Serious scratch: Inuit-inspired glass-etching business vying for $30K prize

Brown’s designs are often inspired by her Inuit heritage and life in Labrador.

Inuky Glass Art is the only Labrador-owned business in the competition

Raeann Brown wasn’t sure what to expect when she bought a cheap glass-etching kit online eight years ago, but she definitely didn’t think it would turn into a passion, a business and a shot at a $30,000 national prize.

“I don’t even know how I came across the concept of glass etching … I ordered the little $34 kit and it sat there for a few months before I actually tried it,” she told CBC Radio’s Labrador Morning.

Despite having never worked with glass as an artistic medium, Brown immediately fell in love with the results.

“It was a little inukshuk. And it was all free-hand, so I wasn’t really sure what I was going to see when I washed all the acid off,” she said.

“But it was a ‘wow!’ moment. I knew I was going to do this forever.”

Raeann continues to draw and paint, in addition to creating glass-etching designs.

That “wow” moment quickly turned into an obsession. Brown began etching dozens of images onto wine glasses, coffee mugs, mirrors and Christmas ornaments, and selling them at local markets in Wabush.

Winning ‘would mean everything for my business’

Eight years and thousands of designs later, her glass-etching business — Inuky Glass Art — is in the running for the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, a national competition with a potentially life-changing $30,000 grand prize at stake for the winner.

“The first prize is kind of unimaginable to me, but it would mean everything for my business,” she said.

“My goal eventually and my dream is to have my own shop, to have a place where people can come in when they feel like it, instead of having to message me to make appointments because they’re coming to my house right now.”

Artist Raeann Brown began etching glass in 2011 and soon turned her newfound passion into a full-time job.

While Brown is excited by the idea of expanding her business and opening a proper storefront, at first she wasn’t particularly confident about applying for the FedEx competition.

In fact, she kept it a secret until she received FedEx told her she was accepted for the first round of online voting.

“I didn’t even tell my husband about it because I didn’t think anything would really come out of it,” she said.

Uphill battle

Coming from a remote region with a relatively low population, Brown knows she has an uphill battle for votes. But she hopes that being the only business from Labrador and one of only a handful of Indigenous-owned businesses will give her a local edge.

“It made me feel a little bit tiny being the only Inuit and Labrador business, but at the same time, it’s pretty neat,” she said.

Inuky Glass Art was a featured vendor at the 2019 Labrador Games in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

“I feel like if I could really get that support behind me from Labrador, and get the people in general here to go on there and vote for me, I think I might have a chance.”

Inuky Glass Art is one of more than 400 Canadian small businesses currently vying for the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest grand prize.

Online voting is open until May 13, after which the field of businesses will be narrowed down to 75 finalists.

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