Name: Katrina Dwulit, along with co-owners Cory Judge & Vanessa Gaudet
Shop: Market Collective (by Shi Studio)
Address: #225 – 1150 Douglas Street, in The Bay Centre
What is Market Collective?
Market Collective is a curated mini market experience composed of exclusively Canadian handmade artisans, the majority being from within 100km of the store. Our intention is to create a platform for makers and artisans to sell their creations as well as for shoppers to be able to support handmade. This is deeply important with the closure of the vast majority of in-person sales venues, such as craft fairs and festivals due to COVID19. Beyond the scope of this immediate industry challenge, simply gathering beautifully handcrafted and unique items into a one-stop shop is a lovely offering to all who are a part of the Market Collective experience.
Can you tell us about your background?
I, Katrina, am the founder of Esquimalt Farmers Market (7 years) and co-owner at Ocean Tides Health Collective (2 years). Cory has been the creator behind Shi Studio for almost 20 years. Vanessa has been blowing glass for 20 years. All three of us are mommas.
Have you always wanted to run a shop? How did Market Collective come about?
It has been a dream of Cory’s for a long time as she loves to create spaces. Vanessa has considered many aspects of expansion within the context of her glass business. For myself, I have dabbled with the idea in many formats for a long time, so meeting these superhero women made the jump easy! All three of us work synergistically to blend our talents to create a beautiful offering of handcrafted items and unique shopping experience.
If you had to describe your shop to someone who hasn’t seen it, how would you describe it?
Market Collective is an experience. Since we personally know almost everyone on the shelves, we love including personal stories. There is a little bit of something from every category you would find at your favourite market with curated artisans in a beautifully merchandised space. It’s one of those places that every time you come in, you find something new!
You have a large selection of local handmade goods along with thoughtfully curated one-of-kind Canadian gifts. Can you tell us more about the artists and crafters that fill your beautiful shop?
This idea was put into action after a meeting in early September 2020 (with doors opening on October 3) in an effort to support ourselves and our friends that rely on the Christmas market season for 60-90% of their annual income. When we decided to make a go of it, we reached out to a selection of the talent that we knew to fill the space. We did not anticipate the willingness of the makers to participate and the fantastic response from the shoppers of Victoria! The original concept was simply to be a pop-up shop, but we were asked multiple times a day by both vendors and shoppers to stay on, and thus we have decided to stay and carry on this adventure in craft. Currently we have extended until June 2021 and if we can survive with no shopping holiday and no broad tourism for these next few months, we will feel confident to extend again.
If someone wanted to be part of the collective, what would they need to do? How do you select?
Although our shelves are VERY full, we do love hearing who is out there that may be willing to contribute. We ask that the vendors send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with photos of their products and a short bio.
What or who inspires you?
I’m sure it could be broken down better if we each answered individually, but to answer for the Collective: we are inspired by the tenacious want to evolve and adapt by the people that fill this space. We are also inspired by one another! Coming into this as mere acquaintances, we have been opened to each other’s knowledge, social reach and kind hearts. It’s been a true joy and pleasure becoming family!
How do you evaluate what is working in the shop and what isn’t? What guides you in your choices?
We haven’t quite been in business long enough to have a true grasp. Our shoppers constantly surprise us when, all of a sudden, they purchase a product that has been sitting there for weeks and then it gets to the point of selling out. Shopping patterns and purchasing behaviour is an intriguing mystery and one that we must stay intuitively open to. There is almost a collective consciousness that we, as shop owners, need to become aware of, and thus be open to flow with it and turn on a dime. Mini tweaks therefore happen consistently in the store to best display the beautiful items we have.
What are some of the hardest lessons you’ve had starting your business? How have you overcome them?
Starting a business in a pandemic has been an interesting ride, but not hard per se. I think because the three of us have several businesses under our belts we are pretty open to things not being perfect, plus our team is so supportive and covers a lot of ground, so it has been a true pleasure for the most part! This new business was also formed out of a need to support the handmade movement so one can use the old adage: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Market Collective is a gift providing hope and possibility from the ashes of this pandemic.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to open up a business?
I think you just need to do a bit of market research, but not get overwhelmed or intimidated. It’s a rollercoaster, but if you have a passion to succeed you probably will!
As we navigate our new reality, what advice would you give to your fellow business owners on what keeps you moving forward? Any helpful tips?
Gosh! I guess just be open to change. Be vigilant about what really matters. Remember to ask yourself: what is the heart of what you are doing in your business? Is it just about money … or does it have a deeper meaning and intention behind it, whether that be supporting local artists or simply providing something of beauty, however that may be defined? A business with heart is what our community needs. The village is what matters in the end.
Have you made any hard decisions to get you through this difficult time?
Because we opened 6 months into the pandemic, we knew we were up against some challenges! So while we navigate these challenges and the sense of unknown, some of the most difficult decisions have, in fact, not been related to the pandemic but rather who we host in the store. There is simply too much talent by too many people we respect and love and it is sometimes very hard to not take someone on. Maybe we are looking at a handmade revolution to take over the malls …