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    News — Femme Stories

    Femme Stories | Edition 9 | Kaja

    The idea for The Femme Stories was born last year, but with any small business some ideas just have to wait. When everything started happening surrounding the pandemic I was PROUD of my friends and colleagues for how they were tackling these unprecedented times and I wanted to document that, these are their stories.
     
    Kaja | Jack Loves Mary & KajaPhoto
     
    It is hard for me to sometimes explain my relationship with Kaja. She is so much more than a friend or colleague, if you have worked with someone creatively, you know it is a very personal relationship. Sharing your own creative ideas can be scary, but with Kaja, I have always felt free to say that insane idea and then together we hone it, tone it down or push it bigger and make sure what we are saying is moving the bigger conversation forward.
     
    Her passion for Photography has been a part of her identity before we even met and I knew right away that she wasn’t in this for the short game, from day one she has worked to make Photography a part of her life and career. She has built up two incredible companies, Jack Loves Mary & KajaPhoto, although both very different aspects of the photography world, both have the same passionate, creative and unique woman behind them.
     
    This interview, besides being with one of the closest people in my life, was extra personal because Kaja’s Father-in-Law, Ron Stewart, passed away during the start of the shutdown. Ron was a man I have known most of my life, he attended the same church as my Grandparents, I went to school with his youngest son and his oldest married Kaja, my creative partner. My grandparents have always adored Ron and his wife Heather. He and my grandpa lived parallel lives; they had worked in similar fields, had travelled abroad to teach other countries how to farm properly, they both had stories abound and LOVED talking and listening to each other. Ron was gentle and kind and my grandfather loved being around him, I know his presence is missed by the Stewart Family as I know my Grandparents miss him too.

     

    How was it being dropped into the new world of COVID-19 after being distanced from a lot of the information that was coming out at the end of March?

     

    We as a family entered the world of Covid in a unique way. Ron, my father-in-law fell ill earlier this year, and after weeks of tests and appointments we still had no answers. On March 10th we were finally given a diagnosis and he passed March 24th, so this time period was a whirlwind.

    Between you and my friend Sarah I was kept up to date on how Covid was impacting small businesses and freelancers. We were spending most of our time at the hospital with Ron and I just couldn’t divide my focus, so I appreciated that. Also, my wonderful assistant Kamara took the reins on some shoots that were lined up which, ultimately were cancelled because the shut-down was extended. Looking back on the month of March and beginning of April, it feels like one big long dream. The uncertainty of the city and the country and the world just seemed to mirror that of my own family.

    Have your couples all postponed to next year, are any scaling back and doing a more low key wedding or even social distancing wedding at the end of Summer or Fall?

     All of my couples that had weddings before September have postponed. Everyone has been different, some had specific dates in mind, because that is what their venue was able to accommodate, others have postponed and haven’t yet chosen their 2021 date. All of my 2020 couples and I have been in communication a lot over the last couple of months. For ones who haven’t chosen a new date, I am very transparent about what dates I have open, so they can make the best decision for their wedding.

    I haven’t had any social distancing or virtual weddings yet, but I would love to do that. I think I have always attracted the type of clientele who just want to do what feels right and personal to them, despite what their families want or "what they should do." That has been one of the cool aspects of this experience, to see how couples are making it their own. I have 2 couples who are still getting married, legally, on their wedding date, one is getting married at city hall and the other couple is meeting an officiant, which I will be photographing from a distance.

    On top of weddings, have you had photoshoots for KajaPhoto that were rearranged?

     Yes, March is a big month to shoot look book shots for businesses, those as well as some editorials ended up being cancelled. There isn’t really a plan to reschedule, because the difference is a lot of these clients are self-employed, and everyone is looking at their year and businesses differently now.

    How have you been dealing with all this “free” work time, has it been hard to focus on what to do first with so much unknown? 

    This week (first week of May) was really my first week of “free” time, because I had a backlog of editing from March and April. Also speaking for myself, my TO DO list is never not full. There are always certain items that take priority, but I have lots of work to fill my free time. I am actually looking forward to tackling some items on there that always get put off, like my KajaPhoto website has needed to be updated also, I am very excited to tackle my own wedding photos. I took photos on my camera when we got married in 2015 and I haven’t even edited those, so I know myself and my family are excited about that! 

