The DIY Mercantile

Located in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, The DIY Mercantile is a home décor store for the creative soul. The store offers a selection of items from local crafters, as well as one-of-a-kind, repurposed pieces created by business owner Nichla Pinsent. In addition to selling finished decor, the business also caters to aspiring DIYers by holding creative workshops and stocking speciality craft supplies.

After running a handmade sign business from her home for 10 years, Nichla Pinsent decided she wanted to launch her own retail store. She sought the assistance of CEED to make her dream come true. However, she could not allow her desire to start a home decor store override her family’s need for financial stability.

“When I decided that The DIY Mercantile was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I decided I needed financial backing for security. One of the deals I made with my husband was if I could get CEED to agree to my business plan, then it wasn’t just me wanting something, it was somebody else seeing the value in it. I promised my husband I wouldn’t open a retail outlet without the Impact loan because I just couldn’t put our family finances in danger like that. So the loan provided a safety net.”


With an approved Impact start-up loan, Nichla had the capital she needed to alleviate her family’s fears and minimize their financial risk. In September 2019, her dream became a reality when The DIY Mercantile opened its doors. With a solid financial foundation, the new business was setup for success. However, no one anticipated just how important this foundation would be for the coming year ahead.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, The DIY Mercantile had to close for in-person shopping. By offering curbside pickup, Nichla was able to continue making retail sales, but social distancing restrictions meant canceling her upcoming workshops, and thus canceling a valuable revenue stream.

With a huge disruption in revenue looming, Nichla decided to launch a product idea she had been sitting on – take home DIY Kits! With a background in writing craft tutorials for magazines, Nichla knew she could design unique craft kits with easy to follow instructions. Her first foray into craft kits was a new medium for her – string art! Stuck at home and looking for a creative outlet, the stores loyal customers kept Nichla and her husband busy packing kits.

“We started with a small 8×8 inch bunny for Easter and they did really well. I think we sold about 100 of them. Then of course, Mother’s Day was coming up next, so we did a Mother’s Day one, and we sold 245 kits in two weeks.


It was insane. My husband and I were here every night, cutting out wood, staining it, getting it ready, and putting it in pizza boxes. It really saved us, we did better than we had ever done.”


While in-person workshops have now resumed at the store, Nichla has continued to roll out new DIY Kits. She sees the new product line as an important addition to her business going forward. In addition to selling individual kits in her retail store and online, Nichla also collaborates with customers to create customized kits for group craft nights – a great ‘bubble’ activity. Overall, the DIY Kits not only helped The DIY Mercantile stay afloat during the early days of the pandemic, but they also helped the business achieve one of its best seasons ever.

While the DIY Kits helped compensate for canceled workshops and reduced class sizes, they could not negate a reduction in store traffic. With an inventory of one-of-a-kind items, the stores retail sales relied heavily upon customer’s coming into the shop and browsing in-person. With prodding from her entrepreneurial children, Nichla turned to social media to sell her products and her Farmhouse Friday events were born.

The live video events initially served as a venue for Nichla to showcase and sell products, with Facebook viewers eagerly commenting “sold!” on their favorite pieces. However, the biweekly event soon morphed from shopping to social. With wine-in-hand, viewers began tuning in not just for shopping, but also for creative inspiration, DIY tips, playful banter, and socializing with other viewers. Like her store, Nichla’s Farmhouse Friday events have created a thriving community, one Nichla plans to nurture into the future. While product sales are still a part of Farmhouse Friday, Nichla sees the recurring event as a valuable forum for testing new product ideas and researching her target market.

“They have become a way for me to keep in touch with my customer base. I’ll test new products on our live sale. If it doesn’t sell with the customer base that I have on my live sales, then it’s probably not going to sell. But, if I’ve only made two and they sell quickly, then I know I need to make more. So it’s a really great way to test your market.”


Overall, The DIY Mercantile has not only survived but thrived in 2020. However, Nichla is keenly aware this has not been the case for many business owners. She is channeling her gratitude into support for other local entrepreneurs. Nichla has begun collaborating with local crafters by carrying their products and allowing them to utilize her workshop space. She also has big plans going forward and wants to use her retail shop as a platform to help other business owners find success.

“I have a whole bunch of things in the works that have to do with helping other people who are in small businesses survive this whole thing. So, that’s kind of where I’ve changed a bit of my focus. I still teach, I still love what I do, but there’s stuff coming down the pipe that’s going to be even more exciting.”


She also acknowledges those that were there for her during the uncertain days of 2020. Her loyal customers, her supportive community, her empathetic landlord, and her dedicated team at CEED and Impact.

“I have a local landlord who has been in this small town for 40 years. And the first thing that happened was he came to see me and ask if I would be okay. I almost burst into tears, because I was so scared when the pandemic hit. When they shut everything down, I had a good cry… But we’ve been doing so well during the pandemic that I haven’t had to need anything, so it’s such a blessing to know that if I did need to, I could go to my landlord, or I could go to CEED and say ‘hey, I need to miss this payment’.”


Want to set your business up for success? Consider an Impact start-up or expansion loan. Apply online or contact us to reach your local business development organization.

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