Ottawa Changemakers: Kokom Scrunchies combines fun fashion with Indigenous culture

Ottawa Changemakers
Twelve-year-old Mya Beaudry is the founder and CEO of Kokom Scrunchies. (Supplied)
Editor's Note

Ottawa Changemakers is presented by Invest Ottawa and RBC Royal Bank.

Mya Beaudry isn’t your average 12-year-old. As the founder and CEO of Kokom Scrunchies, she’s running a fast-growing business that also celebrates her background as a member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation.

However, Kokom Scrunchies didn’t start out as a business idea. In 2019, when Mya was nine, she learned that her auntie Dana was planning a dance event at a festival in Ottawa. Mya told her mom, Marcie Beaudry, that she wanted to donate something special for the event as a fundraiser to give back to youth in the community. 

Marcie told her daughter that she had to put in the work. “I said, ‘Every month, you need to make just a few things to put into your giveaway, to generate some income to buy gifts,’” she recalls.

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Mya Beaudry with her mom Marcie at a fashion show. (Supplied)

Then, when the mother and daughter were out shopping one day, they came across a kokom scarf, “kokom” meaning “grandmother” in the Algonquin language. Kokom scarves are made of floral fabrics and are traditionally worn by Indigenous elders. 

That’s when Mya had the idea to combine her love of scrunchies with the beautiful kokom scarf she had purchased. After watching a YouTube tutorial, she was inspired to make a scrunchie with her mom.

“The first one took forever, it was, like, maybe an hour,” Marcie says. But once it was completed and posted on Instagram, the likes and comments started flooding in. 

“(The scrunchie) was so unique,” Marcie says. “People were asking if they could buy it.” 

Marcie then suggested that Mya sell the scrunchies — of which there were six at the time — and put the money aside to buy another kokom scarf. 

“It wasn’t a business at all at that point,” Marcie says. “I just figured, people are interested, let’s just sell it and we can make more.” 

When the six scrunchies sold immediately, a new process began where, every week, Marcie would post a “Sunday drop” of new scrunchies.  

“The more people found out about it, the more buzz started generating,” Marcie says.

While Mya names each of the core collection scrunchies after Indigenous role models — including her auntie Dana — the first scrunchie was called “our first love.” 

“It’s literally our first love,” says Marcie. “(The business) happened in a very pure way; it was really a way to give back.” 

Today, Kokom Scrunchies has a website offering a range of kokom-inspired objects, from scrunchies and scarves, to bows and lanyards. And in order to diversify her channel strategy, Mya now has a vending machine at Bayshore Shopping Centre that sells her scrunchies.

“I didn’t even know who you would contact at a mall (about a vending machine),” Marcie says, laughing. By November 2022, the vending machine was installed, along with a one-year contract. 

“She convinced them (it was) the best thing to put in their mall,” Marcie says, adding that it’s already opened up opportunities to install vending machines in other areas.

Marcie runs social media and manages operations, including finding suppliers for all the materials. 

“My role is really just to give Mya all the tools she needs to be successful,” Marcie says, adding that her daughter has already learned a range of skills, from money management to public speaking. 

Kokom Scrunchies has been featured in major media like Good Morning America, Elle Magazine and Refinery29. 

“It’s absolutely amazing to see what youth can do,” Marcie says. “With a little bit of support, the sky’s the limit.” 

Ottawa Changemakers highlights entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and lived experiences who are making a difference in the city.

Invest Ottawa is Ottawa’s lead economic development agency for knowledge-based industries. Guided by a vision to be a globally recognized, innovative, inclusive and future-ready city, Invest Ottawa delivers programs and services that catalyze the growth and success of entrepreneurs and firms.

RBC Royal Bank is a global financial institution with a purpose-driven, principles-led approach to delivering leading performance and creating value for clients and communities.

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