    Were there any 2020 business plans you had that have been put on hold or postponed for Jack Loves Mary and/or KajaPhoto?

    Not business plans, just shoots that have been affected. If anything, I will be able to accomplish more business goals because I have time. The shoot is just that one day, for me afterwards a lot of the work is editing and getting those photos off to their respective clients. So right now, with no new events or editorials to shoot, I have a lot time to tackle my business goals.

    Has this disrupted your day to day routine or are you still able to be creative?

    Most people are struggling with working from home right now, where I have been self-employed and worked from home for years, so I know the struggle very well. I feel like people romanticize working from home, but you still have to create your own routine. Everyone else is experiencing this for the first time, I definitely feel more understood by my friends.

    As for creating, I shoot people, I always have, but because that is limited right now, I have taken to documenting the world when I am out for walks. We will look back on this as pre and post, so I am trying to take pictures that show our current time. 

     

    Like I said up top, Kaja is one of my favourite humans. She has not only documented/shot and creatively impacted Copious from the beginning, she has photographed our family and documented my sisters family from engagement, to wedding to babies. Her love for photography shows in each photo she takes and I have seen her go that extra mile to capture a true moment in a picture. Whether it has been working with her for Copious or having her there to capture my sister and I before she got married, I can’t imagine anyone else taking our photo. Her passion isn’t just about getting you that shot, it’s about the integrity of that picture, which makes every image she captures, beautiful.

    If you are couple recently engaged I highly recommend checking out Jack Loves Mary. Kaja’s eye will get you unique and creative shots for your big day, and if you are business needing product shots, website photography or an editorial, check out KajaPhoto, or just flip on over to any page on the Copious site, because she took them all!

     

     

     

    Femme Stories | Edition 8 | May

    The idea for The Femme Stories was born last year, but with any small business some ideas just have to wait. When everything started happening surrounding the pandemic I was PROUD of my friends and colleagues for how they were tackling these unprecedented times and I wanted to document that, these are their stories.
     
    May | Farinella
     
    I have known May for 6 years, since the beginning of Copious. She has styled, helped to sell and even modelled for me. Besides being a supporter of my brand, she has an incredible eye for detail and an effortless style that people want to emulate, we always want her involved in our photoshoots. That is why I wasn’t surprised when she first told me she had taken on the role of GM for the restaurant Farinella. I knew why they wanted her; because of her ability to help create a brand, help tell that story to clients and her unparalleled work ethic.

    Farinella Team, Ottawa Pizzeria and Gelato Restaurant

    When things started to shut down and self-isolation became the norm, mentally where was the team at?
     
    We all went through some pretty crazy emotions, specifically the Sunday before the announcement came in, Nina and I definitely broke down. It was a beautiful day outside, but it was slow at the restaurant, you could really feel the fear of the unknown. We did shift quickly into plan mode and the team that decided to stay on with us was very calm and collected, Nina became that quickly and Cez is always that way, it was really me who couldn’t get there. I was full of anxiety those first couple of weeks, we went from having no information to having an abundance of it, we went from having no cases to it spreading and my anxiety was driven by my fear of it all and my desire to protect our staff and customers.
     
    This situation did drive us to make quick and efficient decisions. We closed that Tuesday to regroup, but right away when we reopened Wednesday we did curbside pickup. Honestly, we already had very high standards for our staff and the cleanliness of the restaurant, but this kicked it into overdrive and my fear drove my vigilance. Because of the job we were doing, we were around more people. Even though we had a perimeter around the restaurant and had a system in place to never be in contact with customers or delivery people, I was fearful for myself, my employees and all our families. It is my job to keep everyone safe and I didn’t always go about that in the nicest way, which didn’t make me the easiest person to be around. I became someone my staff didn’t recognize because I was letting my fear and the irrationalness of it take over. It wasn’t till they came and talked with me that I looked at the situation and realized how unhealthy it was for myself and my team.
     
    Do you feel like Farinella was able to transition quickly during these times because you were already geared towards take out?
     
