MAKING THE LEAP
Welcome to Renakaya. We focus on helping artisan social enterprises reach their full potential through design services that shine a light on their uniqueness and enable them to reach a broader market.
Curious to know how I got started in the middle of a pandemic? Read on to learn more.
Like many, 2020 was a year of incredible change and uncertainty as the effects of a global pandemic sent shock waves through all aspects of my life.
COVID-19 landed on Canada's shores with force on the Friday before our March Break. A "break" that many parents of school-aged kids joke, just never ended. The thrill of suddenly running a small schoolhouse with 4 kids from grades 2 to 10 while working from home, was quickly tempered. Within a week's time I got the news that the business unit of the social enterprise I worked for was indefinitely pausing operations with the artisan groups we partnered with in Kenya and in Ecuador and that I, along with all of my team, was being laid off. I spent the next few months working with a small team to wind down the business with the respect and dignity it deserved.
The word "pivot" doesn't really capture the essence of how those months felt. It was more like juggling eels while tap-dancing on a spinning top. It was hard, emotional work.
And so, after my last official day of work, I welcomed the break from the busy-ness I had become so accustomed to. I recognized the incredible toll my role as chief emotional labourer of the family was taking and set about replenishing the well all the ways I knew how; I lived like a European and took all of August off, gave myself a media break and spent most of that time in the woods and on the water. I exercised, I ate well, I spent lots of time connecting with family and friends via zoom or facetime. I read, listened to podcasts and took some online courses. Whenever possibly, I unplugged and recharged.
And when I was rested, I set about planning for what was next.
All of my career moves have happened from a mix of happenstance and serendipity; essentially being the right place, meeting the right person and saying "yes" to new opportunities. How on earth was I going to make this happen holed up my house 24-7? I had to get creative about how to network in the time of COVID-19
I started with a list. I wrote down all of the people I'd worked with over the years who really impressed me and who were doing interesting work. I started reaching out 1 by 1, aiming to have 1 clear outcome from every call. Sometimes this was the recommendation of another person to reach out to or an organization to research. Often I was able to pay it forward by offering advice and insight to someone in their network.
It was invigorating to build a network all from the confines of my make-shift home office. I started to notice that after the conversations with entrepreneurs I felt a mix of excitement, energy and, I admit, a little envy. Having run my own children's clothing label many years ago, I increasingly felt that pull to return to the entrepreneurial world.
And so, after a couple of months, I decided to build something of my own: a company combining my love of craft and great design, fueled by an entrepreneurial spirit. My goal with Renakaya is to help craft-manufacturers around the world to scale their business through great design. I'm so exciting to dig in and share my findings along the way with you!