National Women’s Show Ottawa
Where can you find craft breweries, fine silver jewelry, skincare, makeup, handbags and clothing all in the same building? Ottawa is a city of diversity, it’s the capital of Canada and it’s a city filled with creative, talented entrepreneurs who brought their A-game to the National Women’s Show on April 14th and 15th at the Shaw Centre.
When I was first asked to attend the show and write a post on my blog telling my readers about it, I’ll admit I was a bit nervous. Trade shows are not usually something I participate in, mainly because I usually end up spending too much money on things I don’t need or I feel guilty for not buying a product someone took the time to tell me about.
The Shaw Centre, formally the Ottawa Convention Centre, opened its doors in April 2011. It is a beautiful meeting facility, complete with panoramic views of Parliament and the Fairmont Chateau Laurier through wall to wall, ceiling to floor windows. Upon arrival at the Shaw Centre just around 10:00 am on Saturday, April 14th, I was at once amazed with the turn out of people for opening day. A long lineup of women and men of all ages wound it’s way through the lobby, waiting for the show to open so they could enter, there was chatter, laughter and the air of excitement for the event.
The line moved quickly, the majority of people having purchased their tickets online beforehand, and soon we were on our way up the escalator into the bright and beautiful third level. Next there was a line where we received our large, baby pink “swag bags” filled with samples, coupons and brochures from the show sponsors. After doing a quick scan, I made my way through the first section of exhibitors in the main area called “World of Taste”, this section housed all things food and beverage. Nestled at the far end of this section was the “Culinary Stage” which hosted informational shows throughout the day such as; “All about dates”, “Healthy in a hurry, using a veggie spiralizer”, “Honey for your health”, Drinking healthy juices” and “Cooking with sprouted grains”.
The crowd was thick in this section, who doesn’t like food after all? This did, however, make it a bit difficult to move through and see what each vendor was offering. Getting to each booth for samples or to ask questions took time but I was completely amazed with how patient, polite and accommodating people were to one another. The atmosphere was amazing and the selection of new, interesting, local vendors was incredible. I did a quick lap around to see all the options and then I swooped in to start trying things, asking questions and making purchases.
Happy Bess Apiary
My first purchase of the day came from Happy Bees Apiary, an Ontario-based company, sold a delicious selection of wildflower honey, flavoured honey, beeswax soaps, lip balms, and creams. Bee Keeper, Anthony Pasto was there running the stand and he was more than happy to give me some samples to try. The Cinnamon Creamed honey captured my taste buds, the Lavender soap appealed to my nose and though most of the lip balm flavours were fruity and didn’t appeal, I walked away happy with their “Bee Kiss” honey lip balm.
The next stand I visited was Loon Kombucha, situated in Perth, Ontario where kombucha is fermented in batches, flavours like Blueberry Pomegranate, Carrot Cayenne, Sour Apple and Chai Rose are sold in pop-top bottles or refillable growlers. I loved the fresh and unique taste of this small town brand, I also liked the idea of being able to refill your own bottles. The ladies working the booth were bright-eyed, friendly and clearly passionate about their product and though I didn’t end up buying at the show, this is a brand I will be following up with.
Akiani Fine Jewelry
With my appetite satiated, I wandered into the next area. This large hall was divided into two sections; health & wellness and fashion & beauty. I entered a few contests as I made my way along the outer wall, which had financial institutions, Akashic records, meditation music, and massage chair attachments. Then I happened upon a stand that caught my attention, Akiani, an Ottawa-Gatineau based company who specializes in handmade, sterling silver jewelry using an ancient technique called filigree.
Filigree is a technique employed by Columbian gold and silver jewelers, which consists of weaving intricate and delicate threads of gold or silver, as thin and fine as human hair, into precious pieces of jewelry. Source: Akiani . I was at once greeted by a sales associate who patiently explained the process of Filigree using pictures of the jewelry being crafted, it didn’t take much to convince me to add one of these beautiful pieces to my collection. After pouring over each one, I settled on the circular “Ancaral” ring. I’ve only had it a few days but it’s already in regular rotation with my daily outfits. The owner Marcela and her sales associate were incredibly passionate about their product, they were kind and gracious when helping me choose the right piece and they even offer to clean your jewelry items should they become tarnished over time.
