Behind the Scenes with Jessica Gilhula: Founder of UNITY by Top Notch Collection

Behind the Scenes with Jessica Gilhula: Founder of UNITY by Top Notch Collection

Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and your company

I have had an interest in business since I was in high school and I continued that path studying marketing. I found a love in sales, and it’s been over a decade of successful experience driving revenue through building and maintaining client relationships and penetrating new markets to ensure revenue growth. I have worked in a variety of diverse industries, markets and countries: Canada, Australia and the United States. 

My love to create and work with small businesses turned into a passion project this past January. I started to wholesale scrunchies to hair salons in London, Ontario. My scrunchies were designed to feel good, while creating a quality product and giving back. I named the brand, Top Notch Scrunchie. An accessory that inspires you to feel good and create a ripple effect of positivity. For every scrunchie sold, $1 is donated to cancer research.

My small passion project came to a stop when COVID-19 hit. Every day, I continued to ask myself; how can I help, unite and give back? I continued to ponder who is going to need the most help right now. I choose the London Food Bank, and set my goal for every scrunchie purchase, 50% of the profit will be donated to the Food Bank. 

I dedicated my time to finding women entrepreneurs who wanted to unite and be part of a giveback campaign. I reached out to over 20 Canadian fashion designers and it took me almost two months to hear back. I was able to connect with fashion designers in Ontario: London and Toronto. Hilary MacMillan, Smythe and Carmina de Young. These women donated leftover fabric from their fashion lines. I worked with other women across Canada on the UNITY design, artwork, content, photography, sewing and social media. 

UNITY by Top Notch Scrunchie is more than just a scrunchie, it is a symbol of coming together, giving back, and upcycling. UNITY has been made possible by the generous donations of creatives across Canada that see the value in uniting for a greater cause. All UNITY by Top Notch scrunchies are handmade in London, Ontario. 

Top Notch will continue to grow with a brand focus on Top Notch quality products that are designed with intention, sustainability and impact.

Did you have an ‘AHA’ moment, when you realized you needed to have sustainability incorporated into your brand?
After buying fabric the traditional way and having leftovers myself, I realized there was a better way to produce a scrunchie. I also knew that you could find textile by connecting with others that value sustainability. I figured that fashion designers who use textile must also have leftovers so I made it my mission to reach out and source fabric this way.    

What does sustainability mean to you, and how are you incorporating it into your business?
Sustainability is about change, a focus on greater integrity and ethical standards across the entire brand cycle.

My approach is building relationships and partnerships that value sustainability, moving towards designing products that are up-cycled, organic and fair trade and working with ethical companies.  My goal is to eventually be organic and Fair Trade certified, ensuring the products meet that standard and the workers throughout the supply chain are treated fairly and like family.

What would you like to see more of that would contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle?
People buying less, being more conscious and aware of what and why they are buying. Now is the time we breakup with fast fashion and build a more sustainable and thought out wardrobe, one piece at a time. I think you can start small and purchase when needed.

What’s your go to hairstyle tip for 2020?
I am a simple woman, and you can find me with a Top Notch scrunchie always on my wrist so that I can tie back my hair any time of the day.  My tip: a simple ponytail with a scrunchie that is good for your hair. P.S. And I love an oversized scrunchie; let your hair make the statement.