From supporting local Alpaca farmers to providing materials and guidance for Island artisans, Stephanie Papik believes in local.
That belief, intrinsically tied with her Inuit heritage, was one of the core principles Papik took into the opening of her own business three years ago.
Through her Fairfield fibre arts store, Knotty By Nature, Papik offers as many as 14 Icelandic fleeces from local farmers, for example, along with locally dyed yarns. In doing so, not only is she supporting the local economy and local farming, but also reducing environmental costs associated with transportation costs. In all, she estimates that at any given time as much as one-third of her product is local. “To provide a venue for that is really important to me,” says Papik, who runs the store with partner Ryan.
And then there’s her support of the local arts community, both in the creation of wearable and decorative fabric arts and in the sharing of knowledge. She helped take that exchange of knowledge and craft to the next level with her support of the annual Fibrations festival, featuring more than 30 vendors on the grounds of St. Ann’s Academy in August. “This year we were even more successful so we’re building our capacity every year.”
The store is also a host for the environmentally friendly Soap Exchange, is a member of the Green Collective, a group of green-minded local businesses, and provides a sales outlet for local artisans by offering consignment services; for those new to the craft, Papik also provides donated knitting needles and yarn free to get them started.
In recognition of her efforts, Papik is the recipient of this year’s Black Press Women in Business Eco-entrepreneur Award. Earlier this year, Papik also recently received a B.C. Aboriginal Achievement Award, nominated by the Women’s Enterprise Centre. “It was a huge honour to receive this recognition,” she says.
However, business with a green, community focus seems to be somewhat in her nature. With a degree in biology, Papik previously operated an environmental consulting company up north with her family – again answering a need in the community to train local people to do work that was being awarded to companies from cities hundreds of miles away.
Today, the mom of an 11-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son is enjoying being back in the city she grew up in and spreading the love of fibre arts to all with an interest.
Papik moved the store from Government Street into Fairfield in recognition of the community-mindedness of Knotty By Nature. “Moving into a community was a nice idea which was in line with fibre art,” Papik says.
While the idea of turning a favourite interest into a income-generator appealed, she didn’t enter into business lightly.
A year of planning and preparation later, not to mention the help and support of husband Ryan, and Knotty By Nature was born. Now, three years later, despite opening during one of the most challenging economic times of recent memory, “it’s been even better than I thought it would be,” says the young entrepreneur, pointing to the friendships and relationships that have grown in the process.
At the same time, Papik also enjoys the “business” of the business, working with husband Ryan on the marketing. “I like the hands-on approach – I do the books and marketing – so we get to see the direct results of our efforts.”
While Papik was very practical in her approach to business, the creativity Knotty By Nature offers really appeals. “It’s my passion and I love that in 40 years, I’ll still be learning new things about fibre arts; it just has endless possibilities.”
She applies that same creativity to business. With the move to Fairfield, she has been able to offer a coffee bar and more space for consignment items. “We’re looking at what the gaps are in Fairfield and building on those,” she says. “We’re only limited by our imaginations, so it’s quite freeing.”
And rather than selling off older-stock wool at a reduced price, Papik increases its value by using it to create something and selling it in the store. Creativity also comes with the teaching component of the business, another element that brings Papik great joy. “I love sharing what I’ve learned and also learning from the students.”