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    News — Femme Stories

    Femme Stories | Edition 22 | Mary

    The Femme Stories is a blog series celebrating the makers who inspire, empower their communities and continue to gift us with their creativity; these are their stories.
     
    Mary | Canadian Stitchery
     
    Last year I gifted each of my nieces and nephews a Canadian Stitchery ornament. I stitched them myself and I love that they had my personal touch. These beautiful wooden ornaments come ready for you to cross-stitch your love into each one. Whether you want them for your décor or to give to a loved one, they are such a special and personal gift.
    Mary, owner of Canadian Stitchery.

     

     How did you learn how to cross-stitch?

     

    I grew up in Alberta, on the Prairies where stitching is a really big thing. My mom would sit in front of the TV at night with these massive projects and I was lucky enough to learn by looking over her shoulder, and as I got older, she taught me how to stitch. Then I got started with teaching and my stitching went into a drawer for, you know, 20 years. Eventually, I came back to it as a young professional, for the same reason as my mom stitche —, to have something to do at night to help me unwind. It is very meditative.

     

    Do you work another job or is Canadian Stitchery your full-time gig?

     

    Well, I have a couple of gigs. I'm a hyperdrive person, so I am a full-time college professor and I also work at CBC as a journalist, doing writing and editing for them. Canadian Stitchery is my creative outlet from all that stress.

     

    From the start of your company did you always picture being the supplier; having the customer enjoy the experience of cross-stitching or did you stitch and sell to start?

     

    At the start, I would stitch and sell, but quickly I learned there was a compelling piece that was missing, and that was sharing my love of stitching with others. That is when I added DIY kits to the line and now they’ve become a very large part of my business.

     

    It's easy to teach stitching, especially virtually, so I've done a lot of online classes for private groups and other organizations. I love this aspect when they have the skill, it's empowering them and that is important to me.

     

    The base of your ornaments is wooden, and the pattern is laser cut at the The Maker Bean, another local company. How did you come to work with them?

     

    Well, they have a cafe in the Ontario Science Centre, not far from my house, and I take my kids there all the time. I was already experimenting with laser cutting when I decided to take a workshop at The Maker Bean to learn how to digitize my designs. What I also found was a really good partnership with them. They are such wonderful people and they have the same spirit of empowering others to make their designs, so it's been a very good fit.

    We have built a nice creative partnership and I love coming to them with an idea and they can provide input to help take it to that next level that I wouldn't be able to reach on my own.

     

    How do you come up with new designs?

     

    Well, graph paper is a great friend for any cross-stitch designer. I kind of come up with designs in my head, and then sketch them out on graph paper. I also use a program called Stitch Fiddle, which is like a glorified Excel spreadsheet where you can dump colors into different boxes, and it's all sized for cross-stitching. It’s a free application, it does have a paid component if you want to get fancy, but the free one is pretty good.

     

    Which is your favourite design?

     

    I’m in love with a new one called Monty Moose. My Instagram followers named him. He's on an ugly sweater in a little dress shirt with a red bow tie and red and green suspenders, but he has this adorable hunch to him. I see him as the tired manager at your favorite restaurant or as a butler who's overworked during the Christmas holidays. He's so happy, but also so tired. I can relate to that, you know?

     

    This year you launched a Spring Line with adorable Easter inspired animals and eggs + a yarn wrapped rainbow, were these already in the works or did this come about because of COVID?

     

    Exactly, right I had more free time. I thought let's expand the line outside of Christmas, so I did some Valentine’s inspired DIY kits and some Easter kits. I've got some stuff in the works for summer 2022, which is exciting. Moving forward I want Canadian Stitchery to be an all-year pursuit.

     

    During the holiday season you offer finished ornaments + your DIY kits, do you stitch them yourself or recruit helpers?

     

    They are all 100% stitched by me, usually on my holidays, sitting on a dock. I still have those meditative moments after long days and that's the result is that people can buy them ready to gift.

     

    What are you currently reading?

     

    I’m currently reading a book called The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. It’s about twins who are separated and there is a big racial component to the storyline. It has been good at diving into important issues that we are all talking about.

     

    I enjoy escaping into a good book.

