Supporting Mental Health One Bag At A Time (Win!)

July 27, 2021

Jennifer St. John is the owner of Marnie & Michael, an artisan studio-meets-mental health initiative out of Penetanguishene, Ontario. Jennifer’s experience growing up with a mother who was bi-polar but wasn’t diagnosed until the age of 52 was the impetus for her creating a mental wellness initiative. Each purchase of a Marnie & Michael handcrafted leather-bound journal or leather bag helps support people with loved ones dealing with mental health issues. We chatted with Jennifer about her inspiring venture, and are giving you a chance to win. —Noa Nichol

Hi Jennifer! When did you start Marnie & Michael and why?

Marnie & Michael is a leather artisan studio-meets-mental health initiative. We handmake leather bags and accessories, with 15 per cent of our profits going to mental health. I developed the business from home for four years before moving into a brick-and-mortar space in January 2020, located two hours north of Toronto. I have always been involved in art and design, and had co-owned a film and TV production company in Toronto. With my next venture, I wanted to do more this time. I was raised mostly by a single mom who was undiagnosed and untreated with mental illness for the majority of her life. My entire life has been effected by her mental health and I wanted to do something to give-back in some way. I created this business as a social entreprise so I could marry by love of design and business with a mental health initiative.

Who/what artists do you work with? What sorts of products are created at the studio?

We have a studio space in Penetanguishene, and we do all our work from this location. In-house, we design, develop, produce and distribute all our products. We sell directly from our website and also through retailers. Our design sense is based on timeless, classic lines, with minimal hardware; our clients will still be able to use their bags in 10-plus years. We launched with three tote bag styles, and have expanded the line to now include a crossbody, messenger and backpack. We have also created an accessories line that includes journal covers, card holders, zipped pouches and coffee cup holders. And the line will continues to grow. Expressive writing is a big side to our mental health Initiative. We believe in the power of writing your story, processing your experience and using words to survive/cope/heal. We have created an online library of written experiences of having a loved one with mental health. My two sisters and I contribute through the OUR STORIES blog, and we encourage other people to submit their stories to the YOUR STORIES blog. As well, we published a guided journal-meets-mini memoir this year. Over the period of four years, I curated a collection of letters and journal entries from my mom, dad and myself to share our 30-plus-year journey with mental illness. It is from the POV of all of us. We distribute this book with every bag purchase, as well as through organizations and book stores. It is another way we encourage discussion, advocacy and compassion around mental health.

Your mom serves as an inspiration to you; can you tell us how/why?

My experience of having a parent with mental illness during a time when no one talked about mental health is my driving force. I was left feeling extremely alone when I was a child, feeling like no one understood what we were going through and living in a society that made anyone with mental illness feel shameful and less than. In whatever way possible, I want to be involved in the current shift to openly discuss, normalize and process ones experiences with mental health. I believe my mom would have made different choices earlier in her life if things were better then. Not only would her life have been impacted in a major way, but everyone around her would have felt this impact, too. When you have a loved one with mental illness, the ripple effect is vast. In her early 50s, my mom made the decision to get help, be properly diagnosed and to find a treatment plan/team to help her. Over the course of a few years, she was able to find healthier ways to cope, and to live the life she wanted to. Unfortunately, we lost mom to cancer at 62 years old, so this phase of her life that she had worked so hard to get to only lasted about 10 years. Less than 10 months after losing mom, we suddenly lost dad as well. I was in the development phase of this business when I was going through all of this, so when I got back to work and needed to name this venture, I quickly decided on Marnie & Michael, both my parents’ names.

How does each purchase of a Marnie & Michael handcrafted leather-bound journal or bag help support with a loved one dealing with a mental illness?

We collaborate with like-minded companies to help raise funds or awareness for mental health. We publish a weekly blog where we discuss our personal journey and highlight other companies or services that could assist in the coping/surviving/healing journey. We created, published and now distribute a guided journal-meets-mini memoir as a tool to use on your journey toward healing. We are building an online library of experiences where we highlight submitted stories from people who are also loving someone with mental health issues. We collaborate with other mental give-back companies for our quarterly Mental Wellness Box. We raise funds from the sale of the box for a local organization or charity with a mental health/mental wellness mission.

Win! A Marnie & Michael Mental Wellness Box!

Congrats Cassandra B. of Lethbridge, AB, who will receive a Marnie & Michael Fall Mental Wellness Box, including:

  • Kind, Love Hard, Make Memories: A mini memoir meets guided journal’ book from ‘MARNIE & MICHAEL’

Please note: if you are the winner, you will receive a DM (direct message) in Instagram directly from Please be wary of fake accounts, which often use similar handles with an extra or missing letter, number or symbol. We will never ask for a payment or for your credit card number, and we will never ask you to click through a link. If you are unsure whether you have been contacted, via Instagram, by us or a fake account, email us before responding.


