As you know by now, I love sharing about companies and products we love on the blog and our Instagram - and most especially those made right here in New England. Next in our series of interviews from New England Makers, we have Glenna Oliver of Away Up North!
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Tell me a little bit about yourself and your business.
My name is Glenna Oliver and I am married with two grown children, living in the western mountains of Maine. I am the owner and creator of Away up North and enjoy hiking, skiing, camping, and many other outdoor activities that Maine has to offer! At Away Up North I create handmade wool fabric Christmas stockings, decorative pillows, and balsam pillows.
How did you start Away Up North? Had you been making stockings and pillows for awhile or was this a new leap for you?
To me it seems I have always known how to sew and create. When I had children, I made clothes, doll clothing, and quilts. Christmas has always been my favorite time of year to make gifts for family and friends, including Christmas stockings for my family and then stockings for a friend’s antique shop where she started to sell them.
After being a stay-at-home Mom for twenty-plus years, I was looking for work when my daughter suggested making and selling Christmas stockings on Etsy - that was seven years ago.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I am an early riser and do have an exercise routine that helps me keep up with all my outdoor interests and also helps me mentally jumpstart my day. I begin with my work day about 9AM and depending on the time of year, I am either prepping and preparing for my busy season (September through early January) or sewing and making inventory.
During the busy holiday season I am personalizing and completing stockings as the orders come in. Many days you can also find me working on orders well into the evening hours. During the slower times of the year for my business you can find me enjoying the outdoors where I find the inspiration for so many of my designs.
What is your favorite part about owning your own company? And least favorite part?
I enjoy the flexibility it gives me - I enjoy using my passion to create and also to spend time pursuing my outdoor passions. An unexpected pleasure I have found with the business is watching families grow as returning customers request new stockings to celebrate the new additions in their families (babies, adult children getting married, grandchildren).
My least favorite part is the administrative side of the business - keeping the books and keeping track of numbers. I much prefer creating over numbers!
What has been the most exciting moment for Away Up North since you started?
In 2013 I was asked to submit a stocking to Downeast Magazine for their Maine Made Gift Guide. When I received the magazine, I saw my Woodland Bear Christmas Stocking on the front cover! I had no idea it would be on the cover! It was a very exciting moment for me. Since then Away Up North has been in other publications and newspapers, but the Downeast Magazine feature was definitely a highlight for me.
What advice do you have for people just starting out?
Do your research before your begin, but don’t hesitate to take the leap. Surround yourself with resources, not only reading information but good people resources. And always be ready for the “big moment!” No matter how slow it’s going, always create product, always be prepared with photos, samples, and new ideas because you never know when your “big moment” is going to happen.
What is your long-term goal? Where do you see yourself in five years?
To develop year-round pillow designs and possibly DIY kits for the stockings. Eventually I would also like to develop patterns for all my stocking designs.
Who’s one of your favorite New England Makers?
Alana from A&E Stoneworks! She and her husband Evan make a great product. They make stone cheese boards, coasters, and other products from stone. I love her cheeseboards and her energy! I personally love prodcuts made from stone and natural materials, they compliment the outdoor environment I love and how I enjoy deocrating my own home.
- All photos courtesy of Away Up North -