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360 – A Maker Whose Mission Goes Beyond the Product with Jennifer St. John of Marnie and Michael
Episode 3605th March 2022 • Gift Biz Unwrapped • Sue Monhait
00:00:00 00:53:46

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Running a for-profit business with a social cause isn't for everyone. But if the idea resonates with you, this show will give you some things to think about. Get ready to hear a story about a maker whose deep-seated impact goes way beyond her product. You’re going to hear Jennifer’s business development story and how and why she’s incorporated a health initiative overlay to a level I’ve not seen before. We get into the difference between truly integrating a social entity into the mission of your business versus raising money for a cause you hold dear. Both are important, of course, but different. Being true to yourself and your life, and taking your reality to help change someone else’s experience now. And even better, using your handmade product as the pathway to do so. Jennifer had always wanted to create a successful creative business. And she’s done just that! Within the last five years, she’s married her love of art and design with a social give-back business model to launch MARNIE & MICHAEL. Jennifer and her team design and make leather bags and accessories with 15% of profits going towards their own mental health initiation.

Building A For-Profit Business With A Social Cause

  • If you want to have a cause for your business, there has to be a very strong personal reason why you're choosing that social entity or that social cause.
  • When your reasons are personal, your story will resonate with your audience.
  • Be vulnerable especially if it's a subject you're passionate about and is going to be a big part of your brand. It's important to be open and transparent about your experience.
  • Understand your product is not for everyone. Find your market, niche, and community and focus on that sweet spot.
  • It’s impossible to grow the company if everything is made by you. You need people to produce the product. It's still a handmade product, even if it's not YOU making it. <-- Super important to understand this! 
  • Get a full picture of who you may be hiring. Have a try-out time to see you you’re a fit. Bring in people who are so eager to learn and open to the whole process.
  • The WHY is more important to the business than the product. The messaging of what we represent, what we stand for, and what we do is crucial.
  • At least 60-70% of our sales come to us because of our cause.
  • The amount we donate is included in our pricing upfront so that it's a clear-cut action.
  • Our business plan includes brick & mortar, direct to consumer, and wholesale.
  • Hiring can be tough. Referrals from people you trust or other business owners in your area often work out best.
  • Make sure your hiring vetting process is tight. Don't skip checking references. Do a testing period before fully hiring.
Listen to the full conversation for more inspiration and tips about building a for-profit business with social cause!

Resources Mentioned

Jennifer's Contact Links

WebsiteFacebook | Instagram

Join Our FREE Gift Biz Breeze Facebook Community

Become a Member of Gift Biz Breeze If you found value in this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you automatically get the next episode downloaded for your convenience. Click on your preferred platform below to get started. Also, if you'd like to do me a huge favor - please leave a review. It helps other creators like you find the show and build their businesses too. You can do so right here: Rate This Podcast Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify Thank you so much! Sue Know someone who needs to hear this episode? Click a button below to share it!

Transcripts

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Gift biz,

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unwrapped episode 360,

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And your market,

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You find your community Attention.

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Gifters bakers,

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crafters, and makers pursuing your dream can be fun.

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Whether you have an established business or looking to start one.

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Now you are in the right place.

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This is gift to biz unwrapped,

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helping you turn your skill into a flourishing business.

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Join us for an episode,

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packed full of invaluable guidance,

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resources, and the support you need to grow.

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Your gift biz here is your host gift biz gal,

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Sue moon Heights.

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Hi there.

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It's Sue and I'm thrilled that you're joining me here today.

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It's already March and you know what that means?

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We are entering into a motivating new season in person shows

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are opening up again and the opportunity to present your product

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I want to remind you that doing events like craft shows

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and farmer's markets offers great photo and posting opportunities for social

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media. We talked about this in one of our tips and

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talk episodes in the podcast just a couple of weeks ago.

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And I bring this up because you've told me you're discouraged.

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access. Right now,

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today's show really grabs at my heart.

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Recently, we had a thread going on in gift biz breeze,

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my Facebook group,

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about the many facets of your lives.

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You all have a lot going on and many things that

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you care about in addition to your business.

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Of course,

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what I love so much about our topic today is the

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conversation about merging something that's really important to you personally,

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in this case,

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mental health in with your business,

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I've never seen a done to the level that you'll hear

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about with Jennifer's business.

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And I'm so impressed.

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Honestly, I almost can't put it into words.

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You're going to hear about her business development story and how

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and why she incorporated a mental health initiative overlay.

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We also get into the difference between truly integrating a social

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entity into the mission of your business versus raising money for

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a cause that you hold dear,

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which I know many of you already do both important of

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course, but different.

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Get ready to hear a story about a maker whose deep

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seated impact goes way beyond her product Today.

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I'm really looking forward to introducing you to Jennifer St.

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John Jennifer had always wanted to start a successful creative business,

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and she's done just that within the last five years,

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she's married her love of art and design with a social

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give back business model to launch Marnie and Michael Jennifer and

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her team design and make leather bags and accessories with 15%

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of the profits going towards their own mental health initiative.

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Jennifer, welcome to the gift biz on repped podcast.

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Thank you,

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Sue. Thank you so much for having me.

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I am really excited to talk about give back because we've

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been talking a little bit about it in our community,

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and I think I'm going to have a ton of questions

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for you.

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So we'll get into all of that.

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But before we do,

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I want to know a little bit more about you in

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a creative way,

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and that is through a motivational candle.

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So if you were to give us some insight into who

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you are through a color and quote of your own motivational

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candle, what would that look like?

