Here at Cottage Life, we realize how hard the COVID-19 pandemic has hit local businesses. To do our part, we’ll be highlighting the stories of a different business in cottage country. This week, we spoke with Niagara, Ont. native Jenn Roach who, in October 2020, founded Ottilie + Fern.
What is Ottilie + Fern?
It’s a home décor company, but it’s really cottage-driven. All of the products are inspired by nature. So, a lot of driftwood pieces, fern art prints, macramé wall hangings, acorns, and farmhouse style accessories.
What inspired you to start the business?
In the summer during COVID, I was working from home, aka the cottage. I work as a medical sales rep for L’Oreal, and I’ve always needed a creative outlet to keep me sane. So, I was walking along the shores of our lake, Wahwashkesh, and started collecting driftwood pieces. I was inspired by this local business called Simply Cottage that makes really cool driftwood animals and fish and stuff. I thought, ‘I would love to do this on my own and get creative.’ So, we made this bass fish out of the driftwood as a family, and that kind of started it all. It just spiraled from there.
Where did the name come from?
I’m blessed to be the mom of two boys, but we never had a daughter. If we did, Ottilie (Tilly for short) would have been her name. It was also my Nana’s name. And Fern, my husband’s Grandmother, would have been her middle name. Ottilie Fern.
I also have always had a mad love for ferns. All of my pieces were inspired from walking the shores of Wahwashkesh this past summer during COVID. We have huge ostrich ferns behind the cottage.
Where is your business located?
Being so new, it’s all online. So, I have an Etsy shop, and I do most of my advertising and marketing on Instagram.
What’s your most popular product?
I find it ranges, but the fern prints are definitely a big seller. Some of the macramé pieces have been doing really well lately, too. And I have Tilly the Towel Holder, which is a bestseller on the website as well. It’s just something different as opposed to your typical Amazon stainless steel towel holder. It’s homemade with oven-baked white clay and wrapped with natural jute.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
I don’t mean this in any sort of insensitive way, but I actually feel like it’s had a positive impact. I think there’s such great support for small businesses right now with everybody seeing them struggle with COVID and really wanting to support them. Even if it’s not through purchasing, the support of likes and shares online have helped get my name out there and it’s had a really positive impact.
What does the future look like for Ottilie + Fern?
The dream would be to have a brick-and-mortar store. I’m seeing success already, so I wouldn’t say it’s impossible. Definitely something to aim for.
Otherwise, I have a lot of future plans come summer. I’m discovering that [homemade décor] is very seasonal, especially now in winter as my supplies dwindle. It’s becoming more macramé focused. But for summer, the pieces will definitely be more driftwood inspired.
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