On a day that is pretty darn frigid across much of our country, it seems the perfect time to introduce you to Jacqueline MacDougall of EweBoots. Cozy, warm and eco-conscious, EweBoots are made of recycled wool and leather, and are available in infant to adult sizes. Jacqueline’s studio is located in Beaver Bank, NS where she and her thriving business share a wonderful bond with her local community, and also with our Maritime Makers community, showcasing her work last September at the Etsy Made in Canada show.
First, could you start by providing a brief bio about you and an intro to your shop.
I grew up watching my Mom, Grandmother and Great grandmother sew, crochet and knit. Crafting and creating was as natural as walking. As a teen, I dabbled in quilting, painting, woodwork, embroidery and went on to study Art History and the Studio Arts at University, in Vancouver. But my eventual love of slipper making came later and was born out of necessity. My husband and I built our home just on the border of Halifax/Hants County where the beauty of nature was around us. I loved to garden, breathe clean air and listen to the birds and peepers. We made a conscious decision to heat our home with a wood stove (which we loved). The only issue was that our wood/tile floors were so cold during the winter. This began my search for the perfect slipper, not only for myself, but for my 3 little boys. I used all kinds of materials I had on hand to experiment with. Admittedly, my first few attempts were not pretty. I used old denim, fleece, corduroy with varied success, but I was very motivated to improve.
Your business started “When (your) youngest son was born with a rare condition affecting his skin and hair, (you) weren’t sure what to put on him that didn’t give him a rash.” What do you think it was about felted wool that provided that much needed positive outcome?
Yes, our 4th son really turned our world upside down in many ways. Because his condition is so rare, (10 worldwide) it took several months to determine he had IFAP syndrome. What we knew right away was that his skin looked very different. Besides the fact that he had no hair, eye lashes brows, his body appeared as a post sunburn does: peeling, red, rashy and very itchy. He cried constantly and would sweat in certain clothes, blankets and so I began to research ways to help him cope with this issue. One thing I noticed was that natural fibers really helped. I started dressing him in breathable natural fibers only and his symptoms improved. The only challenge was finding slippers that were both warm and breathable. This is how I came to truly love wool. My only hesitation was that it might be itchy, which some wools are, but in my frequent hunts to find the perfect felting sweaters to make into slippers, I discovered lambs wool, cashmere and some blends were actually very soft and felting made then durable. I quickly became a slipper making machine. It took about 6 months to perfect my patterns, but all the effort meant my baby’s feet were finally both warm and comfortable. I was so excited and passionate about this final product that I couldn’t wait to share wooly slippers with everyone. Ewe boots were born!
You credit your community in part to your success, from a committed team of assistants, to shops that help provide the needed materials. How essential overall do you think community is to the success of a small business?
My business relies on finding high quality recycled sweaters and leathers. I frequent many thrift shops in my area and I’m on first name basis with most of the staff there, which is really fun. It’s neat that they know me and want to help me grow my business. I am blessed to have skilled local assistants that are willing to work around my busy schedule as well as seamstresses that help meet wholesale demands, but I really couldn’t do it without my husband who deals with shipping and accounting and my Mom and Mother-in-law that help out with everything from studio work to childcare and laundry.
And how do you feel the craft movement can have a positive impact on the rural economy?
When entrepreneurs are successful, we can put money back into our local economy for the benefit of all. In living outside the city center, it’s nice to be able to utilize online venues such as Etsy to sell the items I make. This makes it possible to live the country lifestyle I want while supporting my family. Winter’s here can really effect local brick and mortar businesses. When you sell online worldwide, this factor doesn’t exist, making it possible to sell anytime to anyone regardless of where you live.
What would you say is the single greatest challenge, and the single greatest reward to being an entrepreneur?
Time. With a large family time is valuable. As an inpatient and ambitious person my struggle is time management, it takes way longer to check off my weekly goals than I originally think as life happens all around me. Time is also the greatest reward of being an entrepreneur. I have the ability to manage my own hours. If I want to take a day to go to the park or take my dog for a walk, I can. This allows for the spontaneity of life. It’s important to me to be close to family. Running my own business supports that lifestyle.
Do you have any goals or plans for 2016 that we can look forward to?
One of my main goals for 2016 is expanding ewe boots wholesale partners across Canada. I am currently looking at Boutiques in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal.
Also on the list is for Older Children’s slippers. I’ve had many requests for Bigger Kids sizes, so I’ll be adding regular stock in those sizes to my line up this year.
If you check out my Instagram, you’ll see pictures of my soon to be double garage studio my talented husband is building! My new space will be twice the square footage of my current space (our rec room) and should be operational in a few months.
Apart from etsy, are there are other locations where shoppers can buy your slippers?
Right now you can find ewe boots locally at:
Nurtured – Agricola St, Halifax
P’Lover’s – South Park, Halifax
Made in the Maritimes – Sunny side Mall, Bedford
Local Shows I attend:
Etsy “Maritime Makers”, Halifax
Christmas at the Forum, Halifax
Exhibition Park, Halifax
Acadia Christmas Expo, Wolfville
Aside from that, I welcome local customers to purchase directly from my home studio in Beaver Bank.
Thank you so much, Jacqueline for sharing your story with us today. We wish you continued success, and we look forward to seeing more from you this year.
If you are interested in any of the items shown, simply click on the photo to be re-directed to the etsy listing, or to see her full shop, simply click here.