Di Erbe

Sometimes I'm still surprised by what hard work can create. Starting the business was the best decision I ever made.

Sheila Tan

Di Erbe

Often the best business ideas come from creating a solution for a personal need. That was the case with Sheila Tan who participated in a soap-making workshop in Toronto as a way of finding a product that would work on her young daughter with eczema.

“The product worked well for her and I started giving samples to friends and family. Then they started asking for more so I started making soaps in my kitchen and selling them,” recalls Sheila.

She continued to refine her processes and her products but it wasn’t until she returned to Toronto for another workshop that she began to seriously consider it as a full-time business idea. “At the workshop I was ‘teaching the teacher’ because I had developed some tricks for things like pouring lip balm without the hole in the middle. I thought I was ready to open a store.”

She set a target for her first year and told her husband: “If I can’t double my sales in the first year then I’ll go back and get a full-time job!” That was in 2009.

Fast forward and Di Erbe (pronounced dee-err-bay) is a thriving shop in St. Boniface that offers a full range of body and skincare products that are made from all natural and organic ingredients with no animal byproducts. One of her best sellers remains the product line she developed for people with eczema. “People come for the dry patch cream that I have developed for my daughter. My philosophy is if I’m not going to use it on my children, I’m not going to sell it. I have a real passion for what I do and it’s contagious when you believe in your product.”

Like many small business owners, Sheila’s biggest challenge is time and finding the right balance between family and work. “I need more than 24 hours in a day,” says Sheila laughingly. “But relationships are important and I’ve learned how to ‘call it a day’ and then get back to it the next day.”

“Sometimes I’m still surprised by what hard work can create. Starting the business was the best decision I ever made.”

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