Powell River residents are familiar with storefront businesses in the community, but many small-business owners operate out of their homes and, according to one entrepreneur, can struggle to find the attention of possible customers.
Christine Konopelski operates One Earth with Christine, a business that sells internationally made artisan products, and has been hosting and organizing home-based business fairs for 10 years.
“I find that there aren’t enough places for small, home-based businesses, especially direct sellers, to promote their products,” said Konopelski.
Local artisans, artists and crafts people are able to showcase products at various craft fairs, but Konopelski said direct sellers like her aren’t often welcome at these types of events.
“If it isn’t homemade and handmade, you don’t qualify to participate,” she said. “So, how do we get our name out there? How do we let people know what hidden gems there are in town?”
When Konopelski held her first home-based business fair, she hosted it in her own home. She said she wanted a place to showcase the clothing she was selling at the time.
“I only had room for eight tables because it was in my house,” she said. “As we continued to grow we eventually moved to the Assumption Hall, and still hold an event there once a year in the fall.”
Konopelski said participating businesses expressed interest in holding the event more frequently, leading to the planning of an upcoming fair.
“We are calling this one our Networking One-Stop Shop,” she said. “I added the home-based business fair because people didn’t know what networking meant and this gives people the opportunity to build relationships among businesses.”
One of this year’s participants, Mischa Brooks-Thoma, who owns Powell River Natural Soap Lady, has had a home-based business for many years.
Brooks-Thoma had been selling her photography and art, but in 2008, with the economic downturn, she saw a decline in sales.
“I always had a little booth, but art in general isn’t something that flies when people are holding on to their money,” she said. “The opportunity came up with Powell River Natural Soap Lady to take over her business and continue growing it. I thought it was a good opportunity to learn something new and try a new business.”
In addition to selling her soap and body products, Brooks-Thoma will be bringing a selection of books from Barefoot Books to the event.
Like Konopelski, who is a direct seller for One Earth, Brooks-Thoma struggles to find opportunities to highlight certain products.
“It’s hard to actually sell things that are brought in from elsewhere like the books,” said Brooks-Thoma. “I normally go to the markets and the farmers’ market with the soaps and body products, but most of them are looking for locally made goods. This is one of my opportunities to highlight the Barefoot Books products, in addition to my soap and body products.”
Besides One Earth, Barefoot Books and Powell River Natural Soap Lady, the event will also feature tables from businesses and direct sellers such as Tupperware, Sweet Legs, Stamping Up and more.
The Networking One-Stop Shop will be held Saturday, March 5, from 10 am-4 pm at Cranberry Seniors’ Centre.