Tawnya Walsh.

Tawnya Walsh.

Tawnya Walsh: Coming clean

Chilliwack's Tawnya Walsh, 38, as featured in The Chilliwack Progress Forty Under 40.

When Tawnya Walsh kicked off her small soap-making venture, she never imagined it would change the face of Chilliwack.

The 38-year-old first started making all-natural, chemical-free soaps for her son who readily developed eczema at the first touch of mass-produced, grocery store soaps.

Soon, she realized she had a business in the making.

“I had never heard about handmade soap, but because my son had a lot of eczema and dry skin problems, I started doing research on the soaps we were using,” said Walsh. “Most commercial soaps are not even called soaps because of the chemicals they use to colour and scent them. I wanted to take that out.”

The owner of Rustic Soap Co. in Greendale wanted to be more than just a business owner, she wanted to be a community promoter.

Twelve years in, that’s exactly what she’s become.

When Walsh was invited to participate in Chilliwack’s inaugural Christmas Craft Crawl 10 years ago, she didn’t think twice. The crawl was an event showcasing an assortment of small, women-based businesses in Chilliwack.

“The big thing was women promoting women in business,” she said. “Women are so competitive, and it was just nice to be encouraging each other and looking out for each other instead of being so catty towards one another.”

When the original organizers moved on six years ago, Walsh, and Holly McKeen of Greendale Pottery took over. Now in its 10th year, the three-day crawl regularly brings in upwards of 600 attendees from Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission, Langley, Coquitlam, even as far out as North Vancouver – many of who are repeat visitors pushing dollars into the community.

“We love highlighting new businesses and new artists in the area,” said Walsh.

“That’s what the crawl’s about, keeping people connected with their community, with other businesses, bringing them new customers, and getting the word out.”

Walsh is also a founder of the Greendale Sampler, which highlights where food comes from, and where locally made, one-of-a-kind products can be purchased.

“We’re trying to educate people on what goes into naturally raised beef, chicken, cheese, milk,” said Walsh. “I think we’re far too removed from the end product nowadays. Knowledge is power. Hopefully this would make people question the products they use.”