The Apothecary Boys: Notable Young Entrepreneurs in Toronto

The Apothecary Boys is a personal care and cosmetics company that aims to bridge the gap between the organic offerings of old-world personal care and modern, safe synthetics. Founded by Patrick, a laboratory scientist and skin care skeptic, and Cody, a former goo hoarder who once had more cream than Starbucks, The Apothecary Boys are bringing science back to small batch skin care for men.

What inspired your small business?
After years of problem skin, unkept promises of rare melon or flower extracts that would solve all skin woes, and a bathroom full of half-used jars and bottles, it was time to take matters into our own hands. Using our combined expertise along with the sage wisdom of Patrick’s mother Jana, a chemist with penchant for the natural world, we have created a line of skin care products based on published academic research using natural ingredients in modern ways. It is our mission to create skin and personal care products that are safe, simple and above all else, effective.

What are some of your marketing objectives?
After hearing all about GoDaddy’s new partnership with Jonas Valančiūnas (JV) to create Itty BittyBallers, we decided to enter the Itty Bitty Ballers contest for the chance to help our small business grow. With a $5000 cash prize and $2500 in GoDaddy services, the prize winnings are really going to help us with our marketing objectives.

Who are you and what do you do?
We are The Apothecary Boys, Cody and Patrick. We have been together as a couple for about 7 years and we started this company together a little over a year ago, making handmade skin care products. Our main mission is to offer safe, simple and effective products using natural ingredients, but without ridiculous prices or gimmicks about “rare melons” or “newly discovered flower extracts”.

Do you know where you got your drive from?
We were both raised to work hard in every facet of our lives, and a big part of that comes from our hard working parents. We are both first generation born Canadians to immigrant parents and our families had to build a foundation for us from the ground up, without the resources we could take for granted today. Our drive is a direct result of the work ethic we inherited and grew up around.

How do you stay self-motivated?

It is surprisingly easy staying motivated with this business because we are both so passionate about what we do. It feels less like a job and more like we are making and packaging products to send to a friend. Yes, some nights there are things we would rather be doing than melting cocoa butter or measuring volumes of Argan oil, but the response we get from our customers makes it so rewarding and worthwhile.

What would you say is your preferred way to network?

Meeting people at table sales and markets has allowed us to really convey the value of our products and our enthusiasm for the work that we do. We find that in-person networking builds more lasting relationships and has resulted in some wonderful partnerships for us.

How would you describe your process for deepening relationships?
We constantly ask for feedback from our customers and we listen to everything thing that they have to say. Having been at the receiving end of poor customer service ourselves, particularly with big box retailers, we appreciate the value in having your voice heard and questions answered. With every package we send out, we also hand write a note expressing our appreciation for their business. We feel it is important to show our customers that everything from the products to the packaging has been personally created by us for them.

What are your preferred tools for keeping organized?
Microsoft Excel is by far the favourite. There is an indescribable satisfaction that can only be derived from a colour coordinated spreadsheet.

What is your favourite way to market your product or services?
Social media, most especially Instagram, is our preferred method for marketing. You are able to convey such a story with something as simple as a picture of hand cream and inject your own personality with each caption. Plus, this kind of marketing allows you to engage with those at the receiving end of your content, which offers depth that other marketing materials lack. Moving forward we hope to be able to market our products more on our website with the help of GoDaddy’s email marketing services and website optimization tools.

Who has been your mentor in helping you find success?

Patrick’s mother Jana really was the driving force in our success. She had been hand-making skin care products for years because I had such terrible skin growing up (an unfortunate combination of sensitive, dry, oily and acne-prone), so she had such a wealth of knowledge to offer when we decided to turn skin care into a business. Many of the formulations we offer came from a little worn red recipe book she had made over the years. The quality of the end products we have today have been heavily influenced by her sage wisdom, stemming from extensive research, and trial and error.

What social issue does your organization raise funds and/or awareness for?

When we started our business, we decided to commit ourselves, through our “Skin Cares” initiative, to donating a portion of all proceeds to The 519, an LGBTQ community centre and support agency in Toronto. Our community is ever-evolving and diversifying, and we felt it was important to contribute to help ensure there are services and spaces available to meet the growing needs. We have seen firsthand the impact this organization has on our community and it is was important for us to support them and the resources they offer.

How and where do you continue to learn?

The learning never stops for us. From reading academic journals in dermatology to figuring out search engine and web page optimization, there is just so much to know when starting and running a business. Having won the Itty Bitty Ballers small business contest from GoDaddy Canada, we have found ourselves with access to industry expertise that we hope will improve customer experience on our website.

Do you have a fitness ritual that you live by?
We hit the gym about four to five times a week all year round, but we really get into a great weekend ritual in the summer and fall months: Patrick – paddle boarding, Cody – golfing.

How do you feed your soul?
Disconnecting from all things digital, even if only for a while, is a wonderful way to feed the soul. Unplugging yourself from texts, emails, Facebook messages, likes, followers etc. is initially stressful, then strangely liberating. Those moments of peace allow you to really remove the distractions and focus on yourself.

How would you describe the eating ritual that makes you feel most powerful?
A morning breakfast of homemade granola with yogurt and a big mug of organic green tea gives us feel-good energy and sets the tone for a great day.

Who is your favourite personality to follow on YouTube?
It would have to be a tie between Philip DeFranco and JennaMarbles. Phil gives you a regular dose of real world happenings with interesting commentary and perspective, while Jenna offers escapism fun with adorable dogs. Balance is key.

What type of content do you find most compelling on Instagram?
Content on Instagram that truly captures a genuine moment is often the most compelling. That’s not to say that a wonderfully staged dinner plate isn’t enjoyable and drool-worthy content, but when you see images of people in a moment that you know they will forever remember, like a summer barbecue with close friends or that mid-laugh smile of someone dancing at a wedding, you achieve a level of connectivity that transcends all others.

What lifestyle brand would you say shares your values most?
We are both tremendous fans of Canadian fashion designer David Dixon and his self-named clothing brand. He consistently shows through his handmade designs that simplicity is timeless, which echoes our sentiments on skin care – when you take away the extras and passing fads, you are left with something that is far more real and purposeful. We have had the privilege of seeing a number of his shows here is Toronto and we are constantly inspired by his mission and values.

Who is your favourite artist?
Ed Sheeran and his Divide album is on repeat everywhere we go right now. No shame in liking the mainstream favourite! There is something so genuine and passionate in his song writing that you cannot help but want to hear more.

What is your favourite meal?
We love nothing more than to sit down to a big serving of homemade lasagna made with love from our Nonna Rose.

What is your favourite sport to watch?

We love to watch the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in the summer. You can almost feel the excitement and energy vibrating in the air at the games.

Where is your favourite place to unwind?
Our go-to place to unwind is our big grey living room couch, with a bottle of Pinot Noir, a couple of HBC blankets and a good dose of Netflix.