Beginning March 17th (Buy Women Owned Day), Sitti is elevating the stories of women-owned businesses through an ongoing blog series titled, “Own Your [Business] Story.” Throughout the past year, we’ve recognized (and experienced first hand) the hurdles for small businesses to pivot and push forward through the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic challenges that have come with it. Through it all, these businesses have shown determination, grace, and resilience. In this series, we get up close and personal with some incredible women so you can hear more about their business stories: what (or who) inspired them to start their brand, what are the challenges they’ve met along their journey and what keeps them going.
Meet Susie Gay, co-founder of This Bag Helps, a Summerland-based non-profit brand creating tote bags that started with the vision of helping businesses impacted by COVID-19. Since the organization was founded in 2020, it has grown to support other causes including organizations who empower girls education, global programs fighting child hunger, and many more. Who wouldn’t want to support a business making a change in people’s lives everyday through a simple tote bag!? They also have these cute shirts that donate to a grant program to help small businesses affected by COVID in Canada. Learn more about Susie’s inspiration and the amazing change she is leading through her business.
Q: What made you decide to start your own business in the middle of a pandemic?
My husband and I had a seasonal business, but once the pandemic hit it did not seem that we were going to be able to open that summer. Instead we launched a non-profit
in April 2020, after seeing how COVID-19 had affected so many small businesses in Canada. Ultimately, we know these small businesses were the framework of our community and they needed help. That is how This Bag Helps was born!
Q: What makes your tote bags unique and desirable?
Our entire supply chain is made up of small businesses! We found a local manufacturer in BC, so everything is handcrafted in Canada. All bags are 100% natural cotton canvas. For the bag screen printing, we connected with a local printer whose business had been affected by COVID-19. The prints are done with an environmentally friendly water based process, creating a nice soft print that naturally wears as the bag does – instead of cracking as a Plastisol print can. We are true to our values of helping all small business owners like ourselves! Also, each tote bag has its own unique cause. The choice is up to the buyer where they want to make a difference.
Q: How does it feel to be juggling being a mom and a business owner at the same time?
I am still pretty fresh in this initiative, but have been supported thus far. Although, the pandemic has made it a challenge and has put extra pressure on those with families. A large part specifically on moms who are trying to manage home schooled kids and still work on their business at the same time. I found myself up many mornings at 5am to have quiet time to focus on this project and build my design business back up which was hit hard with the lock-downs.
Q: How did your company celebrate International Women's Day (or Month)?
We collaborated with One Girl Can, a BC-based organization that educates and mentors girls (and to whom we direct profits from our EDUCATE A GIRL bag) on a collective "I choose to challenge" campaign.
Q: What is a recent exciting success?
We have been very touched to see local businesses supporting the project. I opened a letter last month containing a cheque for $1204 - from an insurance company who wanted to be part of the initiative. So we ran a promotion and donated $10 from every download of their new insurance app by their customers. Such an amazing surprise, and will mean another business will get supported with a grant.
Q: What is the best advice you have for women-led small businesses/business owners?
Create a community of support and mentoring. Dream big, and don't let set-backs take you down.