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So definitely the color would be blue.

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I've always been drawn to water.

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So blue for me just gives me that grounded feeling that

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sense of belonging and that sense of calmness,

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which I definitely feel works really well as a creative person

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to kind of work from and motivational quotes.

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I think the best one for the last three to five

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years has been be kind to yourself.

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I think that self compassion goes a long way,

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especially as females and business owners and possibly parents on top

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of that,

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I think that we tend to kind of let ourselves be

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the last one in the list of taking care of.

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And it's so important,

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especially for me as in my world.

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And I think for lots of people in their world and

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on top of what we've all been dealing with for the

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last two and a half years,

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I liked that one a lot and we're always so hard

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on ourselves.

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We judge ourselves so critically,

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we don't give ourselves passes where we'll give other people passes.

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Absolutely. Yeah.

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Self care and just having grace great way to start off

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our conversation.

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I think.

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So tell me about Marnie and Michael.

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Yes. So I've always been involved in our design and as

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you said in your intro and I went to design school

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for three years and it was interior design school.

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Didn't really love it.

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And then transitioned to being a film and television producer.

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Actually, I kind of used my art background to get into

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the art department and then fell in love with producing that

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world. Obviously very creative in a different way and learned a

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lot about business.

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And then 2008,

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the kind of crash that globally happened,

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effected things.

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And we also both my business partner and I started to

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have children.

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And so we shifted gears.

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So Marnie and Michael came out of a few years of

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kind of just regrouping after that.

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I really wanted to get back to like physically designing things

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again and having it be a very tactile experience of like

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really hands-on again.

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And then also the second time around with business,

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I was just a different phase of life and I knew

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I wanted it to be a social back model.

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So my mom was mentally ill and she was not diagnosed

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or treated till she was in her early fifties.

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So our experience as,

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and even as young adults was quite difficult with that.

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And I definitely felt like I wanted to in some way,

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be part of the conversation around mental health and wellness now.

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And just try to almost pay it forward.

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I guess,

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a bit of sharing what we went through,

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providing resources,

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having that open anonymous conversation so that hopefully it changed someone's

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experience now.

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Cause I definitely feel like our experience was very much one

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of like quiet and shame and nobody talked about it.

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So I kind of took three years to develop and learn

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the leather craft of making bags.

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That was something that I was always drawn to just in

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my own buying things or traveling and seeing things.

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And I married the two together.

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And then in 2020 in January,

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I got keys to our first kind of physical studio space

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and went from there.

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Wow. We're going to back up for a half a second

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here. Okay.

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So one of the things that I really really love hearing

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from you about your story is you already had the vision

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of the product.

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And then of course,

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with a give back model,

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and you said that you already were drawn to leather goods

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already. Did you consider anything else before you started or did

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you know it was going to be leather?

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No, I knew it was going to be leather.

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I knew it was going to be bags.

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I wanted it to be something that like,

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I actually hand stitched the leather when I first started.

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So again,

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it was going back to that,

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like I physically wanted to be very tactile and very personally

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creating everything.

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And I definitely what I was drawn to as myself as

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a consumer was I liked the sustainability of leather.

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It's not fast fashion.

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It's something that's going to last a long time.

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And I liked also where the industry is going with some

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different options that are still leather.

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Like, so by honed rated on that You knew that before

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you'd ever even worked with leather.

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Yes. How did you gain your expertise with working with the

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material and create an,

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a product that was of the quality that you could sell?

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I literally like anything else in my life I just dug

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in and I researched,

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so I bought books.

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I talked to people,

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there was a local leathercraft store in our town.

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I got to know them very well.

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I researched a ton online.

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YouTube was huge,

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like learning tutorials from other leather makers across really the world

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through YouTube.

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And then I just practiced.

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I literally spent those first three years just creating and creating

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and creating and stitching.

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And again,

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by hand stitching leather,

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which is a totally different experience from doing it on an

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industrial sewing machine.

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So just got very,

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very niched down and practiced.

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And then my design background,

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I already knew how to draft patterns.

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I already knew how to pull something together that way.

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And then I started to take industrial sewing machine lessons as

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well. And because I knew as a business,

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there was no possible way I could hand stitch everything and

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still sell it and make money.

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So I started that.

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And then as I grew to creating a space and launching

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the business physically in brick and mortar space,

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I knew that my strengths were definitely as designer and owner

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visionary founder.

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And that's when I hired other people who'd been sewing for

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20 years to help me produce the product.

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So before you went into this space where you selling product

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already? Yes.

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So I didn't have an official website launched yet,

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but I had done enough of word of mouth,

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like just through friends and family that we'd already sold about

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50 bags.

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So I knew that that was kind of also what spurred

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me on was those three products that I had designed at

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that point we're selling and we're selling in a way that

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was very small compared to what I knew we could do.

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So that gave me the confidence to kind of go to

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the next step.

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The confirmation that the product was good,

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people were interested.

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You could produce it to a greater value to your point

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of machine versus hand.

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All of that.

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Absolutely. Okay.

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But really interesting that in this day and age you went

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for brick and mortar pretty much right away.

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Yes. Talk about that a little bit.

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Well, brick and mortar to me wasn't necessarily that I wanted

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to have it as my only retail space.

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It was truly about being a studio space and bringing together

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a team of people to help me create the brand and

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launch the brand.

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Is it Walk in off the street and you can purchase

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there? Or is it more production?

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We do have it set up that way right now,

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but it's very limited as to how much we have the

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retail space open.

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It literally is more of an office and production space.

