“Don’t compare your brand to others.” I always used to watch what other more successful brands were accomplishing and would become discouraged when I saw the milestones they were reaching. Instead of constant comparison, utilize those brands’ founders as business allies and mentors to help you succeed. I’m a strong believer in brands lifting each other up…there is room for all of us at the top!
As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Greg Macdonald, Founder & CEO of Bathorium.
It was in the summer of 2014 while traveling through Europe that bath-aficionado Gregory Macdonald ventured into an Airbnb on the coast of Italy. After a truly memorable bath — a gorgeous claw foot tub stocked with exotic salts and oils galore — Gregory was inspired to bring this experience home, and Bathorium was born. It was this glorious combination of pure and beneficial ingredients that soon became the backbone of the brand’s product line today.
Bathorium’s bath soaks, bath bombs, and bubble oils are all small batch-crafted in Canada with no harsh additives and zero synthetic fragrance. Founded on the core value of indulgent bathing and defining what the art of self-worship means, Bathorium is on a global mission to #BringBacktheBath. Outside of Bathorium, Gregory strives to help raise up and amplify the voices of up-and-coming entrepreneurs — both inside and outside the indie beauty space.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for having me! Well, I’ve been a serial entrepreneur since the days of having a monopoly on cul de sac kool-aid stands at age four. Growing up, I’ve started a variety of businesses from catering companies, cheesecake deliveries and bread bakeries. The commonality through all my ventures (Bathorium included) was exceeding customer expectations… consistently delivering products and creations that were more enjoyable than what my customers thought they were purchasing. In the summer of 2014 while traveling through Europe I had a bath in southern Italy that (literally) changed my life. It was created for me by the house host I was staying with and she used a luscious combination of salts, clays, vegetable butters and essential oils. Once I began soaking I knew this wasn’t any ordinary bath — it was spectacular. I commonly refer to this bath as my Oprah ‘ah ha’ moment where I knew I was meant to share this experience with the world.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When I started Bathorium there were two large hurdles in front of me. One, I had never made a bath bomb before. Two, I was broke. The first year of building the brand I was bartending at a local hotel. I began by creating prototypes of products and then giving them to my regulars at the bar to try out and report back how they liked it. While some immediately fell in love others were dyed different shades of beetroot red. After a year of formulation trials and financing the early stages of Bathorium on student Mastercards, I was ready. That was the birth of Bathorium.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My passion for a quality product is my guiding energy. During the difficult times, I always maintained hope and belief that my products were exceptional and I just hadn’t had my ‘big break’ yet. I also absolutely love reading reviews! It’s so fulfilling and reaffirming to hear from customers about their experiences with my product. During the last year of the pandemic, countless people have written in expressing how the Bathorium bath time rituals have helped reduce anxiety, stress and an overall detox from toxic news cycles. When my cup was getting empty, these are what filled me up.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Bathorium’s success can be attributed to a combination of hard work, perseverance, prayer and luck. Sometimes giving the right product to the right person at the right time can open doors you never thought would budge. Today we are a global indie bath brand with over 500 retailers in North
America and New Zealand. Bathorium has become synonymous with luxury bathing with notable press including Good Morning America, Best Health, Elle and Glamour. These opportunities and retail partners were mere dreams to me in the first few years of starting Bathorium. It takes hearing hundreds of “No’s” for the few “Yes’s” that can change your life.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I could speak about this one all day! No shortage of these stories, trust me. In the first few months of formulation development, I didn’t use any third-party companies to assist. In 2014 I was formulating a bath bomb titled “Aussie Bomb” which was going to use a beautiful Australian red rhassoul clay to give it minerality and a nice red hue. Having never worked with this clay before I simply estimated that a 20% of batch total would suffice. In four test bath bombs, I used nearly one cup of this dark red clay. When it came time to test using the bath bomb I got in and began my soak… the smell was divine, water was a gorgeous color and the magnesium was just right. When I left the tub though I was dyed RED from head to toe. Turns out, red rhassoul clay is a strong natural dye and I was a shade of bright red for nearly two weeks after that bath. My light blonde hair looked like Carrot Top and the rest of me a devil spawn…good times!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
It’s the experience the bather has while in a Bathorium bath and the quality of the ingredients inside our products. If you think of regular bath salts they are jagged pieces of sodium chloride, maybe some magnesium (Epsom) and if you’re lucky there may be some essential oil, although typically brands will use synthetic fragrant oil to save costs. Bathorium soaks melt instantly in the water. Our bath Crush is nearly 20% nourishing dry oils that we’ve solidified in kaolin earth clays. We use imported Dead Sea salts, fresh freeze-dried coconut milks, colloidal oat proteins and only essential oils to create decadent and memorable bath experiences. Our soaks create a soft water effect and a cappuccino-like foam on top of the water. These are not bath salts — these are Bathorium ritual soaks. You’ll see!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out?”
