“Life is Art. Love your creation." - Lesley Roberts
It's hard to believe 25 years have passed since Lesley first started Eco-Freako and Hankettes in the attic of our Vancouver BC home. It quickly moved down to the basement and her first cutting table was built by her Uncle Paul. It fit over the pool table.
Our first product was reusable organic cotton handkerchiefs that came out of a box like tissue. They were inspired by Lesley's allergies. She was tired of the way paper tissues made her nose raw plus all the environmental waste that just ended up in the land fill. People said we were crazy. Why make a product that will last for years? It was a bad business model. A quarter century later, the handkerchiefs remain the most popular item on our website. We've had several customers come back after 20 years to say the handkerchiefs finally wore out and they needed more.
In 2001, we said goodbye to our comfortable urban lifestyle in Vancouver and moved to a rural acreage in Roberts Creek on BC's Sunshine Coast. We lived in a small 14 x 28 foot cabin with two kids (6 & 9), two cats,and a couple of fish tanks (and a foosball table too). We heated water on our wood stove, did laundry in the bath tub with a bathroom plunger, and all four of us slept on a queen size bed set up sideways (with a bench at the bottom to support the adults' feet).
Lesley designed our new house and acted as contractor as we built our own house with the help of a couple of friends and Uncle Paul. It was a big day when we got a hot water heater for Christmas that first winter. We took a week's break from building the house to refurbish a 40 foot semi-trailer to serve as the base for the business. Then Lesley got back to sewing handkerchiefs while we continued to home school our children and growing veggies and berries on our farm in Roberts Creek.
In 2014, the kids moved to the big city to continue their education and we decided it was time for a brick and mortar version of the business - at least a tiny one so we opened the "L'il Shop In The Woods" on our acreage. The World's Tiniest Eco-Department Store was about 150 square feet.
The following year, the opportunity came up to open a shop in "downtown" Roberts Creek. Another "tiny" venture at about 200 square feet, the "L'il Village Shop" has all our locally made products as well as curated products from around the world that follow our Eco-Freako philosophy of good for people AND planet. The shop also features over 30 local artists and authors. With the shop in the Heart Of The Creek doing well, we found very few people were making the trek into the wilderness to visit our L'il Shop In The Woods so we closed that location in late 2018.
Fast forward to 2020 and here we are still going strong. We are still a "Mom and Pop" operation; Lesley personally sews all our organic cotton products. Sustainability has become part of the vocabulary and the world has finally realized we need to stop our consumerist "throw away" lifestyle and become more aware of the heavy footprint we are leaving on Mother Earth, by adopting a more earth-friendly approach of reusing.
Our product range has grown considerably since our first organic cotton handkerchiefs. We now hand make hundreds of organic cotton and botanically-based products produced right here on BC's Sunshine Coast.
We rebranded our company name to Eco-Freako to better describe all the body, baby, home and pet care products we offer. Changing our name has made a huge difference because it has helped people understand our business idea and some get a good laugh from it.
Over the years we have done custom work for The Sierra Club, The Organic Trade Association, Greenpeace, the Green Party's national office in Ottawa, UBC’s Student Association, and The David Suzuki Foundation.
We are now collaborating with The Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project on our Eco-Freako farm. A mutually beneficial relationship. Please read more about them in our Community Projects.
Our "downtown" location is the Heart of Roberts Creek at 1055 Roberts Creek Road. Our hours are Wednesday to Friday from 12:30-ish to 5:30pm, and Saturdays 11am-5pm. We are closed on holidays. In the summer (early July to Labour Day), we are open Sundays from Noon to 4pm.
Thanks for checking out our website and we hope to see you in person if you're ever in Roberts Creek.
Lesley and Rob