Jen Elden merges her many passions into a single drive for wellness.
By Diane Taylor. Photograph by Mandy Mohler of Field Guide Designs.
To amalgamate means to merge or join into a single body. The endeavors of local business owner Jen Elden is just that – the merging of her passions.
One of those passions was what brought Jen to the Flathead Valley in 1996.
She had just graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies, and her intention to get involved in a community where she could connect with groups working in the realm of sustainable growth was met with great success. Inspired by like-minded people through her tenure at Montana Coffee Traders, she served on various non-profit boards and advisory committees for the city of Whitefish, was a legislative assistant in the 2003 legislative session, and started connecting with local farmers and organic growers.
When a friend offered a class in Renaissance-style crafts, Jen learned soap making and began making soap in her home as gifts for her family and friends. One spring day, she took a basket of soap to the Whitefish Farmers Market. “I came home with a basket of produce, a pocket full of money, and no soap. I thought to myself, well that was fun, I want to do that again,” Elden recalls. And a business was born.
She named her new venture Amalgamated Sope. With the help of her husband David, Jen handcrafted several flavors of soap for sale at the Whitefish Farmers Market and soon began selling at her favorite local stores – Third Street Market, Montana Coffee Traders, and Sage and Cedar. She used her scientific background to develop the formulas, and as an avid gardener she grew several of the herbs used in her recipes.
After a health issue emerged, “I began to consider what makes me tick besides land use issues. Personal health and well-being rose to the top of my concerns,” she explains. As she continued to learn more about natural products and the risks of toxins not just in our environment, but in our personal products and food, Jen became devoted to organic foods and lifestyle.
And her commitment wasn’t just about her own health: “I realized helping people optimize their best selves ripples out positive change for the rest of the world.”
In 2008, Jen became a Licensed Massage Therapist, continued making Sope, and started expanding her product line. She began using her homegrown herbs to make new products like salve, and wildcrafting flowers for Arnica Oil, both current customer favorites, for sale and for use in her massage practice.
Meanwhile, Jen and David decided to raise the bar on Jen’s “hobby business” to give it a go on the national level. They formed what they jokingly call a “garage band” and enlisted the expertise of a dear friend graphics designer guru. They worked persistently to develop messaging, labels, packaging, and marketing material worthy of store shelves anywhere. Considered a value-added agricultural product, the Eldens were able to utilize the Made in Montana program through the Montana Department of Agriculture, which granted funds to offset expenses associated with their rebranding project. In 2012, the Made in Montana program also gave them a leg up in their “big launch” when Sope was selected to be one of nine companies representing Montana at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California. After the exposure at the largest natural product show in the country, Amalgamated Sope Company added two sales representatives and was stocked at locations across Montana, in Idaho, and in western Canada, and later began mail orders to distant lands.
Today, nine years later, Jen’s massage business, Whitefish Massage Therapy, is thriving. She specializes in therapeutic massage and bodywork, including Deep Tissue, Relaxation, Energy and Positional Release Techniques. She has serviced a wide array of clients during this time, with the goal to assist each person to optimize their health and well-being. Jen continues to take exceptional care of herself through massage, yoga, acupuncture, exercise, and whole food nutrition, and willingly offers insights and referrals to other therapies that can further assist her clients on their healing journey.
Jen and David’s family grew to the size of three with the arrival of their son, Trajan, in 2012. In finding the balance in weaving all the threads of business and family life together, Jen turned to yoga practice to nourish herself, and cultivate and share her best self. In April 2017, she completed a 200 hour Satya Yoga Immersion/Teacher Training Program with her teacher, Jodi Petlin, at Shanti Yoga Studio in Whitefish, whose mission is dedicated to spreading peace, health, and greater levels of self-awareness through yoga.
It may be ironic, or rather, serendipitous, that Yoga also means “union, or to join” – in this case, body, mind, spirit. The intention of each of Elden’s businesses function individually while being mutually supportive of the other.
As life is always evolving, Jen’s devotion to her core principles is consistent. She continues to use local and organic products whenever possible. When she needs products that can’t be sourced from Montana she opts to support producers that use sustainable practices.
The shea butter used in the company’s Salve and Body Butter is obtained from a Fair Trade women’s co-op in eastern Ghana. The palm oil comes from Brazil, not Malaysia, from a company Greenpeace called the blueprint for sustainability for the palm oil industry.
The Eldens recently received a handwritten letter from Governor Bullock, congratulating them on their business and impressive packaging, and thanking them for using natural grown Montana ingredients in their products.
And, we might add – for being a local business that supports other local businesses.
Whitefish Massage clients may book online on her website, www.whitefishmassagetherapy.com or by calling 406.471.6423.
Amalgamated Sope Company products are available at many Flathead Valley local outlets, or you can order directly through their website at www.sopeshop.com.
About the Author: Diane Taylor is a retired elementary school teacher and is active with a number of local non-profit organizations.