Female Features

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Vintage Products - Melanie M, Oshawa ON
December 09, 2021

Vintage Products - Melanie M, Oshawa ON

What's up dawg? We're here to tell you! Vintage Products goal is to provide you with more eco-friendly, non toxic ways to enhance your life and your pets.  


How did your small Canadian business come to fruition?

I have worked with dogs professionally for the past 10yrs and found that the market was lacking in quality pet friendly products. I would constantly hear complaints from clients about products they paid good money for that just don't work or have too many chemicals. So one evening I decided to create a product that did work and we started with our Vintage Dog Paw Balm. I stayed up until 3am for most of the holiday season perfecting the formula and our clients were the first to test it out. Later that year I started looking into candles and creating a pet friendly line that was non-toxic, eco-friendly and smelled great!  We've added numerous products since then.


What was the main goal or mission when you first started and how has your business evolved since then?

The main goal was to create quality products that work and won't break the bank. You shouldn't have to choose between affordability and quality. We've definitely expanded our product line over the past year into a lifestyle brand that we are proud of. We've expanded our candle line to include calming candles for both our dogs and their humans made with scents that have been tested in shelters and have had incredible results on the dogs well-being. We've also added a full line of room sprays and tick repellent sprays to the product line up.

What is the highest selling product that sets you apart from other retailers in the same industry?

Our Vintage Dog Paw & Nose Balm has always been a huge hit with dog owners. It's a stiffer product that works by coating the dog's paws with a thick layer to protect from the winter elements such as salted sidewalks. You put the paw directly into the tin and the scales pick up the product with ease and form a protective barrier. It's fantastic and it works! Next our room sprays are long lasting and have rave reviews. In the spring I do believe our new hit product will be the tick repellent sprays. Ive been using our repellents all year and it's amazing to see how well it works. We went from pulling 30 ticks A DAY off our dogs to maybe catching one or two every couple weeks. Once again, creating products that work. We don't want to waste anyones hard earned money and we'd rather you spent it on a fun day with your pooch. 

Where can we find you? Are you selling in-store, online and at markets?

We are in a bunch of locations including: The Girl Gang, Markets By Dream Day Bowmanville and Pickering Locations, The Nooks Oshawa Center, K9-Pawvengers at Friday Harbor Innisfil. We are launching our official online store in early 2022 www.vintagedogproducts.ca 


Where do you seek support on any off-days or when you're feeling a day of defeat?

Oh man, I think every business owner has up days and down days with probably more down days then we'd like to admit. I have a large family of dogs, 7 to be exact and they are literally my best friends and my favourite way to just freeze time. I just love hanging out with them and they remind us dog owners everyday to enjoy the moment. But sometimes we just need sleep to reset.


Tell us about your pets!!

This is a loaded question haha,  we'll keep it fairly short.  All our dogs are rescues and long term fosters. They all have incredible stories behind them and are amazingly resilient. Maggie was my first rescue and I always say, the reason for everything. Molly is literally The Princess and Anna is 'our little girl' because she's the smallest. Then came the boys Blue, Roger and Tommy. Sadly, last year one of my favourite dog walking clients passed away and he entrusted me with the most important thing in his life, his best friend Delta. I could tell you so many stories about these crazy kids and I love to share our adventures through instagram and tiktok.


What makes it important to support local small-business Canadians right now? 

You are supporting driven and passionate individuals and these are the people you want to continue to help build up. That small local business may one day provide jobs for others. These types of jobs are important to small communities and we really want to support and give a leg up to these talented business owners. On a personal note, I absolutely love supporting anyone who wants to start a business. I want to see every small business owner succeed and live everyday loving what they do. This just makes for happier individuals and that has a ripple effect on those around them. 


What goals or plans can we anticipate from Vintage products in 2022?

I am constantly working on new ideas and plans. Product wise I tend to get my ideas when I'm just walking my dogs or speaking with clients. I prefer to have product ideas come to me naturally rather than forcing a new concept. All my businesses have been driven by passion and need. You have to love what you do and what you create but there has to be a need for it as well. So I wait for the right idea to come and then just run with it. 

We will be expanding into more locations across the GTA and north of the city next year which is super exciting.


What advice would you give to other owners like yourself transitioning through the COVID pandemic to keep their heads up and carry forward into the New Year?

Honestly, Do what you love and you will be the richest person in the world. Growing a business is not an easy walk in the park. It takes time, dedication and passion. The more you love what you are doing the easier it is to fight for it. Make sure you are truly doing what you love and your business will succeed. I have to keep telling myself 'It takes time' Keep pushing forward and you'll reach your goal. 


