Read about Aurum Skincare, a female-founded Canadian business that has created a beauty product with natural birch water harvested from the forests of the Yukon.  What's more Canadian than that?! 🍁

What made you decide to become an entrepreneur and how did you get started?

As with many entrepreneurs, Elise and I started with a problem; specifically, problem skin. I’ve always had very sensitive skin prone to eczema flares and Elise has mild acne and rosacea. We both independently moved to the North over ten years ago and found that the intense climate intensified our skin issues. Our academic backgrounds guided us into researching sustainable solutions within the boreal forests here in the Yukon. One of the circumpolar solutions we found was the use of birch water in medicated skincare. So, we got to work on finding ways to create our own solution to our skin irritation. The beauty of having a business that’s so connected to nature’s natural cycles and behaviour is that we are regularly reminded that as much as we organize ourselves, ultimately it’s Mother Nature that’s in control. We harvest birch water each Spring and wait for the nutrient rich water to flow from the trees. It’s also a great way to mark the beginning of another exciting foraging season; from dandelion capers, fireweed jelly and even rose petal gummies, the possibilities are endless!

What has been the biggest challenge in starting or running your own business?

The beauty of running our own business in the subarctic is also what can provide some of the biggest challenges. The isolated and remote reality make for an incredible place to live, but can prove problematic when the distance affects opportunities and access to goods and services that are a common reality down South. Elise and I regularly need to predict and decide well ahead of time what the needs of our business will be so we can gain access to packing materials, raw materials and so many other details that help our business sun smoothly, but aren’t easily available here in the North.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

I think a key element as an entrepreneur is to be flexible. It’s important to have a vision but you can’t let it get in the way of your own progress. Elise and I have had many situations that didn’t go exactly according to plan, but we’ve learned from them and continue to grow as a result.

Where is your business based and how do the surroundings/community inspire or support you?

We live on the traditional territory of the Tr'ondëk Hwëchin in Dawson City, Yukon. Our community has been a tremendous place to learn and we are truly grateful for the inspiration, thoughtfulness and stewardship that our First Nation community continues to share. This little remote community (population about 2,000) is also a hub of innovation; we’ve come to understand that if you have a question or problem that needs solving, you find a way to solve it. We don’t have quick access to what people down south might consider ‘the basics’; it’s something that’s challenging, but breeds the creativity and innovation that seems to abound in our community.

How do you manage work/life balance?

As with everything in life, finding a balance is challenging. Elise and I do our best to balance the many  day-to-day demands while building our business and always managing to learn lessons along the way. My yoga teaching and mindfulness training has been a very important tool to keep me centered and connected to what’s important. Between raising a family, work and trying to build and run a business, life never leaves us bored or unchallenged. Keeping a full calendar seems to keep us more productive and value time in an even deeper way. But, it’s equally important to carve out time for family and time for self. if you don’t prioritize, the inertia of life can quickly give you a feeling of being out of control and time simply marches on. I’m grateful to live in Dawson where I can step outside my door and be surrounded by nature and the reminder to slow down.

October 23, 2021 — Rhiane Heslop