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Backyard Studios

3 min read
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Founded by entrepreneur and business woman Carolyn L Arn in March of 2020, Backyard Studios was launched while the crisis of the pandemic forced Torontontians into their first lockdown. Arn saw an opportunity to provide the local community with valuable PPE: "The goal is and always has been to provide face masks that meet or exceed current guidelines and incorporate the best quality and newest materials available." Backyard Studios offers non-medical, reusable handmade face masks for adults, youth, and children. All masks have a filter pocket for additional layers, and a soft adjustable ear elastic lined with a silky soft Japanese quilting cotton backing.
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Before the pandemic hit, Arn spent much of her time at her stressful job in commercial real estate, but the demand for office spaces virtually "dried up overnight", especially so when COVID-19 was declared a major hazard. When the pandemic hit, Arn saw it as an opportunity to support her community through the crisis by digging up her old sewing machine that had, up until then, found a home in her basement tucked way -- she knew it was time for work. "During the first lockdown, it was difficult to find supplies like fabric, elastic and thread," she notes. This occurrence is common to many other local businesses as supply chains seemingly closed overnight and shipping took weeks on end as essential items were prioritized in freight.
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Arn then turned to Facebook groups for further support, "Facebook groups emerged that provided support, patterns, feedback and other resources," she notes. She speaks of finding inspiration and support within these communities expressing that: "Nobody had made cloth masks before so there was much learning and sharing, and it was and continues to be a very inspiring community of people that were putting the needs of others first; working long hours to fill requests from hospitals and other front line workers." On top of building relationships with people online, Arn also extended her hand to sewing stores in the garment district who happily supported her cause.
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Arn recalls on her efforts to support the community making hundreds of masks to donate to those most in need: "I gave them to hospital groups, neighbors, friends and ensured that elderly parents had masks." Arn also heavily focused her efforts on creating masks for front line workers such as retail and delivery personnel, such as those from Instacart and Amazon that were exposed but were not protected. Arn explains that when it became clear that Toronto was shifting to a mask-enforcement type-of-living, there was a "complete frenzy" to get them and orders seemed to quickly wipe any inventory that she may had built in seemingly minutes! To further give back to her community, Arn had a '50 Black Mask Giveaway' where every order included a mask and request that it be given to a member in the community most in need of it. Interestingly, orders also included written instructions on mask wearing and current health care recommendations: "Education has always been important to me, and I continue to research and read up on the latest [CDC] recommendations." At this point, Arn has made well over 1500 masks for her community -- a true heroine in her own right.
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As a lady with a deep love for fabric, Arn explains that she gained a reputation for high quality fabric masks -- indeed it is fitting, as her tagline notes that she produces "beautiful handmade goods." Arn is dedicated to exceeding her customers expectations, while ensuring her masks stay up to standard with CDC guidelines. "Being a home based business, each and every face mask is made by me -- a practicing artist/designer that cares deeply and is passionate about making the best products possible…there is a very high standard of control," she expresses, "passion is the thread that connects all of us, and I have personally vowed to support small businesses and shop local -- I hope others will join me in doing the same."
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