 Melanie M.


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Missy Woods, Pottery By The Woods - London, ON.
May 02, 2021

Missy Woods, Pottery By The Woods - London, ON.

Coffee has never looked so good. Missy's pottery pieces keep hot drinks hot with a natural down to earth feel. Get your own hug from a mug.



How did Pottery by the Woods start? 

It all started in a small classroom off campus through Fanshawe College. I was excited but intimidated all at the same time. I dove straight in getting my hands dirty! Knowing the love, I had to master clay, I was my own worst critique. I knew in order to hone in all the skills I was taught classroom time was just not enough. A wheel became not a “want” but rather a “must!"

I purchased my first used one that looked something not from the century! It was fully Cast Iron and to shift the arm (instead of a pedal) took 2 arms! The Wheel became part of my furniture and home décor. As time went by friends and family begun asking me to make things than I was approached by M.S. Society asking me to go in their Christmas show and it just kind of lead the way to where I am today.


Where Do You Find Most Your Inspiration?

My Inspiration comes mainly from my family and my customers which, I prefer to not call them because most become friends to me. I guess on social media, or in person. I like to know I create a bond with each person especially when I am making a pottery piece, so that mug or bowl speaks to who they are and is special or unique. The other part of my Inspiration comes from being on the wheel itself or other well known hobby potters.


How many are involved in the business?

It’s a one woman show - from designing and cutting labels to making products, it’s just me. I do get help with hauling my products to markets and a ton of moral support. My family are my biggest supporters and cheerleaders. 


Are you a One Woman Show?

Yes, I absolutely am. It takes 2 weeks to make one vessel (Mug or Bowl) from start to finish. I myself, prefer hand painting, all my pieces over dipping to ensure extra protection on rims etc. (but this is my preference). It then goes to trimming each piece and sanding. Each item goes in the kiln at least twice up too 2400 degrees. Therefore, all pottery is oven safe (which many people do not know.)


What was the first piece you ever made?

This was pinch pots, and it was horrible! It looked like an elephant foot haha!


What were you doing before pottery?

I was raising two beautiful daughters whom one is now in University and the other in Quality Control for Windmills. I had a small candle business in Grand Bend, Ontario. I do have a job background in Social Services, Human Foundations, and Sexual Deviance. However, due to a traumatic event I no longer am in the field and I am now an Epilepsy Warrior!


In five years where do you want to be?

I will and I am always growing as a Potterist. I Know it takes 5 years to see any profit from your business, so I would like to be sitting there. I would love to open my own café and sell my own mugs to drink from! As well a bigger studio.


Who is your largest support system?

All of my followers, friends and family! I would not be “Pottery By The Woods” without any of you!


What can we see next from Pottery by the Woods?

Oohh lala…. this is going to be dinnerware; Modern and Contemporary. I cannot wait to show off the new pieces! Some of my inspiration plates came from Italy, as they are egg like shaped and I am still learning, (and waiting for my molds) however I will be glazing them in contrasting colours and they will be a must see! I also am working on some platters and larger bowls.


Who would you say is one of your greatest role models?

This Question is hard to answer... as I have so many! I have three that keep me focused and in check!

First my Mom! – Hello? Who wouldn’t? She taught me everything in life and to boot … she was a hobby Potterist back in the day! She can still kick it and she rocks on the wheel!

Secondly, Ruth Dean. She has seen me at my worst and best. She is my Grand Bend Yoga Bear! Full of feminism and spirit, she empowers, she’s a leader, a mother and an activist and highly loyal. Ruth takes life and lives it, she is a remarkable woman I look up to and honour for her dedication and teaching.

Lastly, Kathleen Parker from London Ontario, this woman was my mentor before I went into the field of social services. She taught me a lot that corrective criticism was empowering! Who would have thought! This woman is community caring even when not at work! She has huge empathy and empowers families every single day! Kathleen is very self-less and highly motivated and dedicated in caring! She is one of those people you do not meet very often through life.

Without these Women in my life I honestly do not know where I would be or “Pottery By The Woods”. They have kept me dedicated to my business, honest of who I am really am as a person (not just a business owner) they believe in me, and keep me centered and driven and focused.

For someone starting their own business what would you say is the most important piece of advice you would give?

