What started as party favours for her wedding has turned into a full-time business for a Kanata woman, who is now the number one Canadian chalkboard seller on the popular e-commerce platform, Etsy.
Rachelle Tessier has been making chalkboards with handmade frames for four years after her chalkboard wine glasses for her wedding and bachelorette party turned out to be a big hit.
But it was only one year ago she decided to take it to the next level and make a go of it as a full-time business out of her Kanata garage and workshop, which continues to take off under her brand ‘Chalkboard Chique.’
“I was working full-time, had no plans on leaving my day job, I just really enjoyed working in the garage with my dad because he was the one that showed me how to do everything from the get-go,” Tessier said in a sit-down interview with OttawaMatters.com.
Tessier’s job in international scholarship management happened to be going through some ups-and downs with layoffs hitting her organization, so while the chalkboards at first offered a way to make ends meet, it began to grow to the point she thought about doing it full-time.
“It really just organically grew, totally accidentally and it continued to grow, it didn’t stop. So I was like ‘okay, I guess this is a thing.’”
And a thing it has become, with sales doubling from four years ago, Tessier is now shipping to the U.S. and all across Canada and has also attracted high-end clients like Nordstrom and Lululemon.
“It’s just a tumbleweed that keeps on growing,” she laughed.
The boards can be custom made for businesses or personal clients, ranging from sandwich board signs to restaurant menus, wine glasses and cork boards with chalkboards, but the most popular by far, according to Tessier, is calendars.
“I think when someone sees a chalkboard, they get a little intimidated and don’t know what to do with it or there’s so much pressure to be an artist or have nice writing,” she said. “With a calendar, it’s kind of like a ‘fill in the blanks,’ it serves a purpose, it’s functional but there’s no pressure.”
Tessier continues to add products to her repertoire and expand the calendar offerings as well, now working on different languages like French and Spanish, along with different fonts.
While each item has a different processing time based on its design, most things can be turned around in a few weeks, while most glass products can be completed in about a week.
As products and demand continue to expand, so too does the business, so she has recently hired someone to help with marketing and explore different opportunities she could be missing.
“Now I’m at a position where I’m beyond my scope,” Tessier said, adding she never thought she would get to this point. “I never wanted to be someone else’s boss, I just wanted to be my own boss.”
While she never imagined any form of success, she has always been driven with a creative mind, wanting to have “ownership over something that’s going out into the world.”
“You can work at a desk job and sometimes it can be challenging, there can be red tape, you have ideas and they don’t go anywhere. If you have your own business, yes it’s stressful because it’s all on you, but any successes are all on you, too,” she said.
“I know whatever I’m putting out is because it’s what I truly believe in or what I’ve made, there’s no one stopping me from doing that.”
Tessier said she has had tremendous support from her family and her husband, but also lauded the Ottawa small-business community and other local entrepreneurs for all of their help along the way.
“They are so supportive, they are so willing to get on board to promote or to collaborate and I think in Ottawa we're very fortunate, especially in the handmade community,” she said.