In today’s Vendor Interview Series instalment, we’re going to get to know a little bit about…

Karen Pickle of Group Hug Apparel

This is what Karen had to tell us when we asked her about her and her business:

Group Hug Apparel is an apparel business that was started for my son Andrew Banar.


How did you choose what you wanted to do?

Well, I didn’t really choose to be in the t-shirt business, I kind of stumbled upon it because of my son Andrew.

Back in 2007, Andrew was in high school, living life and enjoying every day there.

One day after a discussion with his older cousin, he mentioned how he wanted to attend college one day. Andrew was born with Down syndrome and many health related issues that accompany his Down syndrome, so the thought of him attending college had never crossed my mind. I knew that he was able to stay in high school until he was 21 so again the thought never crossed my mind.

With the idea now floating around our household and the conversations growing more serious, we needed to discuss it and figure out a way to make this happen.

Andrew was eager to raise money on his own, he even suggested a ‘Lemonade Stand’ at one point. But back to the initial question, I saw one of Andrew’s drawings of a stick figured character playing the drums.

This got me thinking.

I suggested that we put his drawing on t-shirts and he could sell them to friends and family and he could save money for college. And here we are today, almost 12 years later a ‘ Life Skills certificate ‘ from St Clair College in Windsor and little business that Andrew and I run together for his future.

What are you most proud of about your business?

The thing that I am most proud of is how my son Andrew has grown and excelled not only in his business but in his life as well. He has learnt so many new skills that will benefit him in life. The business also provides him with a sense of purpose and money for his future. But this wouldn’t be possible without the wonderful support from our community, near and far.


How do manage work/life balance?

I have pj’s with the following saying on them “Self Care is not selfish”. It is actually a shirt that was given to me by a friend but I decided to wear it as a pj top because it reminds me to be a little more selfish and that it’s OK.

I wake before my family, make myself a tumeric late’ or green tea, and sit in my hot tub for about 30 minutes. This is ‘Me Time’; me time to meditate, me time to pray or me time to just enjoy the morning quietness before the world awakes.

I take the time to go out of my house and practice yoga once a week with friends, I schedule coffee, lunch or even a dinner dates with a girlfriend at least once or twice a month.

And most importantly, I try hard to surround myself with positive people.

Andrew & Karen

What is the best book you have read for business or personal growth? Or, what are you reading right now?

I just finished reading Rachel Hollis – Girl Wash Your Face. Her approach is very simple and she is so inspirational.


What is your favourite inspiring or motivational quote?

My favourite quote is ‘Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight’ ~ Naoki Higashida (a young Japanese writer, diagnosed with autism at the age of 5).


What advice would you give to another woman just starting her own business?

Believe in yourself and find a community that will support you. It’s important to have a circle of friends that will rise with you. I would also share to live a life that impassions you while positively impacting family, friends, community and even strangers. It need not be perfect because it’s an ongoing journey living a life filled with joy and intention, and it looks different for everyone.


Thank you so much to Karen  for taking the time to answer our questions.

Karen is also the Keynote Speaker on Saturday, March 9th for the Women’s Expo. She will be talking with us about, and sharing her experiences as a business woman and mom, who found her passion, helping her son, Andrew, who was born with Down syndrome, run his own t-shirt business – Group Hug Apparel.

Tickets are limited, and include a light breakfast of pastries, fruit, coffee and tea. You can purchase your ticket for the Keynote Speaker talk HERE.

If you are in the area, be sure to stop by the Women’s Expo vendor market to say ‘Hi!’ to Karen.

In the meantime, you can find Group Hug Apparel online here:
Facebook: /grouphugapparel
Instagram: @grouphugapparel

About the Vendor Interview Series:

When we started to plan our inaugural Women’s Expo, we wanted it to be more than just another vendor’s market and workshop event.

We wanted to create a sense of community. To create connections and get just as excited about each other’s businesses as we are about our own.

We planned a pre-event meetup so that the vendors could get together and get to know each other before the ‘big event’, and we tasked them with some ‘homework’ that they have probably never had to do before when participating in a vendor market style event, (this Interview Series being one of their tasks).

It was our vision that with the information that they provide us with, we do as much as we can to showcase, and highlight these hardworking women, not only the weekend of the Women’s Expo, but as often as we possible could in the weeks leading up to it.

Balancing life and work is hard and we are so honoured that they are choosing to spend some of their time with us <3