals. I immersed myself in things that were out of my comfort zone, and allowed myself to naturally follow a path that led me to where I am today.

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When did you begin creating skincare with plants and herbs? Did you anticipate starting a business around natural products?
Again, my career was up in the air when we made the move out here. I figured that I would be helping with the dog business full time. I was embracing country life and soaking up as much experience as I could. One day I joined a herb walk and that was it. I was obsessed with plants and the healing power that lies within them. I enrolled in a course, planted a garden, and immersed myself in all things herbal. It hit me then, that this was my calling. To share the gifts of Mother Nature and to cultivate a community that wanted the same things— a slow, intentional, sustainable life that focused on plant medicine for the skin and soul.

When/how did you begin Sunday's Company and how has it changed since starting?
I knew this was what I was going to do, and that it would take awhile to get there. I’d talked about my plans for this business with a close friend of mine, Victoria. We used to work together on Sunday’s. It was on those days that our friendship blossomed— when we’d talk about our dreams and one day be working for ourselves. She’s a graphic designer and I, the plant lady. We had similar values, so we knew we’d compliment each other perfectly. We kinda just decided to jump into it together and that was the beginning of Sunday’s Company. 

It took us two years of planning and perfecting every detail and in February of 2016 the website finally went live. Our business plan was to just go with the flow, but everything sped up really fast— opportunities arose and production and projects required a lot more time than we had anticipated. As life happens, things change. Victoria has an extremely demanding schedule in Toronto, and her future ended up going in a different direction. We decided together that she needed to follow her passion, so the partnership ended on the most amicable terms. We’re basically sisters, and we will forever be linked in starting this amazing journey together.

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When did you decide to open your studio space to the public as a place where they can shop?
This is one of the things that kinda crept up on us all of sudden. It was something we’d talked about, but had no plans on pursuing for at least a few years. Just one month after launching, a space became available in the tiny village of 700 where I live. It was the most charming spot, in an historical building on Main St. The rent was affordable and we desperately wanted to get out of making product out of my home. We needed a studio. I knew in my heart that I would regret it if we didn’t take the risk. So, in our motto of “going with the flow”, we signed the lease before someone else could beat us to it. For the next two months we reinvented the space, and all of a sudden we had a studio and retail shop with a treatment room in the back. Was this even real life?

Is Sunday's Company your full time job? If so, how did that transition of careers work for you? If not, how do you manage the balance between different work lives?
I actually still work 2 days a week in Toronto. It’s that sense of security that keeps me there, until I know I’m ready to take the leap to full time. It’s been difficult for me to separate from my husband and dogs every week for the last 4 years, but it’s honestly worked out really well. The company I work for is completely supportive of my situation, so I’m pretty lucky that way. 

Having the shop, making time to get out and wildcraft the plants I use in my product, and keeping up with production has definitely become tougher to balance. At the moment, I have very little free time, but when I do, I make sure to immerse myself in a lot of self care practices. The good thing is, is that Sunday’s Company has moved from being my side hustle, to being a growing, full on business. I know I’m almost there.

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Do you have a favorite product to make or ingredient to use?
It’s the process of making a plant into a product that I love the most. I’m lucky enough to live in an area where I can gather most of my ingredients right here. For example, the Working Hands Balm takes me into the forest to collect needles and resin from the evergreens, bark from the birch trees and then right to my own land to gather plants that most people would consider weeds. 8 weeks later, after the full process is complete, there’s this incredibly soothing balm that I get to share with my customers. It’s a pretty far out feeling.

What do you wish more people knew about natural products?
I wish more people knew that everything they need, Mother Nature actually provides. Plant based and natural skincare is gaining popularity, and so many people are no longer naive to all the greenwashing that exists. Using actual herbs to nourish the skin is still a pretty new concept to people, but the word is spreading, and I love that my customers are eager to learn more and try new things. I can’t keep up with the plethora of products being pushed at me all the time and in my opinion, those fancy terms and trendy ingredients just make everything so complicated. Sunday’s Company is built on a very simple idea. I need simple in my life. I think we all do.