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And one of the reasons is that we're already selling and

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retailers. So we're really trying to support our retailers and have

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people drive that business to the retailers who are taking on

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our bags.

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Got it.

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Okay. And if people come into your production location,

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can they see bags being produced right there?

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They can.

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Is it part of the experience?

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Yup. It's a big open,

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beautiful historic tin ceilings space with lots of light.

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It's just gorgeous.

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And yes,

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we have to industrial sewing machines and people are cutting and

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sewing and working away.

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Oh gosh,

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I wish I was closer to you to come and see

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if I ever make my way back up to Canada somewhere.

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I'll be able to do that.

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Maybe one day,

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maybe one day.

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You don't never know.

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We're not that far apart.

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It's just crossing a line Really.

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Anyway. All right.

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So you're also mentioning wholesale and it hasn't been that long

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since you've started.

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At what point did you get into wholesale?

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So it was interesting because,

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so when I started so keys in my hand,

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January, 2020,

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obviously we all know what happened by March of that year.

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I was renovating the space and I was just at the

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point where I was ready to kind of hit the go

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button and then the pandemic hit.

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So I obviously put the brakes on building a team and

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I switched gears into going back and kind of creating more

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of my marketing materials and getting a stronger foundation there.

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So I launched my website.

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I really wanted the mental health initiative,

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part of the puzzle to be quite prevalent on the website

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before I started to sell the bags.

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So I wanted people to know that what we were doing

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with that.

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So I worked on that quite a lot through the summer.

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And then in the fall,

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that's when we kind of hit the ground running and were

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able to get back up again.

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Once my kids went back to school and at that point,

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I think we all thought we were up and over a

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hill. So we started selling online and through our little retail

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space, that holiday season,

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and then very quickly through social media,

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local retailers started to find us and started asking too,

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like, do you do wholesale?

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So that's when we transitioned into wholesale.

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And then everybody had come to us though.

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Like we haven't even this year as our now you're to

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push out of sales consultants,

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helping us to grow further.

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But everyone so far has just found us through social media

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or word of mouth regionally.

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And then also what happened,

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which really surprised me.

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It was something I wasn't expecting at all was companies came

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to us to do bulk orders for client gifts.

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So corporate sales,

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and quite honestly,

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last year we sold over a thousand products last year.

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And at least half of those,

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if not 60% of that was corporate sales.

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Oh, wow.

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Something you never even expected,

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but clearly profitable.

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Was there multiple orders obviously or multiple pieces in an order

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I should say,

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Oh yes.

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Like in the hundreds.

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So this is definitely a piece of the wholesale puzzle that

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just kind of surprised us again,

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people came to us,

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we haven't even started to market for this yet,

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but we are going to move into that this year.

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And that's actually going to be a larger piece of the

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wholesale puzzle than we thought it was going to be.

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Initially. That's curious,

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what do you account for the visibility that you had,

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where local people were coming to you and now corporations,

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Social media.

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Really. All right.

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How So actually I took a chorus through like this fantastic

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two women.

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Who've now become quite good friends of mine.

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They have a program called a social focus and it's Instagram

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for business for entrepreneurs.

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And so I took that chorus and I use those skills

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that I learned to kind of get me through.

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And they also did little,

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kind of very small bite-size packages that people could purchase for

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product artwork for social media,

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because obviously that's a big part of social media is having

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the right artwork and display and your brand the way you

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want your brand displayed.

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And so I really use those tools and got to the

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point now,

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just at the end of last year where I now have

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more people helping me with that.

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And like graphically we're doing more and obviously the artwork is

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still continuing to be awesome,

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but yes,

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absolutely. It was social media.

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That is how people found us in the beginning and then

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word of mouth as well.

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Okay. We aren't even touching on the real topic to talk

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about yet,

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but we're still laying the groundwork,

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but there's so much great information here already.

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I'm wondering,

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as you were growing,

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what your mind was saying about as you were getting visibility

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from local businesses and then some corporations were approaching you,

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was there any concern on your part or what were you

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saying to yourself about the potential volume that could be coming

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in and if you could handle it?

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Yes. Yeah.

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So very much so I knew that I wanted to grow

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in a smart way.

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I did not want to over promise and under deliver.

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Like that was a very big part of myself as an

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individual, but also just the business.

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So we didn't push out on more sales last year because

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it was enough for us to just take on the orders

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and the retailers that we had and also through our website

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orders and also to ride the up and down and up

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and down and closed and opened and situation of last year

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with the pandemic.

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So that was enough.

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Like, honestly,

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my husband's a business owner as well,

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and he was just like,

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this is crazy how much this is taking off,

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even during independent and very much so thought I would just

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still be by myself with one person and we would do

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in our thing in a very small way.

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So it was very surprising to me,

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but also super exciting as a business.

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It was just like,

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wow, like I can't imagine where we could be in three

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to five years if this is where we're at with such

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a small pool of retailers,

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only regional word of mouth,

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some social media and just not really pushing for sales on

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our own.

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So we handled it.

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It was a very stressful year.

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I ended up with an ulcer in December.

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I was not in a good place house wise,

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but we got through it and we have a totally new

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I'm building my team.

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It's a new year.

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We've got lots of great plans.

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And what we're actually switching to this year is we've been

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able to find a small batch production house here in Ontario.

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Who's going to help us take on the sewing part of

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things. They have a team of like six Sowers and we've

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been talking to them for the last six months.

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So we are going to move some of our production over

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to them.

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So that,

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that stress of wanting to grow with a brand that people

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are recognizing and wanting to support,

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but not being able to actually produce our products can be

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mitigated And no more all sorts for you.

