Lauren Bull of Canoe & Lake
Lauren is the Founder of Canoe & Lake and a mom of 4. She is a survivor of anorexia, former single mom and lives every day with depression. Lauren’s brand was created based on her grandmother’s mantra which was “paddle your own canoe.” This helped her through many tough times and she wanted others to feel inspired by this statement. As we paddle on we learn, grown and strengthen.
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The Mission Behind Lauren’s Work
Canoe & Lake is a brand beyond clothing. It is about inspiring women to paddle their own metaphorical “canoe”. It is about reminding women that we can and will paddle on, even when we feel like we are paddling against the current, as that current brings us strength and prepares us for future challenges. These were the life lessons taught to me by grandmother who is the inspiration behind my business. Most things reference metaphors to nature and as she was an artist, in Canoe Lake I routinely lift her artwork and include her art in our designs.
I am most known for my trademark “She paddled her own canoe and lived happily ever after. The end.” This was something I said when I was a single mom. It helped me get my head wrapped around my circumstance and gave me strength as my mantra to keep paddling on. Since sharing it, I have had so many women come forward about how it helped them too. I have been told about women wearing it as their cape of strength in recovery, to chemo appointments, while navigating loss, abuse or single parenting. Hearing how it helps people keeps me going. Even when things got so tough during the pandemic my customers’ stories and their journeys inspired me to keep paddling on.
My brand has expanded beyond one ethical manufacturer to 9. I started my business with $230 in fabric and now I have two years in a row with half a million in sales. I have never borrowed a penny but built it slow and steady to be able to learn and adapt. Each piece I design inch by inch prior to proceeding to manufacturing sampling. The past year we introduced cabin cozy knits and shackets with paddle on embroidered on the chest. This was such a risk for my business in terms of investment but I put my heart behind it and I think people saw that.
Lauren’s Insights to Entrepreneurship
Was there a time in your life you knew you were capable of more, or destined for more?
I come from a marketing and advertising background working for big brands. In my last role as a Senior Marketing Manager I was told I wasn’t getting a promotion as I had too much on my plate being a “single mom.” That was it for me. I knew I wouldn’t let anyone stand in my way of climbing the ladder. I knew I needed to create my own destiny. It was then I decided to take my small business to new heights.
What challenges have you overcome in your life, and what did you learn about yourself in the process?
I have always struggled with anorexia, as far back as into my early teens (I’m now 39). When I was 29 years old, I was 56lbs and had to move back to Canada from working in England. I entered inpatient treatment at Toronto General for over a year. I was in a locked psychiatry ward, which most people judge but it is an important part of my story and helping to end the stigma around mental health. Since then, minus a few relapses, I continue in my recovery journey. I have since had four kids (8, 6, and twins 22 months). This experience taught me that I was capable of so much more than I ever gave myself credit for. It taught me that I am a fighter.
What is your why? How do you ensure you are living your life “on purpose” as much as possible?
I always struggle with this. I struggle with it because I never know if I am living my why to its potential or if I am going in the right direction. But I will say my purpose is showing my kids they can follow their dreams. That they can do whatever they want in life and as long as they are hard working, honest and humble, their stars will align right where they are meant to.
Where do you see yourself and/or your life in the next year? What do you hope to see in the world and/or hope to accomplish?
In the next year I hope that I can continue to grow my social media following as it has a direct impact on sales growth. I want to do this by continuing to push the envelope in partnering with like-minded brands to co-promote one another. I also have some goals for 2022 for the influencer side of my role which is to model for Knix as I am a partner with them, but I really want that milestone for my personal development. I also only shoot Canoe & Lake by myself at unique stays / airbnbs. This has been a neat angle and has allowed me to give my kids road trips that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. So my second goal is to partner with a larger travel brand such as Air Transit for a stay outside of Ontario.
What advice can you give to other women around life, family, work, and self-care?
- Be open to learning. We learn the most by knowing what we don’t know and going out and actively learning vs thinking we know everything.
- Don’t spend money that you don’t have.
- Ask for help when you need it, be it with your home, mental health, or kids.
- Put your heart into everything you do and it will turn out just the way it was meant to.
- Stay humble and show kindness to everyone.
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