QUISPAMSIS – About six years ago, Leanne Cochrane took much-needed time off work when she was diagnosed with skin cancer.
“The doctor put me out [on medical leave] to just reflect on what I wanted to do with my life,” she says. “I was at a corporate job that I absolutely hated and dreaded going into, so he put me out.”
Cochrane wasn’t sure what she was going to do next, so she started dabbling in entrepreneurship – at first unsuccessfully.
“I actually developed a line of skincare that I was using [myself] and thought, ‘Oh this would be really great to sell,’ ” she says. “[Then] I went to one market and realized there were five or six other vendors and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll never make a living doing this.’ ”
But then one day Cochrane was cleaning her home using a product many people use– a Lysol wipe.
Though it may have got the job done, she says it also did something else, something painful.
“It burned by hand and I thought, ‘What’s in this?’ ” says Cochrane. “You really had to go digging to find the ingredients on a Lysol wipe and many of the other commercial cleaners [too]. It sent me down this rabbit hole to look for natural cleaners safe enough that I could put on my skin.”
Unable to find something at the time, she decided to create a cleaner herself made from natural and organic ingredients. It worked great, and she soon realized it was not only a great cleaner but a business opportunity.
“It was over a glass of wine on a cold winter night that I sat down and figured out what I wanted to do now that I wasn’t going to go back to that [corporate] job,” says Cochrane. “I can use this cleaner that I’ve made for my own home and I think other people will pay me to clean their homes [with it]”
She then started thinking about other services along the same line that people need.
“I thought, ‘What other things do I need in my home?’ We’re a pretty average family, I would like someone else to clean, obviously, but [also] someone else to declutter,” says Cochrane. “Then [I asked myself], what’s my passion? My passion is decorating.
“So now I have this running list of stuff and it essentially was a ‘Honey Do’ list. I thought, ‘That’s kind of cute. The Honey Do’s could do this.'”
That was the beginning of her business, The Honey Do’s, a company that offers cleaning, organizing, decluttering and decorating services that now has more than 400 clients in the Greater Saint John area and employs nine people, with Cochrane serving as its “Queen Bee.”
Cochrane’s company prides itself on only using green, sustainable cleaners in clients’ homes. Though they still sometimes use Cochrane’s original concoction, they quickly needed to find another product from an outside provider. Since the business was growing very quickly, she didn’t have much time to create the product herself anymore.
It took a long time to find a multi-purpose product that met her sustainability standards, but she soon found one called “Maid in a Bottle” by Tiber River, a company in Winnipeg. It features natural ingredients like water, coconut oil and other essential oils like lemongrass and tea tree.
“You can also drink it. It is safe enough on your skin, or in your body,” says Cochrane. “It doesn’t taste great, but you can drink it.”
The company also uses its own baking soda-based scrub paste, which it occasionally sells under the Honey Do’s brand.
“Our scrub paste, we cannot keep that in stock,” says Cochrane. “We had an event [recently] and we had around 25 to 30 bottles and people were legitimately upset that we sold out.”
The Honey Do’s use of sustainable products was recently recognized by Sustainable Saint John, an organization that helps local businesses become more environmentally conscious.
In previous years, the company has also been recognized by the organization for its water conservation, buying local, recycling, source reduction and sustainable transportation. Cochrane says their green approach has been a big draw for customers.
“One of our very first customers came to us for that reason,” she says. “They left a cleaner they had used for many years and came to us because of the sustainable and green products that we use.”
With a strong customer base in Greater Saint John, Cochrane says the goal is to eventually expand into Fredericton and Moncton, and beyond.
“We would like to expand into Fredericton. We tried that in our first year. It was always part of our business plan, but it was just too early. I would like try that again, and certainly Moncton, those would be the first two stops,” she says.
“Then after those two cities would be Halifax and it is my long-term goal to be in Calgary and really, anywhere else in between,” says Cochrane.
“I don’t know if that will be through just corporate expansion or licensing or franchising, [but] that would be something that I’d entertain.”