Meet Pénélope & Camelia St-Cyr-Robitaille. Two sisters who decided to combine their talents and joined forces to set up this zero-waste project called la fabrik éco. An eco-conscious company based in Montreal, Canada selling reusable sandwich and snack bags. The perfect environmental-friendly solution for your everyday lunch! Read my interview with the St-Cyr-Robitaille sisters to know more about la fabrik éco.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and upbringing (s)?
P : I’m the oldest of a family of 4 children. I studied photography at Cegep du Vieux-Montréal and I did my BAC at UQAM in graphic design. I’m currently a freelancer in those domains.
C: I'm 25 years old. I studied fashion design in Lasalle College and I finished my BAC at UQAM. Since 2012, I have my sewing school, l’Atelier Espace Fabrik. Now I’m teaching sewing and pattern making at Lasalle College.
Camelia & Pénélope St-Cyr-Robitaille
So let’s talk about your company. What is La fabrik éco. and where it’s located?
P : It’s an Eco-responsible company of reusable products that we built together. We are located in Montréal, but we have different sell point like Québec City, Montréal and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
Why did you decide to start an ethical business?
P: I’m in the zero waste lifestyle since last February and I saw how much pollution and waste I used to do. It was awful. I believe that we all need to change our ways of consuming. La fabrik éco. is contributing by making reusable bags to reduce the use of plastic bags.
Photo Credit: la fabrik eco
What are the materials used to create these reusable sandwich and snack bags?
C: The fabric we use is PUL, polyurethane laminate. It’s food-safe and CPSIA (Consumer Product safety Improvement Act) certified. It is breathable, soft texture, flexible and 100% waterproof. Our label is silk-screened by Atelier Bang Bang in Montréal, on cotton fabric.
What makes them Eco-friendly?
P: Our product is eco-friendly because you can reuse it multiple times instead of using a new “Ziploc” bag every time you make your lunches or your snacks. Also, it’s important for us to buy the material we need from Canada or USA businesses. We want to encourage as much as possible local businesses.
Can these reusable sandwich bags have a second life?
C: We offer free repairs if something happens with the zipper or other imperfections. Also, our reusable bags can be used for other things such as: makeup, pencil, jewelry, small electronic items, etc. Our products can be wash between 250-300 in the washing machine.
Photo Credit: la fabrik éco
Were you always socially conscious consumers?
P: No. I was a big fan of Costco and use to buy a lot of stuff made in China, etc. It’s been a year that I try to buy products made in Québec or Canada. Also, I buy all my food at bulk markets to reduce packaged food.
C: No. When I matured, I realized that we must make choices when we buy things. It's important to have an ethical conscience. Encourage local industry is now a priority for me.
How do you use social media to promote la fabrik éco and bring awareness about sustainable practice?
P: We are now on Facebook and Instagram. We can't hide the fact that social media is very useful. We try to share our tricks, our new products and pictures, articles and videos that encourage a healthier lifestyle. For us, la fabrik éco. is a company of reusable bags, but we also want to promote a better way of life with the least possible waste.
Photo Credit: la fabrik eco
What’s the biggest challenge (s) since you’ve started La fabrik éco.?
P : One of the biggest challenge is to combine my freelancer job, my free time, my love life, my friends and my family with this new job that is la fabrik éco...
C: It's the same for me because la fabrik éco is now my 4th job!
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
C: For the moment, I have a good balance because I try to do everything during the week so then the weekend I have more free time.
P: Since I was younger, I've always been organized. Our parents are freelancers too in the photography domain, so they taught us a lot.
How has your life experience prepared you for the businesswomen you are today?
P : Because I studied photography and graphic design, for this new business I had the skills to do all the branding, website and the photos for our products. I think the image and the way you show your product makes your business more professional and trustworthy.
C: It's already been 4 years that I have my own sewing company and I have won UQAM's entrepreneurship contest. so, when it came to the management of the company, I was already accustomed.
What it’s like working for yourselves and how as it changed you?
P : I think this lifestyle is what I need, like I said earlier, our parents our freelancer so we grew up with that kind of mindset and lifestyle. Of course, I had to be a lot more responsible and organized. I’m a boss, an employee, a secretary and an accountant at the same time. So, I must be disciplined and responsible since I have clients with demands and deadlines.
C: You can work in pyjamas, from your house. (smiling) The organization and the concentration is necessary when working from home.
What’s the dynamic working together as sisters?
C: We had our first jewelry business when we were kids around 9-10 years old. So we have a good co-founder background. (laughing)
P: We have similar personalities, so a lot of the time we are on the same page. We have our differences like most of siblings, but it doesn't last for long.
As women entrepreneurs, what is the number one advice you would give to other women who have just started their own company?
P: You have to be ready to work a lot at the beginning, a lot, a lot, a lot. Just don’t give up on what you really want. People will maybe laugh at your project, keep going towards your goals and don’t listen to naysayers.
In a world mostly ruled by men, what are the most significant obstacles to women’s leadership?
C : To be taken seriously.
Within the next 5 years, what would you like to accomplish with La fabrik éco.?
P: We have a lot of ideas for new products. So, in 5 five years it will be awesome to have a lot more different eco-friendly products in our company and across Québec or Canada.
Where can we purchase your products?
C : You can purchase our products on Etsy. Also, you can find our reusable bags at LOCO (Montréal), Vrac & Bocaux (Montréal), Méga Vrac (Montréal), La Folle Fourchette (Québec) and Autour de la table (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu). If you need more information, you can go on our web site at www.lafabrikeco.com