Our 11th Year! Heather's Annual Thank You Letter

Well, you might as well pour yourself a beverage, I believe this year, our birthday letter may be a smidge longwinded.   In fact, I feel like I am writing a fireside chat.


That time of year has so quickly come upon us.  Another year to celebrate and be thankful for each and every one of you.  I know I have said this every year, but without you, none of this would be possible and not for one second do I take that for granted.  This morning I received a beautiful text from a friend (who sends me inspirational quotes every morning, which always fills my heart, and we should all be so lucky to have a friend like this, but this one seemed particularly significant today)


            “Friends cherish each other’s hopes.  They are kind to each other’s dreams”

 Henry David Thoreau


Change is hard, it’s really hard.  It’s new, it’s strange sometimes, and so much learning, which is a good thing.  This past year has held for us the most changes yet, and we continue to learn, we’ve taken all that info, to make this the dream I see in my head when I lay awake at night thinking about it all.  The hurdles we’ve overcome, the lessons we’ve learned, make me a better person, and I am thankful for all of that.


This year we have been so lucky to have made many new friends, as our e commerce base grows.  We thought we would take a moment to introduce/reintroduce our team and our dream to all of you.  


Our team are what make this whole thing behind the scenes work.  We are incredibly proud of each of our team members, and I consider them all friends and family, and I am so thankful that during the tumultuous past years, all of them are still with us. 


Our team, not mentioned by name, are the moms and dads, who help when and where they can, siblings, partners, spouses, kids, and friends, who all provide the moral support and most importantly the hugs when required, those who feed us when it’s crazy busy, supply us with coffee, and love, don’t think for a moment these people are not just as important as whom some would call an “employee”.  Without this backup team, there are days I am pretty sure we would crumble.


Amanda has been with us the longest, almost since the beginning.  Although she was the face of the retail space, she is still working with us.  Amanda is celebrating her 20th anniversary of teaching herself to knit (from books at the library, can you imagine) She’s an incredible creative, and her love of the colour orange always makes me smile.  She’s a single mom of two teenage boys and shows us every day traditional isn’t always the way, as her boys flourish and make their way in the world.  Amanda is working from home, mostly on the Covid Memorial Blanket Project, (this is shared with her permission of course) due to more than a 2 year battle with Long Covid, her struggle isn’t easy, but she handles it with grace, and determination, and we all supportive of her gains, and will all gladly help when things are hard.  She’s a gem who makes life a lot more special.


Sydney started at the store as an afterschool student job when she was 15.  Who now works fulltime for us, in the dye shop, and is head of our art department.  She was responsible for all the artwork for our recent Vogue Knitting entry, all of our tour posters, book design for the Holiday Box.  She works side by side with her service dog Astrid, who provides all of us with a smile, who doesn’t love a happy Labrador.  She’s my right hand at the warehouse.  Today I also get to announce who proud of her I am.  Since we were in PEI during hurricane Fiona, before we had even made is home, she had registered with Team Rubicon as a grey shirt (those are the ones who go to natural disaster zones to help with clean up, and whatever else they can help with) and tomorrow I will proudly drop her off at the airport for her first deployment, to PEI.  She’s a Rockstar, and it makes me proud that she’s part of this team.


Ally rounds out our team.  She’s a spit fire.  We both grew up in Northern Ontario and have a unique bond over the forest and the peace and wonderfulness of that quiet.  She’s the mom to a set of twins, a boy and a girl.  Ally’s husband is a fireman and works crazy shifts.  She’s an incredible artist, and creative.  She works part time in the dye studio, and part time from home on the Covid Memorial Blanket Project.  She’s always there to fill in the gaps when they appear.   One of my soul sisters, and great friend.  She also makes the best hot sauces. 


For those who don’t know me, I am Heather.  I started this crazy path 11 years ago, although I can’t imagine what my life was even like back then, I’m glad I gained a family along the journey.  My husband and I are sheep farmers in the heart of the Kawartha Lakes, which is always fascinating, and a bit crazy at times.  I am the hand dyer of Tangled Poets, and this is my crazy journey.  Sheep farmer, Small Business Owner, Artist, and about 30 other job titles.  I’ll skip the mundane of them.  I’m the big picture thinker, and Amanda, Syd, and Ally make it all possible.  I’d be nothing without either one of them.


I wanted to take a moment to chat about one of the biggest changes that has happened this year.  We closed our retail location in March, and that was quite possibly one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.  I had hoped that we would have a new location at this point, but this is where I am going to be totally transparent and up front about the situation.  During the Covid closures, we kept all of our staff which I am incredibly proud of, because I didn’t want to lose them, and I didn’t want to lay them off either.  We kept the location, we didn’t qualify for any wage subsidies, or any of the other programs, with the exception of the government loan.  As one can imagine, 22 months of not being able to be open, costs quite a bit of money.  The average small business (less then 10 people) incurred 170-200 thousand dollars in debt over that period.  I was optimistic that recovery would be faster than it has, and we are still working toward that goal of having a retail space, where we can all squish the yarn, play with colour combinations, and have great chats, occasional hugs, and genuine cheer.  It’s just going to take a little longer than I had aimed for.  I can’t promise when it will happen, but it will eventually , because I am still full of hope.  In this current economic climate that isn’t a possibility in an immediate time frame.  The reality of it is, to keep a retail location open, the base expenses are approx. $15000 per month, and to be honest, that is best used to continue our recovery from the lengthy shutdowns, and to continue toward our goals. 


The ideal dream is to have one location, with a retail space, the dyeshop, and warehouse in one place, where we can all gather, our team can all be together, we can greet everyone with a smile, and be with the yarn.  That’s the goal.


In the meantime, there are so many things we’ve learned this year.  The most impactful is that we’ve learned our current operating system, for e commerce is not the most efficient, so there are exciting things happening.  We are changing our operating platform, so that everything is easier to find, less inventory hiccups, we can have a fabulous collection of digital patterns, and make everything flow much better, including emails, which will be amazing.  This will be a huge step, and this is primarily why we are celebrating a birthday month, in order to reduce what’s in the warehouse, to make that transition easier, and less impactful to you. 


Looking to the year ahead, we will be launching lots of new Tangled Poets things and bringing in different lines of wool/yarn bases over the year.  As those happen, be sure to be following us on our socials, or sign up for our newsletter, for all the updates, and festival info, when that season rolls around again.


I also wanted to update everyone about the Covid Memorial Blanket Project.  When we started this project we knew it would be fluid in terms of numbers, we just didn’t know then, how fluid it would actually be. Nor did we know how many squares would eventually be needed, how quickly that all changed is so sad.  Now more than 46747 have passed away, more than we lost during WWII. I know I shouldn’t be publicly political, but I don’t believe it needed to get to this, and I am more committed than ever to ensure that those we lost aren’t forgotten.  This August, I lost my dear cousin Penny due to Covid.  I haven’t quite processed that, and I still haven’t brought myself to choose a colour to knit for her, but in a quiet moment of reflection I will find it and remember her. 


I know many of you who’ve made it this far through my fireside chat, are looking for the details about the birthday celebration.  It’s comprehensive, so the easiest way for you to find out exactly what’s happening is to go to our homepage of our website for a detailed calendar, and other updates.  We will be adding info throughout the month and posting to our socials as well. 


I feel like I’ve rambled on long enough, but in the end, I want to express my heart felt gratitude and appreciation to not only you, but to my team, and the families who help us along the way. 


With Much Love and Gratitude