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Natural talent: How spreading wellness grew a business

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The joy of life, as Kate Ross LeBlanc sees it, is in being well. As co-founder and CEO of Canadian retailer Saje Natural Wellness, her mission is to care for a devoted community through her family-owned line of 100 percent natural products.

The business began after LeBlanc’s husband Jean-Pierre, a chemist, tapped into the healing powers of plants to overcome his own health issues. Coupled with LeBlanc’s love for retail and lessons learned from growing up in her mother’s store, the duo started Saje in 1992. Today the company has over 70 stores in Canada and the United States, adding more than 20 stores just since 2016.

We sat down with LeBlanc at NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show for a lively discussion (made only more invigorating by the Peppermint Halo essential oils Kate applied before the show) about what’s made the business successful, including:

  • Focusing on service as a core pillar: How to nurture community and create devoted fans.
  • The value of identifying what a company stands for: How to approach a rapidly evolving industry and ensure continuity of a family-owned business.
  • The healing power of plants: What you can do, naturally, to feel happier and be well.

LeBlanc’s passion for spreading good feelings is contagious — you’ll be smiling by the end of the episode — so it’s no wonder she was named a “Dreamer” on The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future.

Kate Ross LeBlanc (middle) with hosts Ellen Davis (right) and Steve Barr (left).

Kate Ross LeBlanc (middle) with hosts Ellen Davis (right) and Steve Barr (left).

Notable quotes

On growing up in her mother’s retail store:
“My mom had this innate ability to create community. She always had something going on, like there was a birthday cake for Queen Elizabeth’s birthday [or] she was celebrating Canada Day. She always created activities around events that drew people together. It was like an afternoon tea party in her store … so I think I had this romantic idea of what retail was.”

On keeping company culture intact:
“When we started to scale our business … we really started to analyze what were the things that actually held us together… . We identified what our top four values were… . It’s not easy to collect people together and to get it right, but I think articulating your values is the place you have to start.”

This episode was hosted by Steve Barr, consumer markets leader for PwC, and Ellen Davis, executive director of the NRF Foundation. Subscribe to Retail Gets Real on your favorite podcast listening app, and sign up for the newsletter to stay in the know about upcoming episodes. If you loved this episode, don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes for Retail Gets Real.