Where does one start when writing about the path to entrepreneurship, especially as a female? I guess somewhere around the beginning when I liked too many things at once and couldn’t keep a full-time “proper” job no matter the salary. I was restless, curious and had too many ideas of my own. Sound familiar?
My name is Jacqueline, owner and designer behind Jolie Laide, a leather accessories brand with a bohemian bent that currently focuses on leather camera straps and camera bags. From a young age I was always obsessed with travel and photography, yet I always seem to gravitate toward jobs in fashion. After trying my hand at interning, writing, styling and then photography something still didn’t click for me and I knew I wanted more.
I happened to run into an old friend at a house party a couple of years ago, we hit it off and she told me she was going to school in Paris for fashion. I was like, why can’t I do that. So I did. After a couple of months in a snooty fashion masters program, I realize I didn’t really dig luxury fashion; something just didn’t sit right with me. I slowly started to skip class and hung around the tents at fashion week. When Paris Fashion week came around I knew if I hung around long enough I would be able photograph some of my idols. Before leaving my place I made a chic DIY camera strap out of an old leather belt, cause the Nikon one clashed with my outfit. As I was shooting Garance Dore, she smiled and said she liked my camera strap. That’s pretty much when my obsession erupted.
After returning to Toronto I had a pretty comfy job in visuals, one I almost dreamed of but something still didn’t sit right, something still felt soul crushing. I needed to see if other female photographers were interested in this product too, couldn’t have been just me? I finally decided to start and somehow convinced a Toronto manufacturer to make my first round. I knew sustainability and ethical production would need to be part of my brand as well as exotic textiles and high quality leather. From here, the exhausting trial and error process began.
In October 2014 Jolie Laide was born - the name came from my previous photography blog. After having some online sales a couple of shops started to approach me for wholesale orders and asking me for line sheets. I was shocked. Things began to get real, but I still didn’t understand how to predict sales, marketing and branding, everything became really overwhelming.
As I studied the market I began to realize how much photography shops were really catered to the male demographic. It really was a boys club. When I would walk in to any photography shop, there would typically be only males behind the counter and me pitching my colorful straps to men who were clearly not my audience. I began to shape my brand around my competitors, constantly comparing and trying to be more like them believing that was the only way my products would sell. FALSE. I learned quickly how important it was to be true to yourself, but to do that you have to have a unique vision and really know yourself, as you are your brand weather you like it or not.
After a year and a bit there are still those exhilarating highs and confusing lows as I navigate my way in the world of entrepreneurship. It’s scary, risky and a lot of following your instincts and just going for it. The key is definitely to surround yourself with an amazing group of go-getters, dreamers, doers, energetic creative types that really support what you do. You keep on going each day not only for yourself (and also the fact that there’s no turning back now), but also to those other boss babes out there who want to do it too. You got to give energy to those who have been sitting on their master plan for way too long and encourage them to also take a leap of faith, even if just to say they have no regrets and perhaps see what there made of? It’s always going be a lot of work, no doubt, but if your going to work hard anyways wouldn’t you rather put that energy into fulfilling those dreams? Once you do that, it honestly never ever really feels like work again.