Pay attention to small details, I can get consumed by my pottery so my receipt books were neglected. Tax time was a mess, your receipts must be counted for every number you cannot just rip one out! Being a new business owner with a GST number I did not know this. Print receipts or transactions off as you buy them and put them in a folder for each month, if you do not have time to log them right away. This saves you from a tangled mess of email sorting! Also account for advertisement costs, they can add up very fast.

- Missy Woods



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Allison McCracken - Rose & Grace Designs located in London, ON
March 02, 2021

Allison McCracken - Rose & Grace Designs located in London, ON

This month's boss babe is Allison McCracken from London, ON. She has a creative eye that is depicted in her original handmade earrings with Rose & Grace Designs. We love all her designs, find out why below...


Check out all Rose & Grace earrings in our shop. 


How did Rose & Grace Designs start?

After I had my youngest I decided to stay home. I wanted to be able to contribute, but from home.  I love creating things and I love earrings. Earrings can add so much to an outfit. I wanted to create something I would love and wear  and that others would too. So starting up my own business just made sense.  


Where did the inspiration for the business name come from?

My daughters. I named the business after them! It’s there middle names Adalyn Grace and Everly Rose.  No meaning behind the names.  I just really liked how the names went together. There names are so beautiful and feminine and when deciding on the name for the business I wanted it to have that feminine feel.


Rose and Grace will celebrate one year in business in July (wha-hoo), what were you doing before this? 

Dental assistant. 

Do you miss the office atmosphere?

Sometimes . I really loved my job, but there is something really rewarding about making something that people love. And it allows me to be home with my girls. 


Where have you seen the most growth in the past year?

In myself. I really needed to step out of my comfort zone to make this business a success. I never thought I would start my own business. I guess it took me a lot to believe in myself to actually go for it. I’m sure a lot can relate to that. 


What was the  most difficult aspect you faced opening a business during a pandemic, and where would you like to see the biggest change in this coming year?

The most difficult aspect I would say would be getting my business out there and noticed when we were not able to do it in person.  I will be joining a few markets this year in the spring and into the summer, fall months locally in London so am I am looking forward to that.  


What made you want to become a part of The Girl Gang?

I thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase my business with other talented, like-minded women entrepreneurs. 


If you could tell your 20 year old self some words of encouragement what would they be?

Too just go for it!  Not to be afraid to put yourself out there. When I was 20 I was actually in an art program. Beal Art here in London. I worked for a bit after that and then went to school to become a dental assistant. 


We know you make killer earrings, do you ever expand into other areas of creative design?

Yes!  I have worked with some local businesses for custom requests as well as other personal gift request. I hope to continue that and expand into other things. 


We love the mix of natural wood with the mirror/glitter acrylics, what top pieces are your customers buying lately?

People are really liking the mirrored with the walnut and the walnut with pearl white. They are also liking the small stud earrings as well. 


Now that you’ve come this far … what’s next for your 2021 goals??

I would like to branch out more and offer more jewelry options like necklaces. I would also like to continue with custom orders and possibly adding other items other then jewelry. I would like to add necklaces to my collection. I made some business name tags and signs for local businesses. I would like to start offering that more.  Possibly more personalized items for babies and kids as well. (room signs, month milestones etc.)



Allison McCracken/The Girl Gang 

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Freda Lin, 'The Bad Potter' - Handmade Ceramics from Vancouver, B.C.
January 25, 2021

Freda Lin, 'The Bad Potter' - Handmade Ceramics from Vancouver, B.C.

Introducing Freda the maker behind "The Bad Potter", perfectly Imperfect Handmade Ware, a small-batch, handmade, ceramics business based out of Vancouver, BC.


Read out more about Freda and the inspiration behind her work. 


When and how did you come up with the idea of The Bad Potter?


The Bad Potter started back in 2018 as a way to share my wonky pottery journey on Instagram. At the time I was at a full time 9 to 5 that required long dedicated days on screens. I used to walk by a seaside studio on my lunch break and I’d press my face against the window, fantasizing about creating on the wheel with my hands. I was initially drawn to the physical involvement of ceramics, each step demands your complete attention and presence. I felt like it was something I could enjoy, express creativity and allow spontaneity all at the same time. So I took a beginners class at the seaside studio, Claytek in Vancouver, subsequently a couple of other workshops. I begin to make a lot of everyday functional tableware, lots of bowls and plates. Though I thought my work was terrible at the time, the idea of my work being enjoyed by others meant (and still does now) so much to me, I eventually started to put my work out there for sale on Etsy and at local markets. That opened up a whole other side of this craft, the business side, which also brings me a lot of joy. Really, it all started with the goal of having fun, which is still the focus today.  


