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Women and Girls: Crafted with care

Aspiring teacher and entrepreneur Ashley Perry found inspiration and support for her crafting business after moving north.

THUNDER BAY -- Hamilton-based Ashley Perry moved to Thunder Bay in the summer of 2022 for school at Lakehead University.

What awaited her was a creative side hustle she hadn’t anticipated.

The aspiring teacher moved to the city in the summer to explore the beauty of the North when an opportunity knocked on her door through the entrepreneur centre at CEDC (Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission).

Stumbling across the business grant to encourage small local businesses and entrepreneurs, the teacher applied for the grant to tap into her business and creative side as she adapts to the new home.

With the help of the business grant, Perry started her crafting company, Crafts with Ash, where she designs custom-made t-shirts and merchandise using her own Cricut machine.

“I like to make things for myself and my students too,” she said. “It is helpful to earn an income in the city.”

With an ‘art and kids’ mindset as a Kindergarten teacher, Perry was naturally creative and intrigued by Pinterest, where her journey started. She started making t-shirts and merchandise to “bring others joy.”

“The community has been warm in welcoming me to the city,” she said. “They value handmade and local products, and inspire me to think about what’s next.”

The entrepreneur has visual boards, and with the popularity of her products increasing, more people have started requesting custom designs, which she caters to.

The new Thunder Bay local has been exploring the outdoors, getting accustomed to the culture shock, and making an outdoors-inspired collection that depicts the essence of Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario.

Speaking of culture shock, she laughed, “Camp means cottage or summer camp for kids where I come from, so the first time I heard it, it was so funny.”

Perry fell in love with the water and beauty of the North and she quickly designed the “I hiked the Giant,” to commemorate Thunder Bay as her home.

“My favourite collection is the Lake Superior collection,” she said. “A lot of people here have camps, and we wanted to check it out and fell in love with the beauty and water. It was beautiful, and I ended up designing a t-shirt with the image of the lake and its name on the back.”

The t-shirt with the image of the lake on the front and the name and coordinates on the back is a bestseller, as well as Perry’s favourite.

The path to a successful venture was not as smooth as it might appear – from learning the basics of business to learning to budget and cost control, the entrepreneur had to go through it all.

However, “the experience led to a very positive growth for me,” she said.

Perry is grateful for the overwhelming support and the warmth the community has shown towards her.

Although she is going to school come fall and switching gears by designing more education-related products like lanyards, gifts, and keychains, she’s hoping she can grow her business to bigger markets and platforms with the continued support from the community of Thunder Bay.

Follow Perry’s work on her Facebook page, Crafts with Ash.

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