Julie Melanie, the creative mind and nurturing soul behind Enviro Bag Evolution, has been a trained seamstress for over 35 years . In 2021, she decided to take her skillset, her learnings from the Employ to Empower entrepreneurship program and combine it with a passion for helping others. Now Julie has her own business creating hand-made storage bags for disabled people who use a variety of mobility aids.
Tell us Julie, how did this all start?
The inspiration behind my product comes from my personal experience as a mobility aid user. I use a scooter and walker for my daily activities– groceries, banking, and even laundry. They help me do my life errands and allow me to live a very independent life. However, my walker and scooter have one major shortcoming – they lack easily accessible storage space. And as they say…necessity is the mother of invention.
What was your ah-ha moment when you decided this was something you should pursue?
I asked myself: “What can I make that would be useful?” As a disabled woman using a mobility scooter, I find that I never have enough storage in my own scooter, especially at the grocery shop. It got tiring not being able to carry my groceries. So, I solved my problem. Which also happens to be a problem for other folks with wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, or strollers.
When did you start this business?
I started April 2020 when I bought sewing machines. I was working on a contract before that. It took me a while to perfect the product– I tried so many versions. It took me a month to be happy with the final design. And then, like any good business owner, I began my market research by talking to my neighbours about the product and what a fair price would be.
Why are recycled fabrics important for you to use?
I’m a passionate environmentalist–I love planet earth! Keeping the planet healthy is important to me and this is my way of contributing to an economy that works to reduce waste collectively.
How did Employ to Empower help you on this journey?
Well, I’ll be forever grateful to Christina who let me take the course. The program taught me that whenever you try something, you get exactly what you put in. So, I put in 200% and I feel like that’s what I got back.
What are the next steps for you and this business you’ve built?
Well in November 2021 applied for a financial grant and has been approved! Now my next step is to apply for three more. I’ll be working hard to create a video as well. And, I’m developing a plan for a new product for other home uses.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Well, I started this business at age 66. I’m living proof that there is no age you should stop trying. There is no age limit for success, and no age limit for entrepreneurship. And for any go-getter like me who wants to start a business, my motto is: Discipline, consistency, perseverance. Business is a roller coaster, but never give up.
Want to purchase an Enviro Bag and support Julie’s passion? Visit the Julie’s page on the Employ to Empower Marketplace.