“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.
Many of these features have been about people who were able to turn a hobby into a profitable business. For Kate Fabbro, her handmade, upcycled scrunchies business was started more out of curiosity than out of expertise.
“In 2018 my contract ended at my previous job. With my husband being in the military we lived on the base and so I wanted to start my own business because I knew that at some point he might get posted,” says Fabbro. The Sturgeon Falls native says they had been in North Bay the last eight years but knew that a posting could come at any point.
“I wanted the flexibility that I could do something that would be easy to take with me no matter where we ended up. I saw that scrunchies were making a comeback and I just started doing research and trying to see if there were any scrunchies businesses in the North Bay or Sturgeon Falls area and there wasn’t at the time.”
Fabbro says there were some in Canada, but she wanted to do something that would set her apart from those.
“I decided I would thrift all the fabric, wash it all, cut it up and make scrunchies out of it and call them up cycled scrunchies and they would be environmentally friendly,” she says.
“We’ve done seasonal boxes in the past while collaborating with other small businesses as well,” says Fabbro.
But making the scrunchies alone wasn’t something Fabbro was well versed in.
“I told my family that I wanted to do this, and they were a little unsure of this, but on Thanksgiving weekend I asked my mom how to use the sewing machine to make scrunchies. It’s something I didn’t know how to do before I had this idea. We did that all weekend and we tried different sizes and different fabrics and we finally found something that really worked,” she says.
“After that, it took a couple of weeks for me to get the courage to finally post something on social media talking about having scrunchies for sale, and in the meantime, I knew I needed a logo and a business Facebook and thought I would just sell through there. On October 28th, 2018 I made my first post and people were really responsive and receptive. I did my first market at the Artisans Way Market at the Davedi Club and I almost sold out in that one night.”
Fabbro says that she started to get so many orders that she started to fall behind a little bit and needed to have her mother help make them. That assistance would become hugely important very soon after as Fabbro found out her husband was getting posted to Oklahoma City in the summer of 2019.
“That’s where I am now, running my business with most of it coming out of North Bay and Sturgeon Falls,” says Fabbro.
“When I moved here, I couldn’t work here for the first five months until I got a work visa. I was getting orders on Etsy at this point, and I would then send them to my mom who would make the scrunchie and ship it out and we have just continued doing it that way.”
Fabbro says from Oklahoma City she runs the website and handles the marketing, emails, and customer service while her mother makes the orders and ships them off.
“She’ll go to Value Village and Facetime me while she’s there and we’ll pick out fabrics that way,” says Fabbro.
“It’s turned into a family business now and my sister is going to school for graphic design, and she’s helped me with logo and taking photos to.”
Fabbro says that even though she is over 2,000 kilometers away, she still tries to do as much of her business by utilizing local partners.
“The majority of our fabric is bought locally in North Bay. We now have other businesses selling our products in their stores We’ve donated to local non-profits such as Amelia Rising and the Capital Centre’s Hops and Vines event and lots of other local businesses have collaborated with me on stuff because North Bay is really where my heart is and that’s the community of support I have built up,” she says.
“During COVID-19 we’ve really seen how supportive the community is because there was a huge push to buy and support local businesses and we really felt that over the last year.”
She says aside from the move itself; COVID-19 did present challenges to running Kate Made Co., however, there was also a silver lining to that.
“When the borders were closing down because of the pandemic we had time to think about expanding what we could do,” she says.
“I started to come up with designs for sweatshirts and I would use a local graphic designer to put together my idea and then I would send it off to a local screen-printing company in North Bay to print that sweatshirt.”
That is something that is now available on their website.
“We have come a long way since this started,” says Fabbro who adds her background was in Education and had never taken a business or marketing course.
“I have a Bachelor’s in Physical and Health Education from Laurentian University and from there I went to Nipissing for my Bachelor of Education and I taught for a few years. I worked at the college for a few years before that contract ended and then this whole thing started,” she says.
“I started this because I wanted it to be flexible, but I had no idea that we would be moving to the states, but in the end, we just made it work.”
Fabbro says when others ask her about starting their own business, she says being flexible is key to making it work.
“When I first started, I was so caught up in getting a logo and a Facebook page and that really shouldn’t have been the big focus. You can start things on your own page and then see where it goes. Especially for anyone that doesn’t have a business background or any marketing experience, if you’re determined and passionate about it you will find a way to make it work. Even if you’re working full-time and you have a passion for something else, just do it on the side and see where it goes.”
If you have a story idea for the “Jobs of the Future” series, send Matt an email at firstname.lastname@example.org