     

     

    I loved talking with Mary more, she and I chatted virtually last Fall for my Maker Chat OOAK series and I love hearing about that spark that drives makers to put their goods out into the world. I can personally attest to the joy that my nieces and nephews got when they opened their ornaments, and because they know I make things myself that was the first thing they asked, “Did you make these?” What is more beautiful gift to give than one your hands made? Check out Canadian Stitchery’s website to see all her DIY kits and grab one to gift as a kit or make it up yourself to gift something you made!

    Femme Stories | Edition 21 | Melissa

    The Femme Stories is a blog series celebrating the makers who inspire and empower their community, and continue to gift us with their creativity; these are their stories.
     
    Melissa | Mel’s Hangry Table
     
    Melissa’s Instagram was my guilty pleasure during the start of the pandemic, she legit entertained me and took away the stress of the uncertainty of the times. She shared what she was doing at home, along with what she was cooking, plus when restaurants started opening up she quickly worked to set up a Restaurant Directory to highlight as many local restaurants as possible. I never go out before checking her directory or Instagram for inspiration on where to eat out!
    Mel's Hangry Table Blog

     

    I started following a year ago and instantly fell in love with your vibe on social media, when did you start food blogging/influencing? 

    I’ve been doing this for about three years, consistently. My family owns Sabai Thai, a restaurant in Kanata, so I was trying to figure out if there was a support system for local restaurants and I didn’t really find anything. I was like, okay, well, since I post about food, and I talk about food, and local businesses, why not go all in. I started to help my family restaurant, but also restaurants nearby and it grew from there.

    How long have you had your family restaurant and from your stories I know you are involved in the front of house, but are you ever in the back of house at the restaurant?

    It’s been four to five years that we have had the restaurant and definitely cannot do back of house. I have much love for chefs and sous chefs, the work that they do is absolutely wild. Like, I can’t do it personally, so kudos to them.

    When I started following you it was the very start of the pandemic and you were sharing a lot of your own family’s recipes, did you always do that or how did the blog start out initially?

    So, the beginning was mostly restaurants just because when you're in the restaurant industry your hours are so crazy. Mine were 11am to 9pm, with a break from 2-5. That didn’t always leave me time to go home and cook, so I was always eating out, that's why I started doing reviews on restaurants. I pretty much ate out all the time.

    At the start of the pandemic, when the stay at home order was in place, I needed to fill my time and that's when I started incorporating the recipes. I would prepare a dish, test it out and post a picture, people were really engaged because we were all home and it grew from there. 

    When COVID-19 hit, influencers throughout Ottawa made it their mission to put focus on small businesses and you were a champion for local restaurants. Was your restaurant directory always a goal, or inspired by this past year? 

    It came about because of the lockdown. It was just so confusing, because we weren't sure what restaurants were open and what the rules were for each restaurant. I thought because I have this platform I should use it to have a directory for everyone to be able to see the information on one page. Then you can see what restaurants are open near me, how can I order, what are their rules. There is still a lot more I want to add but I did really want to highlight as many restaurants as possible. 

    Your social media focuses on your family, from your restaurant, to mama Mel living below you, was this a conscious decision or did it come about organically?

    Well, it was because I live with my mom, so it is definitely a conscious decision. Anytime my mom is featured on my Instagram it is because we have talked about it and she has given her permission. She understands what I do and gets what it is about.

    Do you ever feel pressure when promoting a certain restaurant or brand? 

    No, I’m very transparent. They know I have to try their food before posting about it and most of the time I've already eaten at that restaurant and then they reach out asking if I will promote. I am just really honest and only promote restaurants or brands I have tried and really enjoy myself.

     Do you ever feel like you are running out of restaurants to city?

    No, there's so many, especially those hole in the wall restaurants or mom and pop shops where they make something so unique and it's not in mainstream media, which is super cool.

     If you had to only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

    Sushi, I could literally eat it all the time! I have been to Japan a couple times and it is my absolute fav.

     What are you currently reading?

    I actually read a lot of other people’s reviews on restaurants. I follow Facebook groups and that is a great spot to find those hole in the wall places that are out of my neighbourhood.

     

    Mel's Hangry Table is the website I check before heading out to eat. She has lots of different options for whatever mood you are in and the reels she creates totally inspires where I will eat next. Make sure to head to Mel’s Hangry Table website to check out her directory + her reels are drool worthy. If you are feeling in a restaurant slump Mel can 100% bring you out with her all her amazing content and get you inspired to enjoy some Ottawa Restaurants.

