The Yukon Soaps Company: Indigenous Business Growth (HBR)
In February 2019, the owner of the Yukon Soaps Company (Yukon Soaps), based in Mayo, Yukon, was contemplating the path forward for her business. Founded in 1998, Yukon Soaps was a provider of hand-crafted artisanal soap featuring Indigenous artwork. Yukon Soaps had been experiencing double-digit annual sales growth over the past several years, and demand was steadily exceeding supply. The owner felt that her business had reached a critical point, and she knew it could not grow without addressing several pressing growth challenges, many unique to its northern context: (1) the cost of sourcing ingredients and shipping them via air freight to Yukon significantly drove up the cost of goods sold; (2) Yukon Soaps' product was currently produced in the owner's basement, which severely limited production capacity; (3) the business currently sold to Yukon retailers, directly to customers through fairs and farmers' markets, and through an online e-commerce platform, and there were significant trade-offs associated with each sales channel. The owner's primary goal was neither revenue nor profit growth, and as the challenges that came with growth threatened her primary goals and values, she was questioning the value of expanding the business. Should she expand Yukon Soaps, or should she remain a small-scale player? How could she address the unique challenges that she faced in Mayo, Yukon?