Where does your inspiration come from?

With a blended background of design and marketing, the ability to bringing ideas and physical prototypes to life (almost) instantly is appealing. I love that you can be inspired or have an idea, chances are, you can create it with clay. Many inspirations in my work, the biggest has to be everyday functionalities. 




Do you remember the first piece you ever made? 

A blue, green, black cup that looked like a tornado blew through and it got stuck. The end result was not how I expected at all! I remember wanting to get back to the drawing board right away and make it again.


What advice would you give a beginner?

You can’t force creativity, it flows. And being mindful of my bandwidth has saved me from many many burnouts. 


Do you feel between your marketing business and pottery business you have created a harmonious balance?

I love that pottery is super demanding. You have to make the pieces, glaze them fire them and then after all the trial and error you have to sell them. You do it all! Right now, I definitely prioritize making, and marketing is secondary. I try to fit it all in. And I have become better at balancing. I find lots of fun, unique ideas of how to market a piece during the making process. I love sharing a bit about the process as I go, and people seem to enjoy that.




Who is one of your female role models and why?

My grandma. She ran the home I grew up in China, raised a flock of grandkids, and still had time to practice self-care and her artistry. She’s done it with so much grace and intention day in and day out. She’s taught me at an early age the strength and power of a woman.  




What does Girl Gang mean to you?

Girl Gang has been a huge source of support, inspiration, and female empowerment the past year! It’s so amazing to be a part of a women-run business collective, we truly learn so much from each other, support each other, making our goals and dreams that much closer. No doubt having your own business has its challenges, Girl Gang connects us and makes it fun to share our journeys. 




Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

Enjoying a well-oiled studio space, operating my kiln and blending glaze recipes. And sharing the craft!




Are you working on any new projects/or have a dream project? 

Aside from setting up my own studio right now, I am working on large vases and carved vessels for my first soda firing in March. 



Digging up local clay and pit firing has always fascinated me, that’s up there on the list to try!




What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

That I actually love cats (also). I’m a huge animal lover. Not just canines :) I’ve been a proud owner of chickens, ducks, a snake, a turtle, cats growing up.




Thank You Freda! 


Freda Lin





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Jolene Laskey - Wabanaki Maple Syrup in Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation), NB
October 29, 2020

Jolene Laskey - Wabanaki Maple Syrup in Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation), NB

Wabanaki is 100% Indigenous female-owned and located on Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation), Wabanaki Maple is proud to introduce you to this tradition that's shared by many Peoples of the Wabanaki Confederacy; Wolastoqiyik, Mi'kmaq, Penobscot, Abenaki, and Passamaquoddy.


Read our interview with Jolene below to find out more about this Canadian staple. 

What is Wabanaki?

Wabanaki translated, means “People of the Dawn” or “People of the first Light” it has other references too such as, People of the Eastern Woodlands, but the meaning of Wabanaki refers to the five different First Nation tribes known as, the Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and the Abanaki, together they formed an alliance to protect and watch over the lands, this alliance is referred to as the Wabanaki Confederacy. 


How did Wabanaki start?

I had my first experience and exposure to gathering and harvesting maple syrup many years ago, while working at my sister's hobby sugar bush. I must say, it was one of my more enjoyable and memorable work experiences. So for me, I believe a seed had been planted many years ago and has been nurtured and grown into the company today. Inspired by our ancestral roots, Wabanaki Maple was started in 2018. I wanted to share and reconnect people and communities with a piece of our Indigenous history and culture through our maple syrup products. 


Have you always lived in New Brunswick? 

For most of my life I've lived in New Brunswick, but I was born in Nova Scotia and lived there until the age of 5. I grew up in a military family and non-Indigenous communities, and it wasn't until my father retired from the Navy that we found our way back to New Brunswick and then some 20yrs later reconnected to our First Nation community of Tobique!


What is your favourite way to serve?

I have many favourite ways to serve, but the one I use daily is to serve maple syrup as a natural sweetener for my coffee, and I also love using our maple syrup as the final topping to compliment my French toast breakfast.


Do you have a favourite flavour?

I’d have to say I’m partial to our Bourbon barrel aged syrup, it pairs perfectly with fish and seafood like salmon and scallops, which happen to also be some of my favorite foods! 


What does Girl Gang mean to you?

I think the Girl Gang definitely represents strength and empowerment for all women nation-wide. Especially women business owners in communities across our nation. By sharing, supporting and connecting women they are helping to foster and create a healthy business environment, where we can learn, grow and thrive together!


