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At first, it was a charitable mission. Today, it is a passion and a true career dream. Victor Hughes created Harvest Naturals, a natural soap manufacturing company, and hopes to expand its product line.
Victor Hughes‘ career path is rather atypical. An engineer by training, with a master’s degree in civil engineering, the Togolese-Ghanaian native had an unfortunate accident which ended his career. “Because of back problems, I could no longer do my job,” he says.
Victor Hughes then continued his journey as an apostolic missionary. He undertook a mission to Liberia in 2007, alongside a local charity that helps women get off the streets. There, he had the idea of introducing these women to a new activity: soap making. “Soap is like the bread we eat every day,” he shares. 90% of the world’s population uses soap daily. And then, it’s not hard to do. We then started making them with palm and coconut oil.”
This is how Victor Hughes learned, all by himself, to make soap. Thanks to a United Nations fund, he was able to offer this activity to 180 women in Liberia, who were then able to sell their soaps.
Victor Hughes is very attached to herbs and natural remedies for body treatment. He then did a lot of research to find out what the best herbs would be for his soaps, through books, YouTube or the internet. Today, he puts all this knowledge into practice in his craft activity.
‘’I use moringa, which is very popular in Liberia, and Ashwagandha root. These are miracle products for the skin! Through my research, I found the best herbs that are beneficial for skin and health.”
Indeed, moringa is a plant with many benefits. Integrated into the soap, it is antibacterial, it prevents skin infections, acne, and it even has healing power. Victor Hughes also offers different choices among its soap bars: ginger root, lemon zest, black sesame, and another miraculous herb from India, neem. “Neem is used a lot in Africa. It’s a real pharmacy! It is very good for the skin, acne and dermatitis.”
Victor Hughes arrived in Canada in 2015, as part of his missionary activity, to plant a church. But he did not leave his know-how behind. On the contrary, he inquired about training as a self-employed worker, and also from Health Canada to obtain official approval to sell his soaps. Since August 2023, he has immersed himself in this craft that fascinates him and created his company: Harvest Naturals. His homemade soaps are for sale online. Prices vary between $8 and $10.
“For the moment, I have little resources,” confides Victor Hughes. So, I can’t make a lot of soaps. I do about 75 a day. My goal is to obtain a machine that comes from France. It is expensive, but maybe with donations, I will be able to get it. It would make a big difference.”
This machine would allow him to considerably increase his production and make 50 bars of soap per hour. In addition, this would also allow the artisan to expand his range of products: “I could make liquid soap, creams, shampoos, and even natural lip balms. My dream is for cosmetics to be my number one business.”
A challenge in his life as an entrepreneur? Like many self-employed people who are just starting out, it’s the marketing side. A friend helped him set up a basic website, but with training, he hopes to expand that aspect of his business. And this, even if he already manages to sell some of his soaps in Ottawa and Quebec.
“I don’t want to make a lot of money,” says Victor Hughes. I just want to get my product out there. It is a natural soap, better for the skin than industrial soaps. So far, my customers are coming back and telling me they like the product. And that really makes me happy.”
To order Harvest Naturals soaps : www.harvestnaturals.ca