Local mashups: Edmonton's collab culture in the maker market

By Michelle Ferguson March 20, 2018

Chris Onciul/EEDC

When Tanya Zurock first visited Evoolution's flagship store on 104 Street, she was blown away — Edmonton had never housed an oil bar before, and the quality and flavour of the olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars was impressive.

Until she went to check out, that is.

Spotting a line of imported body care products next to the till, Zurock, who owns Wild Prairie Soap Company, got a little cheeky with the clerk, asking why the store did not partner with local soap companies to bring in complimentary oil-based products instead.

"I get pretty pushy when I see stuff like that," she says.

Turns out the clerk was actually Evoolution co-founder Curtis Savage, who, up until that moment, was unaware such a company existed.

The exchange kicked off a five-year partnership that began as a simple resale deal, but has since evolved into a line of custom body care products that incorporate Evoolution's premium ingredients.

Chris Onciul/EEDC

In Edmonton, collaborations like this one seem to be the norm. From sour beer ice cream to gin and peppercorn truffles, businesses of all kinds are combining their talents and expertise to market unique, hyper-local offerings.

"I think Edmonton is really a special place to do business because of the collaborative nature of business owners," says Jacqueline Jacek, owner of JACEK Chocolate Couture. "We don't see people in the same industry as competition but as colleagues, so we're really working together to grow our industry. I think that's really unique to our city."

Jacek has partnered with many businesses over the years. Her most recent winter collection featured Hansen Distillery's Trouble Gin. Her first bean-to-bar chocolate was the result of a collaboration with Credo Coffee. And in 2015 the chocolatier approached MacKenzie Proudlove, founder of BroBrick, about using her discarded cocao husks as an exfoliant in his handmade soaps.

At the time, Proudlove was partnering with local brewer Alley Kat to produce his popular beer soaps, but hadn't considered any other collaborations. "This whole enterprise has been kind of off the cuff," he says.

A graphic designer by trade, Proudlove was looking for a project to keep him busy in the off-hours. He started with T-shirts, then moved to manly scented candles, finally settling on soaps geared towards men. His first product line featured cubans and cognac, leather, 50s-style barbershops, and beer.

He was approached by a Sleeman representative early on. While the rep saw an advertising opportunity, Proudlove saw a cost-saving measure. 

Eventually his contact moved away. Not wanting to pay full price for this premium ingredient (beer enhances the conditioning properties of soap and improves the lather), he decided to look local. Now all BroBrick beer soaps feature Alley Kat's Full Moon Pale Ale.

"It gives me some instant credibility," says Proulove about the sponsorship. "I'm seen as a real business, which is nice."

The relationship with Jacek has also proven fruitful. Not only do the husks act as a gentle exfoliant within his Whiskey & Chocolate bars, but the chocolatier has became somewhat of a mentor to the budding entrepreneur.

"If I need advice, she's always there," says Proudlove.

To Zurock partnerships between local businesses help enhance the sense of community and propel both brands forward.

"It takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you look for new methods, new ideas," she says.

In 2016, Zurock teamed up with La Poutine to develop a poutine flavoured lip balm. The project required Zurock to develop a scent profile unlike any other she'd worked on, and was more than a little outside the box. A hit with national media, the novelty product was shipped to addresses around the world.

MacKenzie Proudlove from BroBrick. -- Chris Onciul/EEDC

With an established business of 18 years, Zurock continues to look for more collaboration opportunities. Lately, she's been expanding her line of beer soaps to include Blind Enthusiasm Brewing Company, as well as other Alberta brewers to create a special Father's Day six pack.

Token Bitters -- Chris Onciul/EEDC

Here are a few other businesses that have partnered to create uniquely Edmonton offerings:

The companies featured in this story are all proud Edmonton Made businesses. Are you Edmonton Made? You can register for the program here. Have a story idea for an Edmonton Made company? Contact us at made@edmonton.com. Have an Edmonton-based collaboration that you want us to know about? Tag @edmontonmade on social media with the details.

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