From forestry, to lingerie, to soap and candles, the journey for Tobias Lawrence over the last nine months has been one of change and embracing opportunities.
In January, Lawrence bought one of Nelson’s lingerie institutions Lonnie’s.
She quickly went about putting her own stamp on the company and eventually bought Trillium ¨C the bath and beauty business sold at the store.
“Lingerie is about business when it comes down to it,” said Lawrence. “But when I bought Trillium and learned how to make the product, something happened. I haven’t felt that sort of passion that I feel for Trillium in a long time. It’s like when I first discovered forestry when I was tree planting in Alberta.”
Learning about making the Trillium products and the business that accompanies it has been a labour of love, but Lawrence has never been happier.
She often spent mornings alone at the new Lonnie’s location making soap before the doors opened.
“It felt like I was meditating. It was so calm and soothing,” she said.
Earlier this month, Lawrence announced another big change. Less than a year since taking over Lonnie’s, she had sold it to Heather Roshinsky.
“The sale of the lingerie store happened quickly,” said Lawrence. “[Roshinsky] is a friend and has been for about 18 years. We would meet up for coffee and she admired what I had done with the businesses.”
Roshinsky was at a turning point in her life and was looking for a new career.
An electrician by trade, she had endured an injury that made it impossible to continue in her former line of work, and began looking at becoming a business owner.
As Lawrence became busier with Trillium, she jokingly said to Roshinsky one day, ‘Hey, I know a business you can buy.’
Three weeks later Roshinsky was the new owner of what is now L’Infinity.
With the sale of Lonnie’s complete, Lawrence was looking at the next steps for Trillium.
The company was started by Julie Breton who was living in Creston. A descendant from a soap-making family. Breton ran the business in Creston for a year before relocating to Nelson.
“She’s all about trying new things, ingredients, blends and perfumes,” said Lawrence. “She’s very passionate about it.”
After seven years, Breton sold the company to another local woman, who ran the business for a few years before Lawrence bought it.
For Lawrence, all it took was the touch of Trillium’s raspberry leaf lotion on her hands to convince her that she needed to own it.
But she was divided between two cities.
When she moved to Nelson, she left her husband Grant Parnell in Victoria who works for the Government of BC.
“Once the sale happened [Parnell] and I planned on building a studio for Trillium in Nelson,” Lawrence said. “[Parnell] was still working in Victoria and proposed we take a month off in Victoria.”
The idea appealed to Lawrence because every time he had made a visit to Nelson, they worked.
While discussing their construction plans in Nelson, they realized Trillium could go anywhere, and [Parnell] commented that they already had a studio space in Victoria.
After a few more conversations and consultations with a business consultant, Lawrence decided to relocate Trillium to Victoria.
“It wasn’t easy, as I love the Kootenays and Nelson,” said Lawrence. “My stay in Nelson was short but so valuable. I met so many amazing women like Julie Breton, Stacey Muchowski, Lana Donaldson, Noreen Lynas, [Roshinsky], Megan Elliott from Kootenay Cobbler and the list goes on. I have never been in a town where there is such a strong business community of truly amazing, positive women.”
One local business woman Lawrence formed a bond with is Shannon Hames of Flat Bags.
Lawrence had purchased one of the first Flat Bags Hames made, and has been a convert ever since.
When she purchased Lonnie’s, Lawrence approached Hames about carrying Flat Bags in the store.
“One day she came in and she had this over night bag. I thought how perfect it would be for Trillium,” said Lawrence.
The pair sat down and picked out fabric swatches. Soon, Trillium had its own custom made over night bags from Flat Bags, and Lawrence began making travel size versions of the products.
“It’s a great product and it complements Trillium very well,” said Lawrence. “We are also constantly looking for partnerships with other local and BC businesses that can supply us with ingredients or items to complement with our products.”
Even though Trillium will be based in Victoria, Lawrence attributes a lot of her success to her time in the Kootenays.
“I love the Kootenays, it has served me well. I had a great career in forestry here. It was a stepping stone into the political stratosphere and now Trillium,” she said. “Dreams do come true.”