When coffee accidentally spills on a hundred-something year old wooden table (worth thousands), owner of Shoo-Foo Eco Linens, Dany Filion dashes to her display towels and comes to the rescue with the absorbent power of bamboo fibers. In seconds the pressing of her towels against the wood dry up moisture and leave no trace behind.
“This should be a commercial! Where’s our camera?” She jokes, while the rest of the room stares tensely, wondering if the precious antique will survive. “There, now let’s sit down and please, have some cookies” are her proceeding words.
After sitting in an ancient, ornately decorated chair, the atmosphere calms down and one can’t help but think, ‘THIS, is sooooo cool.’
Filion started Shoo-Foo when a light bulb went on in her head back in 2006. She was reading about developments in bamboo usage for creating textiles. The same article revealed that cotton production, with the many chemicals used to treat the plant, was heavily damaging the environment. Bamboo on the other hand was organic, free of pesticides, naturally antibacterial and sourced from one of earth’s most sustainable plants. It was also four times more absorbent than cotton. Go figure – why not make towels out of it?
At that point, the Quebec born, ecologist-trained entrepreneur who spent more than 10 years living in China made a firm decision that she would be part of the bamboo textile movement.
“This project (Shoo-Foo) brings all my professional experience together…ecology, Chinese culture and business venture; you’ve got them all into the Shoo-Foo project. That makes me feel at home, this impression of being at the right place at the right time,” she describes.
From then on, it was action upon action. The bamboo convert registered her business name and began forming alliances with suppliers in China. At the time, no other Canadian company was doing the same.
Filion was a well-seasoned business woman ready for more adventure. Having built two retail companies – one selling antique furniture and the other an art gallery still in existence – Shoo-Foo was going to be a fresh slice of pie; it was born wholesale.
“I had been looking for a fun wholesale business to do for a little while. Being otherwise in the art business, a very volatile business, I was looking for something else…which can bring – at a business angle – a little more financial stability,” she recalls.
For spreading eco love, it made a lot of sense. Today production is still onsite, near bamboo forest in China, thus cutting down transport pollution. Large quantities are made at a time, which Filion calls “less energivore.” When complete, orders are sent by boat directly to their final retail destinations, leaving as few footprints on the earth as possible.
Filion cherry-picked the manufacturers she would work with in China. The deal was rolled out upfront: security and health of workers, the environment, ethics and quality control were not to be compromised.
“We…make sure we always share the same values.”
Filion hates packaging. If it weren’t said in words, it would be in action. Boxes are reused and towels aren’t wrapped in anything but a cloth ribbon displaying the Shoo-Foo logo. Office and warehouse space is shared.
In 2007, Shoo-Foo launched a Web site and set out to attend tradeshows across the country, giving it true Canadian reach. Retailers loved it and signed on. Then attention was, and still is being, brought to end users at shows such as EPIC.
“Bamboo is still very new on the market and very few people know about it, so we…generate direct experience for the consumers.”
And that she does:
“Most People love the softness and absorbency of bamboo fabric. The only concern I heard up to now is, once we convert yourself to bamboo linens, you don’t know what to do with all the other linens you have in your closet!”
In Fall, 2008, Shoo-Foo launched a baby line and now is moving into bed linens. Filion says sales are rising and popularity is growing weekly. The goal is that the Shoo-Foo brand will become a main reference to quality bamboo linens on the market.
“We want to offer a good quality alternative to cotton in the realm of home linens…that would help diminishing the need for growing cotton, which is a very damageable culture for the environment.”
For Filion, love of planet earth has become a means of survival. She hopes her efforts will in turn help earth survive. And so, the quest continues…
“We will constantly look for new ways to support choices for a healthy lifestyle and a low eco-footprint…And we truly love bamboo!”