Crafty creatives turn business dreams into reality amid pandemic

While many small businesses have struggled to stay afloat amid the pandemic, some young, female entrepreneurs in Windsor-Essex have used this time to get their's started.

Young female entrepreneurs in Windsor-Essex use quarantine downtime to launch businesses

Leah Evola started L.eova skincare in the spring after having some downtime due to the pandemic. She sells her products in Amherstburg`s Towne Shoppe and is quickly expanding to other retailers. (Submitted by Leah Evola)

While many small businesses have struggled to stay afloat amid the pandemic, some young, female entrepreneurs in Windsor-Essex have used this time to get their own started. 

Leah Evola started hand-pouring her skin care creations in May, launching her business L.eova at that time. 

"It kind of spawned from the pandemic for sure," she told CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive. 

"Not really having much to do, but also trying to find a little bit more of an affordable way to make my own skin care products."

The holistic nutrition student said she's had fun learning about how nutrition can affect the skin and finding combinations that can help people. 

Leah Evola said at first friends and family were her biggest supporters, but now she`s seeing more demand for her hand-made products. (Submitted by Leah Evola)

Initially she was supported by family and friends who were consuming her products, but Evola said in the few short months since she started, business has taken off. She's currently selling L.eova products at Amherstburg's Towne Shoppe and making inroads with other local businesses interested in selling her items. 

But it's the ability to sell and advertise primarily online that's paved the way for young makers like Evola. 

"I haven't amassed like a huge following on social media, but the following and the consumer base that I do have is so amazing and so supportive," said Paulette Pethategoose, who also took time during lockdown in the spring to educate herself about how to make  jewelry.

"For anyone who knows me, they know I'm jewelry and accessory obsessed and it's something I always wanted to look into doing, whether it was being part of a product development team and the head office or one of Canada's major companies or making my own," she said. 

"And the wall that I always hit was that I don't do metal work, which for me was always just the thought that 'Well, if I don't do this one thing, I can never delve into this arena.'"

Paulette Petahtegoose, owner of L is for Leo, creates small-batch polymer clay earrings and sells out nearly every week. (L is for Leo/Instagram)

Despite that setback, Pethategoose discovered clay polymer, which is the material she uses to create small-batch earrings for her business L is for Leo. 

"The silver lining of the pandemic for me was it introduced me to a medium that I've been able to work with ... it exposed me to this whole other community that I didn't know existed, which I'm forever grateful for because this has always been something on my mind forever."

LISTEN | Tap the player to hear about the successes these small businesses have had so far:

The pandemic has been detrimental for many small businesses, but has also been an opportunity for some. Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre speaks to Paulette Petahtegoose and Leah Evola about their startups and successes. 7:54

Pethategoose said she sells out of her earrings nearly every week when she launches them. She attributes much of her early success to the supportive community of young female creatives who are operating their small businesses and "supporting local."

A mentor of hers is Nicole Haslam, who owns Sweet Ivory Cole, a small-business offering custom epoxy resin charcuterie boards, coasters and more. 

Petahtegoose said she was always interested in creating accessories but the pandemic gave her time to explore the medium which was right for her to start making them. (L is for Leo/Instagram)

"I started thinking about it in April and I launched it at the very beginning of June, and started to do the winter farmer's market," explained Haslam. "And then my orders got so crazy that I can't even go to the market right now. I essentially do this 10 hours a day every single day."

Haslam is in the travel industry and has been off work throughout the pandemic but said she's enjoyed dedicating time to her creations and is so grateful for the success she's had so far. 

Nicole Haslam, owner of Sweet Ivory Cole, says she works about 10 hours a day making and packaging all the items she creates. (Submitted by Nicole Haslam)

"I've always been super crafty and I've been noticing that there's been a lot of small businesses that have come to light on social media, on the news or everyone's been saying support local," she said. 

"I was super nervous but I just thought 'Why don't I just try something and it'll keep me busy' ...  and then it just blew up. I didn't ever expect it to be this good."

LISTEN | Tap the player to hear about Haslam's business and how she'll keep it going:

While many people have been laid off from their jobs during the pandemic, some are making the best of it by creating side businesses. Nicole Haslam is the owner of Sweet Ivory Cole in Windsor. She tells the CBC's Kaitie Fraser about how she tries to support local businesses and is grateful that her own enterprise has been so busy. 3:46

All three women say they hope to keep their small businesses up, knowing that the Christmas and holiday season may be their busiest time of year. 

"I have 47 [orders] right now and I have about a three-week waiting period just to get orders out," said Haslam. "I really am enjoying this. Obviously having your own business is something that isn't easy for anybody, and if this ends up being something that can continue for me, I will definitely, definitely continue it."

Cutting boards customized with resin is one of Haslam's big sellers for Christmas gifts this year. (Sweet Ivory Cole/Instagram)

About the Author

Kaitie Fraser


Kaitie Fraser is a reporter at CBC Windsor. Email

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