One Vancouver woman turns business setback into a chance to give back during COVID-19

Kristy Schiewe / May 8th, 2020

Justine Munich is the owner of Kitten Komforts. Based in Vancouver, Munich delivers her soap and bath bombs to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Justine Munich / Instagram)

In March, Munich posted in the “COVID-19: Coming Together Vancouver” Facebook group, asking the 35,000 group members if anyone was interested in her handmade soaps and bath bombs and no contact delivery, free of charge. She posted a second offer in April, and with nearly 400 comments, Munich says the demand was so high that she has trouble keeping up with the notifications. Since she started, Munich has completed over 100 hand delivered trips across Metro Vancouver from her home in Olympic Village. She says it is all worth it, as starting the business gave her the opportunity to connect with amazing people.

While Munich has products available online, she says almost all of her stock is donated to others, simply because she wants to help. The virus isn’t a way to advertise her business, Munich says she genuinely enjoys contributing and sharing her work to help, even if it means losing money. Though she says no donation is required for those receiving soap, she says strangers have voluntarily given monetary donations to help support her small business during COVID-19, and to show appreciation for what she’s doing for others. So far, she has raised over $100 in monetary donations, but has given away much more than that in product donations. 

Before the pandemic, Munich was a physics PhD student and an online tutor for students at Simon Fraser University (SFU). Given that summer courses are primarily online, she is predicting that online tutoring will slow down. So, she says a majority of her summer income has been taken away. 

Justine Munich wraps all of her products individually with handmade notes upon delivery.

(Justine Munich / Facebook)

Vancouver resident Justine Munich owns “Kitten Komforts,” a small soap and bath bomb business she expected to launch across local craft fairs and farmer markets this summer season. When COVID-19 forced her to postpone her business launch, Munich had the idea to donate her soaps to those in need. Munich started by donating her “test” product, those of which weren’t “pretty” enough to sell. Prioritizing to healthcare workers, the immunocompromised, and those in financial need from the virus, Munich took to a Facebook group to share her offer.

“Soap takes a month or so to cure, which means everything is back-logged. The first few batches we made weren’t pretty. They were bumpy and had air bubbles in them, but they still functioned perfectly as soaps. So originally I figured, why don’t I just give it to people who need them.” – Justine Munich, owner, Kitten Komforts.

“I started out offering these soaps and bath bombs for free because people needed them. But, there were so many responses to my post that said that they’ve noticed that I was starting a business, that they wanted to support me, especially during this time where I can’t be selling at craft fairs or in person anywhere. I’ve been getting enough donations to keep running, and I’m going to try to keep doing this for as long as I can.” – Justine Munich, owner, Kitten Komforts.

Policy Analyst with the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), Muriel Protzer says small businesses are an important part of the local economy.

“Small businesses are really the backbone of the economy. They are often the first ones to put up their hand when a charity is running a function, or if there is a local sports team that needs funding. They’re often the first ones to help. More often, you are more able to access locally crafted goods, where you understand where the products come from.” – Muriel Protzer, Policy Analyst, CFIB

As her demand grows, Munich says she will do her best to honour all the donation requests and continue helping people in need for as long as she can afford to do so.