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No more.

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Also that's the plan,

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You know,

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normally people are worried about,

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will I sell enough to make the business what I hope

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it can be.

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And I love your example because it also shows that you

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never know if you're willing and open to ride the wave,

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you go for it,

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but you also had controlled growth cause you didn't continue the

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outreach, try to manage it to the extent that you could.

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Absolutely. All right.

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So let's dive in now into the give back element.

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I have to say Jennifer,

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that the very first thing I recognized when I look at

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your website so beautifully done,

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by the way,

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your products are gorgeous,

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all of that,

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but it almost feels to me like the social element overrides

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the product element as the website's presented.

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Is that accurate?

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Well, so this is phase one of our websites phase two

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of our website is currently being done over the next six

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weeks, but it's very difficult to marry the two together.

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So it's been a dance with all of our marketing,

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but I very much adamant about the why is more important

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to me,

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that messaging of what we represent and what we stand for

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and what we do is very important.

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So absolutely it's going to be very much a strong presence

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on our website and as our product line grows.

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And as we grow as a brand,

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we're definitely going to play with the dance of the two

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because it is,

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it's interesting,

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like even in all of the sales and all of the

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awareness of our brand right now,

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I would say at least 60 to 70% of our group

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right now come to us through knowing the mental health side

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of things.

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And then about a third come to us,

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just having seen one of our products in an ad or

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somewhere. So some people,

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the mental health or social give back side of it,

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it's not informing their decision.

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Whereas the rest of people,

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it very much is informing their decision in the end,

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their regular blog followers,

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and regularly engaging on social media with us and also DM-ing

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me or messaging me a lot about their own personal story

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with mental health.

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It's very interesting because I think that you're getting in front

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of a different set of people than if you were just

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offering your product out there because of what you're talking about,

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the people who are reading the blog and anywhere else that

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you're promoting the cause as well within my community,

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I have quite a few people who have a give back

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portion of their business,

Speaker:

but not to the level that you do.

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And not as I said it to me and the website

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might be different actually,

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when this goes live.

Speaker:

So people might see the new portion,

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but what I saw was right away front and center,

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like the banner image are,

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I believe your parents,

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right? It is.

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Yeah. And it's a whole story,

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but it's the mental health on the top right now.

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It makes sense to me what you're saying in terms of

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it's a dance between the two.

Speaker:

So think about people who are listening to us.

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They have a cause that they care about,

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or they've done a little bit like some proceeds off the

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sales go to a cause,

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but they certainly haven't put it front and center.

Speaker:

Like you are talk a little bit about how you made

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that decision a little bit more about the dance.

Speaker:

I guess I'll say I'm breaking in here for a second.

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So you can hear from the sponsor of our show,

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the behind the scenes,

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but it's so rewarding.

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Kind of like how our customers feel when they print personalized

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ribbons and see the reaction on the faces of their customers,

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Besides the more obvious uses for customer driven,

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I'm seeing it used for sashes party,

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There really is no limit to its application in our small

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town. The main street is lined with ribbon.

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The city requested saying stand strong.

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And we're in this together.

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Our high school also used ribbon to motivate the students.

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When we had Jason Brown competing in the Olympics,

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I think you have to be vulnerable,

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especially if it's something that you're passionate about,

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and that is really going to be a big part of

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your brand.

Speaker:

So for me,

Speaker:

it wasn't difficult to be vulnerable.

Speaker:

Like I've already written quite a bit about my experiences and

Speaker:

what we did as well.

Speaker:

When I was launching this,

Speaker:

it was a three-year very much so in the early part

Speaker:

of the development,

Speaker:

but we wrote a book that basically sums up the whole

Speaker:

mental health initiative,

Speaker:

like the drive behind it.

Speaker:

And I took my journals,

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my mom's journals and letters between my mom,

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myself and my dad.

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And I put it into a sequence that tells our story

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over a 30 year period.

Speaker:

And then it also has blank journal pages in between so

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that you can use it as your own journal and also

Speaker:

kind of follow our story.

Speaker:

So being that open and honest and very transparent about the

Speaker:

experience was so important to me because I'm asking other people

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to be that open and honest and transparent,

Speaker:

and I wanted to do it myself first,

Speaker:

so that it was a bit of an example,

Speaker:

but also just so that people trusted me with their stories.

Speaker:

So that's a big part of it,

Speaker:

I would say.

Speaker:

And I think that if you are very passionate about it

Speaker:

and you're vulnerable about your story regarding whatever that social story

Speaker:

is, I honestly believe that it will come back to you.

Speaker:

Like it won't not resonate Well,

Speaker:

or it's going to resonate with the right people who you're

Speaker:

meant to be With absolutely People use the repel and a

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trial wording,

Speaker:

right? So there'll be some people who are like,

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that's just too much for me or not into this or

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whatever. And then that's not a good fit,

Speaker:

you know,

Speaker:

of course depends on what the cause is or what the

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issue is,

Speaker:

et cetera.

Speaker:

But you were just talking about the fact that you were

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shocked that so many people are coming two thirds coming because

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of the cause.

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So you find your audience and I think the more committed

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you are,

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if you're specifically cause based,

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and the more you put it out there,

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the more successful you're going to be.

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Although you have to get over the vulnerability too,

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I'm thinking you just have to decide you're doing it.

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And that's it A hundred percent that has to just be,

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there's gotta be a comfort level there.

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And yes,

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like even on the product side of things,

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I don't believe that my product is for everyone.

