Our partnership with RyersonUniversityhas led to many great connections for us, one definitely worth noting is that of Jenifer Forrest, who founded her own business Bennie and Olive in 2003. Bennie and Olive creates unique, hand made baggage tags, belt buckles, handbags, scarves and mittens. What is so amazing about Jen’s process is she creates a 3D piece and then photographs the piece to make her prints. You can watch her process here and check out her website and beautiful designs here.
As a successful entrepreneur and business woman, Jen has agreed to sit down with us and help us create our business plan and cost sheets. Two things an education in International Development Studies does not prep you for. Pre Jen, Consuelo and I were lost in an array of online manuals and articles trying to tell us how to write a cohesive plan. Yet we constantly found ourselves diverting back to our ethical, development rhetoric and forgoing the economic speak. Mitigating risks? Who knew how to do that? While Consuelo claims informed optimist, I do sometimes fall into hopeless idealist assuming because we are creating something transparent and ethical it will simply read to all sectors of society. It does not. The business folk still want their jargon and to be honest who can blame them?
We sat down with Jen in her studio in the Distillery District earlier this month, one of the first glorious spring days of the year. The sun was shining, you could smell the earth again, people were outside enjoying themselves and the birds
were chirping. It was such a picture perfect day I half believed that little mice would wake me up, help me dress and clean my place. Alas, no such luck. However, we both felt invigorated by rays and our first foray into the deliciousness that is Balzac coffee.
At Jen’s studio we found out how hard she works to create her orders. The sheer amount of work it takes to source materials, create designs, fill orders and remain competitive in pricing while not compromising the integrity of her business values and the end product is not a task to be taken lightly. Jen spoke of the difficulties of sourcing both ethical and eco materials. So much is made abroad. While all of Jen’s work is completely hand made and designed inCanadashe is often forced to source abroad. Many materials, such as Velcro and the buckles come from theUSA, but the vinyl she uses for baggage tags is only found inChina.
That being said, Jen constantly makes an informed effort to reduce her carbon footprint. She doesn’t use toxic adhesives, but rather tape that does not emit fumes. The taping process is more expensive and time consuming, but the long term risks are not worth the dollars saved.
Of course while surrounded by Jen’s creativity the talk turned to the fashion and food industries at large. Our obsession with the slow movement in terms of fashion had us conversing on end. In the coming months we will finalize our professional business plan with the help of Jen and the expertise she gained from starting Bennie and Olive. We lookforward to it:) In the meantime Jen is finalizing a product order for Porter, where she is making these adorable baggage tags.