We're excited to introduce you to Vanessa, the owner behind Wild Yukon Furs, a handmade jewelry and textile art company featuring ethically sourced fur. Vanessa has both a retail location in Whitehorse, YT and an online boutique. Enjoy!
What does the perfect morning look like to you?
- Real life - Fresh, hot locally roasted coffee in my favourite mug with my partner in life and in business, George, a killer playlist in the background, a delicious breakfast bowl, a bit of playing with textiles and bracing for a day of outdoor adventuring.
What's your favourite thing about owning a small business?
- I think my favourite thing about owning a small business is that I get to have one-on-one meaningful conversations about topics big and small literally every day. I put in all the investment (time, finances, etc.) and get all the rewards. Sure, I earn a living which I'm super grateful for but even better and more important is that I build relationships and share information. I'm very passionate about overcoming systemic inequality for women, LGBTQ2S+ folks, and Canada's First Nations people. So interacting with individual humans on a daily basis allows me to speak about my shared experience with my Indigenous partner and the impacts of colonialism, racism, and bias - even in fashion and in government.
If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
- Morocco is pretty high on my list and so is Peru for their vibrant textile culture. However, I did love Costa Rica and I miss the beaches on the daily. Me, my fella, a camper van and beaches galore. What's not to love?
What 3 words best describe your business?
- Ethical. Informative. Contemporary.
What's one thing people might not know about you?
- That I never finished high school. I was bullied horribly and at that time, I was more interested in pursuing my fashion design goals than sitting in the principal's office to report yet another offence. So I packed my bags, hitch hiked (gasp!) to the city and crashed with a friend until I could get my own place and a job (incidentally, the job I got gave me all the jewelry skills I use today!). I've always been pretty results-driven so going after the life I really wanted won out over dealing with grumpy high school administration - obviously.
Any embarrassing moments you'd like to share with us?
- Oh, you mean like every single time I wave at someone I think I know faster than my brain can alert me to the fact that they are NOT in fact someone I know? Yeah, no.
What's your proudest moment in your business so far?
- There have been so many since we began last year! I was awarded the People's Choice Award for jewelry design at the Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik NWT, we were nominated for a Startup Canada award and for a Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce award but I think the proudest moment for me was when we opened our store and my partner, George saw everything set up for the first time and he told me how proud he was of me. That was the best.
What makes you laugh the most?
- Quick wit, sarcasm and George's autocorrect fails.
If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to and why?
- I'd go back to the time before settler contact on Turtle Island. I'd love to experience Tlingit culture while it was thriving, intact, and not yet damaged by colonialism. I hear stories about their sophisticated social structure, the art - songs, dance, regalia, carving) and wish I could witness the beauty of that. I'd carry it in my heart forever.
What's your favourite holiday and why?
- My favourite holiday is probably National Indigenous People's Day because everyone is in regalia, singing and dancing, and there is just so much joy. It represents so much healing and that fills me with hope.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Still making textile art and celebrating life and culture in meaningful ways.
How would your friends describe you?
- Loyal, generous, driven, and kind.
What's the biggest problem your business solves for people?
- We give consumers an ethically sourced, sustainable and renewable product that represents reconciliation and decolonization.
If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?
- Eat gourmet food cooked not by me and dishes washed also not by me, full body massage, a nap (probably during the massage) and paddle boarding on a perfectly calm ocean populated by sea turtles.
What's the biggest challenge you've overcome in your business?
- The biggest problem we have is misinformation regarding the Canada's traditional fur harvest. This problem is far from being overcome but one person at a time, we have the opportunity to educate and create opportunities for individuals to make informed decisions about how they relate to the fur trade and peoples' right to choose for themselves to wear fur.
We hope you enjoyed getting to know Vanessa and learning how passionate she is about her business and life in general. You can learn more about Vanessa, check out all her amazing creations and read about her behind the scenes moments on her blog by visiting her website.
To learn more about other Canadian business owners, check out our 'Behind The Biz' blog series.