Balance. Much easier said than done (trust me) but it took me nearly five years into my entrepreneurial journey to realize the importance of this. In the beginning, I would constantly push myself to grow the brand day and night. With limited resources, it put the majority of the strain on me which didn’t leave room for self-care, relationships or my overall health. There were times I would ask my partner to use a calendar booking link to secure time with me for a lunch date. Needless to say — he didn’t stick around long. Today, the more time I take looking after myself and growing independently of the brand, the better CEO I am to my team and the company as a whole. Find things to spark joy outside of your business and don’t forget to make the time for them. They are crucial.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There is a very special person in my life named Sheena Brady, founder of the global tea brand, Tease Tea. Sheena and I met nearly eight years ago and when I began Bathorium — she founded her tea company. We have been each other’s support system over the years through the good, the bad and the ugly. Without Sheena, I’m unsure if my sanity would still be intact. With our brands where they are today, we’ve actually now gone into business together in a chalet property deal. Check out @bespoke.retreats on Instagram!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
An organization very close to my heart is Main Street Community Services based out of Ottawa, Ontario. Both of my younger twin brothers are developmentally delayed and at the age of 25, they can’t read, write or have the ability to live on their own. Main Street provides full-time respite care as well as after-school programs, summer camps and a full suite of services to help care for these incredible kids (and adults!). My family would not be where we are today if it weren’t for Main Street coming into our lives back in 2001. Bathorium has proudly donated tens of thousands of dollars to Main Street over the years as well as an appliance give back program where we purchase washing machines, fridges, dishwashers for the respite homes in conjunction with one of our subscription box partners, CauseBox. My dream one day is to purchase Main Street a brand new respite home fully handicapable and upgraded with all the modern technologies available to help support the residents.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) “Don’t compare your brand to others.” I always used to watch what other more successful brands were accomplishing and would become discouraged when I saw the milestones they were reaching. Instead of constant comparison, utilize those brands’ founders as business allies and mentors to help you succeed. I’m a strong believer in brands lifting each other up…there is room for all of us at the top!
2) “You aren’t getting paid anytime soon sweetie.” I only started taking a salary from Bathorium in the latter half of 2018. If you can afford to invest that money back into your company in the early stages it will pay dividends for years to come! Obviously, each business is different but as an owner, your paycheck is last on the list.
3) “A no isn’t a no, it’s a no not right now.” This is a lesson I was actually told and I preach it to my sales staff today. Urban Outfitters rejected us three years in a row because it wasn’t the right fit for them at that time. We never gave up though and eventually captured a 138 store national rollout of the brand three years later.
4) “Never sacrifice product integrity.” When we first explored third-party manufacturing of our product in 2016 we needed to make the margins work. At times during this process, we let the manufacturer have liberty on our raw ingredient sourcing to where they had existing relations. Turned out many of these ingredients they had been sourcing were not up to the Bathorium caliber and rigorous testing accolades we require. In 2017 we moved all manufacturing back under our Bathorium production facility where we have entire control of product integrity — vital!
5) “There are days when you will want to quit. That just means you’re doing something right.” In the early years, there were many days when things were not going as planned and I just wanted to quit… but I knew I was onto something so I kept reminding myself of my Why Story. I want to change the landscape of bath taking. While not an easy task, I know it’s what I’m meant to bring to this chaotic world.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder?
Don’t keep things bottled up inside. As founders, we like to share the highs, the success, the recognition and press…it’s the lows that we tend to keep to ourselves. These lows are not glamorous. The best way I have found to navigate this world of entrepreneurship is talking to my network about all areas of the business — the good and the bad. I have incredible friends, family and a partner who are there to support me on days when I need it. It’s OK to feel alone, scared, confused and anxious. We all need to feel these emotions to be able to celebrate the successes of our brands. There isn’t reward without risk.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I want to create change and be a support leader in LGBT youth today. Growing up as a questioning queer kid I didn’t have any gay mentors or role models that I could talk to or express how I was feeling. Back in the formative high school years, there weren’t any accessible gay men in my life that I could look to for support or guidance. I always found myself not relating to the LGBT stereotypes I’d see portrayed on TV. I dreamed of having a loving husband, a family and being fearless in my everyday life. With the rise of teen suicide rates, especially in the LBGT community, I believe we need to open conversations up to kids who need to be heard. Creating is a vehicle for self-expression and as a teenager, I used creating businesses to get the attention and accreditation I needed from those closest around me. While my brothers and straight friends excelled in sports and academia, I knew I could also get the validation I needed by being bolder, louder and consistently outdoing myself in every venture I set out to create. For all the little dreamers that are coming after me, I want to be there to help amplify their success and be the person for them that no one was for me.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Stay tuned on Bathorium.com for a founder series of videos and podcasts outlining the trials and tribulations!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!