The owner of 9Senses, Mila Greaves, is the most energetic and youthful 50-something we have ever met. Born in Portugal, she couldn’t speak English at all when she moved to Canada. She approached the challenge of adapting to her new life with gusto, and later on she put the same drive and passion into her business.
She started 9Senses in 2015 to share her passion for products that comfort the body and mind. Her artisan bath and body products are made the old-fashioned way: with love, craftsmanship, and passion. She currently works out of the family home in Maple, ON, but is looking forward to the day the business can expand to a dedicated workshop.
Her desire to have more flexible work hours so she could be more involved with her two daughters led her to start 9Senses. As Mila says, “the business affords me this luxury. Family is very important and being self employed allows me to schedule my professional life around my personal rather than the other way around.”
The choice to focus on natural bath and personal care products was an easy one. A deep love and respect for the environment has always driven her life choices. This, in combination with a desire to work for herself and focus more on family made 9Senses a logical path to follow.
Her first products were flaxseed & Lavender neck pillows. Then she wanted to make something to bring comfort to children within the Autism spectrum and saw a need for inexpensive yet high quality weighted lap pads and blankets. Artisan soap making was next, followed by beeswax aromatherapy candles.
Currently she is working on bath bombs and soy candles scented with essential oils, and hopes to have them ready for market soon. When we open the Canadian Originals artisan store in August, we’ll carry the entire 9Senses product line-up, including a few surprises we cannot spoil yet.
The path to entrepreneurship was fairly smooth for Mila. Like many other entrepreneurs, 9Senses started as a part-time passion project. However, after opening her Etsy shop in 2016, followed by her own website, her products quickly found a loyal audience. Given the demand, there was more than enough work to warrant her working full-time on her business, which she did.
That may sound like an instant success story, but it didn’t actually happen overnight. The first year she did a lot of research and worked through many different ideas before settling in on the artisan product lines - then she started to create. “Making the decision to work on 9Senses was one of the scariest things I have ever done. Giving up the security of a weekly income was difficult for the entire family and we all had to make sacrifices to help make ends meet.” Dreams of a kitchen renovation, trips to Barbados and Jamaica to explore the heritage of her adopted daughters – it all had to be put on hold.
Taking that first step towards being self employed is terrifying, but having walked down that path, Mila’s advice for budding entrepreneurs is to “do what makes you happy, follow your heart and your dreams. There is no such things as a bad idea and don’t take no for an answer.”
Her inspiration comes from all around. One of the most memorable moments for her was when a complete stranger asked her about the fabric she was buying. When she replied that it was for weighted blankets used to help comfort Autistic children, he offered to donate some money. Surprised but pleased, she politely explained that it would not be appropriate to take his money, but if he were to buy some fabric she would make a blanket on his behalf and donate it to the Autism chapter in York Region where she lived. He bought the fabric, Mila made the blanket as promised and donated it York Autism who raffled it off to raise funds for the kids. This simple act of kindness from a stranger had a tremendous impact on her and, just like ripples in a pond, it continued to spread goodwill and kindness in the community.
Currently, her biggest challenge comes from balancing the demands of running a business with the needs of 2 teenage girls and spending quality time as family. This doesn’t leave her as much time as she would like for the creative process.
Challenges aside, Mila is enjoying every day. “I really wish I had started 9Senses years ago. I love what I am doing and should have started sooner”, she says. As to how a mompreneur achieves life-work balance, Mila describes her daily routine, which she says keeps her on track: After dropping her daughters off at school, she has a quick cup of coffee at home and checks her email. Most mornings she makes soap when no one is around. If there is a demand for one of the other products or an upcoming show, she works on them during the morning as well. Mila finds the school run useful: she has a bit of time to think about new products, or how to improve existing ones. Once her daughters are home, she switches into mom mode. After homework and dinner it’s back to emails, social media and making products – Mila makes everything from scratch, even sewing the washable covers on the neck pillows herself.
Talking about her customers and how often she gets repeat business, Mila notes that “the biggest trend I see is the ever growing demand for all natural ingredients”, Mila says. That’s music to our ears – we share a passion for healthy, wholesome ingredients, with no added fillers, artificial preservatives or chemicals you can’t pronounce.
To recharge from her long hours, Mila spends quality time with her daughters – “and my husband, if I can get him off the couch”, she adds teasingly.
Going forward, Mila plans to build on her success. She regularly sells out at local fairs, and each new product so far has met with consistent praise, whether it’s gift sets for the holidays or men’s care products. In addition to enjoying her success as an entrepreneur providing quality bath and body care products, Mila’s greatest satisfaction derives from offering products like weighted blankets and lap pads that strive to improve the quality of life for young people within the Autistic spectrum. Her goal is to make these available to children who need them and to make a positive difference in their lives. From every sale of sensory therapy products, she donates 5% to Autism York Region Chapter.
We hope our subscribers enjoy the lovely 9Senses travel candle included in the July box, and we’d appreciate getting your feedback, or suggestions for Mila’s growing product line. We look forward to offer them all starting in August when our artisan store opens. (Our newsletter subscribers will be the first to know when we open our doors, and will receive exclusive offers.)
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