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Ucluelet’s Mint Cleaning earns top 5 spot in SBBC Awards

World’s looking pretty mint for West Coast entrepreneurs Robyn Pook and Monika Scott
Mint Cleaning co-founders Robyn Pook and Monika Scott were honoured to be named a top five finalist in the Small Business BC Awards. (Mint Cleaning photo)

The world’s looking pretty mint for two West Coast entrepreneurs.

Mint Cleaning co-founders Robyn Pook and Monika Scott have been delighting social media with cleaning hacks and DIY recipes for non-toxic products while creating a handmade, ecofriendly product line that’s growing as rapidly as its creators’ fan base.

Their Ucluelet based company was recently named a top five finalist in the Small Business BC Awards.

“We’re so honoured. It’s been amazing,” Pook told the Westerly News.

The pair found out they had been nominated just one day before a voting deadline to make it to the competition’s next stage and quickly got to work drumming up support across their popular social media channels.

“We had 24 hours on Instagram to get everybody rallying and voting,” Scott said.

After that push proved successful, the next step was to do a pitch to a panel of judges and they’re now waiting for the results to be announced at a Gala on June 2.

“That was very nerve-wracking and an intense few days practicing that and we got through it and I think we did pretty good. They seemed pretty impressed,” Scott said.

The Small Business BC Awards is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and saw 613 nominations across 84 communities throughout the province.

The awards are broken into four categories and Mint Cleaning is one of five finalists for the E-commerce Experience Award.

“As Canadians increasingly turn to online shopping, our E-commerce Experience Award goes to a small business who presents an enjoyable experience for their customers online,” explains the awards’ website. “Whether it’s on mobile or desktop, this business converts visitors into purchasers through an easy-to-navigate store experience and clear, measurable digital marketing strategy.”

The online experience Pook and Scott have created stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic obliterating their professional cleaning business as vacation rentals went temporarily kaput in 2020.

“We call it the COVID pivot,” Pook said. “It really worked out for us. I feel bad because COVID was so terrible for so many people, but it really was the catalyst for what our business is today.”

The pair had met in 2017 at a gathering for local moms and it was synergy at first sight.

“Immediately I was like, ‘Who is this person? I love her. We definitely just got along right away joking around and making fun of ourselves,” Scott recalled.

She said they were talking about a mutual interest in picking up part-time cleaning work and were overheard by other moms at the gathering who quickly expressed interest in hiring them and encouraged them to go into business together.

“We were total strangers at this point but I asked Robyn, ‘Do you want to go for a walk tomorrow and talk about this?’ So, we went for a little stroll and decided to start a cleaning business together,” Scott said.

Pook said it was exciting to see their schedule fill up fast, but added that having so much business had both she and Scott “using toxic cleaning chemicals all day” and she began feeling negative effects, including an X-Ray revealing scarring on her lungs.

That prompted a search for non-toxic products to use, though Scott said they weren’t confident in the effectiveness of all-natural products at first.

“We were big skeptics in the beginning,” she said. “We used some of the bigger name commercial eco-friendly products and they just didn’t work. But then, when our health was at risk and we were both just feeling like crap after eight hours of bleach, we just started finding things that did work.”

With COVID clearing their cleaning schedules, they both began collaborating on non-toxic products and building their social media audience, harnessing the power of their energetic personalities and fun friendship to accumulate over 30,000 followers on Instagram.

“It kind of was this perfect storm,” Pook said. “Our business got shut down and me and Monika got more time on our hands so we started experimenting with our own recipes in our kitchens and, at the same time, started an instagram account and things just happened really quickly.”

In the summer of 2021 they decided to make the pivot official, handing the cleaning business off and concentrating solely on the products, which are now available in 135 refilleries and retail stores across Canada as well as a few in the United States.

“We want to tap into the U.S. market slowly, but it’s happening, so we’re pretty excited,” Pook said.

She added being professional cleaners gave them the advantage of being able to test the products they were making and brainstorm through trial and error.

“We were professional cleaners so we were able to test it. We knew what we wanted. We didn’t just call a lab and say ‘Make us cleaning products.’ Grassroots, ground-up, we created these recipes and reformulated them. “I think that really sets us apart,” she said. “It just organically flowed from there where now we have 19 products and the business that you see and being nominated for this crazy award. It’s been a wild ride.”

Scott added they also share DIY recipes through social media, much to the delight of their rapidly growing fan base.

“For us, it’s not just about the product,” she said. “We have motivational tips and tricks and cleaning hacks, it’s more of a community and more of a service than just selling something.”

Pook suggested some may not realize the negative effects of toxic cleaning chemicals to those using them as well as to the environment or be aware that there are viable alternatives.

“I hear from people who say ‘I clean my bathroom and I have such a headache. I feel disgusting and my eyes are bloodshot.’ Then they actually use eco-friendly products that work and they don’t have those effects and they actually feel better. It’s like aromatherapy at the same time,” she said.

Scott attributed much of the company’s success to the community it’s thriving in.

“I think if we were in a big city, we never would have been this successful. Our success is truly from the people in this town,” she said. “The support and rally that we have in this community has been huge. I honestly don’t think we would be where we are at today without this community. We are so grateful.”

Pook assured that no matter how big it gets, Ucluelet will always be homebase.

“Our kids were born here. Ucluelet comes first. We work to live, we don’t live to work,” she said.

“I love everyone here,” Monika added. “I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

In fact, the pair are branching out with a new manufacturing and retail space at 1950 Peninsula Road that they hope to open in May.

“We have a huge space now to manufacture out of and we’re also opening a front little retail space,” Scott said. “People can come in and see the magic in the back and then also purchase right at the front door.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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