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I truly believe that you do find your market.

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You find your niche,

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you find your community.

Speaker:

And once you do,

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then that's the sweet spot.

Speaker:

As in your mind's eye,

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you're seeing the website going up,

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are you going to have more product representation?

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You think,

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cause right now the homepage is pretty much all cause related.

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Yeah. We only have that one shop link.

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And so yes,

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that's the change on the homepage is it's going to be

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a bit more cohesive and that we're definitely going to have

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the product line much more prevalent on the homepage And you'll

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see how it goes and adjust accordingly.

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That's the great thing about being in business for yourself.

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You can figure it out as you Go.

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Absolutely. So the 15% of profits at first,

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I thought this was to a charity that you had created,

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but now I'm thinking you decide on where you're going to

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put the funds that support the cause in various ways.

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What is it?

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Yes, that's correct.

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So last year we played around with a bunch of different

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things. We did some mental wellness boxes where I had curated

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a package that all the products were from companies across north

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America. And they were all companies that supported mental health and

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awareness. And so I had done that for mother's day last

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year. And I mean,

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obviously we're very startup,

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very small.

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I wasn't working with a publicist at that time.

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We're kind of trying our best to kind of put ourselves

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out there and it did.

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Okay. But what we did was we attached an organization with

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each of one of those boxes and we did it three

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times over last year.

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So there was a direct cash donation with every purchase.

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Oh. So each box then went to a different cause.

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Yes. Correct.

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I mean,

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it's all mental health under the umbrella,

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All mental health.

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Yeah. So not only we were really supporting mental health and

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awareness by having products from companies that supported mental health.

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We also on top of that gave a cash donation to

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an organization.

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And so we tried that model.

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And then also what we did when we kind of launched

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in, obviously in our small way,

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a new product,

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we, for example,

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for father's day,

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all 15% of every product sold,

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went directly to X organization.

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So we did it a couple of different ways.

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And you know,

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again, just try to see what's working.

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We definitely want to raise as much money as we can

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for these organizations.

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So we are landing more.

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So this year on that model of selecting an organization,

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working with them to collaborate in a way that supports both

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of our causes,

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but very much so around a launch of a product line

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because we're growing.

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So we're actually launching a whole new product line from others

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day. 15% of those fees will go towards one organization.

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Got it.

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And so in every single box,

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do you have a Marnie and Michael product also?

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Yeah. So the boxes are on hold right now only because

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I don't have the infrastructure to do it.

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It's a whole other,

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It's a whole nother business.

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That's what I was thinking.

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As you're talking,

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it's like two totally separate things.

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Yeah. It's a whole,

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if I had somebody who could just do that work,

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it would be great,

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but we're not there at that point yet.

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So we're just seeing on hold because we love the concept.

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So what we're doing this time is absolutely the spring line

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is going to launch.

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We're going to have six new products,

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15% from every sale of those new products,

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we'll go to this,

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Got it.

Speaker:

And their products that you're creating.

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So it's kind of the collection,

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if you will,

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will be mother's day or whatever the seasons are.

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And then they will go to a specific cause that's already

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set up and figured out and going through very clean and

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smooth and clear to say it took me a minute to

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get it.

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But no,

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it makes sense.

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Cause you have to have it simple and easy to be

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able to talk about it.

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Yes. All right.

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I'm very curious from a business standpoint,

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how do dollars get allocated on your books for the things

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that you donate?

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Is it just a donation line?

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How does that work?

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Yeah, so we add up the sales for that promotion and

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yes, it's donation to that organization.

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That's how we've done it in the past year.

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And then obviously you're taking that into account as you're looking

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at how you're going to price your products.

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Yes, Absolutely.

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So we do our cost sheets are obviously very basic materials

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and labor.

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We also include shipping in everything over a hundred dollars.

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We also make sure that we have that bit of a

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buffer so that when you get into your wholesale tiers and

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our highest tier is 40% off retail,

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all of that is covered even at the 40% mark,

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Including the shipping and everything.

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Yep. Nice.

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Are you doing any face-to-face besides in your shop,

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are you going out to any shows or anything like that?

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At this point,

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we, I have dabbled.

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I mean,

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again for us here,

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there's, hasn't been a lot to do because of the pandemic

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and the restrictions,

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but we done about three or four shows so far.

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We're still figuring out which ones are the right ones because

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of the price point of our product,

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obviously. And so definitely this year,

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we are really wanting to gear up,

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especially, I don't know about mother's day,

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cause we're still under a lot of restrictions here,

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but we're hoping that by the fall,

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for sure,

Speaker:

we're looking ahead and kind of really trying to already think

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about where we're going to go and which markets we're going

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to choose.

Speaker:

So you do see face-to-face as part of the whole plan.

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Yes. Is this market direct to consumer or for wholesale Direct

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to Consumer.

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Okay. So you're doing all of it.

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Yep. You're doing direct to consumer wholesale potential,

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obviously e-commerce and brick and mortar.

Speaker:

Yup. Remember we were just talking about that also.

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I know,

Speaker:

I know that Sue I'm growing my team this year,

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so No,

Speaker:

and I think that's great and it is another topic I

Speaker:

want to talk about because this is where lots of people

Speaker:

get stuck and they stall their ability to grow.

Speaker:

Because if it's not them making the product,

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then it's not handmade anymore.

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Yeah. Well,

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and for me I'm very much like ours is handcrafted.

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It's absolutely made by a human being,

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sitting down,

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cutting the leather and sewing it.

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They are definitely not all made by me.

