With equal doses of purpose and tenacity, Mairi Shewfelt launches Yatta Brands, a luxury marketplace for sustainable beauty products and jewelry
Photo: Yatta Brands founder, Mairi Shewfelt (credit: Creative Shutter)
GETTING A NEW business off the ground is tough at the best of times. Doing it during a global pandemic requires an extra dose of tenacity, flexibility and faith in the future. Mairi Shewfelt, founder of Yatta Brands, has all three ― as well as a previous career as a currency trader that helped her stay ahead of a rapidly changing retail landscape.
Yatta Brands brings the best in vegan beauty and self-care products to the Canadian market. Sourced from small producers located in England, Italy, Australia, Canada and the U.S., many are available in North America exclusively through Yatta.
After testing the local demand for eco-luxe skin care, hair care, cosmetics, perfumes and jewelry through word-of-mouth sales, Shewfelt quietly launched Yatta’s website and online store in October of 2019.
“I used to trade futures, derivatives and options, so I am used to planning ahead” ―Mairi Shewfelt
This February, she signed a lease at The Factory Creative Businesses at 538 Adelaide Street with plans to transform the space into an Eco-Studio to house Yatta’s retail store and an event venue.
Then Covid-19 hit.
Shewfelt shifted her focus to online sales, quickly learning the ropes on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Having watched the evolution of China’s Covid crisis since January, she also ordered additional inventory well before the global lockdown came into effect.
All Yatta Brand merchandise is either cruelty-free, vegan, organic and/or eco-friendly (photo credit: Creative Shutter)
“I used to trade futures, derivatives and options, so I am used to planning ahead,” she notes. “I took the approach that if Covid hit Europe or North America it was going to cause a problem for everyone. I never thought Covid would lock things down in Canada, but I didn’t want to be sitting on a store with no product to sell. I decided to hedge myself.”
It was a bet that paid off. Most of Shewfelt’s brand partners were forced to temporarily close their production facilities in March, but Yatta has been able to fulfill online orders while offering free delivery in London and flat-rate shipping across the rest of Canada.
And Shewfelt has pushed ahead with the renovation of Yatta’s Eco-Studio. “My landlord, Tom Bitz, has been amazing. He took this project on with gusto and has been doing the work himself.”
The space has been refurbished using only upcycled, recycled or environmentally friendly materials, sourced locally whenever possible.
“When it looked like Covid would affect Canada, I gave myself a two-week window to source and place orders for everything,” Shewfelt notes. It was another smart move. With manufacturing facilities now closed due to the pandemic, most eco-certified building materials are currently out of stock.
The Yatta Brand Eco-Studio will open next month at 538 Adelaide Street (photo credit: Creative Shutter)
As the local economy begins to reopen, Shewfelt is looking forward to welcoming Londoners to Yatta’s Eco-Studio early next month. Going forward, she says Yatta’s business plan will include a strong emphasis on e-commerce, and curbside pickup will remain an option for people who prefer to do their shopping online.
“I’ve definitely changed my business model,” she says. “Without a strong online presence, I think businesses are now dead in the water. Today, you need to have both.” Nicole Laidler