Brenda Tuttle walks through the maze of fragrant purple flowers and reaches down to pick a spiny stalk. The tiny buds slip through her fingers to be swept up by the wind.
Research has shown that lavender contains healing properties. Inhaling the oil extracted from the botanical can help calm the mind. It not only relieves stress and anxiety, but can also help with insomnia, restlessness, depression and even digestive issues.
Growing and tending to her lavender plants at her Armstrong farm while on medical leave has been a therapeutic way for Tuttle to gather her thoughts and form clear goals for the future.
Thanks to the programs at Community Futures North Okanagan, she has been able to become a clinical aromatherapist and find a creative way to market and sell her own lavender products.
This has led to her opening up a store in Enderby.
Feeling the Fear
After years of working in a number of fields, including as a mortgage broker, education assistant and retail owner, Tuttle said she stopped working altogether to look after her sick mother.
The catalyst for change came after Tuttle’s mom passed away and she went back to work, this time in the hospitality industry.
“After a workplace injury I began having health issues, which seemed to worsen under stress. After a second leave, my physician indicated my issues were workplace stress related and suggested I look at alternate employment,” says Tuttle.
Tuttle ended up leaving her job and was put on Medical Employment Insurance sickness benefits. That’s when she became introspective about what she really wanted to do with her life.
“I went home and did some soul searching. It’s not an easy thing to do, to stop and look at yourself and also look at yourself through the eyes of others. You ask things like: ‘What did I do wrong?’ and ‘What could I have done better?’ Then I realized that I had never set boundaries and had let people walk all over me,” she said.
Ready for a change but unsure on how to go about it, Tuttle says she was hesitant when someone suggested she talk to Community Futures.
“For me, asking for help hurts. I’ve always been the caregiver,” says Tuttle. “I finally said to myself ‘feel the fear’ and walked through their doors. They were very welcoming and comforting. I felt safe.”
A Bridge to Change
Tuttle was assigned to WorkBC Case Manager Grace Brinkman, who suggested that Tuttle might benefit from the Bridges workshop.
Developed to support women who are facing obstacles, Bridges is an eight-week, group-based workshop that offers personal independence and essential employability skills.
“I thought at first, I didn’t need it, but apparently the interview panel saw beyond my brave public mask. I found myself enjoying the connections at Bridges and even found a cherished new friend,” said Tuttle.
“We learned a lot from each other. It was therapeutic and eye opening. They don’t tell you what to think. Instead it’s a place to be honest and feel safe in a non-judgemental space.”
Opening a Treasure Trove
After completing the Bridges’ workshop, Tuttle participated in WorkBC Self Employment Services for eligible clients who want to start their own business or purchase an existing business, in which they have had no prior ownership.
Brenda’s original business plan was to create a place of “zen” in her lavender fields for the public to enjoy and to use her newly obtained Clinical Aromatherapy Certification, which was funded through the WorkBC program, to create healthy and safe value-added products derived from her crop.
However, selling the product came with its own set of challenges.
“I found that my products were not being placed in stores because many businesses already had product. That’s when the idea to start up my own store came up,” she said.
After finding a vacated storefront on Cliff Avenue right beside Enderby’s City Hall, Tuttle decided to take her business a few steps further, by not only selling her own products but supporting other artisans as well.
“I admire people who tap into their creative side and so I wanted to help them in a way that is mutually beneficial,” says Tuttle.
“I admire people who tap into their creative side and so I wanted to help them in a way that is mutually beneficial.”
Named TUTS Treasures to give it that personal touch, the retail space, scheduled to open Feb. 1, will not only offer Tuttle’s lavender products and her repurposed furniture pieces, but handcrafted items by local artisans such as textiles, baby and bath products, jewelry, furniture and other home décor items.
“Every fixture in the store is sourced from or recycled, repurposed, and up-cycled materials; nothing has gone to the landfill,” says Tuttle, who credits her family for steadfast support and Community Futures for providing her with the platform to start fresh and open her own store.
“I’ve always had the confidence and desire, but they gave me the gift of time by supporting me and helping me think about who I am and what I need to do to be self-employed,” she said. “They got me back on track.”
Are you looking for employment or self-employment opportunities? Reach out to Community Futures! We’re here to help. Call us at 250-545-2215 to get started.