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There's no possible way I could grow the company if it

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was all made by me.

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So yeah.

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We're not hand stamping leather and stitching with wax thread,

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which is what I did in the beginning,

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but we're very much so I still definitely feel that it's

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a handcrafted artisan.

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Absolutely. And they're your designs from the beginning?

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Yes, absolutely.

Speaker:

Did you ever have that barrier where you were thinking no.

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Well it's not handcraft.

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Well, it's handcrafted,

Speaker:

but it's not handmade by you anymore.

Speaker:

Was that ever a concern for you?

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It wasn't because there's no possible way for me to grow

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the company.

Speaker:

If I'm the only one making them.

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Right. Everybody listen,

Speaker:

underline, underline,

Speaker:

exclamation point seriously.

Speaker:

But this might be really helpful to people who are listening.

Speaker:

How did you go about hiring people that you were going

Speaker:

to feel confident could have the quality that you were looking

Speaker:

for and represent and make products that would be at the

Speaker:

level that you wanted?

Speaker:

Yeah, that's obviously a very big part of this puzzle.

Speaker:

I would say I've had success and I've not had success

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in that department.

Speaker:

I've truly just been lucky that I've always had at least

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one person who has had the experience who has trained enough,

Speaker:

that when we hit our high periods are balanced to dynasty.

Speaker:

Isn't too big for us.

Speaker:

Mother stays huge.

Speaker:

And then back to school,

Speaker:

we launched a backpack last year.

Speaker:

So we had a lot of traction there and then clearly

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the holidays.

Speaker:

So we have about four big kind of pillars throughout the

Speaker:

year. And if we were launching a new product or gearing

Speaker:

up for retail sales,

Speaker:

et cetera,

Speaker:

it just always worked out somehow that we did have the

Speaker:

people who could produce the product,

Speaker:

but I definitely I've advertised in the beginning.

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I didn't always have success with that.

Speaker:

But people in the area realized what I was doing.

Speaker:

And I had some super experienced Sowers who already had full-time

Speaker:

jobs, but wanted to help me.

Speaker:

So literally I would cut patterns and roll them and give

Speaker:

them bins and they would sell them for me and I

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would pick them up.

Speaker:

They were fantastic and they just wanted to help me.

Speaker:

That was in the very beginning.

Speaker:

And then I was able to really kind of try to

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just actually hire people longterm.

Speaker:

And I had one or two people that worked out and

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then word of mouth.

Speaker:

People started to recommend people to me.

Speaker:

And so again,

Speaker:

I would bring them on,

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see if they worked out,

Speaker:

we'd always start off,

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you know,

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on scraps or on,

Speaker:

we have little cardholders for sale.

Speaker:

And then as their confidence grew and my trust grew,

Speaker:

then they would move on to smaller products.

Speaker:

And sometimes we would do interior stitching instead of top stitching

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for a while.

Speaker:

And there was one of my Sowers is great at top

Speaker:

stitching. The other person would do the interior.

Speaker:

So we would make it work that way.

Speaker:

I'm now at the point where luckily I have two Sowers

Speaker:

who are just experienced enough that they can handle everything that

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I'm throwing at them.

Speaker:

And they're very integral part of my team and developing the

Speaker:

new line that we're launching this year as well.

Speaker:

Well, and so nice that you're able to give people something

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that they aspire to.

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So when like the two years referencing right now,

Speaker:

they have that skill.

Speaker:

Like it kind of like the different achievement levels that they

Speaker:

get to,

Speaker:

which just makes them more satisfied and appreciate what they're doing

Speaker:

so much more because it's not like you just walk in

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from the street and can do this.

Speaker:

Absolutely. And the two women that I have working with three

Speaker:

route right now,

Speaker:

I want already has a side hustle business that involves sewing.

Speaker:

And the other like very much upfront said,

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you know,

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this is what I want.

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I want to open a small bay company as well,

Speaker:

one day.

Speaker:

And I'm all for that.

Speaker:

I would much rather have people come on who are so

Speaker:

eager and wanting to learn and be open to the whole

Speaker:

process and really take value in what they're doing than somebody

Speaker:

who's just kind of wanting to come in and get their

Speaker:

hours Interesting.

Speaker:

Because I would think that a lot of people would say,

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well, then you're going to be a future competitor of mine.

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Why would I even want to share what I'm doing?

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Yeah. I truly believe that the more support that you can

Speaker:

give somebody,

Speaker:

like you're not in control of what they're going to do

Speaker:

in their future and they're not signing over their life to

Speaker:

me when they sign a contract.

Speaker:

So I really believe that people come to you for a

Speaker:

reason. And I definitely believe in supporting,

Speaker:

especially women supporting other women in their ventures as well.

Speaker:

Absolutely. And abundance.

Speaker:

I mean,

Speaker:

there's enough business for all of us.

Speaker:

Absolutely. And my product is going to be different from their

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product. And at the end of the day,

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we're sewing like lots of people.

Speaker:

So a product,

Speaker:

I usually relate this to the jewelry industry because like,

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if you love earrings,

Speaker:

you're not just going to buy one style of earrings,

Speaker:

your whole life.

Speaker:

You probably have multiple different types of earrings,

Speaker:

but you're an earring lover.

Speaker:

So same thing with bags.

Speaker:

Like if you love leather bags,

Speaker:

you may have a couple of them to fit different colors.

Speaker:

You know,

Speaker:

if you're going to match her outfit.

Speaker:

And so you might also have different styles,

Speaker:

there's enough business for all of us.

