What it takes to grow a hobby into a business
C/O Icarus Apparel
Kiona Harrison shares how she kick-started her handmade apparel and alteration business
Opportunities can strike at the most unexpected times. For Kiona Harrison, the opportunity to open her dream business, Icarus Apparel & Alterations, turned up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The business started in April 2020 in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and began by only selling cloth masks. Today, it offers everything from handmade cloth masks, tote bags and scrunchies to various clothing alterations.
Harrison’s love for sewing and fashion can be traced back to her childhood. She was first introduced to sewing as a child by her grandmother. It wasn’t until she was in grade 12 that she revisited this hobby and expanded on her sewing skills by watching YouTube tutorials. In university, she pursued a bachelor of commerce in fashion management at Humber College to combine her hobby with her interest in business.
The opportunity to grow her sewing hobby into Icarus Apparel & Alterations slowly grew from the first order of cloth masks Harrison’s aunt had requested her in the beginning of the pandemic. As more and more people requested cloth masks, her dad suggested she turn it into a business. She had been wanting to start her sewing and handmade apparel business for a while but making and selling cloth masks was the kick-start she needed to turn it into a reality.
The name Icarus was inspired by Greek mythology. It is the name of the son of Daedalus, an accomplished craftsman and creator of the Labyrinth. As the story of Icarus goes, he flew too high and too close to the Sun with his wings made of wax and feathers to escape the Labyrinth and ultimately fell from the sky to his death.
However, the message from the story Harrison wanted to include in her business name was perseverance and determination.
“The point I take away from [the story of Icarus] is to always keep on pushing and rising above. You keep going and do the best you can, especially in new situations you don’t know about. Always push yourself to your limit and try your best,” said Harrison.
As the sole owner of the shop, Harrison faces many challenges, the most difficult one being marketing. However, she found her audience and support through attending small business markets and pop-ups. Her first market was Black Owned Hamont’s The Durand and BIPOC Pop-up Market in October and since then she has also been part of the organization’s BIPOC Holiday Market in November which attracted over 750 customers to the venue.
“The markets are really helpful. You just make a bunch of stuff and set up — mind you it’s kind of crazy because you have to do a lot…But they are really fun and you get your name out there way easier than trying to market online,” explained Harrison.
Harrison notes networking and community building was another great benefit to attending the small business markets. In fact, connecting with other people, whether it be consumers or other small business owners, is one of her favourite parts of directing the shop.
“Connecting with other people…or even creating stuff for other people who feel they can’t do it themselves are the most amazing parts about [running Icarus],” said Harrison.
Although it may not have been long since Icarus Apparel & Alteration was launched, Harrison already has big goals and visions for her business. She is interested in venturing into more apparels, finding her own niche product, taking on more creative projects and collaborating with other vendors. Eventually, she would love to open a brick-and-mortar as well.
In the spring, she is also looking forward to attending more small business markets with Black Owned Hamont.
To manifest the small window of opportunity into a reality takes hard work, perseverance and commitment — more importantly, it requires those who can rise above. The name of the business may have been inspired by a tragedy, but the story of Icarus Apparel & Alterations is a positive one full of hope, community and passion.