     

    Femme Stories | Edition 20 | Mel + Trish

    The Femme Stories is a blog series celebrating the makers who inspire and empower their community, and continue to gift us with their creativity; these are their stories.
     
    Mel & Trish | Mini Tipi
     
    I first met the owners of Mini Tipi in December 2017. I had just moved back to the Ottawa area and was participating in my first Freewheeling Craft Show, Mel and Trish were my booth neighbours. They came over to introduce themselves and were kind, lovely and instantly made me feel welcome. Throughout the day I got to see their products up close; the quality of fabric, the beautiful prints, the gorgeous cut, each piece was lovelier than the last. Fast forward to today and a lot has changed under the Mini Tipi brand, but the quality of product hasn’t. We dive into all those changes, a lot which happened this year, in this Femme Stories edition.
    Mel and Trish, owners and designers of Mini Tipi

    How did the two of you meet?

     Trish: I moved to the Gatineau area and my youngest child was six months old at the time. I didn't have any friends in this new place so, I started joining all kinds of mommy and me classes. Melanie was also there with her baby who was the same age as mine and we kind of just became friends. She was the only one that would speak English to me and had this big warm smile, we just clicked.  

    Mel: You could also say it was our love of aqua fitness that brought us together!  

    What prompted you to start your company?  

    Mel: It came together very organically. When we first met Trish was sewing for fun, it was her hobby, and I would ask can you make this? Or what about this? We had young babies so we were looking at what products other moms needed. 

    Trish: I was mostly sewing two products, washcloths and baby blankets and I had done a couple Christmas Markets by myself and I was selling in a shop. Nothing major, but it was Mel who suggested making a Facebook page, she started taking pictures and at shows she was always there for support, so I said why don't we do something together. Then started building this [Mini Tipi], well I didn’t think it would be this, but we just started working together and it eventually grew into this. We are so lucky because our strengths are opposite each other, we know a lot of makers who are envious of our partnership. 

    Mel: I used to think just find a person to work with, like it was easy. As the years have gone by, I realize it isn’t that easy. We are very lucky, because it is almost like a marriage. We know how lucky we are too have found each other. You know, the road is not always easy, but what is always our rock is us, and our love for our baby; our business. As we grow I find it more and more special what we have. 

    When you first started working together, the creation of Mini Tipi, was it very much the company that we see today or did it look different? 

    Trish: Very different. It used to be called TP Creations and it was very much me sewing in my basement. The name was a fusion of culture and my initials and our logo was a picture from Vista Print, it wasn’t great, we knew we had to switch directions. 

    Mel: The name ‘Mini Tipi’ came about because Trish is an Anglophone and I am a Francophone so we wanted a name that was bilingual and reflected the Indigenous culture. 

    Trish: Past the name changed, our products have changed as well. We started out with a lot of baby products. I think just based on our lifestyle, we started to move away from that because as our kids grew, so did our company. We added products like our blankets, bags, mittens and started focusing more on women’s fashion, accessories and more home décor. 

    Mel: Definitely and as we moved away from baby products, we started looking at other company and realized there was no one selling authentic Indigenous prints. It bothered both of us, Trish was reconnecting with her culture and for me I am a nerd, I love details and I love to know facts. We decided Mini Tipi needed to make a difference and we would offer authentic Indigenous designs in collaboration with artists. 

    Last Winter I got to see your new headquarters, with your in-house sewing team, how has the transition been to having control of your own production been? 

    Trish: It's a huge relief and honestly, I have found we still have some trauma from dealing with production outside our control. For us to grow as a company and feel confident, having that knowledge of what we're capable of doing and not doing, based on what fabric we have in stock or what is being produced has been game changing. Before we were limited, and now we're kind of like, what is our full potential? This is a brand-new year for us to be able to meet demand for our harvest season. 

    Mel: What we needed just didn’t exist. There wasn’t a cut and sew shop that could keep up with our demand for product, so we decided to jump and make it happen for ourselves. 

    What was the inspiration behind your blankets? 

    Trish: Going back to what Mel was touching on, in terms of realizing that there was no authentic Indigenous design. We wanted a product that could tell a story and that customers could have an experience with. For me as we have built Mini Tipi I have gone on this journey to reconnect with my culture, so it really is about promoting the culture, the artist and at the same time giving back to our community. 

    What prompted you {Trish} to reconnect with your culture?

