Keeping It Real With The Ladies From Pretty Grit

Every so often you meet someone that you instantly feel a connection with, a kindred spirits of sorts.  For me, that moment happened almost 2 years ago at a “Galentines Day” party hosted by a new friend here in Hamilton.  I was introduced to Amanda and after chatting about many things (our love of design, the fact that we share the same awesome name and general outlook on life and having both lived the “scene” in Toronto) we became instant pals.


After many long conversations about our dreams of being entrepreneurs and business owners, I was so pumped when Amanda told me that her dream of owning her own shop was becoming a reality with her buddy Annie.  It seemed like in no time at all the wheels were in motion and the girls set their minds and wallets to it and launched what now stands “Pretty Grit”- Hamilton’s BEST place for all your house ware needs.


The shelving unit is OOAK and such a head turner… custom order girls? 😉

I stole some of the girls precious (and very limited free time) to ask them a few questions about their entrepreneurship life.  Here’s what they had to say:

What is your business and how did you know this was your path in life? What/who inspired you to open a business and do what you are doing?

We are Amanda Cordero and Annie Horton of Pretty Grit, we are a new home accessory store located on James N. in Hamilton. We provide fun and trendy item to for people to dress there home with. Our style is clean, modern, leaning towards industrial.

We both have very different reasons for forming this business. Amanda has been interested in design her entire life and has been working in the retail end of it for some time whether it be doing window displays for Holt Renfrew or as a Design Consultant for EQ3, all of her experience has led to this business.

I always knew I wanted to work for myself or try some kind of entrepreneurial venture, specifically in Hamilton. My first attempt (if you can even call it that) was after I came back from New York a few years ago. I came upon “Insomnia Cookies” which I thought was a brilliant idea, so I did research on starting one here, then quickly gave up. A little while after I’d considered starting an arts and drama program for inner city children, but nothing came to fruition. From 2012 – 2014 I was very heavily involved in the community running events and working in media for a local charity. During this time I met and networked with tons of inspirational Hamiltonians working for themselves or other organizations towards growing the city which I admired. In short, both of our skill sets have created Pretty Grit.

We have been inspired by many, especially the friends we have who own shops on James N, they have all been amazing, with providing insights on their experiences, tips and even in some cases products. We both also really wanted to be self employed.


I find this so interesting, (this is not their logo)…. but a dynamic wall art piece

How did you choose your business name?

Our business name came from a brain-storming session that occurred on the 4th floor of the Central Library. We wanted to convey the duality of Hamilton. We both were born and bred here and we love this city for it’s complexity. Even though it is changing and gentrifying, Hamilton will always remain just a little gritty, that is what we love about this city.



What did you want to be when you grew up?

Amanda: I wanted to be a veterinarian, because I loved animals, then an architect, but sadly realized that you have to be good at Math.

Annie: For years I wanted to be an actress, this dream took me through post secondary. I spent all of my teenage years in plays and musicals. It wasn’t even too long ago that I “retired” my so called “career” – I like this gig much better.

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

Our biggest challenges have come form our timeline being shortened repeatedly. This project was originally suppose to get off the ground Spring 2016, however everything fell into place much sooner and we had to act quickly and make tough decisions immediately. With a short time frame we also had to learn patience while working with other companies.


Everyone loves the sofa, but I LOVE the lighting! Sourced from Montreal – they are so unique!

Do you have a favourite object in your work space? What is it? Where did it come from? Why do you like it?

Amanda: The zig zag shelving unit, I saw an image of something similar and thought is would be the perfect feature piece to put in front of our brick feature wall. The shelving unit was built by Ted Hill, who built most of our fixtures. He was able to bring an idea to life and I will forever be grateful. I love this piece because it provides both form and function. It holds a lot of product, while creating visual interest with its dynamic lines.

Annie: Our couch. It’s my favourite because of how much of a pain it was to get together. We found it on Kijiji and thought “WOW, this is perfect, cheap and it’ll be SO easy to fix up and get in the shop” – we were wrong and now I look at it and laugh, and NO it’s not for sale.


