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A business love story now on the map thanks to Digital Main Street

Steve McCrimmon and Kendall Valerio
Steve McCrimmon and Kendall Valerio

People often become entrepreneurs out of frustration – they need a particular product or service that they can’t otherwise find and end up building a business around creating it themselves.

A different emotion motivated the creation of Sadie & June – love.

The story of this business starts with Kendall Valerio and Steve McCrimmon. She’s from New Jersey, he’s from Ottawa and they met in Florida. Travel has therefore always played an important role in their relationship. Valerio began embroidering a classic red heart on vintage map prints as a special token between them.

The idea soon expanded into a part-time craft business that attracted a lot of interest at local fairs and larger trade shows. By 2018, Valerio had taught McCrimmon how to wield needle and thread and they decided to become full-time entrepreneurs. The name of the business comes from their pets – Junebug the cat and Sadie the dog.

“Ottawa is a very creative city, and we know a lot of creative people,” McCrimmon said. “That probably seeped in and encouraged us to become entrepreneurs.” 

Feeling the pain from loss of live events

Sadie & June expanded with a variety of craft products and also forged distribution agreements with retail outlets across North America. E-commerce was part of the equation for Sadie & June from the outset, but the business relied on in-person events for about half of its sales. 

“Our products are meant to be seen and touched,” Valerio said.

“How could we bring the in-person experience to our online shop and make people feel that personal connection with our products?”

With the pandemic, the live events on which they depended went on hiatus. This put the emphasis on e-commerce. The problem was that the loss of one channel to market didn’t automatically translate into an increase in sales through the other.

“We didn’t see a natural increase of online sales,” Valerio said. “We were at about the same level as the year before. So how could we bring the in-person experience to our online shop and make people feel that personal connection with our products?”

Sadie & June’s brand is all about telling stories – starting with the love story between its founders and extending that to the personal story of each customer. 

Enter Digital Main Street

As start-up entrepreneurs, Valerio and McCrimmon had already taken advantage of the many resources available through Invest Ottawa. Then they learned about the Digital Main Street (DMS) program.

“We decided to give it a shot,” Valerio said. “The program seemed really great and since we had already worked with Invest Ottawa, we knew it would be a good investment of our time.”

With DMS, qualifying small businesses benefit from a range of services that are available for free. Through a busy two-week exercise, DMS business advisors worked with Valerio and McCrimmon in a variety of ways to tell a more compelling story online.

These efforts included new visuals, a testimonial slider and other improvements to the Sadie & June website to enhance the visitor experience; counsel on how to mount a successful social media campaign; help with blog and newsletter creation; and the creation of other design assets, such as social media templates, banners and logos. 

“This project was successful because we did everything we could as a team to ensure the business could leave transformed and fully prepared to implement our recommendations moving forward,” said DMS business advisor Jasmine Vary. “We can’t wait to see Kendall and Steve’s growth and success in the future.”

‘Flabbergasted’ by the level of support

McCrimmon is confident that these efforts have left the business well-positioned to grow e-commerce sales to compensate for the loss of in-person events.

“The DMS team doesn’t just work on your website, but on pretty much every aspect of your business,” he said. “They have given us good suggestions on how to get a better handle on social media and we are seeing customers respond.”

Valerio adds that DMS is a wise investment for any small business owner facing the same challenges.

“If you are feeling lost in the pandemic, if you are feeling stagnant and don’t know how to grow, or just need an extra set of eyes to see what you can do better, Invest Ottawa and DMS is a no brainer,” she said. “How amazing is it that we have these organizations here to help small businesses grow at no cost. I have been flabbergasted by how helpful Invest Ottawa has been throughout the entire existence of our business.”