     Trish: Major disconnect and lack of confidence. There were a few times at shows that people would come up to me and ask a question and I would just breath and want to cry, not wanting to say the wrong thing. Mini Tipi really opened the door for me to learn more, have more of an acceptance for who I am and gain that confidence in myself.

    Mel: In the last few years, we have definitely noticed on the business side through social media that people were looking at us more for a connection to the Indigenous culture. You know for a lot of people Trish might be the only Indigenous person they know, so for them it is a connection to this culture and a way to learn. We often receive such an overwhelming response to information we provide and we definitely found our voice. I feel as confident to talk about one of our designs as Trish would and that is because we have both taken the time to learn. 

    The patterns for your fabrics are designed by local Indigenous artists how do you start working with them? 

    Trish: A lot of times the artists are new to the process when it comes to textile design. They are often established in their own right, but we help guide them on how to design for textiles. 

    Mel: That is Trish’s superpower, she is amazing at finding talented artists. 

    Trish you designed The Four Directions blanket, what significance is that design to you? 

    Trish: I was inspired by the sacred circle. Indigenous people are guided by the “medicine wheel” and how all things are connected. 4 directions, 4 seasons, 4 beings of life, Spiritual, Emotional, Physical and Mental. For me personally, I was definitely seeking direction and reconnecting to my culture has helped me find that. Stay connected to your true self and all things surrounding you. – Follow your direction. 

    You are both such pillars in the locally made community, you are always uplifting at shows and interested in other designers process, what is the thing you miss most about in person markets? 

    Mel: Everything! Except load in and load out. I miss in person contact, I miss hanging out with makers and sharing our problems, hearing theirs and helping to solve them. I really miss hearing other people’s wins, that always makes us happy. I miss seeing customers in person and letting them see our passion. In person that is easy to get across, through online sales that is always a little different. 

    Do you have any new designs or fabrics dropping this Fall? 

    Trish: Well we can give you first dibs on some news. This year’s Fall Collection we have a big change, we have switched our manufacturer and we will be introducing an eco-friendlier fabric that is Made in Italy. This was a huge win for us to secure this new fabric and make our products even more special. This was a big goal, as our company grows and has more of an impact, we wanted to ensure we are doing our part for the environment. 

    What are you currently reading? 

    Mel & Trish: We are reading Traction by Gino Wickman & Pursuit 365 an amazing book showcasing a lot of Ottawa business women. 

     

    As you all know now, Mel and Trish are pillars in our maker community, as well as champions for being as eco-friendly as possible. As fashion designers we all see our waste first hand and I adore both of these women for standing up and working to make that waste useful. They have turned a lot of scraps into their bags and mittens, but when they reached a point of some pieces being to small they contacted me to see if I would be interested in putting their scraps to good use for my Conscious Heart Sweaters. This is the definition of COMMUNITY OVER COMPETITION. Make sure to follow Mini Tipi on social media to stay up to date with their new Fall Collection Drop and you can head to their website to see their gorgeous products.

     Check back tomorrow to spot their scrap fabric featured on my Conscious Heart Sweaters.

     I am so honoured to collaborate with ladies of Mini Tipi.

     

     

    Femme Stories | Edition 19 | Lauren

    The Femme Stories is a blog series celebrating the makers who inspire and empower their community, and continue to gift us with their creativity; these are their stories.
     
    Lauren | Finding Julian
     
    I have known Lauren as the second half of the Cheerfully Made team for years now, but this past year I also discovered she was a cycle coach, building her own brand, a website & a cyclical living course. That brand is Finding Julian and these last couple months I got to follow her journey through the power of social media, and to say I fan-girled out is an understatement. My mom is a nurse, so I was raised to have a strong knowledge of my body, my period and all that comes with being a woman, but as Lauren started talking about her course and how she had built it around being a maker and how to harness your cycle for the power of creativity, well let’s just say I signed up for her Newsletter ASAP to join in on her inaugural course.
     
    We talked for Femme Stories before the launch, but I put the finishing touches on the post after I had completed week six of her course. I give my feedback at the end of this post, but I loved talking with her about how little we are taught about our own bodies as women and love that she is taking it on to help educate anyone who has the strong desire to know more about what happens to us each month.
    Lauren from Finding Julian

      

    A lot of creators in the Ottawa area will know you as half of the Cheerfully Made team, helping put shows together for us, what has your journey been before coming to be a part of Cheerfully Made. 