Speaker:

So it's a really good lesson,

Speaker:

Jennifer, that you're sharing right in the beginning because you're bringing

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on people and teaching them skills and letting it be for

Speaker:

all the things that you just said,

Speaker:

whatever the future is,

Speaker:

the future is because this is another really big sticking point

Speaker:

for a lot of makers.

Speaker:

They're very concerned about that.

Speaker:

So, excellent example.

Speaker:

Okay. Just one more question here on hiring.

Speaker:

I heard a hesitancy when I talked about it initially,

Speaker:

is there any advice or caution you would give to somebody

Speaker:

who's thinking about bringing someone on to help?

Speaker:

Oh, Okay.

Speaker:

I have definitely had more success with people.

Speaker:

Who've come to me via someone.

Speaker:

I know.

Speaker:

So people who are also in the area or own businesses

Speaker:

themselves, and it's just somebody that they happen to know who

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they think,

Speaker:

oh, I think this might be a really good fit for

Speaker:

Jen's company and getting that introduction.

Speaker:

Those are the two people who I have working for me

Speaker:

right now.

Speaker:

And I have hired over five people in the last year.

Speaker:

So if that's possible,

Speaker:

and again,

Speaker:

it goes back to my firm,

Speaker:

belief that things come to you for a reason that has

Speaker:

been my most successful place,

Speaker:

if that's not happening.

Speaker:

And you're just having to put your ad out there,

Speaker:

then I've been there as well.

Speaker:

I think that vetting your vetting process just has to be

Speaker:

really tight.

Speaker:

You need to make sure that you're really doing your due

Speaker:

diligence to find out what their background is,

Speaker:

check their references.

Speaker:

But also if there's a job on the list that they

Speaker:

are, they have,

Speaker:

and they haven't given you a reference for that,

Speaker:

try to find out why there's always two sides to a

Speaker:

story. But I just think to try to get a full

Speaker:

picture of who you may be hiring.

Speaker:

And then also very much have like a period of whether

Speaker:

it's three or four weeks,

Speaker:

like a month.

Speaker:

Sometimes people do three months,

Speaker:

but have that,

Speaker:

just try out time to where both people realize this is

Speaker:

a test to see if this is going to work.

Speaker:

And if it's not working for whatever reason,

Speaker:

no hard feelings.

Speaker:

And we're going to move on.

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I do that with every hire,

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whether it's creating product,

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filling orders,

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whatever, and the way I'll say that is,

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let's see if it's a fit for both of us.

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You'll see how the work is.

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And if you like it,

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and we'll see if the way we're working,

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like if it's compatible.

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So it's not just like,

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well, I'm testing you to see if you're going to be

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any guards.

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It's I totally agree with that.

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Yeah. Because we,

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for example,

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for us,

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we're very organic work environment.

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You have to be able to be fluid.

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You have to be able to jump from one thing to

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the next,

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your week.

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Isn't set out and laid out strategically every week.

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It's not the same every week.

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There's multiple people working in the studio space.

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You have to be able to work in that kind of

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environment. And that's not for everybody.

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Right. And some people thrive on the variants.

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So it just depends.

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Yeah. Okay.

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This has been so informative and so interesting.

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And I absolutely love how you're putting the social gift back

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right at the top front and center.

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If someone is listening and they want to have a cause

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for their business,

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you know,

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they don't really know what it is for you.

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It's pretty obvious Jennifer,

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of course,

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but they don't really know,

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but they like the idea of giving back and they think

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that that could make sense for them.

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Do you have any recommendations or ideas because it needs to

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be authentic obviously.

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Yeah. I would say that there has to be a very

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strong, personal reason why you're choosing that social entity or that

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social cause.

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So hopefully there is some sort of a story that you

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have a personal experience.

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It could be a friend,

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it could be a family member.

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It could be an event.

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It could be something.

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And I think tying your own story and yourself to whatever

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that tipping point of,

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okay, now I'm going to choose this.

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I think that's the most important thing when you're going to

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have a social entity,

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because that's,

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what's going to resonate with,

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everybody wants to find out about you as the brand owner,

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founder, head designer,

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et cetera.

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And putting your story out.

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There is a big part of your brand.

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If you're going to have this social give back side of

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it. Right.

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And it needs to be something that you're thinking about doing

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longterm. Yes,

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absolutely. So that's why I think when you say it has

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to be something that is a personal story that really resonates

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with you because you'll be talking about it a lot.

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There's nothing wrong with doing some type of a promotion where

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the proceeds are going to a local shelter or something like

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that. That's different than what we're talking about here,

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where it really is integrated into your brand.

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Yeah. I mean,

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I have even just this past week I had somebody reach

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out from a couple of hundred miles away or 3000 miles

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away in Canada and they were just pouring.

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Their hearts are to be telling me about their own personal

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story. But the reason they felt comfortable doing that,

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it is because they specifically said,

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I can hear the way you talk about your mom and

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I can hear the way you talk about your story.

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So whether it's the writing on the website,

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like the copy,

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whether it's the messages and social media or any of the

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interviews or the lives,

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or however it is that I'm presenting,

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I can only present based on my personal experience,

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but that is red and people see the honesty and the

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vulnerability and that's what they pick up on.

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Because I think that if you didn't have that in your

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trying to support something,

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I think people pick up on that as well.

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Right? If someone has something,

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but they're concerned about,

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I'm thinking of one person,

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maybe two people who definitely would have a cause that they

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would support,

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but they've been shielding it from their customer base because they're

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not sure if people would appreciate it.

