At least three Mayo residents and a long-time business in the community have a new place to call home.
Yukon Soaps Company owner Joella Hogan held a grand opening for her business’ new location on April 8 in downtown Mayo.
The company is now based out of a 2,000-square-foot studio of the Raven’s Landing building, which also features three rental units, two of which are designated as affordable units.
The building’s name honours the raven clan Hogan belongs to and symbolizes a place where people can gather, rest and create, the Yukon government said in an April 8 statement.
Yukon Soaps received $160,000 from the territory’s Housing Initiatives Fund in the 2020/2021 fiscal year for the building project with $16,000 from the Department of Economic Development as well to help broaden the soaps market.
At Friday’s grand opening, Hogan described her excitement in seeing the project come to fruition. She began her speech with the story of three ravens that came from different parts of the land, each with their own skills.
One raven was a builder, often building things bigger and bigger, better and better. Another gave thought to how things could be made better for the land, rivers, moon and stars, while the third would pay attention to the words of the elder ravens, though she didn’t always listen as she should and often had to figure things out for herself.
Hogan said that raven liked to make things and convinced the other two to join her on projects.
“Today we’re celebrating the opening of Raven’s Landing, the work of three Yukon First Nation people who dreamed, designed and built this space,” Hogan said. “This space was designed by Alanna Quock of Regenative Design of the Tahltan Nation, built by Justin Van Fleet of Van Fleet Construction and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and, of course, myself. All three of us are from the raven and crow clan.”
She recalled how the project was originally meant to be a bigger workspace to make soaps, but grew into the development it is now, creating three homes in addition.
The accessible suite in the building is in honour of her cousin Darren, who spent the last 23 years of his life in prosthetics and/or a wheelchair. Hogan recalled that of all the challenges her cousin faced, the built environment proved the most challenging. The accessible suite is to show that “we can and should do more to create places that are better for more people.”
Hogan highlighted the teachings of the Northern Tutchone elders in caring and respect for the land, teachings that are a focal point of her business.
“It is important for me to create products that use local ingredients as much as possible as well as employee local community members,” she said. “Many of us have spent countless hours in my small home workshop creating soap and making TikToks. I hope that this space helps to expand that circle.
“As I continue to gain knowledge and experience in both the business world and our traditional way of living I can help merge them together.
“My goal for this space is to expand our ability to create soap and to provide a space that’s convenient for all community members to access. Inclusion and reciprocity are important to the Yukon Soaps Company.”
She noted the effort that has gone into sharing indigenous values. More people are recognizing the importance of choosing natural and sustainable products that align with indigenous teachings, she said. Hogan added in another interview her hope that the building can be a “bright light” and a place that is positive and rooted in culture.
She thanked elders for their teachings and cultural supports, along with noting many others who have been part of making the building become a reality.
First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn said it’s encouraging for First Nation young entrepreneurs to see Hogan’s work and what she has accomplished.
“On behalf of the nation, again, we extend our congratulations and look forward to really clean faces and clean clothes with her good soap,” he said with a laugh.
Ranj Pillai, the minister of Economic Development and the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, also had high praises for Yukon Soaps.
“The Yukon Soaps Company has become a strong community pillar and continues to offer Yukoners high-quality products made right here in the territory,” he said. “This new building will now help people in Mayo have access to more affordable housing, additional employment opportunities and a space to come together to celebrate their traditions. I applaud Joella for her strength and perseverance in creating such a positive anchor for her community.”
— With files from Taylor Smith
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org