How Saje Natural Wellness’s Co-Founder Put British Columbia in a Bottle
Kate Ross-LeBlanc on the healing power of nature.
Saje Natural Wellness, founded in Vancouver in 1992, has just two founding principles: no ugly chemicals, and lots of community service. Ironically, the veritable empire of all-natural well-being, with more than 75 locations across North America, owes its creation to two wildly different car-related events. The first, when its co-founders, Kate Ross and future husband Jean-Pierre LeBlanc locked eyes from behind the wheel in adjacent cars at a stoplight in Toronto; and the second, years later, when a serious car accident left Le-Blanc in chronic pain.
After the accident, the couple moved to Vancouver and started studying natural remedies. LeBlanc concocted a few of his own essential oil blends, including one particularly effective hodgepodge of peppermint, French lavender, Spanish eucalyptus, Indonesian cajeput, Haitian vetiver and Tunisian rosemary. The couple decided to share their creation, launching their brand of plant-based skincare and body products.
Fast forward nearly thirty years, and Saje now has outposts from Saskatchewan to SoHo. Still, Ross-LeBlanc remains deeply rooted in Vancouver, the “land of milk and honey,” as she calls it. “Our continued growth is founded upon people looking for natural solutions to everyday wellness concerns. That appreciation of nature’s power has made Vancouver a great home for us.” Here, Ross-LeBlanc talks about the great outdoors, how to achieve work-life balance, and how the natural beauty of British Columbia inspires her.
Did your love for nature start in Vancouver?
I’ve always had an appreciation for the outdoors, perhaps because I was lucky to grow up on a farm where we grew our own vegetables and ate food from our own land.
What is so important about spending time outdoors?
When we connect with nature, we see the bigness of the world. We stand back and get a better perspective and see the possibilities. We also see our responsibility for our fragile ecosystem and our place inside it.
Vancouver is famous for its outdoorsy citizens who love to connect with nature. How important was this for Saje in its early days of raising awareness?
People from Vancouver are especially grateful for their natural surroundings, and understand how impactful and important nature is. No matter where you are in Vancouver, it’s so easy to feel surrounded by nature—supported by it. That was pivotal in our early momentum, as our brand relies on individuals who appreciate the power of connection and nature.
Are any of your products specifically rooted in British Columbia?
I was inspired to create our diffuser blend, Mountain High, on a road trip from Vancouver to Alberta. I opened my sunroof when I reached the Kootenays and wanted to bottle that invigorating feeling of sunshine and West Coast forests. That’s why Mountain High layers together woodsy essential oils of balsam fir, pine, and cedarwood along with refreshing peppermint.
You’ve mentioned the importance of connecting not only with nature, but with each other. Do you find making personal connections a natural occurrence in Vancouver?
People here are looking to connect with like-minded individuals and companies that share a common mission. Vancouver is a place where so many people understand how their own personal purpose influences their wellness.
What’s one tip you have for finding the right balance between work and personal life?
Everything in life makes more sense when you have rituals that allow you to take time for yourself, when you are getting enough sleep, moving your body, and connecting with nature. But for me, the answer is always connection. Connection to others, connecting to myself and my work, and connecting with the natural world around me. Being connected to my life’s work, and understanding the purpose that motivates me means that work-life balance takes on a different meaning.
Kate Ross-LeBlanc’s All-Natural Guide to Vancouver
The nature lover’s favorite spots to explore the great outdoors near the city.
Garibaldi Provincial Park
“Garibaldi is one of my favorite hikes,” Ross-LeBlanc says of the wilderness area just over an hour from downtown Vancouver. “I love finding all the surprise streams and lakes.”
East of Vancouver, this tiny town in the Fraser Valley is famous for its hot springs, but Ross-LeBlanc also appreciates its bucolic nature. “The rolling hills and farms remind me of where I grew up in Ontario.”
Ross-LeBlanc loves this mountain town an hour and a half north of Vancouver. “It’s all about getting there and just taking a breath of beautiful fresh air, soaking in the spaciousness, and looking at the stars.”