NEW WESTMINSTER, BC –
A pile of buckets and bottles lay on a white table in Simon Vanderloo’s small kitchen. While he heated a large can of coconut oil in the microwave, his sister, Caroline Short, carefully measured the mixture of new aromatic oils.
Siblings from New Westminster, BC, make handmade soaps every Tuesday. That’s what they’ve been doing together since the early days of the pandemic.
“We started making soap during COVID when Simon and I had a little extra free time,” says Short. “We learned how to do it together and quickly discovered that Simon was really good at it.”
Vanderloo is 28 years old and living with Down syndrome, which occurs naturally when an individual has an extra part or all of an extra copy of chromosome 21.
Short has always believed in his potential and often wondered what it would be like to start a business with him.
“When I saw that making soap was a good activity for both of us, I thought, ‘Why don’t we try to do something bigger with it?'” Short said.
With Vanderloo also wanting to do more, the couple founded a company called Simon’s Soapbox.
The idea behind the name is that the business is a platform that Vanderloo can use to highlight and share all of its capabilities.
Simon Vanderloo and Caroline Short display products they sell online and at community markets. (Source: Caroline Short)
“From the beginning I wanted to keep Simon at the center of our business. It’s almost like the business is Simon’s voice, it’s trying to be creative and show people a different way of doing things. listen to Simon and show everything we can do together”, in short.
Caroline Short and Simon Vanderloo are a pair of soap-selling brothers and barrier-breaking duo. (Source: Caroline Short)
Starting a startup isn’t easy, but the sibling duo were determined to make it a success. Not only did they start producing large batches of soap, but they also designed their own packaging and secured an e-commerce website.
While Vanderloo sometimes struggles with his speech, there’s no denying his enthusiasm for his company. He especially loves how they now produce five different types of body bars and a soap made specifically for kitchen cleaning.
Simon Vanderloo and Caroline Short are working together to not only produce soap, but promote the benefits of meaningful work for people with developmental disabilities. (Photo from Melanie Nagy/CTV News)
Short says the business has given her brother a small income and a new sense of purpose in life. She also believes they are helping spark a conversation about the benefits of hiring people with developmental disabilities.
“Many people think that accommodation in the workplace is really difficult and laborious, but with a little curiosity, the work of learning and listening can easily be transformed and approached.”
(Photo from Melanie Nagy/CTV News)
(Photo from Melanie Nagy/CTV News)
According to the Canadian Down Syndrome Association, more than 50 percent of people with the condition struggle to find work despite having the skills many employers are looking for.
The organization says people with Down syndrome are often seen as less competent and less valuable in the workforce.
“I really want to encourage people to think differently about disability and about how we can make our workplaces better because inclusion benefits everyone at the end of the day. ,” Short said.
Simon Vanderloo and Caroline Short, founders of Simon’s Soapbox, sell their wares at a community market in Metro Vancouver. (Source: short Caroline)
With the help of her sister, Vanderloo often sells soap at farmers markets and craft fairs in Metro Vancouver. In addition to promoting his products, he also takes this opportunity to share his story to break stereotypes.
Short said that when clients talk to her brother, who is known to be able to lighten the mood with a light joke or prank, she can “see them start to think differently as assumptions begin to change.” Theirs about him started to change.”
(Source: short Caroline)
Changing people’s perceptions and celebrating the contributions of people with developmental disabilities is the foundation of Simon’s Soapbox.
As for the company’s future focus, both Short and Vanderloo hope to grow the business so they can hire others in need of meaningful work.