Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in home décor but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Karlyn Leslie, founder of Charlie Bear Quilts, located in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I create modern quilts that may one day be passed down. As a one-woman show, I control every stage of the quilting process, from selecting the finest environmentally safe cotton to quilting all three layers together with an industrial longarm machine that delivers the highest stitch quality. This is what gives our quilts an heirloom status. We are most known for our modern fabrics and luxuriously soft backings. They are truly one-of-a-kind and range from crib size all the way up to king size. Custom orders are accepted a few times a year that involve collaboration on design and color palette to create the perfect quilt for your space, whether it be a nursery, living room, bedroom, or office. Quilts carry within them a connection to the past. When they are handed down, it is the memories that hold the magic. The quilt is a comforting reminder. It tells your story. Let us create your next family heirloom and wrap you up in love.

Tell us about yourself

Charlie Bear has been in my dreams ever since quilting became my therapy. When I moved with my husband to Estevan, Saskatchewan, I was still a new teacher with only two years under my belt. We left friends and family behind in Manitoba, so my husband could start a new career and play hockey. Our first years here were tough, as we also went through fertility treatments that meant traveling all the way to Winnipeg. Since my husband's job took him on the road quite often, this was a period of loneliness and grief- especially when our IVF journey left us disheartened. Our dog, Charlie, was my constant. Almost like a person, he knew when I needed to cry and cuddle- or get me outside to walk. I knew I needed something to help me work through these emotions. I ended up joining a beginner's quilting class at Tiger Lily Quilts. I was immediately swept away. I fell in love with the creativity and joy that quilting gave me. The rest is history. What started as a mild obsession grew into a business because it gave me purpose and slowly helped me let go of my desire to become a mom. This business has filled a void in my life and given me the opportunity to use my creative side to heal... and even better, to thrive.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I would have to say, my website! Initially, I started out on Etsy but quickly outgrew this platform and wanted a little more creative freedom to release special collections and convey the story and comfort a quilt provides. Translation: lots of late-night tutorials and community help forums... but there is tremendous satisfaction that comes from building yourself a space on the world wide web. It has given me a greater understanding of photography for business and how to showcase our quilts in the most authentic way.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Right now, my biggest struggle is finding the balance between Charlie Bear and my career as a teacher... especially during this pandemic. It can feel like I am on a treadmill, right from the morning when I set foot into my school to arriving home at the end of the day and diving right into my sewing. Though it is such a soothing way for me to vacate my "real-world worries," it can start to feel like I am always on the go. And it's all of my own doing. I tend to set lofty goals for myself. I have to constantly set boundaries and scale down what I can take on. For example, last week, I mapped out the next six months with a plan for five new collections.

When I took a step back and looked at that, I knew I had to make revisions to give myself more leniency with time. Time is everything, and it's amazing how quickly it is eaten up in a small business. Giving myself more leniency means I can shut things down for a few days and do OTHER things that bring me joy. It always comes back to balance for me.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Take the time to find your niche. You just have to be the perfect thing to one small audience that will grow organically. Don't try to be Amazon (trying to appeal to EVERYONE)…. because, in the end, you'll please no one, especially yourself.
  2. If you love what you make, just START. A series of small steps lead to big accomplishments. You have to start even if you don't feel ready because I'm not sure that feeling exists when it comes to business.
  3. Hire an accountant. Let that be the one thing you don't have to worry about.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I'm planning the next collection inspired by the mid-century home we just moved into this summer. It had me diving into the architectural and graphic designs of the '50s, and needless to say, I fell in love with the clean, simple lines of this aesthetic. It started with the brown leather couch... I became obsessed with bolsters. And as we slowly begin to remodel this house, I have been dreaming and planning new design elements. As a quilter, it is a MUST to have some textile art upon these walls! In my scrapbook at the moment, I have three mid-century designs that will potentially become wall-hangings. This is the part that excites me the most- going from scrapbook to sewing machine... eventually holding in my hands what I have drawn out on paper. I plan to launch this collection in the spring.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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