Joella Hogan, creator and founder of Yukon Soaps - creates hand-crafted plant based l soaps, shampoo bars and essential oils and so much more using local ingredients. Yukon soaps is Indigenous owned and operated, reviving their heritage through trade systems and community of harvesters as well as the traditional teaching from elders. She incorporates the culture language and traditions into the soap making.
Joella launched the company in 2012 without ever having made soap. Their mission is to empower, nurture and elevate Northern Indigenous cultures, community and people. Yukon soaps has been featured in Huffington Post, CBC, Flare Magazine and many more. Read more about her inspiring story and how she has made positive impact on the community.
1. Tell us about your journey and how Yukon Soaps began!
When I moved to Mayo, to live on my traditional territory, I envisioned reconnecting with my community, elders, land, and language. I started my journey of re-connecting to my culture by becoming the manager of the Heritage and Culture department for my First Nation where I was able to spend a lot of time with elders, learning traditional teachings directly from strong, knowledgeable community leaders. Eventually, years later, the opportunity to buy a soap company presented itself. When I took on the company, I was looking for a way to connect people to culture and to land. I decided I would take on the company and turn it into my own. Through the Yukon Soaps Company, I have been able to fulfill my dream —from getting elders and local kids out on the land to gather wild botanicals, to employing youth in my workshop, to offering crafting workshops, and participating in farmer’s markets across the Yukon and sharing our stories and language. The Yukon Soaps Company is about so much more than soap.
2. How did you start making soaps? Did you have any experience?
I bought this business in 2012 without ever having made soap. I just took a big leap! I was very new to the business world when I started, so there was a lot to learn. A great source of support for me was reaching out to experts. I truly love being a soap maker. It is a combination of my science degree, my artistic abilities, and a sprinkle of magic. Since owning this company, I have seen the growth in popularity for handcrafted soaps. It is wonderful that more and more people are making good soap with natural ingredients. I make soap that honours Indigenous ways of knowing and being, crafted with plants from the boreal forest. Many of the teachings that inspired YSC are about what it means to be a good Northern Tutchone person. Elders taught me how to take care of the land and the importance of continuing with this care as a tradition. Therefore, so much of what I put in my products comes from the land around me. I often use hand-picked plants that can be found throughout the Yukon in many of our products. They are harvested by both myself and community members. It was when I came home to find local children had left baskets full of wild rose petals for my soaps that I knew I had made the right choice.
3. Why do you think it's important to empower indigenous communities?
It is important to empower Indigenous communities because our Indigenous way of life is needed for our planet. Although we have clean water, air and wildlife, many places throughout the world do not. Empowering Indigenous people results in healing and hope for all. We share what we know and honour our ancestors by living a life that respects mother Earth. If more people can learn the important teachings we have been taught through generations, our world will benefit from it.
4. Tell us more about your mission with Yukon Soaps! How do you think Yukon Soaps has reconnected you with your ancestry?
Our mission is to empower, nurture and elevate Northern Indigenous cultures, community and people. We create natural wellness products instilled with the spirit of the Yukon. YSC has reconnected me with my ancestry by using local boreal plants in the ingredients and giving me the platform to share our stories, teachings and language with our customers.
I always try to incorporate the teachings of sharing, caring, teaching and respect into every aspect of my life and my business. Respect for the land, water and animals is shared through stories on our blog and social media. We hope to reach our customers in a meaningful way and teach them about our Indigenous culture and way of being.
5. What has it been like since you’ve moved to Mayo, your traditional territory? Could you describe some unique points of your culture?
My home in the Yukon has been a great source of inspiration. I find myself inspired every day from this beautiful land. We are so fortunate to have clean water, clean air and healthy wildlife. The people of Mayo have a deep respect for the land and what it can provide for us. There is also a strong sense of stewardship for the land and the animals that surround us. When coming up with the new ideas for my handcrafted soaps, I find inspiration from the land around me and from the wonderfully creative people that I surround myself with. The Indigenous Soaps that are a part of YSC include the beadwork of artists from my community imprinted onto the soaps. It was important for me to show the creativity and beauty that our culture holds. Beading is still a huge part of our culture in Mayo and I learned how to create beautiful pieces after moving to my grandmother’s community. I also learned how to drum and sing along with other women in my community. After a period of time when the drum was no longer being used due to residential school and colonialism, we knew it was important to bring this part of our culture back. We started practicing and learning songs together and eventually started to drum at events within our community.
Just like the Good Tee, Yukon Soaps strives to create products that contribute back to the economy and to the environment. Her products are sold throughout the Yukon at local craft fairs and markets, in retail shops and also through online sales from her home community of Mayo, a village of nearly 500 in central Yukon and home to the Northern Tutchone First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun. To support and learn more about Joella and Yukon Soaps.