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Owner and solo hedge-witch at Sunday’s Company, Melissa Condotta, was born and raised in Toronto and thought she’d be a city girl for life. In 2011 she felt a strong urge to escape the city, feeling that urban living just wasn’t worth the hustle anymore.

Yearning for a simpler, unhurried life — to buy some land and help fulfill her husband’s longtime dream of starting a sanctuary and rehabilitation centre for dogs, her plan was to finally figure out exactly what she wanted to do with her life.

Why is it important to support local and ethical small businesses, makers and artists?

I knew I wanted to be a part of a tight knit community, and support our local farmers and makers. Naturally, after the move, my life began to centre around this very notion, and it wasn’t before long that I was surrounded by people just like me. We were all trying to “figure it out” — life and careers in this tiny little town. In doing so, we supported each other. We cheered each other on, started our own farmer’s market and other community events, and helped launch each other’s businesses. It’s literally taken a village, and the end result is pure gratitude and a deep appreciation and respect for those that work so hard to fulfill their dreams.

Where did your enthusiasm for slow, simple and mindful living begin, and how has it aided your success?

The process of moving was a slow one. We searched for our home for 2 years. I essentially had no choice, but to surrender to the process and learn the practice of slow and steady. After planting our roots, I had to keep my job in the city for a few days a week to help support us financially. My own career was up in the air— I was still unsure of what I wanted for myself, full time. My pattern was to dabble in everything, but never see it through. I know, now, it’s because those things were not my calling.

One day I joined a community herb walk and that was it. I was obsessed with plants and the healing power that lies within them. Again, they taught me to slow down, to let nature take its course. I enrolled in herbalism courses, planted a garden, and immersed myself in all things plant medicine. It hit me then, that this is it— this WAS my calling; to cultivate a community that wanted the same things— a slow, intentional, sustainable life. I would do this by sharing the gifts of Mother Nature and offering plant medicine for the skin and soul. The good things in life don’t necessarily come easy. I finally understood that, and soon Sunday’s Company was born. I promised myself that I would let this develop as it should— intentionally, gradually, and most importantly it had to come from my heart.

How do you think “empathy in action” relates to and is important for authentic living and herbal self-care?

My 20’s were mostly consumed with struggle and survival. This taught me about the kind of person I wanted to be, and how I envisioned my future. My 30’s have contrasted that with an abundance of learning, unfolding and becoming myself. Essentially putting into practice the lessons I learned in my 20’s.

The plants? They teach me to slow down; to listen. They remind me to breathe. They guide my intuition and my self care.

These things, bundled together have formed my “self”: a woman guided by compassion and authenticity. I feel like it’s impossible for me to be anything other than myself— the good and the bad. I can’t fake it, and I’ve come to realize that life is so much sweeter when you just let go; when you’re not competing with yourself (your ego) or others. You may not be for everyone, but you sure will attract people into your life who are meant to be there. To me this is self care.

In turn, being a highly intuitive and empathetic person has shaped what Sunday’s Company stands for. It is built on the foundation of authenticity and what my heart feels other people need and might appreciate.

What are some breakthroughs you’ve had with developing your passions into a business and were there challenges?

I mentioned earlier that I vowed to let my business grow organically; that I wouldn’t force things that didn’t feel like I was being me. I struggle with being “salesy”. I don’t want to “bother” people, and I want to attract the right people to my brand. I also had no money, so investing in Sunday’s Company was slow— only happening when I had a few extra dollars to spare. I knew this was going to be a slow process; that I would have to stick with a part-time job for a while; that not everyone was going to “get me”. Would running a heart-centred business get in the way of its success? The only thing I could do was try.

Turns out, this was a good call. Letting my passion and my heart guide me has brought me to a place where I am proud of my work and excited for how it’s developing. I was able to quit my part-time job in the city, just before reaching 3 years in business.

My dear friend, Sonja Seiler of Nurture Retreats, recently wrote a “love letter” to me on her blog, and I actually think it epitomizes this question. It reminded me that I’m on the right path. That my work doesn’t go unnoticed, even when I feel like I’m not enough— and we all feel like that sometimes, don’t we? This is something I come back to, over and over again, when I doubt myself:

“You are used to seeing the world from a place that feels like the struggles are bigger than you: people and pets and jobs cross your life path who ask a lot of your heart and yet grace interferes in a way that takes what was broken and turns it into a miracle. (P.S. Did you know you do this exact thing with the detritus of a forest floor? Sunday’s Company is all about that grace.). You make a big leap and trade the city for the country while hedging your bets commuting to a 9-5 in a Toronto where you feel less and less like the person life is asking you to be. Then, you get to a place where a small tug tells you to go on a community-sponsored nature walk and the plants begin to tell you things. There is an undeniable hum and a swell in your heart that confirms it and you seemingly transition from seeker to devotee in the span of your next inhale. You go from hedging your bets to full-on hedge-witch…
… Spending time with you, Mel, knowing your story, and seeing how you light up around leaves that everyone else leaves alone tells me that your products aren’t products to you: they’re prayer books. Each walk through forest and meadow, a devotional. You humbly take what nature offers and love it into something that will help others smell good, feel good and heal.”

How does your philosophy and mission support your community?

I actually think that my philosophy about slow living, simplicity and self care allows both support for and by my community.

I like to tell the story of where the ingredients come from and how a product is created. When I tell customers that the pine needles, the sap, juniper berries and the birch bark all came from my property, or from a walk in the forest, it makes the product more special. It sums up how much “natural” really means to my business. That it’s not just a greenwashing tactic. The products feel close to home.

Because plant medicine is medicine for everyone, I want to be there to provide knowledge for people. I don’t just want to sell them product. I want them to feel the same connection to the plant world that I do. They may not shed a tear when they discover a wild rose bush on their property, like I do, but they will develop an appreciation for what that rose can do for them. Instead of looking at a dandelion like an invasive weed that must be destroyed, how about seeing it for what it actually is, and realizing that you might actually need that particular plant at this moment in your life.

My community pays it forward in their support for me. They reach out to offer me plant material from their land— welcoming me to come pick whatever it is that I need. Sometimes, I arrive at my studio with pails full of plants on my doorstep. It makes my heart burst that my community is in this with me and that they play a huge role in my being able to make a product that is truly local and from the heart.

Then, there are the numerous talented friends and colleagues in this little entrepreneurial community. We all have similar struggles and an understanding for what goes into our work and we support each other— through bartering; through collaborations; by sending each other a quick message just to say, “I see you. You are amazing. Keep going.”

So, my philosophy, my mission, my business: they all centre around community and compassion. Seeing people, knowing myself, hearing the plants, and feeling it all. This allows me to create and offer products to whoever connects with them and feels they need them as well.

© 2021 Merrymen.

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