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Squamish's Leigh Joseph looks forward after Dragon's Den deal

Big things planned for Sḵwx̱wú7mesh entrepreneur's Sḵwálwen Botanicals.

Not surprisingly, it has been an exciting whirlwind for Squamish's Leigh Joseph of Sḵwálwen Botanicals since she appeared on CBC's Dragon's Den on Nov. 11. 

There was a lag of months between the filming of the episode and when it aired, so she and her team had been preparing for a pick-up in the luxury skincare business. 

But still, the response has been even more than expected, she said. 

"We had prepared, but I don't think we were fully prepared for the wave of activity and orders," she said, with a laugh. "It has been wonderful; just such great support and such an incredible response from the local Squamish community and just the broader Sḵwálwen community. It has been really, really uplifting and so lovely to experience." 

The weekend after the show aired,  Sḵwálwen Botanicals was at the ReFresh Market in town and "a ton" of people came to the booth with congratulations, Joseph said. 

On the episode, Joseph was seeking an investment of $200,000 in exchange for 10% of her company. 

From Dragon Wesley J. Hall, she accepted that sum for 20% of her company.  

Joseph is not permitted to talk about what exactly is happening on the business side since she took a deal with the Dragon, but she expressed how much it meant to have his support. 

"I admire the work he does so much, and having his vote of confidence was amazing. I think Wes is doing incredible things and the way he views business and sees potential is going to bring more diversity and representation into the mainstream business landscape," she said. 

In addition to being a successful power broker and businessman — he founded Kingsdale Advisors — Hall is behind the BlackNorth Initiative, an organization that works to combat systemic racism barriers in business. 

What Joseph can say is that she has hired more staff — she now has eight Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation ) women working with her — and there are big plans for the next year, which includes moving into a larger space. 

Joseph is a member of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, and Sḵwálwen translates roughly to “heart” or “essence of being," in Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim (Squamish Language). 

"We are really growing our internal systems and getting ready to scale to meet our unmet demand with our retail program, but also just to bring our products to a wider direct consumer audience and also to release some new products — we have a lot of really exciting things on the go behind the scenes." 

She is most excited about some of the "incredible" mentorship she is receiving. 

"Support in the strategy behind all of our growth activities," she explained. "Over the next year, aside from the product space side of the business, we are also really looking at increasing our sustainable and culturally grounded aspects of our supply chain, so that is really exciting; working with small scale farms and Native plant nurseries as well as doing the wild harvesting piece as a team," she said. 

She is also part of the Detox Market accelerator program, and the folks behind the organization are offering connections and guidance as her company ramps up. 

"Which is invaluable at this point," she said. 

While Hall is the Dragon she accepted a deal with, she was impressed with how all the Dragons responded to her pitch. 

"Leading up to pitching in the Den, I watched season upon season of the show in hopes of familiarizing myself with the Dragons and the types of questions they would ask. So it was even more incredible to be in conversation with them all when I filmed, as I felt like I knew them a little bit more through watching episodes and researching each Dragon," she said.  

"I was blown away by the positive response to my products and business and Michelle [Romanow] even messaged me after the episode aired to say that I made an amazing pitch. That was very exciting." 

Joseph would like to thank Squamish for its support. 

"As an entrepreneur, a lot of the time you are working with your head down really focussed on the business," she said. "Over the last week, I have had people stop me on the street, at my kids' school and just running errands downtown. People reaching out over all types of messages from town here saying congratulations and saying just what it meant to see a local business and an Indigenous business on Dragon's Den and to see the way the whole conversation went. And to see the positive reinforcement offered in that space, I think it has just really resonated. For me, it has been really meaningful to feel that in my home community. I just want to say a big thank you." 

Keep up with the latest from Sḵwálwen Botanicals on its website, on Facebook, and Instagram.