During the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 Simon Vanderloo and his sister Caroline Short began making soap as a way to spend time together and produce something useful. Operating out of Vanderloo’s home kitchen, the two perfected their soap making, cutting, and packaging. They called their start-up “Simon’s Soapbox.”
When Short learned the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Student Association was running an entrepreneurial services competition, she decided to make a video entry with her brother. They tied for first place, winning $500, which Short said will be used to further propel their company.
Short said that although her brother, who has Down syndrome, is soft spoken this has become his ‘soapbox’ opportunity. “A soapbox is something a person stands on to make an announcement or speak their mind. Simon is not quick to jump up and give a speech. In fact, it can be easy to assume he doesn’t have much to say. But that isn’t true. We hope our soap and our work together speaks volumes.”
Although this is their first business endeavor, Short says her family have always enjoyed spending time together, so learning to make soap with her brother was simply an extension of their life together. Vanderloo said his favorite part is cutting the bars. That part of the process and many other aspects of their handmade business are shared on Simon’s Soapbox’s Instagram account.
The two have collaborated with another local business, PotteryWorks Studio, to pair soap with handmade dishes. PotteryWorks celebrates the contribution of artists with disabilities, a common value of Simon’s Soapbox. “I hope that I can build this or another business into a company that can employ several people with developmental disabilities,” Short said. “There are many people with developmental disabilities who would like to work and have a lot to contribute to a company but are rarely given the opportunity to work. Meaningful work and inclusion can make a huge difference for individuals and communities.”
Short, an elder and the clerk at First Christian Reformed Church in Vancouver, is also the regional advocate for CRC Disability Concerns for Classis B.C.North-West. Vanderloo is a member at New Westminster CRC. In addition to making soap, Vanderloo volunteers at a local pet store and has a part-time job at a grocery store.