A pair of South Surrey high school students have taken their passion for embroidery and turned it into both a successful business and a way to do their part for the community.
Elgin Park Secondary Grade 11 student Monica Xu and Semiahmoo Secondary Grade 12 student Sunnie Li launched Boardwalk Embroidery July 1.
Through online platforms, the girls sell hand-designed embroidered sweatshirts, handbags and handmade rings.
Their sweater designs feature everything from colourful takes on the Nike swoosh, sometimes featuring flowers, animal prints or anime, to extravagant custom works that can take up to 20 hours to complete.
While the expression ‘nothing good happens after midnight’ can be true for many early-morning adventures, the girls proved that’s not always the case.
“We were talking at like 3 a.m., and we were talking about starting a business during quarantine,” Monica said. “It was summer, it was quarantine, we didn’t have much to do and embroidery was a passion we had in common.”
According to the girl’s Etsy page, which is an online marketplace for hand-made goods, the business has made 177 sales since it launched. Items are designed on order, and they’ve had clients from almost every province in Canada and from as far away as England and Iceland.
“We discovered that a lot of people were interested. When we first started, we had a few customers that were all local. In the past half of a year, we’ve gotten orders from all over the country,” Sunnie said.
While Monica said the preset designs take about an hour to complete, Sunnie said the custom works can take much longer.
“It can take me, varying on the size of whatever I’m making and the details, it can take me anywhere from eight to 20 hours on a single piece,” Sunnie said. “I usually put on a podcast, pull two all-nighters and get it done. I really enjoy doing it, too, so it’s a great excuse to watch Netflix and listen to a podcast.”
The girls share a similar story in how they came to embroidery, they both were exposed to fabric crafts at an early age.
“This goes all the way back to Grade 1,” Monica said. “I had a babysitter in Grade 1 who taught me how to sew. I was sewing my stuff ever since. But last year, I picked up embroidery because I was bored and, why not, let’s try something new.”
As for Sunnie, she tried cross-stitching – something her mother would often do – at six years old. But, as it turns out, she didn’t have the patience for it at that tender age.
“About a year or two years ago, I was scrolling through YouTube, falling down that rabbit hole, and I saw some tutorials. I was like, you know what, this looks pretty cool, let’s check it out. This really looks doable, I could do this.”
But more than just a business, the girls have been using a portion of the money they make to support charities close to their heart.
Every two to three months, the friends go over their finances and determine how much money to donate. Recently, they’ve made contributions to the Crisis Centre BC, which offers confidential support and follow-up to youth in crisis, and to a homeless shelter dedicated to youth in Vancouver.
The friends are looking for more non-profit organizations to either donate to, or start a special project with.
“If anyone is interested working with us, reach out to us. We’re open to whatever,” Monica said.
The girls said they’re having a lot of fun with their new venture, partly because it’s flexible and spontaneous.
“We make really important decisions at like 2 a.m., half awake. We should probably stop doing that, but it’s worked so far,” Sunnie said. “We started it at 3 a.m., so we’re keeping the tradition of 2 a.m. decision making.”
The business can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org