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Local businesses get creative to help each other during pandemic

Artisanly has been working with numerous local businesses in Guelph and has seen an increase in interest from businesses in other cities
A photo of a curated box that carries products from local businesses. Supplied photo

After losing her job because of the pandemic, Katrina Bell found a new way to help herself and those around her. 

Bell, a Guelph resident, lost her position in a software company in March. 

Through her small candle company, The Copper Bell, which she calls her side hustle, she knew many small businesses who were struggling to make ends meet. 

“When I lost my job, I kind of like reached out to them like ‘hey all of our markets are cancelled, the stores that we’re selling in are closed so let’s try something else,’” said Bell.

Bell created Artisanly in April, a business that curates boxes which includes handmade products such as soaps, candles, mugs and home decor from local businesses.  

“When I created Artisanly, I wanted to focus more on the people making the products, and less on creating a box of mass-manufactured goods to be delivered to people,” said Bell.

“I want to move away from a traditional subscription box feel and showcase artists, makers and artisans in our community, and the communities that surround us.” 

Each month, Artisanly features a new group of vendors and offers customers three ways to shop. They have the option to choose specific items they like, choose a price point and then have a curated surprise box made for them or have the choice to pick from a pre-selected box of products to know exactly what they’ll be getting. 

Bell said makers, artisans, and small local businesses have been some of the hardest hit by closures due to the pandemic and they rely on the peak season in the summer for outdoor public craft shows. 

“Local is really the key focus for Artisanly,” said Bell who has worked with local businesses such as Rose Willow Wellness, Made by Maggie, and Kessie Homemade Natural Products among more. 

“I take feedback from customers, as well as the seasonality of products and try to highlight local vendors that fit into those areas of interest. We’re featuring cookies and floral bouquets this month for example.” 

Bell said she plans on making August her busiest month by listening to customers’ feedback. and spreading the word of local businesses.

“I brought in some kind of high demand things like I brought in a ceramicist for the first time, someone who does pottery which is really cool. People wanted to get away from the mugs that have the vinyl printing on them and wanted something more hand made,” said Bell. 

While focusing on the Tri-city area, Bell said she’s seen an increase in interest from businesses in other cities. 

“I’ve had lots of people from Toronto, Hamilton, and even someone from Vancouver who’ve reached out to me saying they would like to be involved,” said Bell adding that she would look into it as the business develops further. 

“I love giving gifts,” said Bell who is known to many as the mastermind behind the Gryphon Gifts initiative last year where faculty and staff at the University of Guelph delivered free food and drinks to students who were stressed during exam time. 

With Artisanly, she said she’s able to be a part of the gift-giving process and sees customers use the boxes for a variety of occasions such as a consolation box for a cancelled wedding or a pick me up present for someone battling cancer. 

“I get to be a part of all these touching, heartwarming things and interactions between friends and its such so great to get a little bit more excitement and joy when the world was a little bit insane,” said Bell. 

“You get such an inside look into people’s friendships and how much they care about each other and how much they want to show each other like ‘oh we can’t be together right now but I’m thinking about you and everything is going to be okay.’”


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Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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