Soapolallie Soapworks: a journey of community connection and self-discovery

Enderby’s Main Street is lined with an eclectic, but limited, selection of shops and restaurants; where even in the difficult times of COVID-19, a new locally owned and operated storefront has opened–Soapolallie Soapworks. Owner, Shelley Verlaan, has found community, connection, and healing through her business. Soapolallie Soapworks is a slice of relaxation, a place that offers handmade, sustainably sourced, low- to zero-waste products alongside conversation and connection; where you can learn about the making process, the story of the shop’s journey, or connect with Shelley to share stories.

Shelley founded Soapolallie Soapworks in 2017 after retiring from her long career as an accountant. She spent years learning and researching how to make soap, testing out recipes, finding how to limit imperfections, and creating a product she felt met her personal standards to sell.

Walking through the front door a feeling of bliss washes over you. While browsing, it becomes clear that there is more to this store than artisan-made soap; there is a story here, told through photos and décor of cedar, salmon, water, and family. Shelley’s story is rooted firmly in the interior of BC, as a member of the Nlaka’pamux Nation born on Secwépemc territory in Kamloops. The business has been a way for Shelley to bring forward the importance that family, and specifically her Grandmother, had in her life. Spending early years growing up with her Grandmother, Bobby, Shelley learned many lessons some of which included special times picking Soopolallie, otherwise known as soap berries, together gaining confidence and a sense of herself.

The store became a healing journey for Shelley, one that she shared with her cousin Keith, during the creation of the storefront. “When I tell the story to people as they come in, they also find a connectedness to it. And no matter who they are or what walk of life they’re from,” Shelley explains. “I’ve heard so many different stories.” Shelley feels a true connection to the area, which ties into her dedication to her community and the people within it. She credits one of her greatest influences as the community in which she creates, works and lives. “It’s not just one, but it’s a collective, it’s a community, it’s family, it’s my children, and it’s people who get up every day to create something better,” Shelley elaborates when asked about her most impactful influencers. Shelley notes that Tsuts’weye has been a great community support in her business venture. Through this organization, Shelley has received marketing support, connected with experts, and created the contacts and connections to thrive. “There is a genuine caring for both me and my business,” Shelley explains.

The support of Tsuts’weye has made the day-to-day business easier and more enjoyable. Shelley spends her time making soap, exercising, and getting outside as much as she can. Making soap can be a quick process, or it can take days, depending on the type and the intricacy involved. Shelley wildcrafts to incorporate plants into her products, utilizing their medicinal and colouring qualities. She loves to be her community and in nature, “It’s really invigorating and rejuvenating just to stand at the river and just look and be,” she says. For Shelley, Soapolallie Soapworks is a business built on love, creativity, and passion. For her, it’s not about the money or the profit, it’s about doing something that she truly loves. Shelley’s commitment to her craft and her dedication to her community truly make her a woman to watch.