    Yes, our whole idea for the restaurant is takeout, so we didn’t have a lot to change. This current situation does take away from being able to sample our different styles of pizza and getting individual slices, but it was necessary to switch to orders being for half or whole pizzas and have people call in their orders, to make sure everyone was safe. Right now, we are pumping out 8 pizzas every 15 mins, so that is something we are not used to, but are extremely grateful for the support. Pizza, gelato and ice cream are comfort foods, something you can eat every night of the week, unlike more fine dining restaurants we didn’t have to shut down to regroup or revamp our menu, we were already set up for this.
     
    That sort of answers my next question, how has support been from the community?
     
    It has been amazing, there is this one gentleman who orders a pizza every Sunday, it is his thing and we love that. Our regulars have been super supportive and we have gained a lot of new customers because they see their friends posting about the meter long pizzas and they want one, a lot of new people have discovered us as well. The support is amazing and we are grateful to feed people great food and bring some comfort to them during this time.
     
    On social media you tackled this quickly, you were very transparent, did you find this helped the community trust you were doing your part so they could still enjoy pizza?
     
    Even before this we already had strict rules in place for how the staff handled food. For example, we always wore gloves while handling the pizza or scooping ice cream/gelato so customers saw that when picking up their order. Many of our customers told us before this, that they liked how we handled our food. When we shut down on the Tuesday, we asked our staff; what do we need to do to make ourselves feel safe and immediately we all agreed no customers in the shop. It helped us and our customers feel safe, which helped us continue to run our business.
     
    You started doing delivery as well as pick up, how has that been?
     
    We did at the very beginning, but we quickly stopped doing it ourselves. It just became too challenging with how much pizza we were having to get out each hour and we did have a smaller staff. We already had Ubereats in place so we just continued on with that.
     
    What new tools or apps have you been using to keep the business going?
     
    None really, but we are actively looking for a way to help our customers place take-out orders online. That has been the biggest shift for us is dealing with customers calling their orders in. I pretty much always am talking to a person and have another on hold waiting to place their order, so the struggle is if people can’t get through they start messaging us through social media and obviously we can’t be taking orders that way. We are looking for a way to make it easier for everyone.
     
    Lastly what is your hope for the future?
    Like a lot of people, our year will look different. We won’t have as much money to make bigger purchases, but we will be ok. Our customers are supporting us and will continue to do that as we shift back. People miss going out, they miss seeing friends and catching up, so we look forward to being that place where they can do that again.
     
     
    Everything Farinella does, they do well, whether it is Pizza, Gelato, Ice Cream, Coffee or Pastries, you can see the respect they have for the product they make. From the incredible ingredients to how they showcase the product, they love what they do and what they make, and you will love it to. If you haven’t tried this restaurant I highly recommend it, you will be supporting a local business and get the most incredible meal. Talking with May just further instilled how much they care about what they make.
    If you want to try Farinella for dinner tonight, check out their website and call in your order and make sure to follow them on Instagram.

    Femme Stories | Edition 7 | Oriana

    The idea for The Femme Stories was born last year, but with any small business some ideas just have to wait. When everything started happening surrounding the pandemic I was PROUD of my friends and colleagues for how they were tackling these unprecedented times and I wanted to document that, these are their stories.
     
    Oriana | One of a Kind Show
     
    The One of a Kind Show has become this nucleus in my life. It is the 2 biggest events in my Copious year and prep is started months in advance to ensure a successful show. On my end a lot of time and money is spent to get to this show, on their end it’s the same story. The OOAK Team is working towards the same goal as each maker and the support they provide us along the way is invaluable. I have come to know these women as some of the hardest working, most helpful and friendliest people I know. The fact that so many of them know my name when I am 1 of 600-850 makers is a testament to how much they care about their makers. For this interview I talked with Oriana who is head of Recruitment and Creative Content Coordinator, she was nothing but candid and honest about how this has affected their team and what they are doing to prepare for the future of OOAK.

    One of a Kind Team, OOAK Show

    Going back to March, with information changing daily, how did the team deal with this?
     
    We were very aware of the coronavirus, it was in the news, we were following all the information. We had revised and updated our health and safety plan, we were buying SO much hand sanitizer and the recommendation was, events could move forward, you just had to be safe. I definitely don’t want to call it denial, because really at that point, we were moving forward and invested in the shows’ success; we were all very hopeful it would happen.
     
