What is your story? What do you do and how did you get to where you are today in your career?
I was raised in a crafty family, so I'm not all that surprised that I ended up with a handmade business along side my "9-5". Growing up we repurposed things, hand sewed barbie clothes, painted by number, made doll furniture out of cereal boxes, hot glued all the things, learned to embroider, and crochet, so making has always been a HUGE part of my identity. Now I own + run West Coast Leslie Designs, a handmade knitwear accessory brand for modern women. After losing a day of dance teaching from my schedule I panicked and started my knitwear company - not realizing the trajectory it would have, I was just trying to make up that income I felt I was loosing. It was totally a fear based decision, but since then each year becomes less about fear and more about what I want from this biz. I've been crocheting since I was a teen, and I'd wanted to get back into it + make some things for myself, so I picked up my hook again. Unfortunately the resurgence of my crafting coincided with a serious family emergency but thankfully it gave me something to focus on during that difficult time. And it still does. Making is very therapeutic for me + I love being able to share my pieces with others. It's like a transferring of comfort; I am comforted by making and women get to feel comfortable in something soft + cozy! It's the perfect win win. 2019 is a big levelling up for my business. I feel like this is the year where I'm really taking some risks, and investments to make WCLD what I really want it to be. I've been working on a brand refresh which will be launching this fall and new website with e-commerce, as well as attending three major artisan holiday markets.
Give one valuable piece of advice you can give women on how to overcome challenges in the workplace.
I think the best insight I can offer women is that nobody cares as much as we do + we're not responsible for how someone feels about our ideas. Firstly, I imagine most women can relate to being over-thinkers. We analyze, we play out situations, we imagine what might happen because (I think) we like control and we like to be able to navigate things with grace. So when we run the scenario in our minds we are creating this false sense of control of the outcome ...LOL!!! Which we all know logically that we can't control the outcome...but we want to, try! I can guarantee you that the majority of dudes are not thinking twice about saying that (potentially) dumb idea in a meeting or to a client. So let's say "bye Felicia" to the fear of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, worrying about what someone else will think. Let's grab a little bit of that blind male confidence and say what we mean, because no one is analyzing it to death the way we are.
One quote you live by?
OH! This is my fave! When I graduated high school I was 17, and I took a year off from school and worked out in the real world. During that year I worked as an outbound telephone sales marketer. That meant I was cold calling people in their homes, attempting to sell them something, usually credit cards. IT WAS BRUTAL. And being a total Type A, perfectionist, 17 year old girl, trying to prove herself but not making any sales, I was struggling. After one particularly tough hang up (being hung up on all day SUCKS!) my supervisor noticed that I was visibly upset. She came over and asked what was wrong and I launched into it; complaining that I can't succeed because I kept getting hung up on, how was I supposed to do a good job, if I couldn't even keep them on the phone? I felt like a failure. And then, this marvellous woman said to me "Can you control if they hang up on you?" And very cautiously I said "well...no..." about to give some more excuses until she stopped me. No, I couldn't control if someone hung up on me, but I could control with what happened next. I could go to the next call. Maybe that next call, was the one. They wouldn't hang up on me. They'd listen. But I had ZERO control over that person who just hung up on me. It seems so simple now, probably because I've been using it as personal mantra for almost 20 years, but it was so overwhelmingly true + eye opening for me. CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL! It's magical. I can't control my flight that is delayed. I can't control that there is an accident on my way to work. It allows me to TAKE control of the things I'm responsible for which allows me to have a sense of control + safety, and gives me permission to let go of anything I'm not.
What is one accomplishment you are extremely proud of?
I'm totally gonna cheat and talk about two because they happened at different points in my business. In my first full year of business (2014) I was accepted into the Vancouver Holiday Make It Show. It was my first attempt applying for a big, prestigious show with marketing + the whole nine yards, + little old me got accepted!??! My brain kind of exploded. I'm very proud to say that I have been at Make It Vancouver every holiday since then, so that's 6 years running, and that in and of itself is something I'm very proud of. This year my proudest accomplishment is that I was accepted as a vendor at Circle Craft. In my mind Circle Craft is *the* market to be at in Vancouver. It's extremely well known, the quality of the artisans is second to none, and there's an air of prestige that comes with being a Circle Craft vendor, at least to me. Being accepted to this market feels a little bit like I've "made it" even though I've been "making it" for a while. I am both excited + terrified to be a Circle Craft vendor in November, and I think that's how you know. That combination of fear and giddiness means you care.
What's the worst and best thing about being female?
I often joke that menstruation is the WORST part about being female, only because it's such a pain and you just have to deal with it. But in that same vein, having to "just deal" with things is the female super power. The things that are the worst parts of being female make us strong AF and ready to tackle literally ANY problem or challenge. Only have three ingredients for dinner, no problem we can figure it out. Don't have the funds for this, ok here's how I can make that work. Even though men get type cast as problem solvers, I actually think that women are better. We take whatever is in front of us and make it 1000% better. Because that's our super power. The "multi-task, make it happen, raise the baby, get dinner on the table, work hard, get the promotion, and look great while doing it" script we've been given, has allowed us to flip it and use it to our advantage and become unstoppable. We turn whatever bullshit, stereotype, scenario that was thrown at us to try to break us, into magic. Dudes can't do that. They're not as adaptable as we are. And we forget that there is SO MUCH POWER in the ability we have to literally make something out of nothing . The other best thing about being female is the element of surprise. People can underestimate us, and I find it empowering and wickedly fun to prove them wrong + surprise them with our badassery. We like that challenge. "Oh you think because I'm a girl I can't do that? Oh just watch how I obliterate your outdated notion of what we're capable of!"
