Vancouver’s Downtown Association announces launchpad competition winner

Natural Earth and Body’s apothecary and tea shop concept takes home $40,000

VANCOUVER — The wait is over. The winner of Vancouver’s Downtown Association (VDA) launchpad competition was announced late last week. Natural Earth and Body, with the concept of an apothecary and tea shop has won the prize including $40,000, thanks to its creator, Marianne Wilson-Stein. 

“I’m speaking truly from my heart, I thoroughly enjoyed this process,” Wilson-Stein said. “It opened my eyes to kind of where I’ve come from and where I am today. It opened my eyes on my business, that I do know what I’m talking about, and that I do have a good understanding of my market.”

Marianne Wilson-Stein is shown here with a description of her business concept which has just one the VDA launchpad grand prize. Photo courtesy of VDA
Marianne Wilson-Stein is shown here with a description of her business concept which has just one the VDA launchpad grand prize. Photo courtesy of VDA

The process for competing began back in January, and semi-finalists were notified by email if they would be moving up. For Wilson-Stein, it became a bit of a comedy when she never received the email, and found out at the Vancouver Farmers Market when a friend congratulated her.

At that point, business concept proposals were supposed to be due around February, but the pandemic had other plans, and pushed the due date back to May. This ended up helping her proposal, as it gave more time to detail her idea, which would be an expansion of her already functioning model, she said.

Natural Earth and Body has been Wilson-Stein’s Farmers Market and event-setting business for the past several years. When she opens up in a building in downtown Vancouver it will be the first brick-and-mortar version of the company ever.

The general premise of Natural Earth and Body rests on three main areas: teas, all-natural skin care and apothecarial herbs. In addition to products, she hopes to have the business be a place of community inclusivity, where open mic nights and foundation meetings can take place regularly, she said. 

“In the research that I’ve done, people really want to use herbs as their first line of defense in their health care and in their daily lives just being healthy,” she said. “I’ve always loved this idea of having a shop where my natural skincare products can really shine. I’m really excited to be able to offer a tea house in Vancouver.”

In addition to the $40,000 and help with acquiring a location downtown, the winner is also receiving a variety of in-kind services, donated by area businesses. Everything from voice-over work, to architectural consulting is included. 

“I’m working with all service contributors to identify the timeline of what we’re planning to do,” said VDA Executive Director Michael Walker. “I’m also working with Marianne meeting with her this upcoming week to start chatting about timelines and when she’ll need some of the resources provided in the package.”

Walker went on to say how the responses that VDA has received from other competition participants that did not win, has still been overwhelmingly good. Nearly all have said that the process sharpened their skills and taught them something new about business in some way, he said. 

“Regardless of whether or not they would have won the launchpad, they are still really, really interested in opening a shop in some format in the future,” Walker said.

For more information on the winning business, upcoming VDA events and services, or to get connected as a business owner with other business owners, visit

“This is a big undertaking, and we don’t get to where we are by ourselves, it’s really a community effort,” Wilson-Stein said. “I really appreciate that and it really does fall in line with my philosophy of community supporting community.”