Like many other small business entrepreneurs, Danya Barnes began Tinker TradeSpaces as a second career. For almost 30 years she had worked in medical laboratory science in the U.S.; however when she and her family moved to Canada in 2013, she wasn't able to continue in the same career path. As she tried to decide what to do next, her husband suggested she do something creative, something that made her happy. And sewing made her happy.
"Sewing has always been a big part of my life," Dayna says. "I just like to make things: the sense of accomplishment when you take a flat piece of material and come out of it with something that you can use, or wear, or give to someone - it's a good feeling." She worked part time at Fabricland in Kitchener when her family moved here in 2013, and a few chance encounters sparked the idea for her business.
"I met a woman who used to own her own bridal shop in Thunder Bay. She does excellent bridal alteration work and is busy during summer, but business dries up during the off season and it's too expensive to rent space for a business that's seasonal," explains Dayna. Other customers talked about projects they'd like to sew or create, but didn't have the necessary equipment or space. "And that's when it occurred to me - that was the business," Dayna says. "I needed to provide a space for people to be able to create." And with that Tinker TradeSpaces was born. This fully-equipped sewing and crafting studio at 29 Manitou Drive in Kitchener is used by entrepreneurs who find their homes don't provide the space they need for their projects, as well as home crafters. The business has taken off, and Dayna already has her first success story.
"I had rented some space to Amaka Obodo who started a bridal design business called Queendavis," Dayna explains. "She had been working out of her basement, but wanted a professional space where she could meet with clients. Here, she had enough space to work, and access to an office to meet with her clients. She worked here for about 6 months, built up her clientele and was able to prove that her business plan could work. She decided to open up her own shop, and now has her own space not far from here!"
Tinker TradeSpaces is also used by home crafters who are either looking for extra space to work on their projects, or need some help or advice. Dayna offers drop in sewing times, as well as classes that are available on demand instead of being scheduled. "I'm here every day, so I can be flexible," she explains. "People are busy, so I offer classes on an on demand basis so it fits into the customer's schedule." The studio offers everything from learn to sew or mending and alteration basics, to design and sew classes. Dayna is also a big proponent of up-cycling, and in March will be offering a class where participants can up-cycle and re-purpose summer clothing so it's ready for the upcoming season. Her classes are popular with all ages: in fact, more than half of her clientele are millennial age or younger. And men are coming in to learn to sew too. "I have a gentleman who came in who used to make shirts for himself, but it was so long ago that he had forgotten everything," Dayna says. "He wanted to learn again, and he's just excellent! He's almost finished the shirt he's working on; when I look at it, it looks like it was professionally made!" A list of classes and drop-in times can be found on the company's website: tinkertradespaces.ca.
While being a small business owner can be difficult, Dayna is thankful for the assistance she received from the Waterloo Small Business Centre, and says she couldn't have started her business without the help and training she received from them. She also appreciates the sense of community that Tinker TradeSpaces creates. "People used to do these kinds of things at their Grandma's house, or at church," she explains, "but people don't really get together and create as a community anymore. The talking and social aspect that happens as you sew is one part of it, but the learning is also important. Maker spaces like this provide an opportunity to learn from each other."
As for the name, Tinker TradeSpaces in named in honour of Dayna's father. "He called himself a 'tinkerer' - he was always fixing things. He would learn how to do it correctly and would work at fixing something until he got it right. When he was tinkering around with things, he was always learning, and bringing knowledge he had from a previous project into his newest project." With Tinker TradeSpaces, Dayna hopes that same creating and learning process will continue.