Small lifestyle biz Wildflower Mercantile helps families access support in the Comox Valley

The boutique's scholarship fund connects people with speech-language pathologists, psychologists and other specialists

Emily Yewchuk has moved a lot in her life. Her dad’s military position, coupled with her own career in publishing and photography, has taken her from North Bay, Ontario to Vancouver, the Comox Valley, Edmonton, Calgary and even Ireland. One thing that stood out to her, especially after having kids of her own, was how much access to essential services for children differed from place to place.  

“I have a child who had a speech delay, and we had amazing care in Edmonton,” says Yewchuk, “but then we moved back here [to Courtenay in 2019] and there was just nothing.” 

She loved being back on Vancouver Island, and she wanted to raise her family here, but she also wanted to help address this accessibility problem. So around the same time that she launched her very own lifestyle boutique Wildflower Mercantile in 2022—in a heritage building she frequented as a child—she launched the Wildflower Kids Scholarship Fund.   

The fund is designed to help families connect with specialist support services like speech-language pathologists, psychologists and private diagnostic centres. “It was something that affected me personally, with the speech piece, but then I started chatting more and more with other mom friends and noticed their struggles,” says Yewchuk. One friend’s child was put on a two-year waitlist just for an autism assessment. And while the Comox Valley does have a Child Development Association (which Yewchuk sits on the board of), she points out that the organization mainly focuses on autism-diagnosed children and children under five years old: “So if you’re in that 6-12 range and you don’t have a diagnosis, you struggle to find help.”  

Comox Valley-based Wildflower Mercantile's Garden Girls doll
Wildflower Mercantile’s Garden Girls dolls

Around 80-90 percent of Wildflower Mercantile’s offerings—which include kids’ toys, homeware, flowers, and lifestyle items—are made in Canada, says Yewchuk. Five percent of the proceeds from its Garden Girls dolls sales go towards the Wildflower fund, and so does a portion of the workshops that the company hosts. Yewchuk herself teaches photography and floral and wreath classes while another one of Wildflower’s six team members teaches cookie decorating. And they also rent the space to other artists.  

“We’re kind of a community hub,” Yewchuk notes. “We have a lot of people who love to just stop in and chat with us. We have a kid’s corner with crafts and coloring, so kids come in and hang out for bit while parents look around. The inspiration for the store was an ode, I guess, to how shopping used to be…we wanted the space to feel homey and very ‘old-school corner shop’ in that you know the people that work there, you become friends with them. It’s a nice way to connect with the community, rather than just faceless transactions.”  

The company hosts seminars on topics like kids’ mental health and partners with private companies to help families access consultations and services. Speech-language pathologist Dex McNally of Comox Valley Speech Therapy recently held a Wildflower seminar at Crown Isle golf resort addressing questions like how to support children at home, things to look out for and when to see a professional. That was particularly educational for parents, says Yewhuck. 

“Speech and language assistance is really hard to come by in the Valley, especially for children over the age of five,” she emphasizes. “I knew from the beginning that I wanted to have this charitable component as part of the business model. There are a lot of B Corps that I look up to, like cuddle+kind, and I loved that having a bigger impact was built right into their business. And so that’s what we did.”