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What is your favorite thing about your workspace?
I love that it doubles as a brick and mortar store, so while I’m working customers and friends can come in and see what I’m currently making. They can also purchase other beautiful self care and sustainable living items that I’ve carefully sourced. I really wanted to create a relaxing atmosphere for visitors. One customer came in and said, “I can feel your heart in this space”. That meant everything to me. 

How do you connect with your customers and community?
I like to tell the story of where the ingredients come from and how a product is developed. When I tell customers that the pine needles, the sap, the juniper berries and the birch bark all came from my forest walk, just down the road, it makes the product more special and close to home. The other thing I absolutely love and am so grateful for, is when my community reaches out to me and offers me plant material from their land. For example, this past summer (my first at the studio) I had people message me to tell me that they had a whole bunch of yarrow that I was welcome to come and pick. Another friend left 2 pails full of lemon balm on my doorstep, and someone else brought me thousands of calendula seeds to sow. It makes my heart burst that my community is in this with me and that they play a huge role in me being able to make a product that is truly local. The term, “it takes a village” is one that holds so so true, here in Trent Hills.

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Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local makers?
Because we are the ones that do this because we love it. There is just too much greed and corporate BS that I don’t care to be a part of. I want us “small” businesses to be the change in the world. I want them to know that what they do is beautiful and that I support their work. That their passion and talent and uniqueness is so appreciated. I want them to have all the success. They deserve it.

What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
There are a couple of things. First, it’s the plants— they really are magic. It’s almost unfathomable that something as simple as a little green leaf, or a few yellow blossoms can have such a major impact on us. It seems simple, yet I’ll always be learning from them because plant life is so vast and complex.

Secondly, my work allows me to be close to nature, which is basically like therapy for me. I’m an Earth sign, and an introvert that holds a lot in, so I have a strong need to feel grounded. I also hate routine, so I can easily throw myself off track. Being outside- in the forest, on my land or anywhere in nature brings me right back.

Also, I’m following my bliss and not working to line someone else’s pockets. It’s not an easy life, but I chose this, and the fact that I get to do life and business my way means everything to me. If I’m not passionate about what I’m creating and the connections I’m making, what’s the point?

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What are some of the setbacks or challenges you have faced with Sunday's Company?
The biggest challenge has been splitting my time between a part time gig and Sunday’s Company. It means traveling 2 hrs to Toronto for a couple of days every week, and not being able to devote that much needed time to my business. So I guess the main challenge here really is money. If I only had thousands and thousands of dollars to do everything I have in my head. Haha. It’s okay though. I’m learning a lot through this process— enjoying the journey and watching Sunday’s Company unfold, organically.

At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
We’ve come so far, as women, to demand our rights, freedoms and respect. It’d be shame if we were also responsible for standing in each others way. I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with so many incredible women, many of whom are on a similar path of entrepreneurship. We feed off of each other and inspire each other to push through. I don’t play the comparison game because it’s damaging to ourselves and to our relationships with one another. There is plenty of room for us all to succeed and be happy. I can only say that the support I see for one another and this momentum we have going is beautiful to witness and be a part of. We are better when we work together.

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What creative women do you find inspiring?
That could be a very long list— we are surrounded by a never-ending community of talented and inspirational women, both online and in real life. Some women that I know personally, who are rocking it and have had an impact on me directly are:
- Nikki Fotheringham of Green Moxie. She is an environmentalist, writer and dear friend. What inspires me most about her is that she is exudes generosity, simple living and going with the flow. She doesn’t need much, and she’s one of the happiest people I know. She and her husband have this piece of land (that they’ve named Karl) and every year she puts on a small music festival, called Karlfest, where most of the community comes out to celebrate the beginning of summer. It’s become an event that exudes happiness and a love for where we live and the people we are surrounded by. At first glance, Nikki’s property could be mistaken for simple farmland, but head out into her piece of forest and you’ll see it’s anything but ordinary. She’s taken the simplicity and healing power of nature and created a little hideaway. Surrounded by trees, you reach a little island with a creek running through it— with bridges and walking trails and the sound of nature. She has so generously shared this with the community should they feel the need for some forest therapy. 