    The week of March 9th totally changed everything. I felt like I worked at a news network, every couple of minutes someone had new information and we were in meetings all day long trying to figure out a way to keep everyone happy. Mind you this is during our busiest time leading up to the show. We were very torn on what to do and we realized, we needed to hear from our vendors, so that is when we sent out the survey to get a consensus of what the group wanted.
     
    OOAK has always been a company that cares about the mental health of its employees and makers, how did you ladies deal with the stress?
     
    Everyone was having a hard time, I am the most outwardly emotional team member, so there were a lot of tears, but also as a team we knew that the makers and our customers were relying on us. Although this has been an awful experience to go through, as a team it was one of the most incredible experiences, because you really saw everyone leave any extra baggage at the door and just be there for the team.
     
    When the email finally went out with our decision to postpone the show, we were in the office so late that night, we all kind of gave each other a minute. We had stayed strong for each other and we were wanting to be efficient for you guys, but we were also exhausted.
     
    When you are leading up to such a big event everything else gets quieter and that one thing you are working towards gets so loud. Even though we didn’t get to put the show on, that whole week was so insane we all took the weekend to ourselves to mentally regroup.
     
    You did such a great job of keeping makers in the loop and asking our opinions, and I know it is hard to please everyone, but do you feel like you moved forward with the consensus?
     
    Yes, I really believe in my gut, but I also love numbers, and based on the hard data we got from the makers, we moved forward with the right decision. Something I have learned in this job is that there will always be a difference of opinion, when you are working with 600+ people/personalities, everyone won’t 100% agree. I absolutely welcome the discussion though, as long as it is done with respect, I am always open to talking about it. Once that dialogue happens I think that makers see that we really are trying to do our very best to make everyone happy, but also to keep their businesses alive.
     
    Even with the postponement, there were a lot of makers who thought we should have cancelled right away. At the time though, we didn’t know that it was going to go until June, we wanted to give makers a chance to sell their products. Everyone had been working so hard for the show and we know how much needs to be produced for it, we wanted our makers to have a chance to salvage the season.
     
    Logistically, what did you guys have to go through to reschedule/cancel such a major event?
     
    Janice took this project on as our director, it was a lot of communication with Enercare to choose a new date and figure out what hall we could be in. From a logistical point of view, Val would have had to redo the entire floor plan. As a group we were going back to the beginning, reworking sponsors, partners and guest speakers. Thankfully we didn’t get too far into the replanning process before the City of Toronto said no events in June. Obviously, we would have done it happily, but from an efficiency point of view, we were able to focus our efforts elsewhere.
     
    The Virtual Show has been a success for a lot of vendors, did you guys know right away you had to do something to keep the shows presence in customers minds?
     
    We knew we had to something, but we didn’t know that exact idea right away. Once we started talking and decided that we wanted to one stay in touch with customers, two show off our makers and three connect those two groups, we knew Instagram was the best way to do this. So, it became a matter of getting all our stories organized to set up our virtual market.
     
    What other apps have you used to keep in touch while working from home?
     
    Every Tuesday and Thursday we do a group meeting through Microsoft Teams, even though we are working on our own a lot right now, we are a team so these group meetings are super helpful to stay connected. We also used Later to help schedule all our stories for the Virtual Market.
     
    Were there any 2020 business plans for OOAK that have had to be put on hold?
     
    Maker Day was something we had all been working towards for the Spring Show. It was inspired by the Camp OOAK we did, where we got to bring like-minded creatives together. We had been working on this idea for a year and were all really excited for it. We had wanted this to be something special for just the Spring Show, so we probably won’t get to see it come to fruition until 2021.  We have also been working on a blog project forever. It has two streams, one being a way for customers to get to know the makers more and the second stream where we can offer more resources and ideas to the maker community. We want it to be a space where we can share all the connections we have made with you guys, community over competition always!
     
    To be honest, this whole landscape has either accelerated or changed a lot of plans, just based on what life is like and what life will look like moving forward. This event has really catapulted everyone into the digital space in a big way and that will continue to be a goal for us. We have always been focused on our digital space at OOAK, but because of the current times we see the need for it even more.
     
