mmWritten by

Katrina Dwulit. The Creative Collaborator and Builder of Magical Market Spaces.

Girl Warrior Stories| Views: 1385

Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, the passionate and multi-talented entrepreneur Katrina Dwulit, founder of the award winning Esquimalt Farmers Market. Katrina is an ‘island gal’ who grew up in Tahsis on the North Part of the Island in Nootka Sound. She moved to Banff in 2000 and spent eight years there, with a few breaks for international trips to Southeast Asia, Central America and a summer in Tofino. In 2008 she moved to Victoria and settled in Esquimalt in 2010 with her husband, who she met in Banff. Together they are raising their three kids, Mischa, Aleks and Miriam, along with Linda their year-old Mexican Rescue pup and second-hand cat, Tuxedo. Together with her husband David Laurin, an Osteopathic Practitioner and Athletic Therapist, and friend Shawn Matyczuk, LPN and Biodynamic Craniosacral Practitioner, Katrina co-owns Ocean Tides Health Collective in the West Bay neighborhood of Esquimalt, right by the water. They opened in 2018 and currently have five practitioners on their team, and looking to add an RMT. After a failed attempt to start a curbside fruit stand to sell excess raspberries from her backyard garden (due to bylaw restrictions) Katrina started the Esquimalt Farmers Market in 2014, with some serious help from many people along the way, she says. They established as a Registered NFP in January 2015 and had their first Market in May 2015. In the past six years of operations Katrina’s personal work, Esquimalt Farmers Market and The Township of Esquimalt have been recognized for their efforts to make this Market its current rank through their Association “Best Market in BC” (Large size). This is the third time the EFM has had this honor! In summer 2020, due to COVID-19 restrictions not allowing travel, Cory Judge of Shi Studio graced the EFM, as it was her neighborhood Market, to fill the void of the shows she couldn’t attend elsewhere in the province and the country. Predicting the Christmas Market season would be altered or possibly cancelled, serious conversations of what they could do to rescue the season began in September between Katrina, Cory and Vanessa Gaudet of Lady Dragon Glassworks. On October 3rd the three women opened Market Collective on the Second level of The Bay Centre. And they just got the keys for a second location at Mattick’s Farm! From pop-up to multi-store shop in just six months, supporting nearly 100 small businesses. Katrina says it is such a glorious feeling to be part of this! And to that we say a loud and exuberant YES!

What makes you a Girl Warrior?

I like to think that I am a Girl Warrior because I am driven and passionate. I am ok to make mistakes as I learn and grow, and excited for creating change.

Why did you leave Vancouver Island and move to Banff?

Honestly, I’m terrified of “the big one” and the tsunami to follow! But also, after I graduated high school I felt the need to explore and Banff seemed like a wonderful option to start my journey as an adult. My Mother also made her first move to Banff a few decades before. I am so glad I took that leap!

What is your fondest memory of your time there?

It would be impossible to pick out a single memory! It was the most formative, free, wonderful 8 years of my life! The friends I made there I have soul partnerships with, my time in the wilderness of the Rockies was magic, and the parties that I danced the night away to, are the moments I cherish to my core.

You founded Ocean Tides Health Collective with your husband David Laurin, an Osteopathic Practitioner and Athletic Therapist, and your friend Shawn Matyczuk, LPN and Biodynamic Craniosacral Practitioner. What distinguishes Ocean Tides from other clinics offering similar services?

At Ocean Tides Health Collective we pride ourselves in a space that is welcoming and comfortable with practitioners that truly care about our client’s healing journey. It’s kind of like a “mom & pop” shop of health clinics, it may lack some frills (like a receptionist), but you feel at home and cared for.

You’re the founder of the award winning Esquimalt Farmers Market. Congratulations on winning “Best Market in BC” for the third time! Why did you start the market? How do you find your vendors and is there a vetting process?

Thank you! Yes, what a privilege to be awarded with such an honor, several times over! I started the Market as a backyard grower who had an abundance of produce and wanted to have a roadside stand. When the municipality said a bylaw would need to be changed to do so, I decided to start a Market instead (FYI, the bylaw would’ve likely been a much simpler task). As a Market lover I loved what was happening at Moss Street and the Oakland’s Sunset Market and wanted to see that kind of valuable amenity in my community. It took many many hands, hearts and brains to make EFM what it is, and I’m forever grateful for people trusting me, and my vision, to help build the magical space that now exists to support our local Farmers and so many small businesses!

Finding Vendors at first was a bit of a challenge, but somehow we still managed to start the first season with just under 40 Vendors including about 6 Farmers. I used to have to reach out through social media or ask them when I saw them at other Markets; these days we are a sought out Market to sell at.

What is the Market Collective and how did it come into being?

Market Collective is a venue to shop Canadian artisan made, born out of a need to support our friends when Markets were closing or not allowed to host non-food Vendors due to the pandemic. Cory Judge of Shi studio, Vanessa Gaudet of Lady Dragon Glassworks and myself came into this project as acquaintances that felt called to the task of creating a space for supporters of local + handmade to be able to shop in a tactile fashion while giving a venue for the people we have worked at locally and across Canada at Markets and Shows to sell the wares they would normally be selling for the Christmas Market season – which for many of the Vendors we carry accounts for 60 -90% of their annual income. The store started as a pop-up on October 3, 2020 and we are so proud that we are now a permanent storefront in The Bay Centre and soon to be a second location at Mattick’s Farm. We have 98 Vendors as of today and will be over 100 by the time that second store opens. Our vision is to create a mini Market experience with a little bit of pottery, body care, jewelry, clothing, etc., and showcase a curated selection of makers, from well established to start up phased entrepreneurs, making ethical gifting easy breezy!

