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#IWD2020: Wearshop Highlights 3 Local Entrepreneurial Women

March 8 is International Women’s Day, which is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Currently, women own 4 out of every 10 businesses, which marks a 58% increase since 2007. Wearshop is a business that is run by a woman, and we are strong believers in supporting and lifting up other women, after all there is a special place in heaven for women who support other women. 

To celebrate the day, we wanted to celebrate some of our favorite local women. We spoke with three who run their own businesses. We hope that their words of regarding their own entrepreneurship inspire you to follow them, support them and celebrate what it is to be a woman on top. 

 

Black and white shot of a smiling Katie Kolodinski owner of Silk Laundry
Image courtesy of ZAK PR

Katie Kolodinski
Owner of Silk Laundry
@silklaundry

When did you know you wanted to take an entrepreneurial path?

 

I didn’t set out to be an “entrepreneur”. I had just had my first child and I was approached to take over an existing lingerie brand. My most used piece of advice someone ever gave to me is “never say no to an invitation” so I said yes and ended up becoming an owner of a lingerie brand and designing all future collections. With the knowledge I acquired of design, fabrics, trade shows and factories, beginning Silk Laundry didn’t seem too out of the box as I already had the bones and knew how to begin a business. 

I just gave it a try with everything I had in me, without really knowing what the future held. 


What inspired you to start a sustainable fashion brand and was it difficult to bring to life?

 

I didn’t aspire to build a sustainable fashion brand. Sustainability is such a complex issue and I do not feel that anything is actually sustainable unless you are living on a deserted, isolated island wearing leaves and coconuts that have fallen from the trees. However, what I do know, is that polyester is essentially plastic and I have always been greatly opposed to this fibre, as well as fashion that you will only wear a few times before it gets donated or tossed to landfill. I would prefer to say that we are conscious of the current state of the environment with a global view and are doing the best we can. We use silk and mostly natural blends and these can essentially biodegrade into the earth. Adding to that, I do not follow trends and encourage thoughtful consumerism. I try where I can to make decisions that are best environmentally for all as well as be good to our supply chain. Our goal is to make quality pieces that people can love and live in for years to come. I strongly believe all business, fashion or otherwise, should think this way, not just ones projecting that they are sustainable.  


What are you most excited about at Silk Laundry right now?

 

As I write this, I have a store opening in Brisbane Australia in a couple of weeks. I head back there in a couple of days for the lead up to the opening and the first week of trade, so I am looking forward to spending a few weeks with my Australian team. I also have a really interesting environmental initiative that will begin in the next few months that I am really looking forward to. I can’t yet say much, but it has to do with migration. 


Which female entrepreneurs have inspired you, professionally and/or personally?

 

To be honest, my biggest inspiration is not a woman, it is my husband Reece. He has more drive and guts as well as the ability to get back up after a fall than anyone I have ever met. I do not even believe I am being biased here. He has pushed me further beyond my limits as a person and business owner than I could ever have imagined. If you are looking exclusively for women here are two I love and why:
Amy Smilovic of Tibi. She’s badass and I feel like our business started similar from the bottom without large investments. I really love her point of view and relate a lot to what she says.
Marianne Krauss who I work very close with creatively, she has so much drive and passion. She’s energetic, loyal and perfectly stubborn. She is my go-to when I need to bounce ideas off someone. 

What is your advice to other women who have start-up ideas?

My advice to anyone, not just women with a start-up idea is to first make sure you have found a gap in the market. Second, be sure this is what you want to spend all of your waking moments doing and thinking about. Having your own business is a long-term commitment and I certainly do not have an exit strategy. I live and breathe my business and if I did not love what I did, it could be absolutely draining. I also think one key factor is being consistent and persistent, things do not build overnight so be prepared that it will take time, effort and money. Don’t get discouraged in the first few years. Be kind, passionate and curious. 

 Silk Laundry is located at 2465 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, Quebec H3J 1N6

 

Photo of Laurence Gaudreau-Pepin at TABOO Restaurant event
Photo courtesy of Laurence Gaudreau-Pepin

Laurence Gaudreau-Pepin
Owner of TABOO Cuisine Rebelle and SOJA&CO
@restauranttaboo

@soja_co


Tell us about Taboo And Soja & Co, and your inspirations for starting both. 