    With things being so up in the air, what does planning for the Holiday Show look like?
     
    Even in a perfect scenario, where we go back to having this event like we normally would, there would still be changes. This whole experience has changed human behaviour and we have to modify our event for that, basically we are planning for every scenario. We are not pretending like everything will be perfect, we are laying out multiple situations to be prepared for A, B and/or C. There is a lot of research happening right now to ensure that with any scenario that comes up we have a plan in place.
      

    After Oriana had answered all my questions, I wanted her to know how much I appreciated them. I can’t imagine what it is like to put this show on, let alone have it postponed 2 weeks before opening day and then cancelled. OOAK is a huge part of my yearly salary, as it is with many vendors who participate. I did not envy them having to make these decisions that held a lot of our fates, but every step of the way they kept us informed, asked our opinion and really like she said before, put our interests first. Doing this show requires a lot of sacrifice on both sides and these women always show up for us. I could hear the emotion in her voice the whole time, how draining this had been to put all the work in and get no real reward.

     “Our reward is the show, coming together for a cultural moment that OOAK staff, makers and customers adore.”

    We will get that reward again, hopefully soon, until then I highly recommend following this amazing team on social media (Instagram || Facebook) so you can see what they have planned for the future, I know it will be brilliant and done with nothing but heart, because this team has that in spades!

     

     

    Femme Stories | Edition 6 | Andrea

    The idea for The Femme Stories was born last year, but with any small business some ideas just have to wait. When everything started happening surrounding the pandemic I was PROUD of my friends and colleagues for how they were tackling these unprecedented times and I wanted to document that, these are their stories.
     
    Andrea | Andrea Shelley Designs
     
    I met the maker behind Andrea Shelley Designs last year when we are across from each other at a Cheerfully Made Show. I was instantly taken not only with her jewelry, but her deep emotional connection to each piece. I loved hearing and discovering online what each collection represented. I started following her and even got to have dinner with her at OOAK last year and what I saw was a person who chooses her words very carefully because she understands the weight they carry. Her bio on her website is incredible raw and you can’t help but feel connected to her instantly, from her thoughtfulness not only with her own emotions, but the emotion she puts into each piece she creates.

    Andrea, Jewelry Designer behind Andrea Shelley Designs

     

    What was your immediate outlook? Were you getting ready for a long haul or thinking this would blow over?

     
    Unfortunately, or fortunately, I’m not sure how to put that, but I do follow the news closely and I knew that this would not be a simple 2-week fix. I figured we will have to be strict for the first couple months and then slowly open up and see where we are at, but I have been moving forward with the idea that our entire year won’t look the way we thought it would.
     
    Were you participating in any Spring Shows and how have the vendors dealt with cancelling or postponing?
     
    Yes, Easter weekend I was supposed to be in Winnipeg for the Third and Bird Show, that was postponed till May and has since been moved to July, and who knows if that will be possible, there is so much up in the air. This cancellation hit me a little harder because I have family in Winnipeg, so it’s doubly sad not being able to see them. Third and Bird is managing this really well, there is a lot of blame being thrown around right now about what they should be doing, but just like us they have bills to pay, so an immediate refund isn’t always possible. They have lost revenue as well and I think we can all be kinder to each other during this time.
     
    *** Third and Bird is moving forward with a virtual show, but then having vendors set up at a distance for clients to do their pick-ups, because of this out of town vendors can’t participate, so Andrea won’t be there.
     
    Before COVID did you focus on online sales or were shows a bigger sales generator for you?
     
    Shows are 80% of my income. Being able to talk to clients and help them add a necklace to their jewelry stack or let them try a ring on and know it fits is a huge reason that my sales are bigger in person. They want to feel the quality of my work and see the detail up close, that is harder to portray in an image for my website.
     
    For my past online sales, a lot of those have been because of markets. They see you and your product, but maybe they need to think about it. Purchasing online after the show is easier if you have already seen what you want and know the quality of the work. Trying to build your online sales without those markets, is a whole different game that I don’t really know how to play.
     
    In your stories you have done an exceptional job of displaying the detail in your work, has showing it off in a new way like this helped clients see the quality like they would at a market?
     
