Photography - HIRO
Text - MINA
Photography - HIRO
Text - MINA
Adam Butcher and Chantelle Line, Sea-E-O and Sales&Marketing Manager
Photography - HIRO
Interview - MINA
“We use 9 different kinds of seaweeds from Sooke, harvested by hand. It is like
a restaurant growing its vegetables and creating its recipes. It also gives people
a connection to the ocean through personal care products.”
In the coastal town of Sooke, a passionate woman with a deep love for the ocean had discovered a hidden treasure along the shores of Canada's West Coast-a bounty of high-quality seaweed. Known as
"The Seaweed Lady," Diane Bernard was providing top-quality seaweed sourced from Canada's West Coast to various luxury resort restaurants in British Columbia in the 1990s. One fateful day, while visiting one of her resort clients, a spa manager showed Diane a range of skincare products supposedly derived
from seaweed. To her astonishment, Diane realized that these products lacked the true essence of seaweed. It was a revelation that sparked an idea within her-what if she could bring the nourishing power of seaweed to the world of skincare?
In 1998, Diane founded Seaflora, North America's first organic-certified skincare brand based on seaweed. "Clean," "Organic," and "Healthy" as the guiding principles of their craftmanship, Seaflora set out to create products that were not only good for the skin but also gentle on the planet. Initially starting with just one product, the Seaweed Body Mask, Seaflora quickly expanded its product line, meticulously formulating each item to harness the full potential of seaweed. From moisturizers to cleansers, every Seaflora product is crafted by hand, ensuring the utmost care, quality, and effectiveness.
But Seaflora's commitment goes beyond its skincare creations. They believe in "Healthy Choices, Healthy Planet," and sustainability have become the beating heart of their business. From packaging made from recycled materials to reducing their carbon footprint, every aspect of Seaflora's operations embraced an eco-conscious approach. Their dedication to sustainability is so comprehensive that it would be impossible to capture all their efforts in a single interview. Diane's passion for sustainability resonated not only with her customers but also with her son Adam, who followed in her footsteps as the second-generation CEO. His lifestyle mirrored the values Seaflora held dear, ensuring a bright and sustainable future for the brand.
Today, Seaflora stands as a true pioneer in the realm of green beauty. Their seaweed-infused skincare products grace the shelves of renowned spas and find their way into the daily routines of people worldwide. In this interview, Seaflora shares their love for seaweed, sustainability, and the local community Sooke, where it all started.
VOICE: How did you get involved with your family business?
Adam (A): I was born in Sooke, grew up on the beach, and everything I have done is around the ocean. I started harvesting seaweed at the age of fourteen. Before Seaflora, I was a scuba instructor, teaching in Victoria and, for four years, in Thailand. I joined Seaflora in 2010, and ever since my mother retired in 2018, I have been running and owning a business with my partner Chantelle. My interest in Seaflora grew from my younger days, as I watched it begin, taking our resources sustainably, creating a year-round industry that created healthy products and well-paid jobs, and being proud of what they are doing. At Seaflora, we do everything from harvesting seaweeds, creating formulations, doing quality control, and marketing and sales, so I have learned to be creative in all aspects of this business. It has given us so many unique opportunities as well. At one time, when the Emperor Hirohito of Japan came to Victoria, the Province of BC put together gifts of local representations and included a Seaflora product. At that moment we realized that we have come a long way.
V: Why do you choose seaweed in skincare?
A: Seaweeds are not only different from land plants, they are better. Using seaweed is sustainable and healthy because they grow fast and we are not depleting the resource. Seaweeds don't require fresh water or soil to grow, and they don't need to be sprayed. Using real fresh seaweed from Vancouver Island guarantees that we have the highest quantity and the most variety of seaweeds in any seaweed skincare product. We use 9 different kinds of seaweeds from Sooke, harvested by hand. It is like a restaurant growing its vegetables and creating its recipes. It also gives people a connection to the ocean through personal care products.
