– Words by Angela Cowan Photography by Lia Crowe
Michelle Webber says it was a passionate need for a clean and 100 per cent cruelty-free deodorant and a gaping hole in the beauty industry that spurred her to create her latest business.
Founder and owner of SONDR, Michelle was working double time as a wedding planner and at an oyster-shucking business when she learned about the ugly truths of animal testing in cosmetics and household products. A recent dog-mom of two rescue pups, she began to research more deeply what those “green” logos meant, and was dismayed to find a lot of them were no better than the paper on which they were printed.
“I love my animals so much, and I wanted to make sure whatever I was using was cruelty free,” she says, explaining that much of the time, a company doesn’t test their individual products on animals, but their parent company does; or, they sell to countries that require animal testing before the products can go on the shelves; or, that there are virtually no repercussions for companies who are found in violation of the cruelty-free policies.
Countless hours of research later, “We got to the point where we’d switched over almost all the products in our home, but deodorant was a really tricky one,” she says.
Michelle dove down the rabbit hole, researching natural brands, but ran into roadblock after roadblock, either with the ethical aspect, or the fact that a lot of them simply didn’t work for her.
“I started googling how to make deodorant and where to buy it, and then I just thought, if these big guys can’t do it properly, then this girl’s going to come up and do it for them,” she says. “I wanted to make a difference in the industry as a whole, and I couldn’t do that making my own or doing farmer’s markets.”
That was in 2019, and after three years of “research and testing and stinky armpits,” SONDR was launched to an international customer base last November, with a line of absolutely cruelty-free and environmentally sustainable (and currently plastic neutral) deodorants. After less than a year, the products are in 31 stores in Western Canada, plus a handful of retailers in Ontario, and Michelle’s deodorant empire continues to grow.
“One of our biggest goals is to get exposure and to grow people’s awareness that there are so many products out there, created in Canada, created by women,that are ethical and effective,” she says. “Consumers vote with their dollars, and there is an impact that your buying has.”
The bottom line, says Michelle, is “our vanity is not paramount to the quality of life of any other creature in this world.”
The 7 Sins
Whose shoes would you like to walk in?
I thought about this a lot, and while there are some amazingly inspiring people in this world, like Canadian businesswomen Rachel Mielke or Joanna Griffiths, I wouldn’t want to walk in anyone else’s shoes but my own, five years from now. We just don’t know what happens behind closed doors, what traumas and hardships someone has been through, and I wouldn’t be equipped to navigate those!
What is the food you could eat over and over again?
Sushi and maple syrup. As a pescatarian, I could eat sushi every day. I’m French Canadian, so maple syrup runs in my veins…I like to drink it straight right out of the jug. But it has to be real maple syrup from Quebec!
You’re given $1 million that you have to spend selfishly. What would you spend it on?
Creating a sanctuary for injured, handicapped or otherwise “unwanted” animals, where they could live happily, freely and feeling all the love in the world for the rest of their lives.
Whining and excuse-making. We all need to vent and feel sorry for ourselves at times, but I was raised to have those emotional few minutes, then get up and keep going, and that consistently speaking negatively only invites more negativity. People who take accountability for their actions and make changes for parts of their lives that don’t serve them are amazing!
Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?
Nowhere! The idea of doing nothing makes me anxious! But, the closest to doing nothing I will come is reading. I am an avid bookworm, and I could spend DAYS curled up in a super comfy window seat with a peaceful view and my two pups with me. A good reading nook/window seat is on my dream-house bucket list!
What is the one thing you’re secretly proud of?
I’m proud of my ability to live my life without fear, and perhaps somewhat impulsively. This has allowed me to do things like start amazing businesses, travel solo to places like Africa, scale down buildings and even jump out of airplanes!
What makes your heart beat faster?
Efficiency and decisiveness! As an extreme type A, there is nothing more amazing to me than when someone helps me by freeing up time or making a decision so that I don’t have to.