Snowflakes create a flurry of love and business.
The recent pandemic has seeped, invaded, wormed—or use whatever egregious verb you choose—into so many facets of our lives—physical wellbeing, mental health, relationships and businesses. How it has impacted each person is different, and the ways in which people have dealt with the fallout are equally as distinctive.
For one woman and her family, handling the emotional aspects of the pandemic reached across familial and international lines. Aneta Mendoza, who lives in Plymouth with her husband Angel and sons, Nathaniel and Benjamin, and her sister Aleksandra Brzoza, of New Jersey, decided to give their mother a birthday gift that she’ll not soon forget.
Mendoza grew up in Jastrzębie-Zdrój, Poland, a small coal mining town in the southern part of the country and where her parents remain. “Every year, for the last 10 years or so, my parents (Roman and Krystyna Brzoza) would come visit and stay with us for the summer,” Mendoza says. “Nathaniel and Benjamin do not remember a summer without babi and dziadek (grandma and grandpa).”
Enter the pandemic and travel restrictions put a halt to the annual family reunions. To add insult to the proverbial injury, Brzoza faced a cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgery without her daughters by her side. “Luckily, her surgery went well, and she is cancer free today, which we are very grateful for,” Mendoza says. “She is a real super woman, and I cannot imagine my life without her. She is the type that just wants to cook for everyone, take care of everyone and make others happy. It has been crazy difficult for my sister and I to support her from so far away. As you can imagine, healthcare there is not that great, and not even being able to hold her hand during hard times was impossible.”
Not even connecting through phone calls could quell Mendoza’s overwhelming concern for her mother. “Suddenly, we were talking to mom, who was very different from how we knew her all our lives. She changed from happy, loud and energetic to sad, quiet and hopeless.”
Mendoza and her sister wanted to find a way to boost their mother’s spirits. Since Brzoza loves to knit and crochet, they opened an Etsy shop for her as a birthday gift. “This whole idea was a total team effort,” Mendoza says. Family and friends participated in a friendly contest to name the shop, a cousin (Gaby Apostel Strempel, who lives in Germany), made the logo, and friend and photographer Monika DeMyer, in New Jersey, took product photos for the site.
With winter and the holidays on the horizon, they decided have Brzoza fill her online shop with snowflake ornaments, which she’d ship to Mendoza, who would fulfill the online orders. “We knew that each of the snowflakes would be made with a lot of love, patience and a goal in mind to make others smile,” Mendoza says. “And her craftsmanship is truly impressive. It took years of experience and true passion, but her work is really remarkable.”
In less than two months, close to 100 sets (600 snowflakes) were sold, and snowflake garlands later entered the blizzard of success. “To be honest, neither my sister nor I ever expected that Little Big Things would actually work out the way it did,” Mendoza says. “We thought we would sell a few crocheted snowflake sets, and the plan was that we would buy the rest to keep mom happy.”
With that early success comes news that they are working on a spring collection, featuring crocheted and knitted bunny-themed blankets, hats, socks and toys. “Mom wanted something that would remind people of spring, and bunnies would do that,” Mendoza says. “… And given how crazy our family is about dogs, I think a dog collection may be just what we need for the fall of 2021!”
Given the interest in the products, Brzoza’s friend Jadzia Gajda is also creating inventory. “I would love to see this expand to be able to have more women in the town join Little Big Things,” Mendoza says. “Bear in mind, we are talking about a different place, where this generation of women would stay home to take care of kids and rarely had the opportunity to do anything else.”
“Little Big Things has been a blessing for all of us,” Mendoza says. “Mom is so excited that she cannot stop talking about it. She is so proud of herself, probably more than she has ever been in her life. She is pretty humble, so the idea of people paying for her crocheted creations is difficult for her to swallow, but listening to me translate customer reviews that they write on Etsy has been her favorite pastime lately.”
Find products on Etsy at LittleBigThings2020.