Year in Review and Our 4th Birthday
We are celebrating the online shop's 4th Birthday this month! We launched KootzCollective.com on a chilly February morning 4 years ago with nervous excitement and no idea where this brand would take us. Fast forward to today and we've accomplished and learned so many things running this business, with 2020 being one of our biggest tests yet! Working together and maintaining a business under COVID precautions has been one of the craziest small business challenges thrown at us yet. 2020 has been good to us considering the unprecedented circumstances.
If you're new here, read more on who we are on our About Us page.
As we have done in the past, for every new year/Birthday, we want to highlight some of the awesome moments and lessons from the previous year plus a few clues into what will be coming up in 2021.
When we read through last years' Birthday and year in review posts it's really evident how much we slowed down this year. We didn't do any markets or workshops, and this time last year, we were doing double-duty and still working with Creston Valley Tourism managing their social media account. (Our contract ended, as scheduled, in the early Spring of 2020 just as COVID hit Canada!) Our travel was restricted so we were back in the Kootenays less and even travelling the 20 minutes to and from each others houses was greatly reduced. Hello, Microsoft Teams! We have definitely missed the face-to-face connection of meeting people and other makers at markets across the Kootenays and Calgary. We are also greatly missing our photoshoots! We always gather a group of Kootenay-born models and head out somewhere secluded for a photography adventure (usually with our gal, Natalie Pinchak) but in 2020 we didn't do a product/model shoot aside from our own homes and backyards.
To make up for no markets or workshops, we wanted to spend some time on a larger giveaway that would not only allow someone to win a cool gift from us, but also showcase other small business owners on a larger scale. This is how the Kootenay Women in Business giveaway came to life in the Summer. We held a contest that female-identifying business owners, entrepreneurs and artists/makers could enter with the chance to win a gift card from us plus a big online feature. We chose our winner, Danielle A. from Trail, plus 4 other women who were randomly drawn for a group blog post. The contest was a huge success.
We met a bunch of inspirational and talented Kootenay women and featured them across our website and social media. We had entries from all over the Kootenays plus a number of ladies living across Canada who grew up in the area.
This giveaway was special to us as we no longer live in the Kootenays either but still support the businesses and people there immensely through our business as well as on a personal level. Our entire brand is based off of our Kootenay roots and though we work and collaborate with people all over Canada, our focus is always the Kootz. We've always known that Kootenay people kick ass, especially Kootenay Babes, no matter where they are in the world. We are lucky and excited to have a platform to share that! You can see those blog posts here and here.
Photo: Amanda Mary Creative
In addition to the Kootenay Women in Business giveaway, we ran various other giveaways throughout the year and managed to still organize what has become a tradition for us - the epic month of giving we do prior to the holidays. We hosted 2 group giveaways plus joined forces with Hello Cream Co. as part of a huge giveaway worth almost $5,000 which included a stay at a gorgeous Airbnb in Invermere, BC! Thank you to all of our wonderful holiday giveaway collaborators this year including, Kaslo Sourdough, Dog Patch Pottery, Wakeful Travel, and Abby Wilson Art.
Photos: Invermere, BC Airbnb
A goal we set for ourselves last year, that you can read about here, was to bring more sustainability into our business. We are excited to say that we implemented a couple of things in 2020 to fulfill that goal. First, we switched some of our packaging to a more environmentally-friendly brand. Our tissue paper is now printed by noissue which prints compostable tissue in North America. Plus, the tissue is covered in our own fun custom illustrations. Secondly, near the end of the year, we reached out to a special organization. In November, we announced our partnership with Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society (Nelson, BC). FOKLSS works with the communities, indigenous groups, and industries surrounding Kootenay Lake to help conserve the lake and its vital ecosystem. The FOKLSS mission means a lot to us, as we grew up along the East Shore of Kootenay Lake. The lake has been part of our family for generations. Our Dad grew up in Wynndel so Duck Lake and Kootenay Lake were his playgrounds. Our Mom's family settled in Creston over a century ago, travelling up the Kootenay River by raft in the 1890's. Her family had a summer home on the East Shore in the 1950's and the property is now our parents full-time residence.
The Lake is a source of endless joy and entertainment - swimming, water skiing, boating, treasure hunting and camping. It is also a huge source of education for us, and now our kids! Wildlife watching, finding arrowheads chips on the beach, discovering hidden art from indigenous storytellers thousands of years old, and the names of native plants and trees.