Chantelle (C): Iridaea is the most common seaweed we use. It has a high plant-based protein content and helps build collagen. Seaweed is the only plant that offers MAAs( mycosporine-like amino acids). These compounds have photo-protective and antioxidant functions, providing natural sun protection. Whether retinol, hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, or B-complex vitamins, seaweed has everything for skincare! The fun fact is that seaweeds grow nine months out of the year, just like human babies. Our embryonic fluid, sweat, and blood plasma are less than one molecule different from the seawater. This explains why putting seaweed topically is excellent, and our skin can absorb and utilize it well.
V: How are your products made?
A: We work with whole, raw, and unprocessed plants. When raw seaweeds come in, we create so-called "bases" that make the foundation of every Seaflora product. We then add other skin-loving ingredients that are effective, clean, organic, food-grade, non- GMO, and non-toxic to those bases to transform them into a face moisturizer, eye serum, and other individual products. Each product is handcrafted as fresh as possible, so you don't see many stocks sitting on the shelves.
V: What are some of the changes you have made since you took over the business?
C: The first change we made was that we looked at each product, and made them even healthier. That included switching to food-grade ethylhexylglycerin and phenethyl alcohol. My background was in digital marketing, so we worked on redesigning the website to have a stronger online presence and a better consumer journey. The business has quadrupled since we took over, and we won 5 awards in the last four years. Also, going digital and direct-to-consumer business models saved us when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Our IG followers grew from 800 to 21,000. Even in the heart of the pandemic, we were growing strong.
A: And, we opened a new retail shop in the middle of the Covid! Our office on Otter Point Road has turned into a showroom and retail space. Come and check us out!
V: What are some of your sustainable practices?
A: Everything about our production is sustainable. We hand-harvest seaweeds right here in Sooke, so our carbon footprint is almost zero. Everything from the suppliers including soft plastics is recycled. We use compostable starch-based packing peanut and paper for wrapping and packaging, and all our shipment through Canada Post is Carbon neutral. It is sad to see other brands pertaining image of green beauty with their products filled with styrofoam and plastic bubble wrap. Even our headquarter location is chosen specifically right by the public transit stops. Everybody who works in Seaflora lives in Sooke, so they do not have to commute long hours. I also bike to work!
C: At Seaflora, everything is reused, reduced, or recycled. Preserving the land we live in and taking good care of it is very important to us. All our products are in recyclable glass containers with prints in vegetable ink. We have many protocols on how to do things properly at the workplace. That is why we were named this year's North American Clean Beauty Industry Leader for our commitment to sustainability.
A: Also with every purchase of Seaflora product, a portion goes to 3 local environmental organizations; Georgia Strait Alliance, Sooke, Salmon Enhancement Society, and Ancient Forest Alliance. Those are specifically chosen because they are local, and do real work in the community.
V: Do you notice any changes in the marine environment in your area?
A: Not noticeably, no. We test the parts of the ocean, and they are cleaner than our drinking water. We are fortunate to live in a world where the ocean is still clean and intact. It is evident by the presence of the orcas; that means the food chain is still intact. That is why we work with other organizations to maintain what we have for future generations.
V: What's next for Seaflora?
A: We want to start working with more local hotels that want to green their rooms. We would like to help them green their operations and use local green local amenities. We supply to our large resort partners like Sonora Resort, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort in Uclet, Wikkaninnish Inn, and Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino. Guests can have a Seaflora experience in the comfort of their suite or at the spa.
V: What is the best thing about Sooke?
A: I like the wilderness. In five minutes from Seaflora, I can be at the beach, the river, or the forest. The business is taking me around the world from Korea, HK, Shanghai, and across North America, and as I come back to Sooke, I realize why we do this. We like to give a little bit of Sooke to the world.
C: Sooke has it all. Wildlife, small-town feel, good quality food, good quality people, and remarkable businesses. Seaflora is a world-renowned business, and we have the world renowned Sooke Habour House, a Netflix Show called Big Timber and world-famous Sheringham Distillery. This small town kicks out so many big things!
V: What is one change you like to see in Sooke?
C: I like to see more commercial space available so that more cool small businesses can come out of their home and be known to people for the cultural experience here.
A: We are one of the fastest-growing communities in BC. It is good for business, but from a personal perspective, I want to preserve this small town's nature and Sooke to grow not so fast. It feels like a double-edged sword.
V: Where is your favourite beach in Sooke?
A/C: TOP SECRET!! (They are not kidding!)