    I have definitely had a journey! I always loved creative writing, so I went to university for journalism and realized that it is not creative writing. They cut out all of your adjectives and adverbs, which are my favourite words. After not loving my job options, I decided to just take my degree and go. I headed to Toronto and worked retail for a bit and really loved it, but eventually when I moved back home, I got my real estate license. My mom is an agent and I worked with her for five years.

    I am a big believer in the universe and how it guides you, and towards the end of being an agent, I felt like I was hitting my head against a wall. I was frustrated with my performance. I was always good at what I did, I just wasn’t enjoying it as much as I should have. This is how I came to start at Cheerfully Made. I had never been in the shop, but I followed Emily on Instagram and she posted that they were hiring and I thought it would be nice to give my brain a bit of space to help figure out what I wanted to do. I had always thought of running my own business and I figured this would be the easiest way to learn, work in that environment, get close to Emily and hopefully she would show me all of her secrets, which I was totally upfront with her about.

     After working in the shop for a bit, I volunteered to help with the Etsy market. Basically, from there on out I kept badgering her to give me more responsibility. I knew she had been burned in the past by new hires so she was hesitant to let go, but as I stayed consistent, she was more open to letting me post on social media and eventually taking over the online portion.

    During the pandemic I transitioned to working with her full time and because of that we became close friends! Neither of us stopped working when that hit and I think it saved us. The job I am doing now is the one I asked for after the first fall market I worked, but at the time she couldn’t do that, and now that’s the job I am doing. So, I worked my way in! 

    When and how did your journey of becoming a Cycle Coach come about?

    A few years ago, I listened to a business podcast with Claire Baker as the guest and she was talking about how you can work creatively within your cycle and how there’s different seasons beyond just menstruation. This was the first time I’d ever heard someone talk about our cycles in this way. 

    At the time, I was on hormonal birth control and I’d spoken to my doctor about how whenever I had the sugar pills at the end of my pack I would get such headaches, like migraine level headaches. She told me they were withdrawal headaches and she recommended that I skip my period and only have it every three months, i.e. continue my packs, and I won’t get these headaches. So, I did that for a while because I was of the mindset that our periods were such an inconvenience. The more I thought about it though, it started to concern me. It got me thinking, what is this medication that I am taking that is so potent and strong that I’m getting withdrawal headaches? I really didn’t love that idea. 

    Hearing Claire talk, I felt like this was information that I should have known because I am a woman and I bleed once a month. I just felt a little angry, to be honest, that I didn't know any of this and it took me on a journey of self-discovery. I began to educate myself by taking some of Claire’s courses she offered. Last year she announced that she was going to start to train others to be Cycle Coaches, so they can teach other people and help spread the word!

    It is work that I felt really called to because it has changed my life in so many ways. That anger that I initially felt about not knowing any of this information has kind of transformed into, ‘Okay, I’m not the person to teach everyone, but I am the person to teach some people.’ I think when people first hear about it, they sometimes think it's a little woo woo, or like spiritual, and while there definitely is a spiritual element to it, it is based in biology. We are not actually taught how our bodies work, we’re taught that if you have sex, you will get pregnant and you're going to die and periods are bad and an inconvenience to everyone. 

    Women are so often told to just show up, every day, keep your mood the same, don't let anyone know and you'll be fine, and the feminist in me has always raged at this. I feel like we are taught it is our weakness, but when you actually study your cycle, we're the more consistent sex. Our hormones do the exact same thing every month and if you recognize the patterns, you know exactly how you're going to feel every week. 

    I feel like everyone is so scared to talk to young women about sex, but it leaves us all at a disadvantage, and not knowing how our own bodies function.

    Yeah, this whole industry, well it's barely an industry, right now it’s more like a popup tent, but the more you learn, the more you realize there is to learn. So now I am kind of diving into the fertility awareness method, which is a method that you can use to avoid pregnancy or eventually to get pregnant. The thing is your body gives you all of the clues of when it's fertile and if we just taught young women: this is when your body's fertile, these are the signs, this is how you track it. If we taught and shared this information, we would be empowering so many to know and understand their bodies! 

    You mention on your site your obsession with women, was this instilled by maternal figures in your life? 

