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2019 Year in Review

about us collaboration local love

In the last few days, we've wrapped and delivered our final batch of December orders (thank you everyone) and spent time off work at home. Tidying up, putting away decor from the holiday, munching on leftovers and looking back on the year that was.


Our traditional Italian Christmas Eve chestnut roast with eggnog and wine.

2019 was a jam-packed 365 days. In addition to Kootz Collective, we took on a contract with Creston Valley Kootenay Lake tourism. We have been (and still are) managing the social media for @cvklroute. We grew up between Creston and Kootenay Lake, and when the RFP landed in our inbox, we new we had to apply. The opportunity to use our social media skills to promote the Creston Valley is truly an honour. Though we grew up mainly in Trail, our summers and most holidays were spent in Creston because that is where the majority of our immediate and extended family is from. Our Dad was born in Rossland, but grew up from toddlerhood in Wynndel, and our Mom is a born and raised Creston girl. In fact, our family was one of the original pioneer families to settle in the area over 100 years ago! We spent our Summers working from the East Shore all the way to Yahk and most of our jobs were directly or indirectly tourism-based. Applying our local knowledge as well as an out-of-town viewpoint to the area's new tourism focus has been a fun and educational experience. You can check out what the Creston Valley and East Shore of Kootenay Lake has to offer by following on Facebook and Instagram.

Home sweet home on Kootenay Lake.

Kootz Collective is nearing its 3rd year of online glory! Designing apparel for a very niche market is both exciting and challenging. We really feel like we have captured the essence of our love for the Kootenays in our designs and have established a few key pieces that continue to be sought after. We also challenge ourselves to change things up with new designs or something out-of-the-box. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Basically, we are still learning every day. It's interesting to look back in our old files before we had even launched the store online and compare our initial ideas to what we've actually followed through with. A timeline of what's emerged and evolved in the last 6+ years when our vision was merely a few pages of notes and sketches. Throughout it all, our main focus has always been our love of nature, local love and getting back to our roots.

We did fewer markets in 2019 due to conflicting schedules and the need for more down time/family time. It's always worth the sacrifice as our family is our top priority. As our kids get older, extra-curricular activities and school events start to become more common. We also still work full-time so balancing careers with various side hustles, and a love of traveling for both of us, is truly a juggling act. The markets we did do were a blast. We were in Cranbrook in July and Creston in August and both were a great experience connecting with locals. We always seem to meet up with at least one social media friend who we get to meet in "real life" which is really cool. Also, chatting it up with fellow small businesses is a great way to network and share ideas. (And lighten our wallets as we love to buy handmade/Canadian designed wares!)

Capturing Kootenay Babes in their natural habitat. 

We pulled off 2 official photoshoots in 2019 plus some spur of the moment candids with sweet friends we grew up with in Kuskanook. We worked with a wide array of models all living in or born in the Kootenays and our favourite photographer Natalie Pinchak! We feel blessed to have met Natalie and make that first photoshoot happen in late 2018... and we haven't looked back. She has been truly generous with her time and talent and we can't say enough good things about her work and bright personality. Our photoshoots are never dull! Everyone who's modelled for us (with little to no experience) have been up for anything, super positive and willing to brave the elements. Like the freak spring snowstorm in May that totally changed what was supposed to be a Spring/early Summer vibe and turned into a frosty blizzard. Safe to say we skipped the planned ice cream cone shots that day. The people that support our brand and understand our vision enough to spend a day with us just for some cool swag and snacks is honestly crazy to us. We are flattered, humbled, and beyond grateful to these awesome people. A special shout out to: Jill, Dana, Adrienne, Alex, Mat, Ian, Jasmine, Arlyss, Phelan, Kristin, Darrett and Frank. You're all beauties! 

Our photographer, Natalie and some amazing models who always show up and give 110%

We hosted our first workshop last year and it was amazing! We did a 2 hour flat-lay photography for social media learning session in Creston at the beautiful Morris Flowers Garden Centre. We had treats, sponsors, cool props, giveaways and more. It was so much fun and the reception was so great that we would love to do more in 2020. We already have one in the works, but details on that will come later in the year. If you are looking for a local workshop to attend (Kootenays or Calgary) or are a business who would like to host us - we'd love to hear from you. We are pretty open to ideas and would be most comfortable (based on our experience and expertise) hosting sessions on: low-budget/no-budget social media growth, flat lay photography for social media, building a small start-up business, vision boarding, and/or women in business.

Flat-lay photography for Social Media Workshop in Creston.

What's in store for 2020? You will have to wait for all the details but generally speaking our main goals are new designs, classic designs reimagined on new apparel, a scattering of Kootenay markets and collabs and few more ideas that require some more brainstorming. In 2019 we joined forces with a  number of awesome small businesses as well as donated product to events, charities, and brand reps. Some of the decisions worked well and others not quite so much for various reasons. It's really hard to say no and Kelsey and I put in a ton of effort into projects and promoting others. The effort is not always reciprocated in a way that meets our expectations. We have high standards and work hard to never half-ass anything so maintaining a realistic expectation of outcomes or reevaluating how we approach certain projects is something we're working on. Setting boundaries is important in both life and business! For budget and time-management reasons we can't be all in for every request that comes our way. We have decided to choose more deliberately on who we partner with in 2020 and are looking forward to some alliances that are bigger, more intentional, and creative!

One of our recent Collective Giveaways. Just a small sampling of the cool businesses we get to pair up with!

We want to thank everyone who has purchased a Kootz Collective item this year for themselves, a friend or a family member. Thank you for also sharing, liking or commenting on social media and to anyone who has given us a Facebook review. These positive interactions truly mean a lot to our business. We especially love seeing and sharing your photos of KC gear in the Kootenays and beyond! We've seen photos of our goods all the way in places like Newfoundland, Thailand, Mexico and Ireland.

We have a 2020 planning session scheduled, but for now we are enjoying our last few days of freedom at home with our families. Oh, and Kelsey is a New Years' baby and will be celebrating her Birthday in line with the beginning of a new decade. How cool is that?!


From our families to yours, we wish you all a healthy and adventurous new year. We can't wait to connect with all of you in 2020!

Leah & Kelsey


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