Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
A friend of mine returned to Canada from a trip to Cuba in 2004 and brought me a gift. It was a "Castro" hat — a style that was gaining popularity in North America at the time, and it was too small for my head. My first instinct was to try to enlarge it, but after consulting my aunt, a seamstress, about how to go about doing it, it became clear that I would probably ruin the hat if I tried. So I decided to sew a hat instead. I had recently made some cut off shorts from an old pair of pants, so I used the cut off material for my hat. My first attempt was a disaster but hat number two was a success. After wearing it around and getting compliments I started making them as gifts for friends. Pretty soon I was selling them on consignment at a local hat store in Winnipeg, at music festivals and finally online through Shopify 11 years later. I handmake all hats in my workshop in Winnipeg, Manitoba with recycled fabrics. Used ice cream pails are salvaged to provide the stiffener in the visors. Some new materials are required, such as thread, velcro and hardware; these are purchased from local businesses.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
A friend of mine was hosting a house concert and I was given the opportunity to sell my hats at it. This was the first time I realized that there was a chance I could make this a viable business option. In July and August 2015 I took my hats on tour to various folk music festivals across western Canada. People were excited about quality handmade hats, meeting the maker and keeping the sun out of their eyes on long festival days.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
I use the Shopify and Shopify POS mobile apps on my iPhone to do all transactions. I mail everything out through Canada Post using handmade envelopes made of recycled ledger paper.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Figure out who you are and what you want your business to stand for and stay true to it. Sometimes it seems easier to compromise. Finding recycled fabrics takes time. Handmaking instead of outsourcing may seem like a slower way. But it's worth it. I support local thrift stores doing good work and I remain connected to each product.