    My mom is definitely a force to be reckoned with. I think, growing up I've always had girlfriends, mostly because any male friends I ever had usually ended up asking me out, which ok fair enough. I've always been more attracted to the female energy and when I was a kid, I would always like hanging out with my friends’ parents, like their moms and stuff. So, I've always been really inspired by women and their journeys. 

    I think back to when I lived in Toronto and worked in retail, there was this one customer who stands out to me, who showed me, this is what I want to do with this work. She came into the shop (it was a clothing store) and she was very quiet and kept to herself. I could tell that she was closed off, energy wise, she was wanting to be alone, but I was having a great day and kept checking in on her, making sure she was finding everything she needed and eventually she started coming out of the change room and I started bringing her more stuff to try on. Little by little she started coming out of her shell and by the end, she was asking for recommendations and asking for jewelry. She ended up leaving with a bunch of clothes and jewelry and her energy had shifted completely. She was feeling good about herself, she was excited, she was happy and she left the store feeling that much better. I definitely wasn't in it for the sales, there was no commission or anything, it was just amazing to watch that instant transformation and it felt good to me to know I can make people feel better. 

    I'm definitely a forward thinker, so I always had this thought of how do I scale this for the future? How do I affect more women? That’s where this work comes in, where my motivation to inspire, motivate and encourage women comes in, it just fits perfectly.

    The story behind the name of your site is beautiful. For people that are new to you, can you explain the name Finding Julian? 

    Finding Julian has been the name of my company for seven or eight years now, even before I knew what that company would look like. It is inspired by my maternal grandmother's companion. Growing up he [Julian] was just always there. There's a picture of me in the hospital when I was born, and the two of them are holding me and getting excited because I was a girl. I have two older brothers and I was the first granddaughter, so they were excited. 

    Julian was an artist; his father was also an artist. His dad was actually the artist who designed the shields for the eternal flame on parliament. Julian was such a creative force, which was kind of unique for me. My dad was in sales and my mom eventually was in sales, so to see someone with a creative mind inspired me. He was always drawing and sketching, his cards were usually handmade and he always instilled in me this creative spirit. That it is worthwhile to pursue. 

    Having Julian in my life was such a source of comfort, community, unconditional love and creativity. So, for me, Finding Julian is finding all of those things. Finding that sense of belonging, creativity, warmth and comfort.

     I love that you link creativity and our businesses to our cycles. What moment in your life did this really click for you that we needed to be more conscious of this as women?

     I think that aha moment was over this past year doing this cycle coach training, and just recognizing that your cycle is a bigger picture. I think it is hard because the season you start tracking your cycle is your winter phase, and you're supposed to start with rest, but here in North America, that's a really hard concept. Here you earn your rest, you burn out and then you rest and that is seen as success. This course flips that notion on its head, where you start by resting and that's how you get your energy.

     For me, how it all clicked into place is realizing you have to be really patient with yourself, because when you menstruate, your winter phase, you have to rest. Then you move to your spring phase, pre-ovulation, you are still that little rose just starting to bud. When you really think of how long Spring is and how long it takes from bud to bloom, you can’t rush that.

     Even right now, I am day five of my cycle, so I’m coming out of my bleed, I'm feeling that estrogen and I'm feeling that energy surge. Before this course, I would just dive back into work. I would start to hustle hard and be like, yes, my energy is coming back and then by ovulation, I'd be burnt out. So, it's just recognizing the rhythm of your cycle and being like, no, I need to go slow so that by the time ovulation comes around, I will have this unlimited energy, and it'll be unreal and I will get a million things done.

     Then your Autumn, pre-menstruum, that's the time to go inwards, you’re wrapping up your work, you're preparing again for your rest. But if you try to rush any of these steps, you're going to be burnt out, you're going to be exhausted and you're going to be frustrated. Right now, I'm planning my course that I'm going to be launching next week. I would love to hustle and just be done, but I would have no energy by the end of my cycle. So, the big switch for me was fully recognizing that you need to rest, you need to build that energy before you can use it rather than using up your energy and then being burnt out and crashing.

     Your bi-annual course sounds incredible, what can people expect from this course?

     It will be six weeks long, and there is a lot of great content. It will be structured around audio and a workbook for each week, mostly so people can disconnect from their computers. I love the idea of listening to this audio while going for a walk-in nature. It’s a little bit of listening, reading and writing. In the sixth week, we will do a zoom call, like a closing ceremony, where we can all connect and end on that community note.

