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Goulais businesswoman uses prize money to cheer others up during pandemic

‘It’s nice to just make someone’s day,’ says Tessa Nevers, who received $2,500 from Canadian TV personality, interior decorator and entrepreneur Jillian Harris
20210731-Olive Branch Market Goulais River photo supplied
Olive Branch Market in Goulais River. Photo supplied

The owner of a Goulais River boutique has not only seen her business survive through COVID-19 lockdowns, but she has come through it learning more about being a business owner and giving away some of her merchandise as ‘cheer up’ gifts for customers during the pandemic.

She also won $2,500 from a TV personality and entrepreneur.

During the lockdowns, Tessa Nevers, Olive Branch Market owner/operator, decided to brush up on her business skills by signing up for a three-part program delivered remotely by Canadian TV personality, interior decorator and entrepreneur Jillian Harris.

‘The Jilly Academy’ was a learn at your own pace program, covering many aspects of business.

“It was about things you didn’t think about before, things you thought about but didn’t know how to do. My organizational skills really stepped up. People from all over the world were in the course, but only three people were given a prize of $2,500 for enrolling and I was one of the three,” Nevers told SooToday. 

“It was totally random. It was such a shock. It made me feel really good for Jillian Harris to mention my name. A lot of people locally are huge Jillian Harris fans. It was a really positive moment.”

Instead of keeping the prize money, Nevers used it to cover the cost of weekly giveaways of Olive Branch Market merchandise she sent to people as cheer up gifts during the lockdowns Ontario has endured. 

She picked her winners through social media.

Nevers had gift baskets delivered to Sault and area winners, others shipped to out-of-town winners in Sudbury, Quebec, BC and the Chatham, Ontario area.

“The gift baskets, sometimes, were foodie based, but my favourite one was a ‘best friends giveaway’ where I sent a bracelet, a wine glass, a trinket heart dish, a bath bomb and a scrunchy, and so one winner would get one gift basket for themselves, and I took care of shipping and delivery for their best friend who they wanted to send the second one to.”

Nevers said she gave away several gift baskets during the lockdowns, each valued at approximately $100.

“It’s nice to just make someone’s day. I like to give.”

“It’s been good. It (COVID-19’s sudden, unexpected effect on businesses in March 2020) sling shot me into my five year business plan in about five weeks,” Nevers chuckled. 

“I was able to launch a website for the business a lot sooner than I would ever have expected to. With the border being closed, everyone’s idea of shopping local as being important has really helped. Without some of the effects of COVID, I wouldn’t have been where I am now. I know a lot of business owners were not as fortunate as I am, but it definitely allowed me to roll with the punches and it all worked out really well.”

Nevers opened Olive Branch Market in late 2019.

Nevers said she makes an effort to sell Canadian-made products, including gift baskets, kitchenware, home decor, soaps, lotions and ladies apparel, the store now receiving customers in person as the province opens up, as well as shipping online orders across Canada and delivering gifts bought by Sault and area customers to their homes within a couple of business days.   

On a sentimental note, her great-grandfather constructed the building which now serves as Olive Branch Market’s home.

“I’m now able to rent one of the spaces that used to be a motel room when he built it. It’s kind of cool to know the original bricks were laid by him, so that’s really neat. The Goulais blood is really thick,” Nevers said.