Despite weather warnings, traffic collapse, and a massive snowstorm, Katie Boothby, the Founder of Soap2Hope, made it safe and sound to the Microleaders Headquarters (my humble living room). Over a steaming cup of tea, Katie and I chatted about leadership, fundraising ideas, and most importantly about the reasons she now spends her free time making soaps.
Katie’s non-profit, Soap2Hope, was born out of a 4th year university capstone project. The original business plan had had at its core a capital of 100,000 pretend dollars and involved a large operation of shipping soaps and materials from overseas with proceeds invested in hygiene and sanitation in Mozambique. Fast forward a few years later, Katie was travelling in Zambia and visited a village called Mukuni where she saw the devastating state of local water infrastructure.
Upon her return to Canada, Katie committed to bringing the vision of her university project to life. She learned how to make soap and on Canada’s 150th birthday together with Prince Charles, who was in Ottawa on a royal visit (he liked Scarborough Fair Soap with goat’s milk, rosemary, and thyme, by the way), she officially launched Soap2Hppe, a not-for-profit contributing 100% of its sales to water projects in the Mukuni Chiefdom in Zambia.
What has been Soap2Hope’s biggest milestone to date?
Excluding the launch with Prince Charles, it was a small Christmas fundraiser ‘Bubbles and Bubbly’ this past December, and we were able to raise just over $800.
What is the most challenging about running this type of non-profit?
What isn’t challenging? The first challenge was to learn how to make soap from scratch; then, there was the process of creating and launching a website; and now, the biggest challenge is getting the word out and increasing exposure of our brand and our story.
What is the soap made of?
There are different ingredients in different soaps, including goat’s milk, Shea butter, aloe, and additives like dried powdered mango, which grows abundantly in the Mukuni village. In fact, all of the soaps are themed after Zambian history and culture.
How do the proceeds from soap sales make their way to Zambia?
We have partnered with a charity in Zambia called Butterfly Tree. They work closely with the locals to bring these projects to light. I picked this particular organization because of their close relationships with the locals and their ability to utilize and train local talent to build and maintain these projects. Once we have raised all the funds for a bore hole near a village school, we will work with The Butterfly Tree to get the job done.
Will you be visiting Zambia again soon?
I trust the work that The Butterfly Tree and their engineers do on the ground. That being said, I would very much like Soap2Hope to be involved in implementation of an education project around hygiene and sanitation in some of the schools. This is an ambition for either Fall 2018 or early spring 2019. Once we have a curriculum developed we’ll go back to Zambia.
What does leadership mean to you?
Good leaders are charismatic, approachable, and compelling public speakers. However, really good leaders possess skills that aren’t usually the first to come to mind. The best people I have ever worked for are the people who trusted me and listened to me. It is by valuing other peoples’ work and opinions that leaders give others the autonomy to grow and become better leaders themselves. Leaders lead, but great leaders are passionate about what they do, fostering the growth of other leaders.
Do you see yourself as a leader?
Yes, I do. I have been able to rally a team of supporters and form a community cheering on my vision. I am excited about the cause and I feel that others are, too. I sense that my passion is infecting people and makes them want to follow me and be part of the movement.
What advice would you give someone who is afraid of failure?
I would tell them that those fears aren’t unique; after all, Soap2Hope started with one Instagram follower and two customers and I was terrified. However, if you are in love with your idea, you will make it work. You will learn as you go; I recommend you jump first and fix later. At the end of the day, you have to just take the plunge because the biggest mistake you can make is not to try at all.
What is your favourite life lesson or inspirational quote?
David Allen: “You can do anything, you just can’t do everything.”
If you set out to solve all the problems in the world, you will end up solving nothing.
My vision for Soap2Hope is to have women in Zambia making soap from local resources but I realize this isn’t going to happen overnight. Thus, my mission for 2018 is to be focused. Focus gets things done and gets them done well.