Women Leaders in Business: Gore Bay apparel-maker nears 30 years of success

Women Leaders in Business: Gore Bay apparel-maker nears 30 years of success

Immediately after 27 many years in operation, Kathy Antonio was not allowing COVID-19 just take down her organization.

The Gore Bay retail and wholesale apparel manufacturing operation, My Ol’ Blues, has weathered lots of storms around the decades and continues to prosper.

Antonio began out her career as a figure skating coach and, following a lot of yrs doing the job in southern Ontario, moved back to Northern Ontario wherever she was born and lifted.

She was involved with the Espanola Minor Theatre when she started out sewing her personal costumes and hats. It did not just take long for requests to appear in and she was fast paced creating and generating merchandise. She made the decision she just could possibly have a deserving organization notion.

“I officially started out the small business in November 1993,” shared Antonio. “I designed hats for people I understood and it just snowballed from there.”

She moved to Sudbury for a several a long time and built a link with extended-time reward shop proprietor Marion Pitkethly of Pit’s Home of Treasures, who related her with a profits agent.

Doing the job with an agent further connected her Canadiana types to hotel gift stores, tourist gifts shops and investing posts throughout Canada. The sales agents advised she concentration on outfits and equipment, this sort of as mitts and hats, to make a selection.

“It was boom, growth, growth throughout the place,” Antonio shared about individuals early years, when she was sourcing 300 wholesale consumers.

In 1997, as a figure skating mentor for Specific Olympians, she outfitted the club in her Canadiana jackets to attend the Entire world Wintertime Games in Toronto. She recalled how persons have been halting them on the avenue and in the lodge to inquire them wherever they purchased the jackets.

These days, Antonio operates a 2,000-square-foot output facility and storefront at 7 Phipps Street in Gore Bay, a modest rural local community at the west end of Manitoulin Island.

“It’s been a great shift,” she admits.

She acquired the house and invested in a handful of flats above the shop that she can depend on as substitute earnings when there is a dip in business.

“I wished a put exactly where I could open a retail store,” she defined.

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She also needed a group where she could raise her children where they could wander to school, trip their bikes on the street, and make lifelong mates.

Antonio identified herself performing prolonged days to retain up with the wholesale sector and, in 2012, made the choice to stage back again from wholesale and discover a a lot more well balanced enterprise.

After obtaining more time she was ready to start off a girls’ program to educate structure to ladies aged 9 to 14. They created their very own layouts, watched Antonio sew, and then they would take it from there to embellish the merchandise. They also discovered about internet marketing and buyer support.

When COVID-19 strike globally, My Ol’ Blues jumped in to aid make PPE in partnership with a fellow Sudbury small business.

The pandemic hit tourism tricky, but it also brought new clients when more people begun travelling regionally and an influx of new citizens relocated to the island.

“We grew to become a tourist booth. Even if they don’t get, or purchase little, (people) experienced a good encounter in the retail store and normally would shop in our on line keep.”

The other sizeable adjust that COVID introduced for her business enterprise was developing an on the net existence — the two selling and connecting with business assistance.

Antonio found the RETAILMavens, a coaching and assistance group for retail store house owners, on Facebook. It was affirming to study she was jogging a fantastic business enterprise. She discovered additional about how to market on line and assemble a supportive team of girls business owners about her.

My Ol’ Blues was a short while ago recognized by the PARO Centre for Women’s Company with the Unshakeable Enterprise of the Yr 2021 award. The award goes to women-owned corporations, with prosperous and noteworthy observe documents for three decades or additional, that have taken economical hazards, managed the small business productively, and offered back again to the local community.

In 2023, My Ol’ Blues will mark 30 several years in enterprise.

“Every calendar year it was, ‘Oh wow, a different yr beneath my belt,” Antonio said.

“I recall when I was in my seventh 12 months of small business, I shared with the operator of Pit’s House of Treasurers, ‘I manufactured it!’ Her reaction was, ‘Always be ready to adjust what the 7 years has taught you is to be completely ready, be open up-minded.’”

She has held that tips near and it has stood the exam of time.

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