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The first mug cozy

The thing about an engineering degree is that I found it all-consuming. From the moment I got up to when my head hit the pillow, I was thinking about class, in class or solving class problems. The people I spent the most time with were my lab partners in our natural habitat: the lab (unsurprisingly, with no windows – but you do grow to love the place). And by only my second year of Biomedical Engineering, I was starting to feel a bit burnt out.

One day during this rather stressful period of time, I found myself sitting in my aunt’s living room in Victoria with not my Calculus textbook – gasp! – but with cotton yarn and a pair of knitting needles. I’ve always regarded Vancouver Island as a magical place because that’s where we went for vacations, growing up. And for a kid, with the beach a 10 minute walk away and with every single person you pass having a very cute and friendly dog, it meant freedom. I decided to give myself one hour of free time (rather disciplined, I know :P) and looked on the web to see what I could make in next-to-no time.

And what I made is still sitting on my Aunt’s kitchen window sill today.

onana life in the beginning mug cozy tea

The very first Onana Snug Mug Cozy

And thus, Onana was born. But I didn’t know that at the time. I had no idea I had just embarked on a brand new adventure for myself. So, it’s true – you can absolutely start a business by accident 😉

Onana makes its debut

Like any self-respecting millennial proud of something, the shot above went up on my Facebook. And the next thing I knew, friends/family were asking for cozies of their own. At first, I offered to make it as a gift – read: for free – because, why not, I loved doing it and it gave me an excuse to take a break from homework. But I had really amazing friends – ones that knew the value of my time even when I didn’t, and they insisted on paying. When I decided to start looking at this as a business, things began rolling more quickly than I could have imagined and over a Dine Out meal with a few ladies from engineering, I impulsively asked a close friend of mine, Rach, to help me out (And she agreed! Best “yelling-across-10-people” conversation ever!)

Look at us now!

And here we are today – sorry, give me a second to toot our horn – winner of the first ever Simon Fraser University Next Top Product as well as on Etsy and Antsquare, in 4 local shops across the Lower Mainland and an active participant in numerous local markets where we get to see familiar faces come up to us over the years (PS. We LOVE that – thank you for coming to find us in between all the other stalls!) I don’t think at that point, over dessert, Rach and I had any idea what the next five years would bring (Yes! Five whole years! Blows my mind every time I say that!) but we continue to celebrate our successes and learn from everything. It has been a real honor to be part and contribute to the “Shop Local” movement we’ve seen in our own hometown and to be inspired by every single maker and supporter from that community. The people we have met are the most kind and wholehearted people we know. They are authentic in their values of what they want to give back to the world. They are generous with their advice and their time and lift others as they go along. We can only hope that we have been shaped in the same way.

onana life womens day gif

Image credits: Libby VanderPloeg

“The difference between a dream and reality is just going for it.  So if you want to get something done, or if you have a dream – don’t wait. Just go for it” – Boey, coffee cup artist

That really rang true to me.  Onana was my dream. And one day – I just said, “What am I waiting for again?”

With love,

Eli

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