  1. Brenda

    July 28th, 2021 at 9:08 am

    It’s okay to not be okay t shirt 💕 it’s a great reminder

  2. wendy hutton

    July 28th, 2021 at 9:14 am

    wonderful giveaway thanks @wghutton

  3. Nicole

    July 28th, 2021 at 9:30 am

    This is an amazing wellness box!! Love everything in it, especially the backpack!!


  4. Susie McAdam

    July 28th, 2021 at 9:36 am

    Love the backpack @susie-mc78

  5. Larissa

    July 28th, 2021 at 10:00 am

    Beautiful box supporting great causes!

  6. Lisa Rumolo

    July 28th, 2021 at 10:00 am

    It’s okay to not be okay tee.


  7. Jennifer F

    July 28th, 2021 at 10:40 am

    The backpack!!

  8. Amber olak

    July 28th, 2021 at 12:10 pm

    The backpack !


  9. Mary Danieli

    July 28th, 2021 at 2:22 pm

    Fantastic wellness box – love the backpack from Marnie & Michael!

  10. Kate R

    July 28th, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    I am ALL ABOUT being proactive about my own mental health (diagnosed with PTSD in 1999; C-PTSD in 2010), as well as helping advocate for and helping others find adequate medical help (including the awesome Plan G Rx coverage offered by BC MSP Pharmacare💊, covering 100% of psych med costs)! The backpack in the prize box looks AMAZING, but as a woman who still sends letters/cards in the mail, I love the idea of the Empowering Blank Cards, too!🎒🇨🇦🧠🤯🗣

    Cheers via Smithers, BC! (13 hours north of Vancouver)

    P.S. I lost my Dad (56) in June 2006, after his long, stigmatized, disenfranchised battles with C-PTSD and its comorbid alcoholism. He was the help who didn’t get the help HE needed.

  11. Lesley Miller

    July 28th, 2021 at 2:46 pm

    Love the crossbody bag #2

  12. Katie M

    July 28th, 2021 at 4:52 pm

    I love this initiative/business! I’m most keen on the bag, the t-shirt and the guided journal! @katiemac80

  13. Lianne

    July 28th, 2021 at 9:05 pm

    The backpack ❤️


  14. Cassandra Balfour

    July 28th, 2021 at 9:27 pm

    Everything looks so beautiful! I love a business that gives back and spreads mental health awareness. That backpack would make the perfect work bag!

  15. Julie F

    July 29th, 2021 at 5:30 am

    The backpack!

  16. Tabby72

    July 29th, 2021 at 6:47 am

    The guided journal sounds good. @tabby_1972

  17. Vivian Kwok

    July 29th, 2021 at 9:20 am

    The journal for sure
    IG: VivianGladysKwok

  18. paula ritchie

    July 29th, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    I love the backpack @cdnpaular

  19. Maria

    July 29th, 2021 at 5:13 pm

    This is such an incredible prize. I love that every item has a message – so great and important! My favorite item is the IT’S OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY’ T-SHIRT 🤩


  20. Xu Liang Li

    July 29th, 2021 at 6:19 pm

    The leather bag @liangliangcanada

  21. Deimi Lee

    July 30th, 2021 at 12:09 am

    Love that mental illness is being talked about & supported. The whole prize is awesome, but I’d really love to read the book. My cousin is bipolar & I think your book might help bring some understanding & insight.

  22. Deimi Lee

    July 30th, 2021 at 12:16 am

    Whoops, forgot to include IG
    North Van, BC

  23. @chupidee

    July 30th, 2021 at 4:14 am

    The entire box is amazing… but I am most keen on the empowering cards. @chupidee

  24. Janet M

    July 30th, 2021 at 10:46 am

    The market bag would be lovely. @asherares

  25. Marilyn

    July 30th, 2021 at 12:39 pm

    I’d love the empowering blank cards

  26. Sandra

    July 30th, 2021 at 1:55 pm

    Love this stuff. I certainly could use a new bag and I like the donation.

  27. CL Chin

    July 30th, 2021 at 8:21 pm

    The t-shirt

  28. Florence Cochrane

    July 31st, 2021 at 5:50 am

    The backpack @fossie55

  29. Alana LeSueur

    July 31st, 2021 at 7:53 am

    The will last forever and be a reminder about taking care of our mental health.

  30. Alana LeSueur

    July 31st, 2021 at 7:54 am

    The will last forever an be a reminder about taking care of our mental health. @Diamondchick60

  31. Alisa Petrisch

    July 31st, 2021 at 11:55 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a nicer, well made, stylish backpack!

  32. Rachel C.

    July 31st, 2021 at 12:28 pm

    Everything looks great, but especially the backpack! <3

    @seafoodmwg on ig

  33. Suzie B

    August 2nd, 2021 at 9:06 am

    The It’s Okay to not be Okay tee caught my eye


  34. Tiesha Dorleans

    August 4th, 2021 at 1:45 am

    I love the backpack @SweetTD93

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