    Definitely, my stories and Instagram in general has given me a direct line to my clients. It allows me to show off my pieces and communicate with them like I would at a market. What I am trying to do is look at my jewelry in a new way, I am so close to it I don’t always know what feels magical to people. In some way, shape or form I have been making jewelry my entire life, so this has been a challenge to look at with new eyes. I am trying to see the pieces how my customers would, and show it to them that way. I want to recreate that market experience of discovering a new artisan or your new favourite piece.
     
    Do you have any plans to change up your website to help bring this experience to customers?
     
    My biggest goal right now is to make my website as inviting as my booth at a market. I want them to land on my homepage and feel a connection with me, feel the story behind my brand and my pieces and if you have a question, feel like it is easy to connect and reach out. I have been talking with a few of my faithful customers that come to every market I do and asking them, what do they like about the market experience, I want to bring that to life on my website for them. I think it will be a long time before markets come back in a way we are used to, so I want my website to be a new space where they can shop and feel that joy of discovery.
     
    Your Earth Day Initiative is amazing, can you explain how it works and what your goal is.
     
    In the month of April, with each purchase made I will donate to Tree Canada, basically the goal is to have 50 online purchases to get 50 trees planted. This is a huge goal for myself especially during this climate because normally I would have a market to help reach this sales goal. On top of that a lot of my production or material companies I work with are closed which makes creating some of my items impossible. I wanted to do 50 because it was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and it was a nice round number. On top of this initiative I am doing weekly Earth Day Newsletters to update clients on what I do in my studio and within the business to stay ecofriendly.
     
    ** At the time I spoke with Andrea she had sold 16 items, and felt like she might not reach her goal. As business owners we all have benchmarks we set for our companies, but when COVID hit a lot of us had to decide what to move forward with and what to push back. I love that Andrea moved forward with this worthy initiative and at the end of the month she sold 37 pieces, planting 37 trees and donated $148, which is pretty amazing!!!
     
    Has this disrupted your day to day routine or are you still able to creative pieces? If so do you find this helps to keep you focused, relieve anxiety?
     
    My routine is completely different, I use to do one day in the studio and one day in my home office, alternating each day, now it is more, what do I feel like and some days I don’t feel like doing anything. It is weird, but I am allowing myself that space to feel weird and be unproductive, because I can’t just bottle that up. I used to do that and I completely burnt out and now I am taking each day as it comes.
     
    I am really lucky to live within walking distance of my studio, so I am able to create. I am still able to get into a space I know and feel comfortable in, it gives me some sense of normalcy, it helps me come back to the making. My bench is my home and I know what to do when I am there and I don’t have to overthink anything. When you get into the making and it uses your brain, you stop obsessing, you are just focused on what you are doing.
     
     
    Andrea has used this time to not only create new pieces and give back to our planet, but to shift her focus to the online experience for her customers. To avoid waste she is moving towards a made-to-order model and is letting go of early collection that don’t speak to her anymore. As creatives we are ever changing, so Andrea is working on shifting her site to be more in balance with her current aesthetic and values. She will be continuing to plant trees for every purchase and offsetting the carbon footprint of her shipments.
    Be sure to check out her website to see her incredible designs and follow her on social media to follow her journey of change.

    Femme Stories | Edition 5 | Heather

    The idea for The Femme Stories was born last year, but with any small business some ideas just have to wait. When everything started happening surrounding the pandemic I was PROUD of my friends and colleagues for how they were tackling these unprecedented times and I wanted to document that, these are their stories.
     
    Heather | Dotty
     
    I met Heather from Dotty at my first OOAK show, I was a baby in the “market” world and was grateful for the group of women I was surrounded by. This first show I just broke even paying for my booth and was slightly discourage. Thankfully Heather was there to give advice and encouraged me to come back, she reminded me this is a process and each show you learn, adapt and grow. Now I still go to her for advice, but also a good laugh because she is hilarious, and occasionally a couch to crash on.
     
    During this crisis Heather pivoted really quickly to help her community. She donated her own scrap fabric, along with recruiting other designers to do the same. Between herself and the local factory she works, who were working from home, she got 1300 scrub caps and 7000 masks sewn for hospitals in the Barrie Area, plus has donated close to 2000 masks!