Tara McMullen — an instagram turned real-life-friend. She is a genius in life, photography, humour and business. Her confidence and business savvy has led her to build a company where she is one of the most sought-after wedding photographers, and rightfully so. Her style is relaxed, and genuine and she captures emotion like no one else (she’s also responsible for the shots of myself and the studio in this post). Tara is the perfect example of a kick ass female, who supports and encourages other females, has a thriving business and is raising a strong, feminist son. She inspires me in all the ways.

- Allison Westlake of Coriander Girl. Before we became real life friends, she’d been an online inspiration to me for years. She had zero money and a dream of opening a flower shop. In my opinion, she was responsible for the floral boom that happened in Toronto (and beyond) over 10 years ago. She started tiny and every few years took steps to growing her business. Today, she has the most beautiful enchanting property in Prince Edward County, with an historic home, little white chapel and a meadow full of wildflowers. She is one of the genuinely nicest humans I know, and her journey is so authentic and close to home. 

Megan Marie Gates is a spiritual sister, a poet, a musician and a healer. Experiencing one of her sound baths is a treat for the senses and a gift for your soul. As she plays the crystal bowls, she incorporates mantra music and other elements that manage to make me cry every time. I’m so inspired by her sound medicine, it’s become one of my regular self care rituals.

- Sarah Sklash and April Brown of The June Motel  are huge inspirations in small business success. Again, we met on Instagram while we were both getting ready to launch our new businesses. They asked Sunday’s Company to create a line of bath amenities for the motel and have been instrumental in helping this business grow. Their attention to detail throughout the motel is on point, and they knew exactly what market they were trying to reach. It worked, ‘cause within a month of opening, their weekends were pretty much sold out and they were showing up all over social media and in places like Vogue magazine. It’s been incredible watching them from the planning phase, growing and going into their second season already looking to expand. 

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How do you manage moments of self doubt?
I have a lot of those. I’ve also managed to develop some anxiety as life tries to kick my butt. 

But at the same time, I don't let it rule me. I devote a lot of time and energy into a self-care practice that keeps me balanced, grounded and present. This includes spending time with positive people, taking part in rituals and ceremony, using herbs to nourish and heal, and treating myself to spa days and treatments as often as I can. All these things put together, strengthen me and allow me to lead a simple life where it’s easier to move forward when faced with challenges and self doubt. 

What are some of your favorite places in Trent Hills and the surrounding area?
Main Street in Warkworth. It’s where spent a lot of my free time before I opened the studio. Now it’s where my studio is located. It’s a quaint and vibrant village with a creative and progressive community surrounded by forests, farms and rolling hills. It has a very special energy and it’s not uncommon for people to want to move here shortly after visiting.

Prince Edward County is a short drive away. I spend a good amount of time there visiting friends and visiting the local businesses. It’s like Warkworth on a bigger scale. Tons of people are moving from the city and doing some really cool stuff here.

Karl. That’s the name given to Nikki’s farm, remember? I talked a bit about how Nikki inspires me, and how she created this little spot for recluse in her forest. It’s become a place of peace and healing for myself and so many people. I’ve also been able to gather so many important ingredients for product here. I love that I’m able to bottle up pieces of a special place, then use it to create something to heal others. It’s a beautiful chain of intention and giving isn’t it?

 Photos by  Tara McMullen

Photos by Tara McMullen

Find Melissa at:
Sunday's Company - 31 Main Street - Unit 1    Warkworth, Ontario K0K 3K0
Website
Instagram
The Dog P.A.R.C.