Building a small business, brick by brick

Few things get as up close and personal as a bar of soap. So there is a real satisfaction in knowing that the product you use has been hand-crafted with artisanal quality and attention to detail. And more than a little creativity.

Meet the Bro Brick – a hand-crafted bar of soap with a range of scents you won't find anywhere else. Leather, rum, coffee, cedar, barbershop, wasabi, oatmeal, beer and more in various combinations and permutations.

MacKenzie Proudlove is a maker in the purest sense of the word. Candles. T-Shirts. He just finished making a coffee table and end table set. During the day, he runs his own graphic design company, making visual messages for his clients. And by night, he makes a product that fills a hole in the market.

There's a saturated market for women's soap," he says. "But there's not a lot of stuff out there for guys." Most of the soap made for men is cheap and mass-produced, and very little of it actually makes you clean. A Bro Brick makes your skin squeak.

The graphic design skills don't hurt either. MacKenzie has been able to create a very strong, unique brand for Bro Brick. "People love the name and the look of the soap. From the very beginning, the design was integral." Advertising on his own saved a lot of costs, and ensured that his personal touch was consistent throughout his business.

"I really like the personal touch. Every Bro Brick that's out there, I made by hand."

Edmonton has been the perfect place for MacKenzie. Having gone from freelance work to full time self-employed graphic designer in merely four months, he is the poster child for entrepreneurial possibility. He'll be the first to admit the community is a huge part of that.

"Everybody's really friendly and supportive. People don't mind telling you their secrets or helping you out. Especially other soap-makers. Edmonton is also very progressive. There's a whole movement to buy more local, handmade stuff, and get rid of all the processed stuff that we've been using. The response here has been outstanding."

It's a great place to be a maker. And making things is in MacKenzie's blood. It's something he can't not do.

"I don't think I could ever retire, sit down and do nothing. If I had all the time in the world I'd still make stuff."


Bro Brick and Chick Bricks are available online at www.thebrobrick.com. You can also find them in the following local stores in Edmonton: habitat etc.Carbon Environmental BoutiqueLittle Brick Cafe and General StoreVanity CornerTix on the SquareMuttart ConservatoryDerks, and Suits by Curtis Eliot.