My name is Paige Shomsky-Barker (aka Péj), I am 23 years old, and I am the Founder and CEO of Made by Péj. I grew up in Toronto, Canada where I was raised by my loving mother in our modest 2-bedroom apartment in the heart of the city. From a very young age, I learned that achieving my dreams would not come easily and that I would have to work hard if I wanted to make them my reality. Being an only-child in a single-parent household, I had to overcome certain barriers that many of my peers did not face. However, I believe that it was through these life lessons that I established the strong work ethic I needed to achieve my goals.
Upon graduating from the University of Toronto in 2019, I decided to pursue a specialized master’s degree at the Schulich School of Business. Through this experience, I met many lifelong friends and developed a strong interest in entrepreneurship and businesses in general. My time at Schulich significantly contributed to my emotional, social, and professional development. Life was great and I was confident that my life was headed in the right direction.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to many of my everyday social interactions and exacerbated the mental health issues I had experienced throughout my teenage years, namely, depression. I struggled to complete my schooling online and I struggled with the everyday tasks, neglecting self-care entirely. However, everything changed after I decided to take up an old childhood hobby I had put aside for years: crocheting.
Almost instantly, crocheting became an outlet for me to channel my negative emotions. It was such a relief to finally do something that made me feel genuinely happy again. Watching my projects and ideas come to fruition stitch by stitch was extremely rewarding and it motivated me to get out of bed every day. I crocheted my way through online lectures and it always seemed to put a smile on my classmates’ faces when they would see me crocheting on Zoom calls. I literally could not put the hook down until… my friends gifted me a sewing machine for my birthday.
After being encouraged by numerous friends to start selling my handmade hair scrunchies and crochet projects, I decided to combine this passion with my business expertise which is how I got the idea to launch Made by Péj. Made by Péj offers trendy scrunchies, crocheted or sewn by hand, as well as boutique-esque crocheted crop-tops. I am currently designing crocheted bathing suits which will be added to the summer collection very soon!
As part of the Made by Péj initiative, 5% of all proceeds are donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association to support the ongoing mental health crisis resulting from the pandemic.
Made by Péj is my way of giving back to the world and the Made by Péj mission is to fight depression one stitch at a time. On a larger scale, my brand’s vision is for everyone to be mentally healthy and happy, regardless of the outcome of the pandemic. I hope to set an example for others who are going through emotional hardship and I want to convey the message that one way or another, there is light at the end of even the darkest of tunnels!