We’re excited to introduce you to Iqaluit, Nunavut based business owner, Laura Jean, from Polar Pen Pal. Check out our interview and learn more about Polar Pen Pal and their kids subscription items below. In their words, you can “enjoy the arctic, without the frost bite!”.

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What inspired you to start your business?

I was homeschooling my son and saw a lack of resources for families to learn about what life in Nunavut is like today (learning about Nunavut is part of the Canadian social studies curriculum). The textbooks and resources available were outdated and didn’t give a modern view of life here. I figured since we were living here, we could share our experiences for more up-to-date information.

How would you describe your business?

Our business is unique because we share our real life stories and adventures of life on an Arctic island. We also have a truly interactive experience because people can send in their questions about life in the north and receive a personalized letter with the answers.

The north is a place that few people get to see and experience firsthand, so we do our best to share our life and the sights and sounds of the town so they can feel like they had a personal visit.

Instead of using stock photography like most resources do, we use photos and videos that we have taken ourselves or that our friends have shared with us. We have also been able to have help from Inuit artists for things like art work and voiceovers for the videos.

There are so many misconceptions about the arctic, even in children’s educational resources, so we love the opportunity to dispel myths (did you know there are no penguins in the arctic? 🐧) and to share what it’s really like to live on the tree-less tundra.

Our curated resources online also help families discover local Inuit artists, musicians, authors, and other talent that they may not have ever found on their own. We love having the opportunity to promote the amazing talents that are up here.

The connection with the north lasts well beyond the 6 months of the subscription too. On our Instagram page (@ polar pen pal) we share snapshots of things happening around town and the changes in the seasons so people can continue to learn and see what’s going on. Sometimes people will send in requests of things they would like to see in photos too, so again it’s truly interactive and memorable.

What do you love most about owning and running your business?

There are several teachers across the country who use my resources for a basis of a unit study in their classrooms. At times the students will draw pictures and write letters with their questions about life in the north. I absolutely love seeing their art work and hearing what their curious minds are thinking of when they learn about Nunavut. I love that we are able to give them a real connection to the north. Many families have expressed their desire to now make an in-person visit to the North because of what they learned through our program.

What’s your bestselling product? Why do you think it’s so popular?

Our best seller is the 6 month subscription. It is an Arctic Learning Adventure delivered to your door once a month for 6 months. Each month comes with an educational postcard, a gift from the north, a collectable sticker, and an access pass to our online activities. Each month is a different theme about arctic life. Our online activities include videos, songs, printable activities, games, crafts, recommendations for reading and more.

No matter how digital our world becomes, there is something so simple and delightful about receiving a handwritten card from a friend in the mail. Children especially love receiving personalized mail and that’s one of the reasons this product is so well received; kids absolutely love it and look forward to it each month.

Did you always know you’d follow this path or how has your journey as a maker/business owner progressed? 

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and have loved having side hustles over the years but this business was definitely something that I had not planned. I just saw a need for up to date resources to be available and figured since we lived here and could share our personal experiences, that we should use the opportunity to share it with others.
What would you say is the #1 thing it takes to be successful with owning and running an online business?
 
Determination. It won’t always be easy, there will be roadblocks and “ speed bumps” along the way but if you are determined to make it work then you will put in the time and effort to make it happen.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in business?

Don’t take on too much. Focus on one thing at a time, do it well, then move to the next. If you spread yourself too thin right from the beginning then you will be working very hard but accomplishing very little.

Do you have any favourite quotes?

You cannot control the wind but you can adjust the sail.

(Meaning for business : sometimes you just need to adapt or pivot to changing times)

We hope you enjoyed getting to know Iqaluit, NU business owner Laura Jean from Polar Pen Pal a little more. 

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