We started out as two women with a desire to see our families and friends be able to use healthy, natural, environmentally-friendly products. From a small booth at the local farmer’s market to selling to stores Canada-wide, we’ve come a long way!
It all started with a dead ring of grass in Joann’s back yard. She had always been into eating healthy – canning food, making bread from scratch, keeping her family away from fast foods, avoiding prescription drugs… but had never paid attention to what she was putting on her skin. This all changed when one day, she found a ring of dead grass where her kids had placed their tent a week before. Being a Mom, she immediately yelled at her kids: “What did you do to the lawn?!” The answer: “The mosquitoes were coming in so we sprayed *** (a well known mosquito spray) around the tent.” She was horrified! If it killed the grass and poisoned the soil, what was it doing to her kids?
She checked Health Canada to see if there were any warnings about this mosquito spray. There was a whole page about how it could cause seizures in young children, how you should never use it under clothing, shower it off when you came inside, never leave it on for more than 4 hours, don’t breathe it in… Her family had always used *** like everyone else – you spray it on and forget about it. But after reading the warnings from Health Canada, she couldn’t believe they could sell this stuff. Did people know about these dangers? She decided there must be a better, safer spray out there.
Throughout Joann’s search, she came across other information about the ingredients in many skin care products. As she discovered more about the harmful contents of so many household items, she became determined to get her family off the bad chemical products everyone uses and go NATURAL. She started reading ingredients before purchasing anything. She educated herself and her kids on harmful products and their side effects. Back in the early ‘90’s, essential oils were just starting to become available and they sounded like a great alternative. Soon she was mixing up all kinds of concoctions using everything from weeds to exotic-sounding oils like almond and mango. Her friends loved her lotions and soaps and encouraged her to sell down at the farmer’s market. So she did – and that’s when she met Trish!
Trish grew up helping the “grandma” across the street make handmade, old-fashioned lye soap from scrap oils. Like any kid, she enjoyed making concoctions – plus the soaps turned out beautifully! As she grew up, got married, had 3 boys, and just got busy with life, she forgot about her days making old-fashioned soap. But one day, a friend who was allergic to Sodium Laurel Sulfate (a chemical found in most shampoos, conditioners, soaps, toothpaste, etc) asked her if she knew how to make soap from scratch. It was this simple request that brought back all those wonderful memories. She had forgotten how much she loved making soap and was hooked again. So once again, she started making soap, began teaching classes, and began selling her soap and supplies to people at the local farmer’s market.
Joann and Trish were initially competitors at the market. However, they were both into natural products, essential oils, and soap-making, so they started chatting at the market. As they became more familiar with one another, one day Trish announced that she had just received some mango butter. Joann revealed that she had just ordered some unrefined avocado oil. Excited about their new acquisitions, they decided to get together and play. They never dreamed that it would change their lives forever.
In these early days when they first joined forces, in addition to soaps and lotions, they made things like fresh fruit face masks and fresh fruit sugar and salt scrubs. Unfortunately (or maybe fate) they were ahead of their time. However, together they gathered as much knowledge as they could find, continually experimenting and creating new all-natural products. They grew to believe that the rise in man-made chemicals and chemical over-fertilization corresponded to the significant rise of cancer, arthritis and numerous other diseases. They made the decision to always look for alternatives to chemicals and continued to research natural, healthy ingredients to create their products.
It was during this time that Trish was experiencing a lot of chronic knee pain. She had had 4 operations on her knee and was living in constant pain, not wanting to resort to chemical prescription medications and worry about the side effects. She had tried a number of “natural” pain killers, but nothing had worked very well. She heard about something called MSM and asked Joann if she knew anything about it. Joann didn’t, but being a research fanatic, she decided to look into it… and thus began the Mercy MSM line.
