hotpot variety

Toronto woman who started a side hustle during lockdown lands a deal with Holt Renfrew

A Toronto woman turned her lockdown hobby into a deal with a national retailer.

Jess Papp, owner of HotPot Variety, works full-time in advertising and marketing, says she started crocheting as a hobby during the lockdown in Ontario.

Papp says she is completely self-taught — learning to crochet through YouTube tutorials. She soon started making crochet hats.

"I have always just loved hats and I feel like everyone needs that statement piece."

hotpot variety

Jess Papp learned how to crochet during lockdown.  Photo by Denis Lipman

The designs and patterns are her own.

While she doesn't have a fashion background, her mother is a sewer and she has always been around arts and crafts.

"I have always loved working with textiles."

She has sewed and done macramé but when she started crocheting, she found a new passion.

In November 2020, she decided to put the hats on Instagram and launch her HotPot Variety.

hotpot variety

Papp launched HotPot Variety in November.   Photo by Denis Lipman

"It kind of just picked up really quickly, just word-of-mouth through friends."

Then in June, buyers from Holt Renfrew contacted her.

"When they initially reached out to me, I had no idea what they wanted to get in contact with me about."

She says they told her Holt Renfrew wants to support independent Canadian designers. They put in an order for 60 hats and Papp spent the summer making the checker pattern hats.

"That's the biggest order I have ever had."

Each hat takes about two to three hours to make and it was important for Papp to make each one by hand.

"I am really about sustainability as well, so all the hats are made to order."

If HotPot becomes so successful that she cannot handle the orders on her own, Papp says she will consider hiring assistants to crochet.

"I want them to be handmade because that is essentially the uniqueness of them all."

The hats are now in the store and for sale online. Seeing the items on the website has been exciting for Papp.

"It honestly feels surreal…every day I am just pinching myself being like is this really happening?" she says.

Papp is from Kitchener-Waterloo but she has been living in Toronto for about seven years.

In the future, Papp would like to tie her Vietnamese heritage into HotPot Variety.

The name HotPot stems from her heritage. Hot Pot is a stew that people share and put different food in the pot.

"One soup is never the same."

So the term is a metaphor, as each of her hats is handmade and no two are exactly alike.

Lead photo by

Jess Papp

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