The homespun maker movement has sparked dozens of extraordinary success stories. While each story is distinct, all owe their success to a magical combination of sweat, inspiration, and the awesome power of the Internet.
Avenue Coloniale – Hand Hewn Cutting (And Eating) Boards
Since fall 2013, Florence Julien-Gagnier and Raphaël Millette have transformed high quality waste wood – such as walnut, elm and cherrywood – into ergonomically designed cutting boards.
The concept began simply enough: earn a little extra money on Etsy by gathering waste wood from their fathers’ woodshops and turning it into cutting boards. Little did they know that within weeks they would become owners of a very busy and successful small business.
The founders tell their story:
Raphaël: We met in a restaurant. She was a barmaid and I was in the kitchen. We started dating each other and it was all about eating. We love the sharing side of food, things like picnics and sharing dinner on platters.
So we wanted to make an object that could be aesthetically pleasing and practical at the same time – something that makes the food that you put on it look nice. We wanted to make a small cutting board for small apartments, but something more than just a piece of wood. We wanted to make it special.
Florence: It’s all recycled wood. Both of our fathers are woodworkers, so they give us the spare, leftover wood they have – from wild cherry to mahogany. It’s all quite serendipitous.
We’d been doing this for only three months. The timing was the biggest challenge. We weren’t ready to launch a company. In one week we had to do a website, a Facebook page, everything else… at the same time. So it was all at once. By New Year’s I had time to think, and went: “Oh my God, we have a company now.”
Raphaël: The biggest challenge was when we had a corporate order to make 100 boards in two weeks. It was crazy. My father came to help me because I was panicking.
Florence: And my mother came to help me with the bags. Our whole family really came together to help us do this. Things are constantly changing, but we make a great team. I’m good at handling clients and he’s great at the woodworking.
Carriage 44 – Wholesome Soap Meets Solid Design
Designers, Oliver and Hannah Stenberg were living in the London in 2010 when they decided to become soap makers. Not because either of them knew how to make handmade soaps, but because they wanted to create healthy skincare products that didn’t compromise on design.
Three and a half years later, the duo are back in Montreal working out of their Brossard home. Applying their health and design ethos to everything they do, Oliver and Hanna have branched out from bars of soap to candles, moisturizers, soap and lip balm.
Oliver explains how it all came together:
“It was kind of a random beginning. About four years ago my wife and I were brainstorming ideas. We both have design backgrounds, not soap-making backgrounds. We’ve always appreciated well made, handcrafted products, but also good branding, good ingredients and we realized not many people were doing skincare soap products made out of good stuff that actually looks good.
“We were living in London, England at the time. My mom lives in Victoria B.C. I pitched the idea to her: Could you find some West Coast artisans, see if anyone makes anything and wants to show you?
“She found a lady who moved from France and had been making soap – her and her family – for generations, and sort of apprenticed under her. She learned the old fashioned, traditional way of making soap. And then we made the recopies our own.
“While my mom was doing that, Hannah and I were doing the branding side of it. Because we were in London, we had no space to make anything. When we moved to Montreal two and a half years ago we started making everything ourselves here.
“The first thing that we came from was the name, which represents counting the numbers of cars or carriages on a train, so it’s sort of the 44th carriage on a train. Then we started working on the logo and the look of the soaps. We definitely liked the square boxy feel to the bars. It’s got a nice masculine feel to it with a clean logo.
“It’s easy to care about what you’re putting into your body, like eating good food. But a lot of people don’t necessarily think about what they’re putting on their body. We wanted people to realize that, if you’re putting all these chemicals on your body all the time, it’s really just as bad as eating processed food.”