We learned how much damage a storm could do based on the wind's direction, and how to spot it brewing on the lakes' horizon hours before it hit. We know the best place to fish during a specific time of year, how to hold a rock at just the right angle for skipping, and hidden natural wonders known only to locals. How lucky and privileged we feel to have a place like that for ourselves and families. We want the lake and its surrounding ecosystem of flora and fauna to regenerate, sustain, and be protected for generations to come. For this reason, teaming up with FOLKSS felt more than right.
For every purchase you make from us at KootzCollective.com a portion will be donated to Friends of Kootenay Lake.
Supporting local has never been more important than it was this year and we hope the massive surge of support for small business continues and doesn't just stop when the pandemic is over. We have always been proponents of supporting local, even before we had our own business. We are average hardworking people and, of course, we have and do purchase from Amazon and big box stores. However, with a bit of searching, careful planning and budgeting, we honestly believe that shopping smaller is the way to go both environmentally and economically. We've evolved our shopping habits over the years and going more local and more sustainable is a win-win and there is no going back for us. We want to thank everyone that supported us in 2020 by purchasing outdoor and Kootenay apparel, sharing on social media, adding comments to social media or our blog, and giving us a positive Facebook review.
Local love! Holiday gift giving from Newfoundland, Cranbrook, Nelson, Calgary and Vancouver.
We are both pretty organized people and we love lists. So here are a couple of fun lists to sum up our 2020 year in business.
Some positives from our year:
1. Reaching a new business milestone!
2. Partnering with @friendsofkootenaylake
3. Hosting a giveaway for Kootenay Women in Business
4. Collaborated with Canadian small businesses to give away the biggest prize we’ve ever been part of.
5. Despite many stock shipping delays and cancellations, we ended up launching more apparel and goods this year than ever before. How did that happen?!
6. We got creative and resourceful with modelling and photography because of gathering restrictions
7. New stockist - Modern Alchemy in Creston, BC
8. Took new steps to make our packaging more eco-friendly
8. Personally, one of us lost our full time job but gained a new one 🙌🏼
9. We survived having kids at home and homeschooling. Let’s be honest, this was the biggest achievement 😜
Some business (and life) lessons learned or improved upon:
1. "Zoom" fatigue is real
2. Self-care isn't all about bubble baths and hot yoga. Sometimes its 10 minutes of quiet time doing nothing, talking to someone about mental health, or just saying "no"
3. Standing up for ourselves is getting easier when we feel our business and intellectual property is being threatened (we are non-confrontational and somewhat introverted people so this has been challenging!)
4. Perseverance - not giving up on ourselves, supporting others when we can, and slogging through the year despite so many unexpected twists and turns
It's hard to make any concrete decisions at this point for 2021, as COVID is still a reality. We had travel plans for 2020 that will probably be cancelled again this year, and the ability to do workshops and markets will still be touch-and-go.
What we do know is the design duo that is Kootz Collective is continuing to design and brainstorm fun accessories, apparel, giveaways and awesome Kootenay and outdoor-inspired content for you.
In fact, 2021 is shaping up to be pretty exciting. We will be launching some new products that are totally unique. We had many stock shipping delays last year so we're working hard to plan things as early as we can. The good news is we have two items that have just launched that were originally supposed to be part of our early winter line. So, surprise, here they are!
We are very excited to have two new sweaters in the online store for shoulder season.
Say hello to our new Kootz Crew. This style has been in the works for awhile. We've been keen to design a sweater with a large sleeve imprint for some time and create a look that had a worn-in, vintage look. We love the subtle tone-on-tone style and finally found just the right sweater to test it on. This cozy sweater is unisex and fits true to size. Ready for those cold winter days and cool spring nights.
The trees are back! Our popular tree design has finally returned in a NEW sweater style, the Tree Crew. Previously, this design was on t-shirts only so we're so excited to feature it on a this super cozy unisex crewneck. We love nature and this design has been a personal favourite of ours since we launched it in 2017. This new look has a forest green imprint on a warm sand long sleeve.
To celebrate our Birthday, we have a fun giveaway coming up. Stay tuned on our social media for all the details on how to enter!