Desja Walker. Creator. Innovator. Entrepreneur. Mom of Three. Not afraid to get her hands dirty.
Name Desja Lee Walker
Where did you grow up? Where have you lived? What brought you to Port Alberni?
I grew up in Merritt (born and raised), and have lived all over BC from Kelowna and Vernon to Abbotsford and Chilliwack.
In 2014 while residing in the lower mainland, the bottom fell out of my seemingly perfect life. A stay at home mom of 3, with a home based hair salon, my marriage of 8 yrs crumbled, forcing me to evaluate where the kids and I were heading on this new journey. I knew my options were very limited as the baby was very little. I feared we'd most likely end up living in low income housing while I worked a minimum wage job and the daycare raised my baby.
In the spring of 2014, I had reconnected with my child hood "sweetheart" who had been living in Port Alberni since out of high school, while my best friend resided in Nanaimo with her children. The Island has called to me for many years with her being here and the distance between us made visits difficult. So in the midst of the unknown, I made the decision to leave it all behind and cross the ocean to chase new dreams!
Shortly after I moved, I realized I had left my entire life behind. In a moment of shear panic, I called my best friend sobbing. "What am I going to do now"?
Her response changed my life. She said "Anything you want". In had no idea where to go from here, but I knew I wanted to continue the skin care concept I had developed in my salon back home. It began withe the sugar scrub and I knew I was on to something.
After racking my brain, I awoke in the middle of the night I sat up and said out loud, "Haven, I'm going to create my own safe haven". The concept for the skin care brand was born. The shop came later when I realized I had outgrown manufacturing at home and wanted a much more professional setting to curate the products, and a space where I could support local Canadian artisans.
What do you do? What makes your work unique?
Haven Living Skin Care was born out of my years of experience in the cosmetology industry. I wanted to curate an authentically natural brand made with quality organic raw ingredients and zero preservatives or synthetics. As an esthetician it was important to me to be authentically natural. Not just say it. My philosophy, my research of raw ingredients, combined with years of skin care experience makes my brand uniquely different because I'm trained to know what the skin needs. The products I create are not just good for your skin but your spirit, as each unique blend holds healing properties. You can rest assured knowing all the Haven products are authentically natural.
Describe the challenges you’ve faced with your business, as well as the opportunities.
Start up was tough. I under estimated the cost of building the shop or the amount of work it needed to get the doors open!. More than anything I misjudged the time commitment it was going to take to be successful, keep up on the shop floor inventory, keep in touch with retailers and all the millions of other things that fill my days! Balancing work/life is probably my biggest challenge to date. I tend to work all sorts of odd hours to accomplish the lists of life/work that I seem to be flooded with. I have had to sacrifice so many things I used to take for granted prior to working full time. I'll admit, I probably don't clean the bathroom until mildew is growing. Laundry is inevitably behind, and the kids run out of PJs more than I can count. Gone are the days of house cleaning and baking, or taking the time to just grab a coffee with mom friends. Thankfully the shop has an open door that floods me with the most incredible friendships disguised as customers. These have become the people I share my life with, whether it's my tears, my joys, my dreams or my excitement. I'm a straight shooter and wear my heart on my sleeve. These people mean the world to me.
Those sacrifices have lead to exceptional success with the brand. The products are currently in 27 retailers across Canada and the USA. I've been blessed to be featured in some amazing magazines and blogs, as well as recently winning an excellence in business award for my "Green" philosophy. I've recently been given an opportunity to relocate the shop to the uptown core, increasing the visibility of the store front tremendously. With pending renovations, the move will most likely occur in the New Year.
What is Alberni to you?:
Alberni to me lies in the community and the people. I am surrounded by the most incredible people and friends I've ever had. It took me a while to find my niche and see what I had gained instead of what I had lost, that's for sure, but this community has lifted me up during my biggest struggles and comforted me during my biggest heartbreak. They've reminded me of my value when I myself have forgotten. Port Alberni saved my spirit and healed my soul during a time I was most broken and for that I'm eternally grateful. I think it would be tough to find a community that matches our heart or our kind spirit. We are a community who takes care of each other and it has changed my life for the better in every way.
Find out more at: http://havenliving.ca/