Interview with Janelle Catibog
Creator of Mother Made It Goods
When COVID hit and isolation began, many of us turned to our gardens and houseplants to keep our spirits up. In retrospect, some of us may have gone a bit overboard with plants this year (and loved it)! We’ve got a heart-warming story from Janelle Catibog, who, when times got tough, turned to flowers and her childhood roots in an unexpected but wildly uplifting way.
Janelle Catibog is one of the millions who lost her job when the pandemic struck. She was a long-time employee at a family-run fashion boutique. “And they were a really great company to work for, so I ended up being laser focused on my future with them…and then enter COVID.”
Like all unessential stores, the boutique closed its doors temporarily, but when losses mounted the closure became permanent. “So we all ended up being laid off without a job…I wasn’t really sure what to do.”
Not someone to sit on her hands, Janelle quickly rekindled her interest in sewing and got to work making masks for her family and friends.
“What started off making a mask or two for my husband and me spiraled…I would go into a [fabric store] and basically buy-out all the fabric that they had. I would get so excited, I was staying up until like 3AM every night for the next month-and-a-half just making masks and sewing, sewing, sewing.”
“But after obsessing over masks I was like, “Oh my God — scrunchies!” and then, “Oh my God! — hair scarves!”. I kept getting inspired to make things that were cohesive together, and people were being really receptive.”
And so Janelle’s online mask and accessories business, Mother Made It Goods was born. But there’s a lot more to this story than meets the eye! A seed of creativity planted by her mom and mother nature in her childhood upbringing is blossoming into an fabulous eco-friendly, socially conscious small business.
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Soaking up some sun 🌞 . Check my highlights for hair scarf styles! Even MORE to come this week 😍 . . . . . #handmade #handmadewithlove #handmadeisbetter #handmadeaccessory #smallbusiness #smallbiz #supportsmallbusiness #repurposed #upcycle #fashion #recycle #headband #headwrap #hairwrap #hairaccessories #bohochic #boho #bohostyle
The Seed: “My Mother Made It”
Janelle grew up with a mom who loved fashion, loved her daughter and put a motherload of passion into uniting the two.
“Literally from the moment I could breathe [my mom] had me dolled up all the time. Every single morning my mom would do my hair, slicked extra tight up in these intricate buns and braids and fishtails. She always had me in cute outfits, but the finishing touch was always the hair.”
Janelle’s mom also seized every opportunity to hand-make elaborate costumes. “[My mom] would sew all the costumes for [my dance] studio! And for halloween, she would always sew my costumes, designing them and thinking of fun things that I could be. But I always prayed that I could just go to the store and buy a costume.”
“You don’t really appreciate things when you’re that age — of your mom slaving away and making the costumes for you by hand. It wasn’t until later that I reflected and, you know, you really appreciate it!”
“People would ask, “Oh my gosh, where did you get your costume?” or she would sew little things for me here and there for just everyday. And my response was always, “Oh, my mother made it.” So that’s where the name — Mother Made It — came from. All of this is kind of an ode to my mom. She’s going to cry!”
Browsing through Janelle’s handmade creations, you can’t help but notice that flowers are clearly another source of inspiration for her.
“A lot of my florals are vintage. Of course because I’m thrifting things, that’s kind of a lot of the patterns you find, but I’m really, really drawn to them!”
“I’ve always felt very connected to nature. My father worked in the woods for a living, so oftentimes my mom would pack up a lunch, pack me in the car, we would drive up into the middle of the woods to meet my dad for lunch and I would play around in the forest.”
“I also have very vivid memories of visiting my great-grandmother who lived in Nova Scotia, Canada, and I can still remember to this day the details of her house: all the antique patterns inside, little trinkets — I even remember the color of the carpet! Stuff like that really sticks with me and inspires me when I’m looking at fabrics.”
“[My great-grandma] also lived near a blueberry field. Me and my cousins would always go to the blueberry field and run around, pick berries, run through the wildflowers — I LOVE wildflowers!”
Janelle recalls, “For my wedding, my husband and I, we [gave] little burlap sachets filled with wildflower seeds for people to plant. And I remember there were a couple of people that were like, “Wildflower seeds? You know what we call those? We call those weeds!” I laughed, and I get it, but I love the natural disarray and wild beauty of them.”
A Sustainability Problem
Janelle began her fashion start-up almost by accident and fuelled it with pure passion. But about two months in, she was confronted by a few problems that made her take a step back and really consider what she was doing.
“I was feeling less and less inspired and my momentum was slowing down.”
First, she realized she was incredibly burnt out. “I was up until 3AM every night just sewing, sewing, sewing.”
