2014 Winners

Thunder Bay | Entrepreneur of the Year

Lynn Landry-Rody

Lynn Landry-Rody

When Lynn Landry-Rody was a teenager, the job prospects for women were limited: nurse, teacher, secretary. All offered stable, good-paying careers, but none of them captured her imagination the way the fibre arts did. Landry-Rody decided she wasn't taking the bait.

"I just couldn't sacrifice myself to do something that I don't love to do," she said.

That sensibility has carried her through a career lasting more than two decades as a weaver, small business owner, teacher and mentor.

After graduating from the visual arts program at Sault College, she completed an apprenticeship with a garment weaver in île d'Orléans, Québec, before returning to the North to start her mail-order weaving supply business, Lynn's Homegrown Crafts, with help from the business incubator at the PARO Centre for Women's Enterprise.

Despite a solid business plan, Landry-Rody's venture wasn't an immediate hit, and she realized she would have to be more flexible in her vision.

"When things weren't really moving along too quickly that first year, I thought, 'Maybe I need to create my market, so maybe I need to start teaching people how to weave and get them interested in it,'" she said.

She started offering weaving classes, slowly building up a loyal clientele. This year, her shop, Threads in Time, marks its 20th year in business in Thunder Bay.

Tenacity, focus and a passion for her craft, along with support from her family, were instrumental in helping her succeed.

"I was able to keep at it because I had the support of my husband," she said. "I didn't have to worry about paying the bills, because he was taking care of that, so I was able to just put everything I earned right back into the business."

Today, she specializes in natural fibres for weavers,spinners, knitters, crocheters, needle fetters and quilters, many of which are exclusive to her store, earning her loyalty from clients as farflung as Scotland, Australia, Japan and the U.S. She continues to offer classes, workshops and study groups, and her students hail from around the North.

Even in the face of an economic downturn, her sales have increased by 750 per cent over the last six years, and she's provided part-time work for women at her store.

"Lynn's business is more than a yarn shop—it is a community of artisans of all kinds and all skill levels," said friend Dale Willis.

"They have, for 20 years, been collectively supported by Lynn, not only through the beautiful, quality products she provides, but also by her tireless support of the arts, the community, her customers, her friends and her fellow business owners," Willis said. "She embodies community support and spirit, supporting local business, local food networks and local artisans."

Landry-Rody is considering retirement within the next five years, but her work will continue when a successor takes over her shop. She now wants to focus on spending time with her family, further honing her craft and making garments for her grandchildren.

After more than two decades in business, her advice to "take a risk and follow your heart" has come full circle, and she doesn't hesitate to share this advice with other women entrepreneurs.

"I think what you want to do is you want to choose a business that you're passionate about, something that you've wanted to do forever and you could never get it out of your mind," Landry-Rody said. "Just don't do something because you think, 'I'll make a really good living at this, even though I don't like it.'"

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