We all have unique experiences that inform and influence our interests and preferences. Our passions require daily inspiration to achieve our goals, moulding our intangible dreams into tangible realities. Living in Europe for several years started this process for Lisa Barron.

On August 11, 2018, Oak and Linen Home’s grand opening marked the beginning of Lisa’s dream coming to fruition. With a lifelong love of colours, textiles, patterns, art, and helping others find beauty in their own space, Lisa wanted to express her passion for interior design.

Located in Arva, Ont., Oak and Linen Home is set in an 1890s coach house and has a wide selection of home décor and other design accessories. Lisa sources most of her items from unique suppliers and local artisans, often choosing items with a distinctly French style.

Lisa’s time in Europe speaks to her choice of materials for interior design, with oak and linen serving as the basis. Oak and Linen Home intends to be a shop with something for everyone, including vinyl floor mats, pillows and throws, candles, bed sheets, coverlets, and more.

While the building is beautiful from the outside, customers are even more amazed by the shop’s interior aesthetic. Lisa decorates her shop to look more like a home, providing a comforting vibe and incorporating her products to blend with the rest of its interior design.

Rather than perceiving Oak and Linen Home as a place for customers to visit and quickly make a purchase, Lisa encourages people to recognize the shop as an experience. A big part of the experience is appreciating the effort that went into making it a one-of-a-kind shop.

These efforts are constant throughout the year, as Lisa’s shop changes from one season to the next. Lavender is a key theme of her summer products, while her shop’s focus in the winter is Christmas and the holidays. There is always something new and fresh at Oak and Linen Home.

“I have been fortunate enough to have come in contact with another female entrepreneur who has an enormous love for linen,” Lisa said. “Her European studio has been Oak and Linen Home’s base for our custom linen products, which includes a selection of over 20 colours.”

In addition to her shop, Lisa offers in-home consultations for customers looking to alter or revamp their interior space. Not only does this benefit the financial well-being of Lisa’s business, but it also enables her to develop personal connections with her customers.

As a small business owner, Lisa understands the importance of promoting other businesses and entrepreneurs. She takes it a step further by launching partnerships with other female entrepreneurs in Middlesex County, developing mutually beneficial relationships in the area.

During the summer of 2019, Oak and Linen Home hosted two of its Art in Our Park events. The first occurred in May and featured local artists selling their works, while the second event in July incorporated other small business owners offering boutique fashion and pastries.

One of Lisa’s more significant partnerships has been Joanie’s Pastries, a gluten-free bakery in North London. In the past, customers could order online and pick up baked goods at Oak and Linen Home. More recently, Lisa’s products were available for purchase at Joanie’s Pastries.

Another relationship-building method that Lisa utilizes is a follow loop on her social media. During a brief window, small business owners can abide by a set of instructions to connect with other businesses. It is an effective way of growing an online following and overall brand.

Like many entrepreneurs in Middlesex County and beyond, it is clear that Lisa views small business ownership as a communal endeavour as opposed to a competitive environment. For Lisa, the foundation of a successful small business is building and maintaining relationships.

This preference for cooperation over competition is especially vital for women, as the business world has traditionally been more welcoming for men. During the rise of female entrepreneurship, women have gained newfound empowerment by supporting each other.

Lisa’s expertise and passion for interior design, as well as her collaborative business efforts, helped Oak and Linen Home grow within the initial 18 months of its opening. However, the COVID-19 pandemic soon made it difficult for a retail business that depended on foot traffic.

With increased regulations on public gatherings and physical distancing put in place, solely relying on in-store sales was no longer ideal in the age of COVID-19. Lisa quickly realized she needed to rethink her business model and increase Oak and Linen Home’s revenue streams.

She decided it was time to open an online store, giving her customers the option of shopping from their devices. Using Shopify’s e-commerce platform, Lisa transferred Oak and Linen Home’s collection of home décor, apparel, and other accessories to her digital presence.

Having built a relationship with CFDC Middlesex upon launching Oak and Linen Home, Lisa could easily access COVID-19 relief funds to cover the costs of setting up and maintaining her online store. This business loan came in the form of the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund.

“The Regional Relief and Recovery Fund allowed me to offset the impact of COVID-19 on my business,” Lisa said. “It helped me in diversifying my business through online retail, which is the next step I needed to take in continuing to build Oak and Linen Home’s online presence.”

To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Lisa began producing and selling linen face masks with filters on her online store. Her customers could maintain physical distancing and abide by stricter measures, all while still supporting Oak and Linen Home during the pandemic.

Despite Lisa’s online store giving customers more convenience, it is hard to imagine people not frequently visiting her shop. It expands her geographic reach beyond Middlesex County, but locals will never get enough of Oak and Linen Home’s in-person shopping experience.