Julia and Becky Sinclair-Smith are the co-founders of Smith Farms, a 100% natural skincare line made out of pure plant-based ingredients on our family farm in Québec. Notable caught up with the clean Canadian skincare entrepreneurs to learn more about their brand goals, professional lifestyle, and life as entrepreneurs in Canada.
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What was the inspiration for your career route?
Julia: I’d say a combination of seeking a product line like ours, and also seeking a career that I was passionate about, was entrepreneurial and allowed me to live in the country and really choose my way of life. Fortunately, these two things came together at the same time and Smith Farms was born!
Becky: Julia and I had always wanted to start a business together. We’re from a family of entrepreneurs and knew the 9-5 gig wasn’t for us. When Julia came up with this idea I was on maternity leave doing graphic design work on the side so it was the perfect time to jump on board the SF train!
What has been the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
Julia: I don’t know if it’s so much a milestone for me, but every once and awhile, I look at the pile of boxes we are shipping out and think: “Sh*t, that’s a lot of product!”, it’s amazing for me to realize that each of those bottles is reaching a different customer.
Becky: For me, I think it was getting into our first big health food store chain, Whole Foods. It was a goal of ours that we’d been working on over a year and to hear that “YES, we’re taking on your line” was such a great, satisfying moment.
How do you visualize your future life as entrepreneurs?
In five years our goal is to be distributing to stores across Canada and the United States, expanding our facility on the farm, introducing new products and hiring more staff.
In 10 years our goal is that the day-to-day running of the company can be handled by trusted employees freeing up our time to promote the business worldwide.
Long term we’d like to have a burgeoning family business on the farm, be selling our products globally and able to pass on a thriving business to our children (if they want it!). Giving back is also part of our plan. Our childhood dream has always been to create a refuge for animals in need which would funded by proceeds from our product sales.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Julia: Trust your gut, take (measured) risks, and once you’ve come to a decision, be confident in that decision. People don’t have a choice but to believe in you, if you believe in you, and what you’re doing.
Becky: Sometimes you need to slap blinders on and just follow your dreams. There will always be skeptics and people volunteering advice on every possible topic, but if you feel strongly enough about your venture and know in your heart that it will succeed, you just need to follow your gut and do what feels right to you.
Do you support any charities?
Julia: Well we have our own, unofficial charity here at the farm. We rescue, house and neuter stray cats. Our official number right now is 12, but these days we’re feeding about 15 – the winter cold means we get the neighbors’ cats seeking shelter and also the raw food they get every morning! They sleep in the barn with the horses, in a special stall kitted out with heat lamps and fleecy blankets. This isn’t a purely selfless act, we love cats and they definitely add a lot of entertainment and life to the farm!
Becky: We support many great causes and charities by donating product or gift sets for fundraisers and other events. However, I would say that most of our charitable work actually happens right here on our farm with our barn cats.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Julia: Probably that I’m really not a natural salesperson. However, when it’s your own products, that you really believe in and know everything about, it’s definitely much easier. I think people sense that too, that you are able to convey your passion for what you are selling.
Becky: I have always had a fear of public speaking. Being the figureheads of our brand however, has made it necessary for us to put ourselves out there. Just last month, Julia and I were on our first live television appearance which had us terrified in the weeks leading up to it. It actually went really well though, and I’m hoping that next time, I’ll be less of a baby about it ☺.
What does the word “notable” mean to you?
Julia: Something significant, unlike anything else. Like our products!
Becky: Something that sticks out, that you’ll remember, that you should remember.
Where is your favourite place to wine and dine in Montréal?
Julia: When I’m in Montreal I stay at Becky’s in NDG, and we’ll often just walk to somewhere in the neighbourhood. I really enjoy Prohibition for its warm and cozy atmosphere; it has a big long bar, great wine choices and the food is delicious.
Becky: I’m lucky to live in Montreal where there are tons of wonderful restaurants but I really enjoy going out where I live, which is in the Monkland Village in NDG. My current favourite would also be Prohibition. It always has interesting food pairings that are tasty, satisfying and original. Another bonus is that they have a great wine list. Julia and I actually went there recently, we sat at the bar, ordered yummy appetizers, polished off a bottle of wine and chatted away to the owner. It was a great night.
What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
Julia: Pinterest. I love it. For things like recipes and DIY ideas. I’m going to be buying and renovating an old house, so I’m forever getting ideas together for that. As for songs, that’s tough… what comes to mind is Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen, or Bleed To Love Her by Fleetwood Mac, now to get the party started, nothing does it for me like Crazy In Love by Beyonce!
Becky: Wow this was a sad revelation… my Google calendar to organize my schedule between working in Montreal and at the farm which can be tricky to plan with two kids in school. That and banking sites, I think I need to find a hobby…
Most played song lately has been Ophelia by The Lumineers, such a good song.
Less cool answer: Sorry by Justin Bieber. I can’t help it, I love Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift!
Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
If you like cat pics and natural skincare – Smith Farms ☺.
What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
Julia: I’d say England – most of our extended family is there, plus, once you’re there, it’s so easy to explore the rest of Europe, or grab a quick flight to Scotland or Ireland. We’d love to visit Iceland on WOW airlines, that would be cool.
Becky: Italy, for the food, beautiful countryside and wine.
What gives you the greatest FOMO?
Julia: I think actually missing out. Since I live in the country, near where our company is based, all my friends and social groups are still in Montreal. Though I go in frequently enough, I miss out on a lot of impromptu pub afternoons and get-togethers.
Becky: For me it’s going on Facebook and seeing people on what look like amazing vacations. I want to make a point of travelling more and visiting somewhere different every year and working through my bucket list.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Julia: Too much red wine… but I don’t actually feel guilty about that, so binge watching Scandi-noir on Netflix. No wait, definitely, the Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise is my guiltiest.
Becky: In bed, binge-watching Netflix, or a McDonald’s Big Mac combo, the two together would be off the charts!
What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
Julia: Umm, cats? I don’t mean to sound like a martyr, but I wish I spent more on myself. We’re still growing and put most of what we make back in the business. I look forward to spending more on travel, clothing and food and entertainment.
Becky: I wish I spent less money on groceries and more on travel and cool, memorable vacations.
And finally, what does success look like to you?
Julia: Getting to do what we love day in and out, having enough financial security to live a good life, eat and travel well and to be able to take care of those around us.
Becky: Success to me means being financially stable to the point where I can afford to do most of the things I want to do, loving my day-to-day and having time to enjoy life surrounded by good friends and family.