TABOO Cuisine Rebelle is a restaurant concept (there are now 2 locations) that I created with my family almost 8 years ago. I was so young - 20 years only - and I really wanted to be involved in this family project with my brothers in a marketing capacity. At the time, my brother was working in a restaurant that served burgers and miniburgers. It was while working there that he saw an opportunity to create a concept around different types of miniburgers. Today, we have over 45 kinds of miniburgers, 180 combinations of tartares, original poutines and so much more. Every week, we welcome over 2000 clients into our restaurants.

I started SOJA&CO in 2018 because I was looking for handmade candles from Montreal for my own personal use. I was so disappointed when I couldn’t find exactly that I was looking for. I told myself that I would start my own candle company, and if it didn’t work, at least I’d have a lot of candles at home! To my surprise, success was instantaneous. SOJA&CO is specialized in the commercialisation and creation of artisanal candles with out of the ordinary fragrances. We currently have over 15 different fragrances.

What inspires me for my projects is pushing myself past my limits, and my own goals. I am someone who constantly needs to have a project and be in the process of learning, and my businesses allow me to do exactly that.



How different was it for you to start a business on your own, versus starting one with other people, specifically family members?

I love to work in a team, and working with your brothers can be very, very challenging and different. At first, it was complex because we all had difficulty separating work and family. We were also very young when we started our business and we had a lot to learn. Today, we’re more aware of our strengths and weaknesses, which is what we owe our success to. Each person has their tasks, and they’re all well divided so that we use our strengths.

I am, however, someone who likes to work quickly and have my hands in different projects at the same time. It can be dizzying for others sometimes! When I work in this way, I see things clearly. The fact that I created SOJA&CO and grew it on my own was a rollercoaster that I had so much fun with, despite the intense workload.

Last May, I asked my best friend, who has no entrepreneurial experience, for help. She dove into this project with me, and she helps me on different levels. I wouldn’t have been able to continue without her. She doesn’t, however, have the same decision-making power that my brothers have a TABOO so it’s very different, so because I’m the only one making decisions, let’s just say that things advance at a pace that I prefer (haha)!

 

What excites you about entrepreneurship?

I would say that what makes me most passionate and excited about it the infinite amount of possibilities for projects, depending on the motivation and confidence toward your projects. When you want something to work you can really make it happen.

I would also add that making and deciding your own schedule is a rich and unique advantage.

 

What made you take the leap from working a 9-5 job to working on your business full time?

You always come to a moment when you’ve launched your own business that you start thinking of leaving your job, your career. Because of fear, some never make the leap. However, you have to take into consideration that the time you take to work for someone else is time you’re losing working on yourself, your own projects.

Once I jumped into entrepreneurship full time, my business was already five years old and I was earning a decent salary. I did have to work for five years without counting my hours to have been able to allow myself this advantage... five years later.

The workload was also really increasing with the expansion of the business. When I worked for other businesses, I was spending my time thinking of my business. I dreamed of the day that I would be able to drop everything and concentrate on my projects. I don’t think that this is the case for everyone, but an entrepreneur will never be 100% happy in the corporate world. There’s also a quote which I really love:

 “Never give up on something that you can't go a day without thinking about.”

― Winston Churchill

 

What's the one piece of advice you want to give to other women looking to start their own business?

Start today, because in a year from now you won’t believe how far you’ve come!

TABOO Cuisine Rebelle has 2 locations: 2025 Drummond St, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1W6 / 352 Boul. L’Ange-Gardien, L’Assomption, Quebec J5W 1S5 / 450-589-0199

SOJA&CO is an online shop and can be found at https://sojaco.ca/


Gabriella Lacopo at her barre studio in Laval
Photo by Candice Pantin

Gabriella Lacopo
Owner of Nūbarre
@nubarre

 

What was your vision for Nubarre when you started, and what inspired you to create this space?

I had been going to barre classes for many years and fell in love with the workout. When I moved to Laval, I was sad to see that there weren’t any barre studios in sight. I was inspired by my husband – who also owns a boxing fitness center – to open my own barre studio. I couldn’t wait to embark on the journey and introduce Barre to a new community. I couldn’t stop thinking about perfecting the business idea. I knew that it had to be more than just BARRE because when I imagined my business, I imagined a community of women coming together in a safe space to get stronger mentally, physically and emotionally. I wanted to offer services that made them feel beautiful from the inside out. 