What are your professional goals in the next year?

One of my goals for next year is to move the business forward into international and export markets. I plan to learn the ins and outs of exportation. For this advancement, we will be focused on more market research and identifying new markets, we also plan on expanding our team and to train with the proper process and procedures for the distribution of our products for both our B2C & B2B sales channels.


What should every woman try at least once in her life?

I'd suggest taking a couple days and head out towards the great outdoors, set up camp and surround yourself with forest and waterways to connect with Mother Nature, without internet or phones, and just disconnect from your daily routine for a while. Take this opportunity to invigorate and replenish yourself.


What are some of your favorite hobbies or pastimes? 

It may sound odd, but I like getting my hands dirty! Give me a shovel, some seeds, and some dirt and I'm happy. Working outside in my multiple flower gardens is what I refer to as my "therapy"! I also really enjoy gathering and harvesting some of our traditional food from our environment. Whether it's picking berries, fishing or hunting, it's even better when I have my children and grandchildren to accompany me. It's these special moments that allow for me to pass on and share my knowledge with them and to create new memories. 


Jolene Laskey
CEO & President

Wabanaki Mapl
(Wolastoq Maple Products)
(506) 479-4197


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Candice Mills, Flora & Forage - Camlachie, ON.
January 22, 2020

Candice Mills, Flora & Forage - Camlachie, ON.

Your Local Girl Gang with florist Candice Mills

What is Flora & Forage?

Flora & Forage is a floral design studio that focus’ on local grown, garden sown and also flown in flowers / product to create magical weddings, events and every day floral needs that evoke emotion, consider the environment and provide inspiration. We strive hard to use as much local love as we can so you can find us foraging in the bush or at the side of a road quite often. We understand that seasonally not everything we want is available so we will order product in from all around the world to fulfill the designs that we customize for our brides, clients and customers.

How did Flora & Forage start?

There were two moments in the last three years that made me decide to launch ff. The first is when I met my first official bride at my sisters 25th birthday. The second is after I had a super intense wedding week at a flower shop I was working at in Toronto. First - long story short, I had built a flower crown for my sister on her birthday. One of her friends that was there saw it and was instantly in love and wanted us to do her wedding. It was the first time I had someone full trust in designing a wedding with out any one else to over look the final look. Melissa was a dream first bride and basically let my imagination run wild. It was epic and I learned a lot; my sister is a fricking power house, the body can withstand going for a restroom break for about 10 hours if ones mind is occupied enough, and also how to price my designs a bit better.
—> please see Melissa & Elliots wedding on our website for the pics of our first wedding <—

The second moment in my life was, again long story short, after a 5 wedding week on my own with a team of 3 other designers. I planned it, made sure the team stayed on task and had the boss, after her vacation in Florida, shocked she didn’t have to stay late to finish the stuff we “ didn’t do”. It was all of this, and much more to be honest, that made me realize, I had booked 40+ weddings for her that year and had handled this + that… again and again. I figured it was time that I could do this on my own.

Who is one of your female role models & why?

One of my female role models would be my first floral lady boss Wanda with wildflowers in Calgary. She has been in the industry for 25+ years and is the literal definition of a lady boss. She can weld, she can design, she’s owned her own biz for 35+ years and she has always been herself around me and allowed me to be me around her. If it wasn’t for Wanda giving me a chance without any experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today. She taught me the basic mechanics of everything flowers. Their names, large to small bloom placement and how to properly care and cut the flowers so they lasted as long as they could. Our designing is very different today but I will always be thankful for the chance Wanda gave me as it was everything I needed to get me where I am. She supported me through a drug addiction, rough relationship and the loss of a very close friend. Wanda was the first woman to show me you only need yourself to get through the problems of life. Watching her raise a child on her own, on her own decision to have one out of wed lock and out of relationship, showed me a strength in a woman I had never seen before.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I literally second guess everything and have an out of body experience after a major design. I live on a high afterwards that almost makes me feel like I didn’t even do the wedding or installation. Its insane. I actually don’t have the vocabulary to express how it feels but 90% of the time I’m telling myself “ you cant do this, you wont do this, the flowers are dying, your business is failing ..Etc etc..” and then its done and I go.. “ wow, ok, I’m amazing “ it doesn’t sink in like it should and I know its a horrible spiral. Silly, but I can’t help it.

What is your favourite flower?

Thats literally the hardest question ever. Truly. Just when I think “ you’re the one “ something else comes along and I’m like ooooooooooooooo, if I had to choose…. I couldn’t. I have like a top 10 that is constantly changing when I discover new flowers, grasses and greens.

