Toronto woman's side hustle makes it into Urban Outfitters
A Toronto woman who started a side hustle making giant scrunchies when she was let go from her retail job is laughing now: her products have made it into megachain Urban Outfitters.
Allie Johnson created Laurel in April 2020 after she started sewing scrunchies as a hobby to fill time. She could never find the hugely oversized ones she was dreaming of, so she started making them herself.
She posted the scrunchies on Instagram and was surprised by the response they received, followers who she knew personally and strangers reaching out asking if they could purchase them.
"Not knowing when I was going to return back to work, I started selling scrunchies to help make ends meet," Johnson tells blogTO.
"Once I started seeing the success of my business, and after a lot of thought, I decided to officially leave my job and build something of my own."
Laurel's reputation began to spread through word of mouth, and Johnson started doing drops of oversized scrunchies on Tuesdays and matching scrunchie sets on Thursdays. Johnson says she was "living scrunchie to scrunchie."
She continued to sell via Instagram for over a year, expanding her drops to become entire collections rather than just individual styles. Instead of living from scrunchie to scrunchie, she was actually getting by on operating Laurel alone.
Johnson began putting effort into Laurel full time, shaping up her marketing, outreach, branding, website, photography, direction, and honing in on how to make her products as sustainable as possible.
"What keeps me going though was hearing people say how confident it made them feel with their hair up," says Johnson.
"I wouldn't be anywhere without my followers and customers. They really did champion my scrunchies to their friends and family, and that is honestly how I grew."
Just two weeks after appearing at her first ever in-person market, the store manager from Urban Outfitters at Yonge and Dundas reached out to Johnson to ask her to participate in a local holiday market taking place at the store over a weekend.
"I obviously said yes and proceeded to freak out," says Johnson.
She was one of just three small businesses selected to sell at the market that weekend. Though the pop-up at Urban Outfitters only lasted a couple days, Johnson says "you can certainly bet I will be back."
"In the new year, my main priority will be focusing on wholesale and getting my large-and-in-charge scrunchies in Toronto retail stores, salons, markets, events, and collaborators with other small businesses," says Johnson.
In the meantime, you can still purchase her scrunchies via good old Instagram, or her brand new website.
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