Poppy & Peonies
Next to catch my eye was a bright pink sign and a strategically placed display of colourful handbags. Poppy & Peonies is a Toronto-based company, named after owner Natalie Dusome’s daughter Poppy and her favourite flower; peonies. With a wide range of styles from totes, to cross-body bags, to satchels, to diaper bags, P & P have it all. These handbags offer convertible styles, removable straps, tassels and charms, interior pockets and are crafted from soft, pebbled vegan leather.
Although I didn’t end up purchasing one at the show (I am a self-professed handbag addict so this is crazy) I do have a few favourites. The Brooklyn Backpack comes in blush or black and is a great option for ladies on the go, perfect for a stylish day out. It has a laptop pocket, water bottle pockets and room for all your essentials. My other fav is the Darling which come in yellow, pink and blush (adorned with pearls).
What stood out most to me about this show was the appealing diversity of the brands featured. Fractal Effects was one such company which caught my eye, not only was their display of crystals and gems aesthetically pleasing, but the owners Ryan and Jessica were incredibly friendly and very knowledgeable in the realm of crystals and self-healing tools. Their online shop offers everything you might need; home fragrance, crystals, glassware, lighting, journals and crystal chests. I ended up buying one of their small stone pouches for mindfulness which included 5 different polished stones along with their meaning enclosed in a small blue-velvet satchel. My favourite items were the amethyst hearts which were super sparkly and stunning.
Pure Heart Essentials
We all know skincare is important, it is essential as it provides the skin with cleansing, nourishment and moisture. There were many amazing skincare companies at the National Woman’s show but one which caught my eye was Pure Heart Essentials (hearts seem to be a theme for me!) The packaging is reminiscent of cult skincare brand Lush but without all the additives. Brand owner and creator Debbie Schnitzel was more than happy to explain the line to me, she talked about what ingredients she uses in her products and more importantly what she doesn’t use (no parabens, phthalates, sulfates, artificial scents, colours and petrochemicals.) Source: Pure Heart Essentials I tried a few pumps of her facial cream which contains shea butter, essential oils, lavender and vitamin E. It’s aim is to hydrate and plump the skin for a smooth, youthful and glowing complexion. Source: Pure Heart Essentials
Love Montreal Jewelry
I’m a big fan of accessories, handbags are obviously my first love but jewelry always holds a place in my heart. Speaking of love, the sparkly, shiny, crystal-laden creations of the jewelry brand Love Montreal stole my heart as well. Lyndsay Goodfellow is the brains and talent behind this stunning collection of pieces, from gold leaf bracelets, to sparkly druzy quarts bangles, to antique lockets, she’s got you covered. Despite being incredibly busy, Lyndsay took the time to talk to my sister and I about her company and helped me as I chose a piece of her exquisite baubles to add to my growing collection. This range of handmade jewelry is both unique and diversified, there is something for everyone with Love Montreal. Source: Love Montreal Jewelry
Wild Willy’s Plants & Flowers and La Vie Boheme Furniture
Last but surely not least was this power team up; Wild Willy’s and La Vie Boheme. Wild Willy’s Florist, owned and operated by Vanessa Bishop, has been Ottawa’s flower destination since 1975. What drew me into this booth, other than the crazy, hip set-up were the multitude of sedum and succulent plants strategically placed all over the stall. These are some of my favourite plants to have around the house because they look amazing in photos, they are easy to care for and require less frequent watering.
I was excited to check out La Vie Boheme because I had been following them on Instagram for the last few months and I am in love with owner Katie’ refreshing take on up-cycled, mid-century furniture. Using paint, stencils, wallpaper and different finishing techniques, she turns your grandma’s outdated classics into unique, colourful, hip pieces that will fit in perfectly with modern or contemporary interiors. Katie is a bright and friendly person, she is obviously so passionate about her work and it shows through in her creations. It was a pleasure to meet her in person and I have no doubt that a few of her products will make their way into my house in the future!
The National Women’s Show Ottawa was such an amazing experience. It was so well planned and executed, there was not one detail overlooked. All vendors were amazing and though I was only able to mention a handful of them, I was blown away with the amount of talented, local brands in our community. If you missed this show, there is another on happening April 21-22 in Montreal at Palais de Congres.
I’m already looking forward to their fall show which takes place on in Ottawa October 20, 21 at the EY Centre, in Toronto November 9-11 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and in Quebec City November 17-18 at ExpoCite.