What should every woman try at least once in her life?

To be creative. In any way. I read a book called “ women who run with the wolves” and she speaks of the creative life vs. The “ stuck “ life, a life thats full of expectations and supposed to not what you want and how you feel. I am soooo lucky to be in an industry that not only is creative but supportive of women entrepreneurs that I think if you are able to align yourself with the same career, hobby, passion or what ever you can that allows you to express your true self, then you wlll never loose your wild ways.

What does it mean to you to be a woman?

This is one of the hardest questions I have been asked. Its actually taken me a few times to answer it. I have had a love hate relationship with being a woman my whole life because of toxic / abusive relationships, social media pressures and my own personal insecurities. I hate my period, I hate my hairy legs, and lets be honest, who has time to wax their moustache every week. If I am being honest, the most I have loved myself has been in the last 4 years. After finding strength in myself to get out of the relationships I thought I deserved, away from the drugs I thought I needed to pursue a career that changed my life, I learned that being a women is one of the most powerful, resilient, beautiful things in this world. I have learned that the lessons I was put through made me the honest, loving, creative and kind woman I am today. A woman that puts her heart into everything she does without fear of failure. A woman who can admit when she is wrong and needs to retreat and repair. A women who is in touch with her wild ways and is in love with her being. Finally.
I also have to thank my fiancé, adrian rende, for allowing me to continue to grow and support the woman I am. When someone finds someone who lets them be their true self at all times and loves them no matter what.. Its one of the most empowering feelings to be loved the way you love yourself. If not more.

What are your goals for f&f in the next year?

Our goal for ff in the next year is to hopefully have a home that we will make into my studio / cut flower garden. I want to align myself with more local gardeners and farmers so we can get as much Ontario grown flowers as possible. I would also love to see our everyday orders open up, more workshops and one on one lessons. If we can inspire more people to be creative then we have done our job and we hope to keep doing it!

What do you hope to see from Girl Gang?

The continued support of local artists and female entrepreneurs. It’s absolutely amazing what you have done to bring awareness to hard work and dedication artists have in regards to their passions, creations and careers. Thank you!

Instagram: floraandforage
Email: floraandforage@gmail.Com

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Nicki Straus, Wick + Bear - Camlachie, ON.
January 22, 2020

Nicki Straus, Wick + Bear - Camlachie, ON.

What is wick + bear?

Wick + bear is a one-woman owned small business that was born out of a new mom’s love for candles, and a concern for the quality and purity of the air in her home. Our mission is to offer clean burning, high quality and eco-conscious candles with uniquely delightful scents.

What inspired you to start a candle business?

I started wick + bear 6 months after my son Logan James was born. I've always had a love for home fragrance and aromatherapy. Candles are ritualistic for me. I love the ambiance and comfort found in burning candles wherever I spend my days; in my home office, kitchen, living room, dining room. At night I diffuse essential oils on my bedside table. While I was pregnant I started to wonder about what was in the candles I was burning. What was I putting into the air around my unborn babe and me? I asked about ingredients at the big chain store where I had always shopped. My question was met with confusion and a lack of knowledge that I found unsettling. From there, I purchased a book on beginner candle making, started sourcing natural supplies, and testing. Voila! wick + bear was born, named after our son who we call our Logie bear.

Who is one of your female role models and why?

My mom. Hands down. I’ve always known how incredible she is in her role as a mother and in business, but my admiration and respect for her went through the roof when I became a mother myself. She’s always held very senior positions in the telecommunications industry and has navigated that world (often in an ‘old boys club’ atmosphere) so well. Beyond that, she managed to run our household, make dinners, pack lunches for 3 kids, run us around to various activities, the works. I often feel overwhelmed with just one child and the help of a very supportive husband, so looking back I don’t know how she managed it all. We’re extremely close, and I can go to her for help and advice with anything, knowing that she’ll steer me in the right direction. If we lived in the same town she would for sure be the other face of wick + bear (mom please move to Sarnia!)

What is your favourite part of running your own business?

It can be really challenging running a business solo. Sometimes you feel isolated and that no one cares about it as much as you do; your failures are only on you. But the wonderful thing about it is that every little success, every sale, every compliment is all on you as well. It's SO rewarding, and such a confidence builder to know you can do it yourself.

What sets wick + bear products apart from mass produced candles?

