A young Grand Forks mother has found a niche selling homemade bamboo apparel out of her yard.
Kendra Begg started the business two years ago and has used social media to spread the message about her product, which she sells out of her shed. Begg actually operates two businesses: Xenja Wear, which is where she makes the clothes, and Love Bamboo, Love BC, which is the home store where she sells the products.
In addition to bamboo clothing, the store also sells honey from Kelowna, organic skin care from Lumby, Habby Jack’s hot sauce from Kelowna and more.
“(I carry) lots of other vendors and B.C. artisans who make products,” she said. “I wholesale them or take them on commission and sell them at the store.”
Begg started the store when she and her family moved to Grand Forks.
She imports bamboo and makes all the clothing she sells herself. She also wholesale sells it in other stores.
“The bamboo I use is called viscose bamboo,” she said. “It’s the inside pith of the stock that runs the water up and down the entire stock. They take that out and brush it out and spin it into a yarn like you would with wool or cotton.”
Begg creates her own patterns and designs for her clothing in her home.
“I make them for women who aren’t the perfect model—if that exists,” she said. “We get bombarded all the time in the media about this perfect body, the 32-24-32, size zero, body types that are unrealistic and, I think, unhealthy.”
Begg said she creates clothing for the actual women who has perhaps had a baby and maybe has bigger hips or a bigger chest.
Begg has operated Xenja Wear since 2010. She and her husband moved to Grand Forks in April 2014.
She started selling her wares at the farmers’ market and also did pop-up stores at Serenity Spa in Christina Lake and Body Edge Fitness in Grand Forks.
“Avalon Gardens and I then partnered up in December 2014 and did a pop-up store in the old Value Drug Mart at Christmas,” she said.
Begg and her husband renovated the house they bought on Central Avenue and began selling products out of the shed as Love Bamboo Love BC in March of this year.
In just a short time, the business has done very well. Begg has been able to bring on several people to help her. She has done her best to hire people who need a lift such as those on disability or income assistance to help them out.
“I wanted to give people a chance to gain a skill set they wouldn’t otherwise get doing meaningful employment, not busy work,” she said. “I have people working for me that I’ve taught to cut patterns, how to do proper seams. I’ve even had people work sales, customer service and inventory control.”
Begg said she has four subcontractors working for her since coming to Grand Forks.
Recently, Begg met with a group of fellow mothers at Boundary Family and Individual Services Society (BFISS) to discuss being a mother and operating a business.
“They asked me to come and discuss first of all why I would start my own business and what it’s like running my business while having children,” she said. “They also asked me to discuss my products and my business.”
Begg said family dynamics and opportunities for women have changed in the last several years.
“I talked about the ‘momprenuer’ era,” she said. “It’s a lot of moms who are becoming entrepreneurs and starting a business.”
Begg said the first couple of years of owning her own business was tough.
“I had a lot of people telling me I couldn’t compete with the States,” she said. “I had people telling me that people in Grand Forks don’t spend money on things. I was told small businesses don’t do well here.”
She started out in Grand Forks setting up at the farmer’s market. She found out quickly that people here do support a business selling quality products.
“That was when I realized that if you have the right product and the right customer service, people support you,” she said.
Begg said the store is doing so well that she will be able to draw a wage herself for the first time in five years as well as pay for a full-time and a part-time employee.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s allowed me to build roots in this community really quickly. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. I get to do what I love. I love to sew; I love to create.”
Begg added that having her own business allows her the flexibility to work the hours and times she wants. She is able to take time off to spend with her children as much as she wants.