Shea Organics is owned and operated by Shay and Katie Riordan, and is a manifestation of Shay’s many passions, which she has spent the bulk of her lifetime cultivating. A self-proclaimed life-long learner, Shay is a trained actress and botanist, but her first passion was the art of make-up. Growing up with a mother that was a make-up artist, Shay had always been inspired by the world of possibilities that was brought alive by experts of the craft. She chose early on to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a make-up artist as well. Unfortunately, she soon became frustrated with the beauty industry’s seemingly apathetic stance towards the negative social, environmental, and health-related impacts of many beauty products. But even as Shay moved on to pursue her other passions, she continued to teach herself about alternative beauty products that were sustainable, safe and socially responsible.
Shay always wanted to find a way to align her work with her values, and she struggled to determine how until something clicked while she and her wife were on their honeymoon. The couple were staying at an eco-retreat in Guatemala, where Shay saw beauty products being offered and used in an environmentally responsible manner. She realized that she wanted to be able to offer something like this to her community back home, and so upon returning to Collingwood, Shay decided it was time to bring her passions together to open her own business. She would create a store that offered a cultivated collection of beauty products that are sustainably made, organic, 100% Canadian-owned, and predominantly women-owned.
Shay knew that it would be challenging to run her own business and that she would need some help getting started, so her first stop was the Small Business Enterprise Centre (SBEC) in Downtown Collingwood. She had walked past the Centre on innumerable occasions, “feeling as if it were calling her to take a leap of faith and come inside.” said Shay. Needless to say, when she finally walked through the door and sat down with one of the SBEC advisors, she knew she had taken the right step. The consultant was enthusiastic about her business idea. Over an approximately two year period, Shay worked with the SBEC, building her business plan, seeking out investors, and participating in many vendor shows. During this time, she learned a great deal through the SBEC including how to run a business, as well as about how to set healthy limits for herself to avoid burning out. According to Shay, “the SBEC did quite a few things to talk about burnout and mental health in business, and that’s something that I really don’t think a lot of people talk about. It is such a real thing, and you have to pace yourself. You have to set and respect your boundaries, and they really encouraged that”. And so, with a deeper awareness of her goals, and a couple years of knowledge and experience under her belt, Shay decided to sign a lease on a store front in 2018 and officially root her business in Collingwood.
Since opening, Shea Organics has become well known for its high-quality products and personalized sales approach. After completing extensive research on a product, Shay will often recruit her wife, mom, and other friends and family to test the product out before agreeing to sell it in her store. Through this living lab, Shay develops an intimate knowledge of the pros and cons of the products she sells and thus has a unique ability to recommend these products according to individual needs. Over the past few years, Shay has succeeded in creating a welcoming space where her customers can feel confident in the products they are buying.
Shay grew up in Mississauga and spent most of her life living in big cities, so when she met someone through a dating site that lived in Collingwood, she had to check a map to find out where the town was. A couple of weeks later she found herself stepping off a greyhound in Downtown Collingwood, only to find it was love at first sight (okay, this might have been a little more related to Katie than the town). Katie had lived in Collingwood since she was two and was set on staying, so Shay took the cue and packed her bags to move. Eight years later, Shay has found a home in Collingwood and claims she can’t imagine ever moving back to the big city. Katie owns a gardening business, so the couple spend a lot of time outdoors for work, but also find time to get out and enjoy some more recreational activities like biking and swimming. The couple also recently welcomed a new baby into their lives and are excited to begin showing their little one all the wonders around them.
Shay has also found herself at home within the business community in Collingwood and is proud to say that she is one of the many female-owned businesses in Collingwood (in fact, the main street in Collingwood is majority female-owned). She described her relationship with other businesses as supportive and collaborative: “I think people get the misconception that women can’t work together, but we’re very collaborative with one another. Even if we have a similar business, we complement each other all the time and I think that’s a really beautiful thing.” Shay is excited to work with those around her to continue building Collingwood’s reputation as a wonderful place to live and work.
Shay imagines a future in which Shea Organics has become a household name, occupying locations on main streets across Canada, and maybe someday across the globe. More importantly, she says that “the goal is to continue to promote small brands and promote diversity and inclusion”. She recognizes the importance of using her business to support various underrepresented communities, platforming companies owned by women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks. Another way she has contributed to this movement is by making her store a safe space for anyone who requires shelter, support, or help accessing resources. “I think that when I started, I wanted to contribute to this being an even more diverse town and I think that things are definitely happening in those ways, and hearts and minds are opening,” said Shay. The store has also opened a zero-waste “refillery” for common household products like shampoo and dish soap to help reduce the amount of waste that is being produced by the community.
Shay hopes to continue to contribute to movements that are close to her heart through her store’s offerings and to encourage the community of business owners in Collingwood to do the same.
If you would like to shop Shea Organics online, you can visit their website or check out their Instagram (@sheaorganicscanada) or Facebook page (Shea Organics Collingwood).
Photo Credits: Dave West Photography