I hand select every material that goes into the candle in your home. I make them myself, from scratch, with the utmost care about quality and purity. Most people don't realize that mass-produced candles contain petroleum byproducts, hormone mimickers, and lead or zinc. wick + bear candles don't contain any of that. You can enjoy the scent and the ambiance without the headaches.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I feel like there is very little that people don't know about me because I share EVERYTHING on my Insta stories. People would probably be surprised to know that I studied German for 4 years in University; all the way to advanced! My German grandmother (who we called Omi) had told me that if I studied it, she’d take me there. After that, I continued to my studies, and it’s become one of my favourite countries to visit.

What does Girl Gang mean to you?

The girl gang is so intertwined with wick + bear to me. I started my instagram page July 23rd and I remember getting an email from the girl gang about a week later asking if I was interested in joining. At that point I had made maybe 4 candles… I said yes of course, and it’s been the best decision I’ve made for my business. I’m not from Sarnia, and through the girl gang I’ve had the opportunity to meet some incredible women. We have such a talented city, and I’m constantly inspired by the women around me. The girl gang is a way to formalize that network and bring us all together on a consistent basis.

What are your goals for wick + bear in the next year?

I recently returned to work in the corporate world and so wick + bear has had to slow down. No more making candles while Logan naps, no more doing daytime deliveries to stores, the post office or customers’ homes. That being said, I can’t imagine my life without wick + bear, so it’s not going anywhere! A while back I asked my friend who is a successful lawyer, wife and mother of 2 how she does it. She told me “you will amaze yourself with how efficient you become.” That insight has stuck with me ever since. I’ve managed to keep it all in balance just by taking things one day at a time.

What should every woman try at least once in their life?

Taking on something that they’re not sure they can do. That may sound counterintuitive, but I really think you need to jump in head first and THEN figure out what you’re doing. I recently had the chance to see Jillian Harris speak at a conference and her advice was fake it till you make it. Apply for the job you think you’re too junior for. Sign up for the race that you can’t possibly imagine running. Start your business that you don’t think people will buy from. You are worthy. You can do ANYTHING. If it’s important to you, you’ll make time for it.

What is your favourite downtime activity?

I have so many!! Some of my favourites are sitting outside with a glass of wine at the end of the day, reading a good female-centric thriller with my bedside diffuser going, playing soccer, and of course… making candles!



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Liana Smith, The Grove Soap Co. - Bright's Grove, ON.
January 22, 2020

Liana Smith, The Grove Soap Co. - Bright's Grove, ON.

What is The Grove Soap Co.?

The Grove Soap Co is a local, small-batch, artisan, and all-natural soap business that I run out of my home in Brights Grove ON. Our products are vegan, made with premium natural ingredients like clays, herbs and essential oils. We also focus on reducing waste and our environmental impact by minimizing our packaging (we don’t use plastic packaging) and reusing/recycling/and buying our supplies in bulk. I manage the entire business myself from creating the recipes, ordering supplies, making the soaps, packing, delivering, and marketing. Our story started when I received a bar of soap that was made by my grandfather, and for fun I attempted to copy his original recipe that he made on his farm.

What made you turn your hobby into a soap business?

I was making so much soap that I was giving it away to friends to try, and people started to ask to buy it! I had no intention of starting a business but seeing how much people enjoyed the products really encouraged me. I eventually signed up for a pop-up sale and asked another friend to make a logo for me, and after that there was no turning back.

What is your favourite part of running your own business?

My favourite part of running a business is that I can be completely creative with everything I make. I choose everything that goes into the soaps, the scents, and how I do the marketing, when I work, and how much soap I make. I also love that I can work mostly from home, which is great with 3 young kids.

Do you have a favourite soap to make?

They are all my favourite! Seriously that’s how I ended up with so many kinds - I love them all. If I had to choose though, my favourite to make is probably Lavender Bergamot because it makes my house smell amazing.

When you aren’t making soap, what are you doing?

If I’m not making soap then I’m most likely doing something with my husband and kids. We love camping and hiking and try to get away as often as we can. I’m on maternity leave right now from my day job as a Mental Health Therapist so I’m home a lot! I also really enjoy gardening.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

This is such a hard question! People would probably be surprised to know that I really love and collect antiques (jars/glassware, furniture, household goods...even my VW van is technically an antique) and It’s my dream to live in and restore and old Victorian home someday.

What does Girl Gang mean to you?

