An Interview with Tanya Zurock, president of The Wild Prairie Soap Company in Edmonton, Alberta

By Donna Marrin

Tell us about your business and how you started it.
I began making soap as a hobby while on maternity leave from my position as a junior high teacher in Edmonton. It wasn't long before I had too much to give away, too many ideas for more and not enough time to do it all! Wild Prairie Soap Company began as a home-based enterprise, on a very small scale, but soon expanded to include involvement in Canadian wholesale gift shows so that I could sell my soap and other body products to store buyers across Canada. That was a real turning point, as I received excellent feedback from buyers and could start to see a real niche for my product line.

What was your early vision for your business, and how has it changed over time?
In the beginning, I was very captivated by the product development side of my business. Learning new techniques, expanding the product line, and perfecting the craft was my focus. Over time, it has changed to include other vital parts of the business, such as marketing, sales and running a retail store. In a few short years, not only were we manufacturing products, but wholesaling them and opening our own retail store in Edmonton.

What has your biggest learning curve been, in terms of building your business?
Accounting and bookkeeping!

How have your day-to-day duties changed since you started out?
My days now are more spent working on the business, rather than in it (which is what you're supposed to do, right??). In the beginning, making products consumed my days. Today, I spend more time on other parts of the business that are required to keep it running smoothly!

Describe a day in the life…
A typical day involves so many things—but usually, it's coming to work at the store (where my office and soaperie  are also located), working with staff on planning production, assisting our wholesale customers by phone and email, planning upcoming trade shows, working on new product lines, and helping customers in the store. There is NEVER an end to the volume of work, so downtime is rare, which I like. And, of course, unlimited coffee!

Do you have any interesting facts to share about your line of work?
Most people don't realize the benefits of using natural soap, although the trend is definitely changing. People care a lot more than they did 20 years ago, when the big commercial manufacturers dominated the bath and personal care industry. Today, there are more and more startup companies trying to make a difference, and better products are being made for consumers. Now, even the big players are following suit with their own versions of “natural.”

How do you find balance between your business life and your home life?
I don't find balance very easily; it's my biggest challenge as an entrepreneur. I enjoy traveling, though, so this helps keep me refreshed when I need a break from it all.

What’s the best part of running your own business? …your least favourite part?
The best part of what I do is that I have freedom to choose my own schedule (to a point), I can make decisions that directly affect my work life, rather than following someone else's agenda, and I am able to meet amazing people that I may not otherwise have met. I also LOVE great soap, so that helps immensely! My least favourite part… the economic recession!

Do you have a favorite business tool or resource?
My laptop and iPhone. Entrepreneurial friends are also a huge asset.

What is the key to your success?
I think the ONLY key to success is working hard and believing in your skills, your products and your business—and, of course, being able to adapt when your best idea turns bad! Being self-reflective and adaptable, I think, is way up there on the list of “keys to success.” You have to learn to remove emotion from most decisions; it sometimes interferes with good business sense!

What is the one piece of advice you would like to share with others thinking about starting a business?
I think the best advice I would give someone is to really research their idea well, and be sure to seek help from professionals who have a lot of great knowledge that a new entrepreneur might not have in the beginning. And only go in knowing that entrepreneurship isn't for the faint of heart; you have to be able to take the good with the bad and keep on rolling!

TANYA ZUROCK is the president of Wild Prairie Soap Company located in Edmonton, Alberta. She is a passionate believer in eco- and skin-friendly body products and believes that her mandate in life is to help people learn about the benefits of going natural. Wild Prairie Soap Company's store and soaperie is located in Edmonton's historic Old Strathcona community on Whyte Avenue. Tanya can be reached via email at [email protected]. Products can be ordered online or by phone at 1-866-681-7627 or

By Adam

July 08, 2011