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From wood working to sticker making, Kristen Lebels Wild Made Goods store a wild success

'When there was this whole rejuvenated push to decorating things like your laptops and water bottles with stickers, I just thought this is awesome, this is something that is up my alley'

“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market.   

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Kristen Lebel says her Wild Made Goods business was a chance for her to get back to her roots.  

“I never thought about doing anything just arts-related because back in the early 2000s there wasn’t anything that was very lucrative that you could pursue with a Fine Arts Degree. It wasn’t really encouraged to go to university to “be an artist.” That was something that seemed pretty skeptical,” says Lebel.  

But during the pandemic her previous business for custom wood working had to be shutdown.  

“There was no way to display what I was making and I couldn’t do craft shows and share what I’d make and wood prices skyrocketed.” 

Lebel says she had developed a steady following from that business and people had encouraged her to start an Etsy shop. 

“I put some of the things I already had on stock online. I thought if I could make a few extra dollars a month that would be great. It just kept growing though and then I switched everything in my life over to illustrating, which is my original background.” 

Lebel, who now resides in Rutherglen, went to school for art at the University of Guelph. She says she started to draw again during this time and ended up doing digital work and making stickers, leading to her online Etsy sticker shop.   

I was unsure because I didn’t know if my tastes would match anyone else's tastes and we’re in a small town, in fact we are out in Rutherglen and so I didn’t know if I could even sell to people in my small town. But the world became my market and it became a great business for me as it attracted local people as well as people around the globe. 

“It has been an interesting ‘return to my roots’ I would say as an artist and especially with stickers which seems kind of silly but, as a girl who grew up in the 1980s, we all had sticker books,” says Lebel.  

“We would go to all the department stores like Zellers or Towers and they would have sticker vending machines and you couldn’t wait to get new stickers to put in your book. So, when there was this whole rejuvenated push to decorating things like your laptops and water bottles with stickers, I just thought ‘this is awesome, this is something that is up my alley.’” 

Lebel says her husband encouraged her to put her illustrations online as well and from there Lebel says she found a community of people who were invested in her success.  

“Every time I would reach a milestone in my shop’s sales it was a real surprise to me how well received that was on my social media because I had never really been on e-commerce before as a business,” says Lebel.  

“People were so encouraging and just continuing to give me support and it was very humbling.” 

She says her style of art is very, “nature inspired and very celestial and I’ve got some stuff that is joining this witch themed trend that seems to be happening. I love botanicals and florals and cheesy quotes. I love encouragement and so I do a lot of mirror clings which I was gearing towards people who might’ve been feeling pretty down during the first little bit of the pandemic and I’m really happy it's something people can look at in their mirror that might make them feel better during the day. I just try and draw the thing that I’m feeling at the moment and hoping that it resonates with that next buyer.” 

Lebel says she feels there are a couple of factors to what has made this Etsy sticker shop successful.  

“Over the pandemic when people were not shopping in stores or going out and socializing while shopping wasn’t happening, online shopping kind of became the world's market place, and there was such an emphasis on shopping local and supporting people who would otherwise have no career,” says Lebel.  

She adds the second part is that the price tag for most of her work is very affordable.  

“For $4 you are supporting an artist and you’re getting a piece of something they have created and you’re putting art out in the world and you can measure that value. It’s something they can put on their water bottles and show off to their friends and tell them where they got it and it's just a really great way that makes art accessible.”  

Lebel has received orders from people around the globe, including England, Australia and China. It has also opened doors to a local collaboration with the Beer Baroness Society and creating their label.  

“I was completely unaware of what I was going to be doing with them,” says Lebel.   

“Shannon Grant was a previous customer of mine who had bought some stickers off me before. She reached out and said, ‘I wanted to know if you would be interested in creating a beer label for us because we wanted to have a local female artist. We want our beer to have a strong woman figure.’ and so I thought that sounded fun and the wheels just started turning and I had a bunch of ideas ready to take to them.”  

Lebel says after a few talks she worked on several drafts and revisions and says, “I sent them one that I felt was 99% finished and that’s what they printed and I’m just totally flattered and very humbled and I’m very impressed with how it came out.” 

Lebel says collaborating with other local female entrepreneurs is a nice feeling because she says it reaffirms there is that support in the community for local artist.  

“That felt extra special, as if we are part of something bigger. And that label is still being shared and so that one collaboration project has continued to go on and it's nice to see that label is still out there.” 

Lebel adds some advice for anyone looking to create something themselves.   

“I always say to people that if they find what they love to do and find a way to make that accessible to people then you have a business. People are happy to support a small local business and you just have to put yourself out there. If you have something that is yours and you love it, there’s a chance that someone else out there likes it to.” 

If you have a story idea for “Jobs of the Future” send Matt an email at m.sookram@outlook.com  





Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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