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Organic baby‑care products firm realizes global success using e‑commerce sales

Developing a line of specialty consumer products began in Patricia DiGasbarro’s kitchen, where she created formulas for organic skin‑care lotions and creams for babies from plant extracts, juices and oils.

The hard work didn’t end there. Equipped with her unique recipes, DiGasbarro started a company, Shoosha Truly Organic, secured all‑important United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) certification for her natural products, and set about finding markets for them across Canada and around the world. She continues to expand her company’s reach, especially through e‑commerce platforms and with the assistance of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS).

“The TCS has been absolutely outstanding,” says DiGasbarro, CEO of Shoosha Truly Organic, based in Toronto. “They’ve given me tools, they’ve given me contacts and they’ve given me a path.”

Previously working as a corporate executive in human resources consulting, DiGasbarro made the switch to becoming an entrepreneur of consumer products in 2012 because “I was looking to lead a healthier life.” She focused on organics when she read in a study that babies accumulate up to 50 percent of their lifetime cancer risk by their second birthday through early exposure to environmental toxins found in food, air, clothing and personal-care products. Her own research found that “although there were lots of choices for organic clothing and food, there was absolutely no skin-care line for babies that was free of any synthetic ingredients.”

Patricia DiGasbarro
Patricia DiGasbarro, CEO of Shoosha Truly Organic

DiGasbarro, whose own two children had highly sensitive skin and were prone to eczema when they were young, set out to create the purest products possible. She followed the highest organic standard in the world, USDA, and “set out to raise the bar for babies’ skin care to reflect their special needs.”

The development of her formulas continued in third‑party laboratories to ensure they were safe, gentle, stable over time and used minimal ingredients. The resulting products “are pure enough to eat and could sit in the organic food grade section or organic skin‑care section of any grocery store.”

Shoosha, which was DiGasbarro’s nickname growing up, started selling products in 2014 that today extend to baby shampoos, washes and moisturizers, nipple balms, insect sprays and calming oils.

The earliest export markets were in the United States, where DiGasbarro set up displays and won awards at trade shows. In 2018, she met Trade Commissioners June Fontaine and Sue Rauth at the TCS’s Ontario regional office, who introduced her to the TCS’s services and programs.

“June and Sue have been very helpful, sincere, persistent and consistent in their support,” DiGasbarro says, noting that the TCS has helped her with everything from logistics issues to distributor contacts. “They’ve put me in touch with people that can help solve problems and provide solutions.”

Fontaine, a Trade Commissioner who covers the consumer‑products sector, connects such companies to the TCS network abroad to offer market insights, vet local contacts and suggest opportunities.

“We are their export-support ecosystem,” she says, which can include education webinars, funding programs and other resources. Fontaine and Rauth have linked DiGasbarro to TCS colleagues responsible for promoting Canadian consumer products abroad. For instance, the company is scheduled to go to the United Arab Emirates as part of a trade delegation in early 2022.

Small and medium‑sized enterprises can sometimes suffer from being too scattered in their choice of market, and they often get a lot of unsolicited offers that can distract them, Fontaine warns. “If something seems too good to be true, then hold on and ask us for help,” she advises.

Consumer‑products companies looking to export should consider ecommerce, because “you can cross borders,” Fontaine says, with fewer obstacles than getting into brick‑and‑mortar stores. “It’s quite streamlined,” she says.

DiGasbarro notes that “June and the team have been very helpful from a business point of view. But you know, we’re also human beings, so you get to know them better and develop very lovely relationships with them.”

Today, Shoosha does 60 percent of its business outside of Canada. Some 20 percent of foreign sales are in the U.S., with the rest in places such as South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Turkey and beyond. A whopping 80 percent of revenues come from online sales, including through an Amazon.com store, which makes her ecommerce strategy critical. This includes both brand awareness, education and “influencers” talking about her products, as well as“back‑end” elements like analyzing the data associated with Shoosha’s web presence and sales.

The company has a total of 10 staff members and contractors and “we’re literally pioneers in the organic skin‑care industry,” she says. “We’re not just marketing something, we’re actually creating something unique for parents and for kids.”/

There have been challenges. For example, the COVID‑19 pandemic brought skyrocketing transportation costs and supply‑chain problems. One issue is that the abundance of hand soaps and sanitizers has reduced the shelf-space and packaging available for her products. Things are stabilizing today, and the company is looking at new markets such as Japan.

DiGasbarro is proud that Shoosha is a woman‑owned and woman‑led business, and she would like to help other women entrepreneurs to get ahead. “It’s important to even the playing field in terms of participating in the economy. It makes good business sense.”

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