My vision was to create a company around positive self image. Nūbarre is a barre fitness, luxury spray tan studio and organic skincare & wellness shop! Nūbarre believes in empowering women through their self-confidence; helping women GLOW from the inside-out. Nūbarre is the first company to ever marry these services together, and I couldn’t be more proud. 

 

Has your experience as an entrepreneur been what you expected it to be, why or why not?

It’s been a lot more life changing than I ever anticipated. I never thought that I could give so much of myself to my work. I’ve had to say “no” more times in the first 2 years of being an entrepreneur than I ever had in my life. I’ve had to cancel plans and lose quality time with friends. When you’re an entrepreneur you are consumed with chasing your dream. Every day; you’re chasing and your adrenaline rush consumes you. Time flies as you’re sacrificing nights out with your friends and mindless evenings with your loved ones. You will need to sacrifice a lot in the beginning. No one will get it and that was the most frustrating part that I didn’t expect. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster but in the best way. It’s been the most exhausting yet rewarding experience of my life. It’s also made me more emotional than I’ve ever been in my life. When clients surprise you with gestures that show you they think of you, or are grateful for you, these acts of kindness literally bring tears to your eyes because of everything you’ve put in. 


What is the most important lesson you’ve learned while building Nubarre?

Persistence, patience, passion are everything.  

When I started my business in Laval, I had no clients. I wasn’t working at a barre studio prior to building my clientele. Many women in Laval didn’t know what barre was so they were hesitant to try. I gave so many free classes. I passed out many promo pamphlets, I worked hard on collaborations, marketing, networking to get the word out.  Slowly, the word was getting around. Today - because of persistence, patience, and passion - I consider myself to be a successful entrepreneur and I’m so grateful for that. Nūbarre also taught me to always be authentic, clients truly feel when you’re being authentic and this is what makes them want to encourage you



What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur, and about Nubarre?

I love the drive it gives me, I love feeling like I play a role in helping women feel better about themselves. I love when they express that to me. I love that I get to move and exercise everyday. I love watching my clients form friendships and talk before and after class. The clientele ranges from 16 year olds to 55 year olds and I love witnessing different women of different ages create bonds and exchange life lessons. I love the level of comfort everyone feels once they meet us. 

I love how it inspires me every day to be better and to keep creating. That’s what I love most – creating: creating concepts, ideas and bringing them to life. Nubarre has given me the platform to evolve and keep doing that. 


We’ve created numerous workshops and events to help women in all aspects of life. Some examples are hormone balancing, Pelvic floor workshop, beauty workshop (gua sha), meditation and reiki, and more! I also recently created the Nūbarre book club! This book club is there to strengthen our community but also to encourage women to practice self care when they’re not at the studio. We meet once a month and chat to go over the book! The book club is free and even non-members can enter. I want people to know what we’re about. We’re not here to focus strictly on weight loss, we’re not promoting unrealistic expectations, we’re not a money focused company, we’re a company that cares about our CORE value which is women’s wellbeing. 



Do you have any tips for other women who are looking to create something from their own visions?

  • Don’t listen to those discouraging voices. When I chose to create my business around barre and spray tan, so many people thought I was crazy. When you feel a strong pull within you, don’t let doubt get you down! If you can see it, you will attract like-minded consumers that see it too! 
  • INVEST in networking to build collaborations and more. This will enhance exposure, word of mouth and get your brand out there. 
  • Must be willing to sacrifice. This means very different things to different people.
  • Offer more than one service. My barre fitness clientele took me a while to grow but my spray tan clientele grew pretty rapidly. Almost 60% of my spray tan clients have tried my barre classes and vice versa.
  • VALUE every single person that walks through your door and form a relationship – people don’t just purchase a product or a service; people purchase an experience. People don’t choose to encourage a business; people choose to encourage people. So make sure you’re a people person!

 Nubarre is located at 3000 Boulevard des Laurentides, Laval, Quebec H7K 3K7