A common thread running through the work you do is collaboration. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about working with others?  

Collaboration for me is key! I have an abundance of energy and an overactive brain, constantly thinking up new ideas to implement, but I am not capable of execution on my own. I have learned that I work best in teams. I like to learn from people. I’m a great leader, but I also like to ride shotgun when someone can do it better, and show me the ropes. I think the most important thing I have learned from working with a team is that many heads are better than one and many hands make light work!

What’s the toughest decision you’ve ever made – personally or professionally?

Oof – just one! I’ve had many “forks in the road” that were not a simple decision: to stay in never-never land (aka Banff) or to go back to school, to be a mother or continue my gypsy life, to put my kiddo in daycare or start my own (I started my own), to start that next business and to know when it is time to move on. I’m a creature of habit and loyal to my decisions so most choices are full of emotion, but I am always open to the future and trusting that the universe will provide.

How do you juggle family life and career?

It’s tough sometimes! Our family is pretty active and fairly simple, so family time is often as simple as walking the dog or playing SKIPBO but we do take lots of time for camping and have been fortunate enough to take some multi-week trips to the Cayman Islands and Costa Rica. It makes all of the hard work worth it, and I cannot wait to jet set to the next sunny beach with my crew!

What does “me-time” look like for you?

Me time is generally a walk with friends, time in the garden or occasionally a weekend away with some of my best gals!

What do we need to know “for sure” about being an entrepreneur?  

Being an entrepreneur means being all in. You will at times work more hours than there are in a day, put in money that is pulled from credit and missing out on some things that kicks your FOMO into high gear – but if it is in your nature you just do it, and although you will most certainly have failures it is so worth it!

What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?

I learned that although I have been crippled with the fears of what is to come (notably that one panic attack on the bathroom floor last April), I will not stay down. I have too many passions, too many dreams and too many aspirations to stay down for too long. Being someone who plans a year in advance, it has been a challenge to allow myself to just be in the moment, but once you just accept that you must just go with the flow to some degree it does not seem so overwhelming.

The pandemic also has taught me how much I miss my friends and a good night out dancing. I cannot wait to hug all of the homies and bust out some weird dance moves against a sea of sweaty bodies! 

What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?

I would thank her for listening to that voice that told me I was important and I was going to be somebody amazing. As most young girls do at some point, I struggled with self-doubt and fear of the uncertainty of my future at times. Sometimes this would really get me down. I always had a voice that told me I would amount to something I would be proud of – and I am grateful to say I am indeed proud of myself. Thank you to my younger me for persevering even in those extremely painful and dark times. 

What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?

Find something that brings you joy and follow that path. There will certainly be challenges, but if you have joy you will have bliss too! Find friends that celebrate your successes and mentors that make you strive for more. Although we cannot control every moment, life is what you make of it and you are worth creating a life that you are proud of!

Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why?

This is a tough one – there are so many kick-ass women I would love to give a shout out to! I’ll avoid the ridiculous list I can definitely spout as anyone who knows me knows that my circle of “best friends” is abundant…My Girl Warrior heroes are all of the women who have ever gifted me friendship. The ones who are there when I need them. My Girl Warrior heroes also include the women I am so proud of, who I barely know, who rise in the face adversity, the ones who nail life despite being told they can’t, are not good enough or have a diagnosis that holds them back – you ladies are something fierce, get it! And I should probably nod Chelsea Handler, because her smarts, wit and no-fucks given have been a source of light and laughter in the best of times and the worst of times. 

What’s on your bedstand?

I have three books I have been pretending to read for some time: Tina Fey, Bossypants; Jen Sincero, Badass Habits and Gary John Bishop, UnFu*k Yourself…but I have to say I really do not spend much time reading these days. My life is pretty filled up!

Living or dead who would you like to have lunch with and where would you go?

I would give it all to have lunch with my (late) Grandma, Maria Dwulit. I’d be happy to be anywhere as long as I was with her, with her kung fu grip, holding my hand tightly. Man, I miss that tiny dynamo!

Describe yourself in five words.

Creative, Passionate, Blunt, Honest and Stubborn! 

If a Biopic were written about your life, what would it be called? Who would play you?

It would be cool if someone quirky like Zooey Deschanel, Chelsea Handler or Amy Schumer played me. I’m not sold on a title but it would be something like: “Weird is my favorite flavor”, “Ordinary Schmordinary” or “Oh the places you’ll go.”

To learn more about the Market Collective at The Bay Centre and soon to be Mattick’s Farm head over to the website and check it out.

Follow the Market Collective on Facebook @victoriamarketcollective

And Instagram @victoriamarketcollective

To learn more about Ocean Tides Health Collective head over to the website.

Follow on Facebook @oceantideshealthcollective

And Instagram at @oceantideshealthcollective

Head over to the Esquimalt Farmers Market website to learn more Esquimalt Farmers Market 

Follow on Facebook @EsquimaltMarket

On Instagram @EsquimaltMarket

And Twitter @EsquimaltMarket