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They're worried that they might lose business.

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Now I know you don't necessarily have the experience in this,

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but I think you have more knowledge and insight than I

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definitely would have.

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What do you think about that situation?

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Should they just keep going the way they are or would

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you suggest that they do that?

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You know what?

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That's really interesting.

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I think that obviously jokes is going back to what we

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just said.

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If there is a very personal connection and reason,

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and they were passionate about wanting to raise this money,

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then I don't think they should shy away from it.

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I definitely think that they should do it because that's going

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to read through,

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in everything that they do from that point forward.

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But I could understand why there might be some in trepidation

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if they were open to the fact that maybe losing a

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couple of customers to gaining more customers,

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but with this new vision,

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you know,

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if they were okay with that then because that might not

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happen or it might happen.

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And then also,

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I can't imagine in this day and age that a customer

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would pull back from purchasing handmade product because they're supporting X,

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right. That would be baffling to me if that occurred.

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Well, that goes back to what you're talking about in the

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beginning, be kind to yourself.

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We would probably always say to ourselves,

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all of these things that could go wrong,

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but I am thinking this came to me as you were

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talking, tell me if you agree with me or not.

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The one reason why you shouldn't do this is as a

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tactic to grow your business.

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You need to do it because your heart is a hundred

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percent dedicated and focused and there for the cause.

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Absolutely. And it is like running two different businesses.

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The amount of work that we put into our blogs,

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the amount of writing I have to do the amount of

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work we put into those mental wellness boxes,

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the amount of work we put into finding the right organizations

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that we want to support and working with them and months

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out of a product launch.

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So like,

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it is a lot of work.

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If I just had the bag business,

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I probably wouldn't have been all last December,

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but it's why I get out of bed every day.

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And it's definitely something I refuse.

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Like there's absolutely no part of me that would not do

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it this way.

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So it's more about figuring out,

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making it work,

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not changing it.

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So I,

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a hundred percent agree,

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like first of all,

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it's going to be seeing very easily through anybody.

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Anybody's lens is going to pick up on that.

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And also it has to be such a big part of

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your, why that you are going to do it no matter

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what. And I think that's just a cautionary note to people

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who are listening is all,

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normally we're talking about how do you grow your business?

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How do you build it?

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This is not a strategy or a tactic.

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This is something that was there from the start.

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Like you were saying,

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Jennifer, before you even knew what your business was going to

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be, you knew already that they were going to merge together.

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So honestly,

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if you already don't know what that passion and causes,

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that's probably not something that you would add in except on

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an event by event basis.

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Like we were just talking about Yes.

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Lee event by event basis.

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Absolutely. Yes.

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You know,

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I would never recommend that to somebody.

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So look out into the future.

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Tell me what you think is coming up next.

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You've already talked about the website.

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What Else?

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Well, New collections.

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Yes. So new collections growing the brand for sure.

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Growing the team,

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growing the brands.

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We're very excited about getting ahead of the game.

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So having our 2023 line designed this year so that we

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can also get ahead and try to grow the brand with

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media and publicity.

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And on top of all of that,

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I created this company.

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So I could have a lifestyle of being able to have

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a business,

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but also very much have a life.

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And so that a big part of the Future goal.

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I love that this has been so fabulous,

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Jennifer. I'm really glad we know each other.

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Now I want to stay in touch and see where this

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goes. Oh thank you,

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sir. And I'm really excited to see your website cannot wait.

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I could talk to you for another two hours.

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This was fantastic.

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Thank you.

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It has been such a pleasure to have you on today,

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Being true to yourself and your life and taking your reality

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to help change someone else's experience now and even better using

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your handmade product as the pathway to do so.

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As you heard adding a social entity into your business,

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isn't the right thing for everyone.

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But if this show resonated with you,

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I'm proud to have given you something to think about next

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week. Don't like to be the reminder of not so fun

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things, but we're just over a month away from taxes.

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So I guess you could say we're in the middle of

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tax season right now.

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I can sense your reactions to all this way through my

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Mike in our upcoming show,

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we'll be talking about how to get the tax filing process

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under control.

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What can still be done now for this year and things

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that can make it easier for the future.

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Thanks so much for spending time with me today.

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If you'd like to show support for the podcast,

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let me know how it's helped you.

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Something new that you've learned or suggest a topic that you'd

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like to know more about.

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Just do this by adding it as a review in whichever

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podcast app you listen through.

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I read every single one personally,

Speaker:

and absolutely use suggestions as guidance for new guests and topics.

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There are a lot of other ways to show support for

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the podcast to visit our merch shop for a wide variety

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of gift biz paraphernalia like mugs,

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t-shirts water bottles,

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and even more featuring logos and quotes to inspire you throughout

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your day.

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You can take a look at all the options over at

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gift biz,

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unwrapped.com forward slash shop all proceeds from anything that's purchased there

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helps me offset the cost of producing this podcast and now

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be safe and well.

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And I'll see you again.

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Next time on the gift biz unwrapped podcast.

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I want to make sure you're familiar with my free Facebook

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group called gift is it's a place where we all gather

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and our community to support each other.

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Got a really fun post in there.

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That's my favorite of the week.

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I have to say where I invite all of you to

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share what you're doing to show pictures of your product,

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to show what you're working on for the week to get

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reactions from other people and just for fun,

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because we all get to see the wonderful products that everybody

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in the community is making my favorite post every single week,

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without doubt.

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Wait, what aren't you part of the group already,

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if not make sure to jump over to Facebook and search

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for the group gift biz breeze don't delay.