Next, it was getting harder to ignore how much fabric was going into the trash. “Masks are odd shapes so there ends up being so many scraps you can’t use. You don’t realize how much fabric gets thrown out [until you’re] cutting patterns first-hand.”
And finally, she was losing her creative zest. “I can make endless amounts of masks out of a single pattern and I started to feel like it was somehow making them less special, and the whole process for me started to become really monotonous.”
Janelle was running up against a sustainability problem: for her business growth, her creativity and the environment. And, once again, she reached back to her childhood roots for an answer.
“A light-bulb went off and I was like, “Why don’t I just combine my love for thrifting with my new sewing business and just shift it into a whole new sustainable process?”.”
Now Janelle sources all her fabrics from secondhand sources, “they’re all thrifted, repurposed, upcycled fabrics. That’s what re-lit my fire and got me going again.”
A Thrifty Solution
“To be honest, [thrifting] is something that I used to hate. The environment was just so knick-knacky, you couldn’t see anything and you had to really dig.”
“Again, it started with my mom. Growing up we didn’t have the most money in the world, so [it was] a way to save. But it was also a way [for my mom to exercise her creativity]. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure kind of thing.”
“But it’s something that, again, I grew to appreciate and love. I love the hunt, and finding that special find that’s so unique and nobody else is really going to have — and just the excitement of being able to style things together and not going to a store where everything is laid out for you… I find it allows your creativity to kick in.”
Finding and repurposing used fabrics into stylish masks and accessories gave Janelle a fresh shot of excitement. When she discovers a beautiful fabric, she thinks “Okay, I can only make a certain number of things out of this, so I gotta make it special”.
“The customers that I’m getting, what initially attracts them is the patterns. A lot of people really like the vintage style and having something that’s a little more fun and bright and vibrant. But a lot of people come back to buy more because they appreciate that it’s repurposed and upcycled fabrics.”
“Especially right now, people are really interested in supporting small business, which is great because every single person counts when it comes to small business! And the other thing is that people are being a lot more conscious and eco-friendly about how they spend their money. I got a lot of positive feedback once I switched to a more sustainable process.”
“For my immediate future for the business is, what I’m most excited for is — my mom is going to be a part of the business now. Truly, my mother will be making it!”
“It’s a really special thing for me to be able to share [this experience] with her. I’m getting all teary-eyed…”
Janelle admits that she’s also very excited to have a second pair of hands! “It’s been getting pretty busy and being one person, I can fulfill mask orders, but I’ve been having a hard time putting up new styles because you can only do so much in a day.”
What’s Next for Janelle?
“Once I’m working with my mom, we’ll be getting more stuff up on the instagram page and I’m wanting to expand more on hair accessories — the sky’s the limit with what you can do! There’s so many trends right now that I see going on and hair accessories are something that I don’t think are going to go out of fashion — take it from me!”
Janelle is even dreaming up ways to coordinate outfits with our furry friends! “I love animals and I’m obsessed with my dog, and I’m like, “Oh my God, what if I do matching scrunchies and dog scarves?” and then I’m like, “No, Janelle, just focus — that’s a whole other rabbit hole”.
A rabbit hole it may be, but I think it’s one we’d love to see her go down!
You can stay current with Janelle’s limited edition creations, thrifty finds and styling tutorials on instagram @mothermadeitgoods.
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Posing between sips of wine with my beautiful bestie 🍷 👯♀️ Always rocking our extra pouffy scrunchies & hair me with my hair scarf to match! ♥ Surround yourself with people who uplift, support & push you! This girl is my #1 fan & I hers. She pushes me to keep going & gives honest yet loving feedback. She also inspires me everyday with her strength to be true to herself & to continue to love with such intensity despite everything life has challenged her with. ♥ Do you have that special person in your life? Do you have a few?? If not, keep searching! When you find them never let go! ♥ She just started a whole new chapter & journey in her life & is brave AF for doing so! Go check out her page to follow her story - I promise she will make you laugh & inspire your soul!! 🦋 🌈❤️
Don’t Leave Without Janelle’s Thrifting Tip!
If you’ve ever tried it before, you’ll know that thrifting and upcycling is quite a skill, so I couldn’t let Janelle go without asking for her secret to success.
“In the beginning there were definitely some bad buys! When you’re there in a sea of things, you start to pick things up that are less-than-desirable, but you try to [see] the potential of it, convince yourself, and then you take it home and think “I should not have bought this!”.”
“[Now] I pick [things] up and I don’t dwell on it too long. I look at it for five seconds and if I’m like, “Yes!” then I put it in the cart and if I’m like, “Uhhh I don’t know” then I just leave it because it’s not the right thing.”