Once they had decided to try creating something with MSM (an organic chemical compound), they began formulating a product. They weren’t scientists, although they had a passion for natural products. As Joann likes to say, “Between the two of us, we had a brain and a loads of common sense!” They started with lots of information and ingredients, experimenting with things like capsaicin peppers, black pepper, white willow bark, salves, creams, butters and lotions. Trish finally came up with an MSM lotion and Joann had a combination of essential oils that she called Mercy. It took two years, no wages, and lots of failures before it finally worked! Trish’s knees loved the stuff – it worked in less than 5 minutes, lasted for 6-8 hours, AND it took down the swelling!
Together, they decided to call it Mercy MSM and started selling it at the farmer’s market. People loved it. Their sales grew by word of mouth and people started using it for all kinds of pain. Despite having very little money, Trish convinced Joann that they needed to go bigger. Soon, they were doing Home and Garden shows and began selling wholesale to small stores as well. When asked about this phase, they smile. “Our packaging was terrible and we didn’t know how to market, but we had a great product!”
All this time, both Trish and Joann were also focused on their families. Trish adopted 2 boys who were friends of her youngest son. Joann was a single mom of 4. They both believed family was a priority and always put their kids before the business. Coaching, volunteer work, and leading lives that set good examples for their children was their biggest priority. Work would always be there, but their kids wouldn’t. Finally, in 2011, all of their kids (9 of them combined!) had graduated from high school and the two women were free to actively pursue Mercy MSM and their business.
Despite their similar interests, the two of them could not be more different people. How or why it works, they say they still don’t know. Trish has always been the motivator and the driving force behind the company. This, combined with a strong belief in their work has propelled their business forward. Money was always tight and for 6 years they didn’t bring home a wage. Every penny went back into building the company so that they could remain debt free and have managed to remain debt-free to this day! Trish’s husband and family gave up their basement (converted to a commercial kitchen) and home for many years as they slowly expanded the business. “My family has been amazingly supportive,” she says.
Today, they focus on products that are completely natural, chemical free, organic and fair trade where possible. They stopped their focus on body butters, lotions and soaps and put their energy into products that actually helped people in some way – with pain, damaged, or sore skin. Damage Control (helps cracked, painful skin), Nature’s Touch (helps with psoriasis and scar tissue), 4 Thieves (antiviral), Mercy MSM (natural pain relief), and Essential Oils – their products work! They are safe to put on your skin, safe for all ages, and finally safe for the environment and animals (and although they aren’t typically food products, they are technically safe to eat, too! They once had a lady who thought the Mercy Soak was a tea and had been drinking it for months.)
Their products are found Canada wide and they continue to expand their business every year. In early 2016, Kevin Harrington (from The Shark Tank and As Seen On TV) came across their Mercy MSM products and loved them. Since then, they have teamed up with him and will be featured on “As Seen on TV,” accelerating their sales down into the States.
A Message from Joann & Trish
We have always believed in our work making Natural products, even when nobody cared because it wasn’t cool or trendy yet. We believe in helping people live healthier lives by manufacturing environmentally safe products, helping people in third world countries by buying Fair trade, and helping the planet by not using man-made chemicals. We believe that we must set an example for our children and children’s children (we are now grandparents) by eating healthy, working in a healthy environment, and by donating our time and money to causes we hold dear.
Over the years, we have coached sports teams, taught free classes, taught children at risk, sat on boards for seniors, taught women’s entrepreneurial classes, volunteered at the local soup kitchen, sewed for the homeless, and volunteered at our kids’ schools. One of our most recent projects was a trip to Costa Rica to work in the barrios with women in crisis, buying and delivering sewing machines to help teach them new work skills to better support their families.
We never let money, nay sayers, or our lack of a Ph.D or other specific education keep us from pursuing what we believed in. Believe in yourself and pursue your passion.
We may not change our world in a big way but between us and our families, we are a few drops in the bucket and every small contribution helps. We hope we can inspire you to read labels, make informed decisions for you and your family and set an example to those around you. Join us and be a drop in the bucket. Together we can make a change!
….and by the way, the grass never did grow back around that ring in Joann’s back yard.