The exposed brick with industrial lighting is softened with all of the beautiful accents they have sourced. I am a big fan of the realistic printed pillows

Are you and early morning or late night person?

Amanda: I am neither, I am at my best late morning. Although my internal clock has definitely shifted since starting this business. I now wake up on my own with no alarm clock much earlier that before, no matter how much sleep I have gotten.

Annie: I don’t know, I go to bed at 9:30 when I can and usually wake up early and grumpy. I’m a mid-day person.


Along with a set of 2 marbled pillows, a set of the red ramekins came home with me… one can never have too many ramekins, right?!

What is one piece of advice that you would give to a budding entrepreneur?

To get out of your own way and to do it. Don’t delay, the tools are all here, there are support systems. There is no sense in waiting, because someone else will come along and do it instead. Stop thinking and JUST DO IT.

Where is you favourite place to think?

Amanda: In bed is where I get ideas, either as I am falling asleep or just waking up, that is when I have the best creative ideas. In the car while driving is where I can clear my head and sort out problems.

Annie: Solo strolls around the city always help to clear my head and often get my creative juices flowing.


The store has a mix of vintage and new pieces – I am loving the vintage glasses they are sourcing lately!

If I gave you $100 what would you spend it on?

Amanda: Something pretty, either clothing or for the home

Annie: Food and/or a new bra.


These girls have an awesome sense of style and a great sense of humour

What would your customers be surprised to learn about you?

Amanda: That I have very little idea what I am doing and I am winging this.

Annie: Same.


Eye spy – MEHKER pillows 😉


Feeling Lucky, Punk?

My adventures of being a scarf addict

The Being Awesome Series: Part 1

mehker pillows
photo credit: Kimon Kaketsis


I am sorry this post was delayed in being published. (in case you are unaware I normally post on a Monday – today is Wednesday).  I was busy this weekend at the 401 Artisan Market selling my pillow line!  Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take an idea and bring it to life?  Well I am here to give you the insider report on just what it takes to make your dreams (slowly, but surely) come true. Some people will say “you are so lucky” because they see me living a life not constrained by the typical 9-5 office drown.  I am here to tell you that luck has only 1% to do with success in life.  My theory is to embrace that 1% and plan for the other 99%.  In this mini series, I will try and articulate what has /has not worked for me thus far.

Let me break this down like a job posting.

You will need:

-an idea
-the things needed to make the idea a reality
-some market research / investigation
-cheering team (who are also your product testers)

Beneficial to have:

-some start up money (even $1 works)
-computer software knowledge (Photoshop, general typing skills)
-social media / marketing ideas
-plan B,C,D,E,F etc…

Now. let’s start with the basics.  Let’s say for example you are inspired by a certain object.  For me it was vintage women’s silk scarves.  I started buying the scarves before I had any clue what I was going to use them for, I was drawn to the graphic mid century modern patterns.  Buying materials before having an idea can be a slippery slope – you could end up with a bunch of inventory and with no function = no return (monetarily or emotionally).  It is important to identify your need to collect and start ideating what you can do with this need to support it further.  Basically I loved scarf hunting – I wanted to get paid to do it, so I came up with an idea to pay me me to scarf hunt.  Pretty sweet, right?

mehker scarves

The process was tedious to get a pattern for my scarf pillows that would maximize the materials I am using (to ensure I am not wasting more money that I have to).  I have experimented with different shapes of pillows, different sewing techniques and different backing materials.  This part of the process is always in flux – sometimes you need to change things up a bit to keep it interesting, sometimes you need to change things because your testers are telling you something is not quite right and it needs to be fixed or altered to make them happy.  Good design is a challenge- my advice is to remember that no one or nothing is perfect and to revel in the little imperfections that make your object unique.  Always have your ears open to feedback and keep playing.  If you ever feel like you are doing something you don’t like / want to do – stop.  Drink a tea. Relax – reflect on this time as play, have fun and embrace it.

mehker pillow forms

So now that I had a product that I was happy with (and other people liked too) I was ready to figure out exactly how I could make money from it. As I stated earlier – the goal is always to fund my scarf addiction.  I love them. It makes me happy to be around them. I want more of that feeling.  To date, I have taken 5 different gambles to try and sell my product.  Some have payed off, others I lost (monetarily – I never lose out emotionally because my mind set it every step counts, good or bad). I tend to be impulsive when choosing my path of pillow sales, but time and experience is teaching me to be more strategic every time I complete a new venture.