    Designer and owner of Dotty's Fashion Company

     

    With OOAK being postponed and then cancelled how did this affect your business?
     
    When it was postponed I knew that was the right call, and like a lot of us, I thought this would be over by June. I was worried, with it being pushed that people would already have the dresses they needed for weddings and summer parties, but felt confident my diehard clients would come out and support. As we all realized this would take longer to get under control and OOAK announced it was cancelling the Spring Show, I was ok at first, but mostly because I was in shock. When it set in that it wasn’t going to happen, it was a big blow, most makers heavily rely on the revenue generated at OOAK. For me, it is written into my yearly budget and this season I had decided to invest in lighter weight fabric which I normally don’t do, so it definitely has hit me.
     
    With that said, were there pieces you were excited to have your clients see in person and are there any pieces that you aren’t moving forward with now?
     
    The white eyelet tunic dress, it is the grown-up version of the cotton eyelet dresses we all had as kids. When I posted pictures of this design I got a huge reaction online, I am sad I won’t see customers try this style on in person. For my samples, there are ones that I am so in love with but without shows and stores to sell at, it makes no sense to move forward with these styles. Over the winter I had started selling with a local shop, Fresh Collective, and my pieces were selling like wildfire, and because of this, I was thinking if Dotty is selling great in Jan/Feb I better order up extra fabric for Spring to prep for OOAK as well. Thankfully I use a lot transitional fabrics, with OOAK being at the end of March, it is still winter in Canada, so I will be able to transfer these fabrics into Fall and even Spring for next year.
     
    Before COVID did you focus on online sales or were shows a bigger sales generator for you?
     
    Nothing brings me greater pleasure then hearing that cha-ching when I make a sale online! My pieces are great to ship, they don’t wrinkle, so it arrives to the customer looking the exact way it would look at the show. This past year I have been focused on my website, I hired consultants, worked on my SEO and upped my photography game by shooting each piece on different women. We all have such loyal customers and I wanted to give mine a way to buy Dotty in between shows and pop ups.
     
    How has it been running your business on top of homeschooling your kids?
     
    The hardest part is not having a schedule, we are all juggling our own things. The older kids are busy with their daily zoom school chats, my husband is working from home, and we both balance our work and make sure our youngest son is doing his school work and being entertained throughout the day. As much as possible I try and get a schedule organized for each day so we stay on top of it. Our two oldest kids help a lot, they each watch their younger brother for an hour so that I have time to look after orders that need to be shipped out. It definitely has been a team effort, we are all helping each other get through this.
     
    How have you used social media to connect with your clients during this time of self-isolation?
     
    This is another thing I have been working hard to get better at and be more consistent with. It took me awhile to get into doing Instagram stories, but I can’t argue with the reaction I get from them, clients feel more connected to what I am working on. With my newsletter I am more personal, these women are choosing to hear from me via email, it does seem different somehow. A few weeks ago, I was really missing my Dotty ladies, OOAK is our time to catch up, so I sent out an email asking how they were doing and told them what I was up to. I talked about my family, how we were coping and wished that they were all staying safe. I got so many responses, it felt amazing to hear from them, it reminded me that they want to see our journey. They like hearing from us and seeing what fabrics or buttons we are choosing. At first, I kept thinking they don’t want to see this, but they do. They want to see it all come together at the show and I know myself and my clients are missing that right now. So social media and emails has been huge to stay contacted with my Dotty clients.
     
     
    Heather is a community ambassador for the Fashion District at OOAK and even though we jokingly bring her “our problems” to tease her about this, she would actually do anything to help a fellow vendor. She is a great representation of the Made in Canada Fashion movement and I am often lucky to be her neighbour at these events. Her energy, positive attitude and straight up honesty are infections and I can’t say enough amazing things about this woman.
     
    Dotty is a womenswear clothing brand that has a classic fit. Fabric is all hand selected by Heather and she takes care to choose not only bold colours and unique prints, but also fabric that is machine washable and wrinkle free to make taking care of your Dotty Clothing easy and hassle free. Heather’s designs are all Made in Toronto and work for your real life, whether you are heading into the office or need a date night look, her designs will always have you looking great!
    Don't forget to follow her journey on Instagram.