     What are you currently reading?

     I listen to a lot of audio business books when I walk, but in my everyday life I love fantasy romance novels. So, the book I am reading right now is A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik.

    I was eager to do Lauren’s course the more she promoted it, but it exceeded all my expectations. Again, I am saying this as a person who, being raised by a nurse, was taught to know a lot about my body, how it functioned, how my mood and emotional state was impacted week to week by my hormones. What Lauren does though, is take this information and apply it to how we should be living our lives as creatives and business owners. Pushing us to recognize when it is time to rest, when is the time to push, when is the time to create. All in all, we might say yes, I know all this, but how she words these beautiful audio clips, it pushed me to actually do it! So many of us run our own companies but feel guilty taking days off, I know I do. Taking Lauren’s Cyclical Living Course has pushed me to take Friday’s off again, and I have it mapped out for my next period to take off Day 1of my cycle. As Lauren says, this isn’t always possible, sometimes life happens, but when it is why not give yourself that time and comfort you need!

    I can’t recommend this course enough, past the incredible information, Lauren’s amazing way of making it informative, fun and easy to get through, I loved every week of it.

    The next chance to take the course will be at the end of September, until then I recommend checking out the Finding Julian website. It has lots of great resources and signing up for her Newsletter so you can be a part of the next Cyclical Living course.

     

    Femme Stories | Edition 18 | Sylvie

    The Femme Stories is a blog series celebrating the makers who inspire and empower their community, and continue to gift us with their creativity; these are their stories.
     
    Sylvie | The Loft
     
    I met Sylvie Prudhomme, hairdresser extraordinaire and owner of The Loft Toronto, when I was showcasing my Fall 2014 Collection at Ottawa Fashion Week. I instantly had a creative crush on her and was very inspired by her drive to push her own creativity. We have worked together on fashion shows, photoshoots and she is my hairdresser, and I love her! She is pillar in my creative community and an entrepreneur that lives by the motto community over competition.
    Sylvie hairstylist and owner of The Loft

     

     I knew from meeting you right away you were a born creative, but what has your career path look like?

    I went to school for Animation at Algonquin, that was a 2-year program and then I did it for a year or two after I graduated. I really went into it because I loved drawing, and I wanted to get out of North Bay, my sister lived in the city so it felt like the next thing to do. Just as I was getting into it though, things were starting to move digital and for me, I need tangible things, working at a desk became less  and less interesting.

    Then I did what every child of the 90’s did or wanted to do, which was to galivant around the country, I went out to B.C., smoked pot for a bit and when I came back to Ottawa I started working as receptionist at a hair salon. I started to see this was a real job and very lucrative and that is when I went to school to be a hairstylist. I say this is my 19th year of doing hair, which makes me sound so old, but I feel like I floundered a lot in my teenage years and early twenties and this career and this city I have stuck to the longest, I am still super inspired by my industry, even with this lockdown, I am even more inspired because it is being really overlooked right now.

    How has that felt, being locked out of your career, your inspiration and creativity?

    This gets overlooked a lot, but for obvious reasons, we are an essential service. Imagine going on a zoom meeting for an interview and you are not presenting yourself as your most confident self and what if someone is judging you and you miss out on an opportunity, you know people can’t help but have first impressions. People in these creative fields, photographers, tattoo artists, hair stylists, our skills are not transferrable, these are our fields of expertise, they are essential to us!

    I feel like the government is asking us to shut up and sit tight, which I get, I believe in science, I believe in medicine, don’t get me wrong, but what we do, are people making decisions out of desperation and giving up all their creativity, and getting jobs to work from home, that is suppressing an entire type of person.

    We met through Ottawa Fashion Week, which The Loft was a sponsor of, when did you start working there, and did you know you wanted to own your own salon? 

    I want to say 2004/2005, I started working at The Loft Le Spa in Ottawa, and no I definitely wasn’t thinking about owning my own salon. I was really happy there and the owners, Paul Valletta and Bruno Racine were great mentors. I think they saw how strong my work ethic was and because of that they were very supportive of me. I knew by working hard I would get back what I was putting into my career. When I did make the move to Toronto eventually I partnered with them to open my space here, since then I have transitioned and The Loft is co-owned by myself and Paul.

    When did you move Toronto and did you open The Loft here right away?

