Four years ago, Laura Batista couldn’t have imagined that learning to crochet would change her life.
“I didn’t plan on having a business at all,” said the 31-year-old Sarnia mom and entrepreneur. “I was preparing for a missions trip to Cuba and needed to raise some money. I had recently learned to crochet so I started making scarves and selling them.”
At the time, she was a 27-year-old single mother working at Lambton College.
She began posting photos of her handmade creations to Facebook, and things took off from there.
“The orders just kept coming in,” she said. “I made double the amount I needed, so I was able to take a friend with me.”
A second mission trip followed, where she met her husband Manuel.
Batista’s new hobby quickly grew into a homegrown business, known as Handmade for You Love Lu.
Custom scarves, hats, headbands and children’s hats have been flying off the shelves from a small workspace at her Sarnia home, and she’s a popular venue at local trade shows and online. Fifteen percent of proceeds from all sales go to mission projects in Cuba, where Batista has partnered with “Friends to Cuba,” a humanitarian group providing needs for an orphanage, medical clinic, churches and a farm there.
Last year, after developing tendinitis — on top of raising two children — Batista was able to hire five local women who work as independent crocheters, so she could focus on the administrative side of things.
“It’s hard,” admitted Batista, who is expecting her third child in March. “Sometimes I just wait until the kids are in bed, then I start sewing on buttons and organizing shipping labels.”
Thanks to her online popularity, about half her merchandise is sold to customers in western Canada.
“It gets a bit insane at Christmas time with orders pouring in,” she said. “I don’t get much sleep. But I enjoy it — this is my passion.”
Most recently, Batista was nominated for the 2016 Mompreneur Momentum Award, presented by Mompreneur Showcase Group Inc. and ParentsCanada, recognizing Canadian women and their achievements in business, particularly in the service-based or non-profit category.
She’s one of five finalists, whose businesses will be judged on criteria like product innovation, growth potential and scalability, revenue, inspiration to others, and community impact.
“I’m pretty excited — I didn’t expect this at all,” said Batista, who will attend the National Mompreneurs Conference in March, two weeks before her due date, to find out the winners, eligible for some $30,000 in cash and business services.
Whether or not she wins, Batista looks forward to expanding her business, and continuing to give back.
“I would love to reach out to groups like the Interval Home or aboriginal women, to offer crocheting courses and hire more women,” she said, recalling her trying days as a single mother struggling to get by. “Just to give back to those people in situations I’ve been in.”
For more information on Handmade for You by Lu, visit www.handmadeforyoulovelu.com or on Facebook.