It’s hard to put into words what Girl Gang means to me because it’s a very special thing. Being a part of girl gang has been one of the most supportive and empowering groups I’ve ever been a part of. For me, it has meant connecting with a group of women who I can turn to for support and encouragement. There’s no judgment and some of us talk every day and have become my best friends. Girl Gang has also been a way to rise up as a collective and to help lift others who have may have been struggling with an area of their business or personal life. In the past, I didn’t know where to turn for help if I got stuck or something challenged me about my business. Now, I have this great group of women who always have my back.

What are your goals for The Grove Soap in the next year?

For me, I’m a big believer in choosing to do one thing but do it really well. This is why my product line is mainly soap, with the exception of our facial oil. Over the next year I’d like to keep to that belief and work on a few new recipes, continue to develop my craft and I introduce more seasonal options. I’d also like to add to my retail options so there’s more of a selections available to my customers at local shops.

Who is a female role model to you and why?

Honestly my biggest role model is my mom. She worked full time when I was growing up and somehow managed to balance work/home life with a family in a way that I always felt like she had time for us. She also beat cancer when I was in elementary school, and today is the best grandma to my own kids. I’ve always looked up to her.

What is one thing you would tell anyone looking to start their own side hustle?

I think that for anyone starting out I would say to make sure that they really love what they’re making. I never had the intention of going into business when I started making soap, I just loved to make it and it grew from there. You’re going to spend hundreds of hours on your business so you want to be sure you’re doing something you won’t get sick of. I’ve made a lot of soap over the past few years and I still find the process enjoyable and relaxing (for the most part!)

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Amanda Bydeley, Pine & Peg - Petrolia, ON.
January 22, 2020

Amanda Bydeley, Pine & Peg - Petrolia, ON.

Your Local Girl Gang with Amanda Bydeley from Pine & Peg

What is Pine & Peg?

Pine & Peg is my small business featuring peg dolls. These range anywhere from custom to nativity to wedding cake toppers to generic sets and I'm starting to branch out into accessories as well. Do your little woodland critters need a log car? Do your mini fairies need leaf beds and cupcakes? They're all available!! The ideas are literally endless so more and more sets are coming out all the time.

How did Pine & Peg start?

I painted my first peg doll set as a birthday gift for my niece 5 years ago. I never thought much of it again until my friends over at Studio 651 mentioned that they would love to offer peg dolls in their store. I offered to paint them a test set and it took off from there! It's been neat watching it grow, especially because my dad always pushed me in my art and encouraged me to use my gifts. He's not here today, but I think he'd be pretty proud :).

Who is one of your female role models & why?

Role models are endless and everyone is so different. I really admire Joanna Gaines. I know she's super popular right now but there's a reason for that. She's grounded, successful, focused and know's what she's doing. Her style has branched out into millions of homes across the country and she knows what she can handle and she handles it well. I admire her for taking a step down from her hit tv show to focus on her family. As a mom to 3 little ones, the balance between a small business and being mom can be hard. Family first, business second.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I'm just an average wife, mom, business owner but I think most people are surprised to find out I got married so young. I was 19 and my husband was 22. We just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary!

Were you always interested in the arts?

YES! I have been drawing and painting since a young age. I would sit at the table for hours colouring and sketching. I've dabbled in various forms from knitting to cross stitching to painting but could never really find one thing to focus on. I want to do it all!

What should every woman try at least once in her life?

Stepping out of their comfort zone just a wee bit. It never hurts and you'll be surprised to see where it takes you. I was always one to think "no, no one will want to buy MY art work". Well, I proved myself wrong and I am swamped with all kinds of custom orders! I'm extroverted but yet never wanted to put myself out there for the fear of being judged or compared. It's been a fun journey and I'm so thankful for those around me who pushed me out of my comfort zone.

What were you like in high school?

Not much different than I am today actually! I loved the social setting and being surrounded by friends all the time. I was pretty focused and took the time to do my school work well. I didn't get involved in too much extra curricular actives, however, because I grew up on a chicken farm and had to come home every day to pick eggs!

What are your goals for P&P in the next year?

I recently launched my Close at Hand initiative. This is where deserving kids/families/people are nominated to be candidates for a free custom set on my behalf. Something to bring a little smile to their faces as they go through tough situations and so that they always have their family "close at hand". It started with a little girl named Lilah Kate and her heartbreaking yet touching story of a kidney and liver transplant and having her daddy tragically taken from them when she finally got to come home from the hospital after being born. I sent her a surprise custom peg doll family including her daddy to have while she recovers. More can be read about this on my social media sites but overall, I can't wait to see more deserving people receive one and have their stories spread!
PLUS, another one of my main goals is to have a website launched in the late fall/winter so ordering can be done easier.


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