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Humans of Sarnia: Melissa Harris

The Sarnia Journal has partnered with local photographer Art Connolly to feature his captivating “Humans of Sarnia” series as he delves into the lives and experiences of everyday people in Sarnia.                                                        
Melissa Harris

Allow me to introduce you to Melissa, a woman whose life's journey has been a tapestry of transformation, resilience, and a profound connection to her roots.

She was born in Orillia, and at 8-years-old, Melissa's path led her to the charming small town of Varna, nestled near Bayfield, close to where her father grew up. Her educational journey took her to Fanshawe College in London, where she embarked on the Personal Support Worker program. This led her to the Twin Lakes Terrace Long Term Care Home, where she dedicated herself to the well-being of others. Alongside her career, she pursued further studies at Lambton College, working diligently toward her RPN designation.

Life's chapters took Melissa to the bustling streets of Toronto, where she and her husband welcomed two beautiful children into their family. Yet, the allure of small-town living beckoned them back to Varna. It was here that they acquired Melissa's parents' wine-making business, a move that allowed Melissa to prioritize the precious task of raising her children.

But the story doesn't end there. Melissa's creative spirit found expression through sewing and embroidery, a passion she cultivated while attending local mom's groups with her infant daughter, who proudly wore the onesies crafted by her talented mother. Soon, other mothers in the group were captivated by Melissa's creations, sparking the birth of Custom Creations.

Melissa's journey led her across the border to Port Huron, Michigan, in search of unique fabrics. As demand for her creations surged, she pondered the possibility of meeting the needs of the Canadian fabric market. Extensive research revealed a gap in fabric availability in southern Ontario and across Canada. This insight birthed the idea for Funky Monkey Fabrics Inc., now Canada's largest retailer of minky fabrics. The online store offers an eclectic array of fun licensed, novelty, and popular prints in minky, cotton, knit, flannel, and fleece, alongside a treasure trove of notions, batting, rulers, and more.

Juggling both the wine-making business and the flourishing Funky Monkey Fabrics venture, Melissa soon realized her passion for fabrics would be the key to her future success. She made the pivotal decision to focus her energies on Funky Monkey Fabrics, a choice that would prove to be astute in the years to come.

When the Covid-19 pandemic swept the globe, Melissa's Funky Monkey Fabrics business experienced unprecedented growth. With many individuals confined to their homes due to pandemic restrictions, a renewed interest in sewing and fabrics emerged, along with a soaring demand for materials to create face masks.

Melissa believes her entrepreneurial spirit may have been inherited from her father, a multifaceted individual who ventured into banking, owned multiple restaurants, and, along with her mother, owned the Varna General Store and initially held the wine-making business that Melissa would later acquire.

However, life's journey took an introspective turn for Melissa with the passing of her father and a divorce. She found herself exploring her spiritual side, embarking on a voyage of self-discovery. Melissa believes that knowing oneself is the path to awareness and mindfulness. Her focus has shifted from dwelling on the past or fretting about the future to living in the present moment.

Melissa's spiritual exploration took her to Sedona, Arizona, a renowned spiritual mecca and power spot. She ventured there on her own, discovering a newfound love for solo travel. Her spiritual journey has offered her profound personal insights and self-awareness. She recognizes the significance of friends and family in one's personal growth but also acknowledges the value of "alone time".

She emphasizes the importance of self-love and the realization that you are the most important person in your life. Melissa beautifully sums it up: "In my opinion, In order to truly be happy in your life, you need to love yourself first. Focus on the positive and do something that brings you joy everyday."

Her journey is a testament to the ever-evolving human spirit and the quest for self-discovery.

"Humans of Sarnia" founder Art Connolly is a man fuelled by curiosity and a passion for connecting with people in Sarnia. Inspired by the renowned “Humans of New York” series, with a camera in hand, he captures the very essence of the individuals  he encounters, preserving their stories through his lens. Follow his series on Instagram and Facebook.