    I moved here in 2010, at that point I was coming to the city for Fashion Week twice a year, for Luminato once a year and coming for shoots and guest spots and I really liked the buzz the city had. At that point, Toronto was just offering me more creative options and that became really appealing. When I moved here, I started working at a salon for 2-3 years, but I stayed close with Paul and Bruno. What I did see was that having a work environment where creativity could thrive and support was offered was a rarity. Where I was in Toronto, everyone kind of came in and out, there wasn’t any comradery, support or inclusiveness. It was very much the mentality of these are my successes, and I worked hard for what I have so I am not going to share my knowledge, and that isn’t how I grew up in the industry, to me knowledge is power and sharing that knowledge gives you a lot of respect and support from people.

     Past being a hair stylist, and entrepreneur, you also have taught and are a leader in setting trends in your industry. Have you always enjoyed teaching the next generation and passing on your experience?

    In different ways I have been teaching from the get go. Leading Ottawa Fashion Week was a big teaching moment because I was teaching stylists how do a look. I could sit there and actually show them, look we didn’t think this was possible but we got there and now I am going to show you, that to me is a really powerful thing, because I know how to do this and the next powerful thing is I am going to teach you. The other thing is you are never beyond your craft and the ones who want to learn from you, they have ideas that you want to know how to do and I am not too proud to ask to learn from them!

    That is amazing, I mean that is why Kaja and I fell in love with working with you, we just loved how open to collaboration you were and so down to just experiment and push the idea and ourselves creatively. Ok quickly going back, when did you officially open The Loft in Toronto?

    Oh, thank you, I mean that is why I love doing events like Fashion Week, you really do get to meet fellow creatives that you will work with for years to come. So, I officially opened April 2, 2013 so we just celebrated our 8th anniversary. 

    Obviously 2020 was a crazy year for all, on top of closures and dealing with your business, you became a mother. Béatrice was born in April; how has it been becoming a mother during such a unique time in history?

     Over the last year we have been able to create rituals, which has been so nice. I really wasn’t planning on taking that long off after her birth, but with everything being shut down for so long we have been given time with her and has been cherished. It has taught me to calm down, but I also feel like I don’t have a tether to my life prior to 2020. I think it will be great to get back to work and have that piece of myself back and I do feel like I will be a better mother and partner. My career gives me so much confidence, it is something that I don’t question what I am doing and to have that taken away this year has been hard, I am ready to have it back.

    What did March 2020 look like and what have you done to keep the business going?

     I was still working in March (Béa was due in April, I had a scheduled C-section) so I was on the floor with a client when we got word that we would have to shut down. At the beginning everyone thought this will just be 2 weeks, so for months we had a sign on the Queen St location that said see you in April! I was mega pregnant when we shut down, then had a newborn, so my partner would go by to make sure it was all good, but that sign just stayed up there!

    Throughout the first lockdown I was doing orders through email and curb-side picks ups and by the end of the first lockdown I realized I needed to upgrade my website to allow for e-commerce, which is when we opened our Shopify account. This is definitely a downfall of mine, I am reluctant of doing anything digital because I don’t know it and also, I am reluctant to delegate, so I needed to bend on both of those. Once I accepted that, I paid someone else to do it for me!

    ** When Sylvie and I talked, her reopen was planned for April 12th, (her shop and stylists hadn’t worked since Nov. 13th) but unfortunately that was pushed as another lockdown was put into place. Before posting this, I reached out and asked how this month has been staying busy.

    We are still selling online and I am constantly working on updating the space to make sure when we do reopen everything is safe and ready to accept clients. I am also taking classes every Friday to keep my creative edge and I am doing some cheeky custom embroidery to stay busy.

    What are you currently reading?

    Expectation by Anna Hope

    Sylvie is the definition of an entrepreneur. She is always pushing to make herself and her business at the top of their game, she passes her knowledge onto the next generation and is eager to learn from them as well. I always felt lucky to work with someone like this so early in my career, she set the tone and example of how I wanted to conduct myself in my own company. I adore working with her, seeing her company grow and getting my own hair done by her. Her industry has been greatly overlooked this past year and half and I highly recommend finding ways to support your own hairstylist in whatever way you can, whether it is through products they sell, gift card and booking an appointment as soon as they have a reopen date. If you are in the Toronto area, Sylvie and her team of stylists at The Loft are exceptional, you can check out the products they offer here.