I am a very social person – I visit the local stores, love taking pictures and reporting about my day on my blogs etc.   I was intrigued by the artisans selling their goods at the local markets.  Some times life gives you signs – this one was staring me directly in the face on a street corner telling me “VENDORS WANTED”.  Without hesitation I applied and was graciously accepted to participate in my first artisan market.  I was nervous about the table fee – but confident any step forward was the right step and collected (I think it was $350 for 5.5 days in the summer of 2011). I went online and to my neighbourhood stores to price compare pillows and get a general idea for how much I wanted to sell mine for.

mehker at the spot on queen market

My next challenge was to come up with a booth design – because my product was pillows it was hard to create a standard table layout.  This is one of my favourite things to do: problem solve – so I went to my sketch book and started ideating all the different ways I could display my pillows.  I landed on the idea of convenience.  Because I am selling pillows which are extremely bulky when stuffed – I wanted to make my booth easy to set up and take down.  I also wanted a WOW factor.   I fixated on the idea of a true POP UP booth and wound up purchasing a clear inflatable sofa from the US.  (who knew it would be so hard to find one in Canada?!) My concept was to create a retro styled living room pop up for people to feel nostalgic about and tell the story a little more about my product without me even being there.

mehker sofa pillows

fold up booth

(my goal is to sell everything I bring to the shows so all I have to do is deflate and head home – no table to lug around!)

Now that I had my booth design ready I was ready to take on the world.  For your information, here are some of the things that I didn’t take into consideration in the beginning of my adventure which ended up costing more money I hadn’t accounted for:

-receipt book
-business cards

Here is how the event went:

-excitement for setting up a killer booth +1
-meeting my new weekend neighbours/ other artisans +1
-checking out everyone else’s goodies +1
-energy of the event +2
-having a pug in the building +1000
-waiting for people to find the location -1
-having customers tell you you make awesome stuff +10
-having customers tell you they could do better -10
-making your first sale +10,000
-making your first sale in multiples of 6 +100,000
-hours of no one coming into the market -2
-getting work done during the lulls +5
-getting referrals from people who saw my stuff and told their friends to come in +10
-little kids jumping on the inflatable sofa -5
-rain -3
-trading wares with other vendors +1
-hanging out with my mom +10

mojo & cambi

Overall 110,020 positive points – I consider that to be success regardless of how much money I drew in.  For being my first exposure to the outside world, it was a positive experience.  There were things I liked / did not like about the venue – I learned a lot about being part of the “craft circuit” and also about what the public preferred in terms of pillows (and hand made goods in general).  I am thankful for the connections I made with customers and other vendors as some of us regularly connect and help each other.  I had a lot of takeaways from doing this event and took some of those forward into my next pillow adventure ( which you will read about in my next awesome series post).

mehker pillow customer homemehker customer pillow

(these are two picture I was sent after the market via facebook of happy customers sharing where their pillows now live)

One thing I want to mention is how important being connected is.  I am a social media fiend and find that it has helped me connect with people I need.  Sometimes it is just inspiration for projects / spaces, other times I want to let influential people know about the sale to bring their possy by.   Always it is a helpful way to get your point across and a great tool for listening.  I highly suggest that if you plan of doing a market that you connect online with:

1) other vendors before hand – and follow up with them in person – create that relationship to help strengthen the cause

2) the location – take advantage of the venue and their connections – look around the area to see who can help you spread the word

3) yourself – create a digital plan for the duration of the time you are at the markets

People are watching you – use that to your benefit. Always follow up with customers – be sure to ask how they heard about you / the market and use this information to strengthen your brand.

mehker business card

Being Awesome`s next series installment will look into my second adventure of feeding my scarf addiction: the studio party.  Stay tuned as there are loads of juicy nuggets I have learned and would love to share with you to help push you forward in your adventure!