In your job, what always sounds like a good idea at the time but rarely is?
Oooff, this is something that can get me into trouble. For me I tend to want to over accommodate requests. People will often ask for custom orders, or a very niche, specific, product that I don't make or sell and it's really hard for me to say no to that. (oh hello fear based decision making - I see you). The hardest thing is that I know I CAN do the thing I'm being asked, so why not do it? It's taken me six years (and counting) to have confidence to say, "no I don't make kids toques", or "no we don't make sweaters for dogs". It's still tough, but those people clearly don't know my business, they just see me as an on demand knitter and they saw something cute on Pinterest that they think I should make. Giving into peer pressure or unreasonable demands outside of your business niche is ALWAYS a bad idea. You'll always feel like garbage about it afterward. At least I do.
What's something that you've never been able to do well?
This is literally my perfectionist nightmare! I try to do whatever I'm doing to the best of my abilities or else why am I doing it? Why are you doing something poorly or without the intention of doing well? I'll never understand it. Something I haven't been able to do well, is to not care. I care about ev.ry.thing. Caring about everything and not being able to get over stuff are two of my major stumbling blocks when it comes to business (and life). Replaying that conversation in my mind, analyzing what I said and how it potentially came off to that other person, did she have a good time with me at the movie? Random thoughts trying to make sense of things I can't possibly know the answer to, all in the hope of being liked, or seen as a caring person, a good friend, or a helpful business owner. Luckily I'm maturing + realizing that those overwhelming, detrimental thoughts are not *who* I am, but filters in the form of perfectionism, fear, anxiety, the desire to be liked. So when I can put those reeling thoughts in a box outside of me + deal with them logically, it's much better. And I'm proud to say I'm getting better at not caring (about things that don't need to be cared about). Progress is the name of the game.
What is the biggest lesson life has taught you?
This one hurts. Hurts deep in my soul. And funny enough, even though I've been "known" this lesson for a while, I only recently received the words to understand it. Long story short, my Dad passed away suddenly in November 2011 after being in ICU for several weeks, right as I was starting to crochet again and 9 months before I was getting married. My Dad was the ONE person on this planet that *got* me. There was a deep soul level connection I had with him. He was a safe space for me to talk about anything, from boys, to hockey, to cooking, to art. We are both highly emotional, passionate, loving people. He was my go to. If I had a questions, or a worry or concern, if I needed advice, I trusted him the most. Because I knew he would be honest but kind. And when he died I felt like a piece of me was lost forever. I look at photos of myself and I don't smile the same as when he was alive (it's slowly coming back, but it will never be the same, and that's ok). And so my lesson is the that whatever you hold onto the tightest has to be ripped away from you. And I realize that sounds harsh. But the idea is that you should never be clinging to something SO HARD that the only way for you to grow is for it to be ripped away from you. Of course hold on to the things, and people, that you find dear, but don't hold on with a death grip, because if and when it's their time to go, it will be so much worse. The tighter we hold on, the harder it is to let go, and heal or move on or process and level up in your life. Loosing my Dad as my confidante and sounding board has allowed me to grow more in my confidence, trusting myself, to be my 'go to' and being more invested in myself.
What do you like that is traditionally considered masculine?
Oh my gosh this question is SO FUN! As I've gotten older I really lean into the things that are viewed as masculine because they're things I like and make me happy and I'm so over feeling bad about liking them. I really enjoy a stiff drink, like a martini or whiskey on the rocks. "Girly drinks" are fun, but there's something so empowering about ordering Jamieson on the rocks when you're out with people that makes me feel like a total bad ass. I joke that I'm Ron Swanson (from Parks & Rec) or Don Draper. That masculine cocktail culture is something I really like. There's this idea of sophistication and hard work and lifestyle with cut crystal decanters, and short old fashioned glasses that is evoked when you order a drink like that. I also love swearing, even though I'm trying to cut back. When I swear, that's my passion spilling out, which in a lot of ways is acceptable for men but not for women. It kinda drives me nuts that swearing is so frowned upon in "society". I guess a lot of people feel it's crude and maybe because it is, but it's also strong and powerful. Words have power. And I think that's the appeal and why people feel like women shouldn't swear. And maybe the "most" masculine thing I love is PANTS! Pants keep my legs separated, there are pockets (!!!), they create an illusion of length, you can sit however you want when you're wearing them, they're durable. Pants are just the best. And the best part about being a woman is I can wear pants, or skirts, or dresses and I can float between all these styles depending on who I'm meeting with, or what image I'm trying to create/project that day. I mean think about it. We all can't wait to get home and put on our "comfy pants', because they're the best. Yup, I said it. Pants are the best. lol
If you could broadcasting sentence to every cell phone, tv channel, and radio in the world and have it translated to each country's language, what sentence would you say?
This question makes me want to cry, because it's so powerful. I'd much rather be able to send an actual hug, because I think they're the most powerful things out there, but...I would want to say "YOU ARE WORTH IT" (whatever *it* is). Worthiness is something I've really struggled with (still do, honestly), but as I mature I've realized it's my life, why am I spending time on other people more than myself. I need to lay down at the end of the day with myself and be good with *it*. It's really exciting to be in a place of understanding my worth and working from that frame work. This is what lights me up. This is what I want to do; not in a selfish or impulsive way, but in a purpose driven way. There is so much power in realizing and understanding that you are worth that dream.
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Business Company Name: West Coast Leslie Designs