If you’re from Manitoba and at all interested in fashion, shopping or just beautiful things in general, you’ve most likely already heard of the amazing boutique called Mad About Style! Nicola Loewen, owner of MAD opened her doors almost six years ago and has truly taken this city by storm.
I’ve personally been a fan of the store (and loyal customer I might add) for several years now. Nicola has such a talent for bringing in THE perfect pieces each season, all at great prices points and totally on trend. I rarely walk out without a shopping bag full of goodies! I love visiting her boutique not only to shop, but to visit with her and her full-time staff. She’s so personable, sweet and knowledgeable in all areas of business and fashion.
I’ve watched Nicola and her business grow and her journey has been a true inspiration to me. At a young age, she’s been able to take her little shop and turn it into one of Manitoba’s top fashion destinations. She’s expanded her store space to accommodate for her growing demand for bridal wear as well as successfully launched her online store to serve customers near and far.
I have no doubt that once you hear Nicola’s story, you will be inspired to follow your dreams and make your business goals come true! She not only shares some great sincere advice but also so much knowledge!
Thank you Nicola for sharing your journey, we wish you continued success and can’t wait to see what the future holds for both you and MAD!
WE: How did the launch of your own business come to be?
Nicola: Mad About Style was created out of my passion for the fashion industry. In grade 11, I attended a career fair and was introduced to an amazing school, Blanche MacDonald. It’s located in Vancouver, BC and they offered a Fashion Merchandising & Marketing program. This program fit my dream of being involved in the business side of the fashion world.
Once I graduated from Blanche Macdonald, I had visions of working in a buying office for a company such as Holt Renfrew or Harry Rosen. I wanted to purchase the product that would make every client feel amazing. I was soon faced with the reality that this wouldn’t be an easy road. Regardless of my abilities, this was a position that would take many years of retail service to reach and I wasn’t willing to wait.
I then decided to write a business plan for a women’s boutique. A dream that I never imagined would be a reality anytime in the near future. After much discussion with family and my then boyfriend, I decided to make the most difficult yet, rewarding decision of my life. I was 21 and had nothing to lose, so why not try? I’ve never looked back!
WE: What was the biggest hurdle you faced when launching your new business? How did you overcome it?
Nicola: Overall, I have to say my biggest obstacles were my youth, perceived inexperience and our first buying trip. I was faced with many challenges when it came to leasing our existing space and securing financing. Due to my age and lack of collateral I was turned away multiple times. After many hours of meetings, phone calls & tears I connected with two very important people that believed enough in the vision for MAD & in myself as an entrepreneur.
Our first buying trip posed many challenges as I didn’t know what type of product to purchase, and who our clientele was. It’s emotionally draining selecting garments that you hope will be well received and at that stage I didn’t know who I was selecting for. When I arrived in LA, I had no idea where to go and what brands to look at it. All I knew was I wanted everything in the store to be under $150 retail. I still remember sitting in a sushi restaurant on our first day with my now husband, crying! All the emotions of regret, fear & excitement came rushing in. I didn’t have a hot clue as to how I was going to make it through a 3-year lease, let alone this buying trip!
Each challenge strengthened me as a person and business owner. I’m challenged everyday, that’s the part of running a business that I love. It’s those initial experiences that have taught me to take each day as it comes and to never loose sight of the goal ahead. As my Dad always says, “How do you eat an elephant? Take one bite at a time”.
WE: What would you consider your first big success?
Nicola: The grande opening is still by far our biggest success. There were so many emotions, nerves and anxiety leading up to that day. Are people going to show up? Do people even know we exist? What if no one likes the clothing I’ve selected? So many unanswered questions and so much on the line. I honestly couldn’t have dreamt for a better day then what we experienced. We had a line waiting to get in for opening hour and we sold out 3/4 of our merchandise, forcing me to go back to LA for an emergency buying trip. To this day I’m still blown away at how that happened and beyond grateful for the support we’ve been shown from day one.
WE: What is your favourite part about running your own business? What is the hardest part?
Nicola: I would have to say that my absolute favourite part of running my own business, is the freedom that comes with every decision. Mostly when it comes to the buying aspect of MAD. I don’t have a board of executives or superiors to impress. My customers & staff are the ones who give me daily inspiration! My team and I get to interact with our customers on a personal level daily! We get to tailor our services and the products we provide, just for our customers! I love that I get to wake up and see my friends (customers), everyday.
The hardest part is trying to achieve a more balanced life. It’s so easy to be consumed by work. The fashion industry changes so quickly and in order to stay on top of it, I’m constantly researching trends and revising our buying list. Social media has been a really great way for us to get ourselves out there and a lot of thought goes into our marketing strategy, be it from home or at work. When I’m at home, sometimes I only know that I’m home because I get to work on the business in the comfort of my onesie pyjamas. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely know how to turn off my ‘work brain”, it’s just easy to always work on something when you don’t feel that it’s actually work. I get to live out my passion and get paid for it!
WE: What is your number one piece of advice for any woman looking to start her own venture?
Nicola: My mom always highlighted the importance of waking up the morning and going to a job you love rather than waking up and going to a job you hate that provides a million dollars in income. This has always stuck with me. When launching a business there are so many unknowns and risks that you truly have to be passionate about what your doing. Never stop dreaming, the risk is worth the reward.
WE: How are you able to balance it all?
Nicola: This is something I struggle with the most. I can honestly say I don’t have a balance figured out yet. Running a business is overwhelming, exciting, trying and rewarding. Every day I’m learning more about myself and how to manage my time. Sometimes it takes my husband reminding me that MAD isn’t the only important thing in my life and it will still be there tomorrow. I take each day as it comes. I’m addicted to making ‘To Do’ lists and writing down every thought that pops into my head. Sometimes I write something on my to-do list things that I’ve already done, just so I can cross it off. If someone has the answer to finding a balance, I’m all ears!
WE: What is your secret to staying motivated and inspired?
Nicola: Coffee!! Haha! In all seriousness, I have such a passion for this industry, for my clients and for my team and that’s what keeps me motivated. My daily goal is to provide a unique curated collection of clothing at an affordable price point with a personalized experience. To achieve this, we are always having to stay one step ahead & constantly brainstorming new ideas and ways to engage our clients.
WE: What would you say are your three top contributing factors to your success and growth?
Nicola: Our Clients: From day one, we have been so blessed that our clients want to come back day after day and week after week, to support us. River Heights and the surrounding areas are tight knit communities and they definitely like to support their local boutiques. I think anyone in Winnipeg, if given the choice, would shop locally rather than buy everything from the big box stores. We have been able to build some amazing relationships with our clients right from the beginning. We’ve gotten to know their families (and seen their families grow). We’ve learned the in’s and outs of their wardrobe and we’ve been able to tailor our products to their needs.
Our Social Media: When we opened our doors 6 years ago, social media was just beginning to be a thing. In fact, our first foray into advertising was not on the computer but rather, we sent out mailers to announce grand opening and then we chose a magazine to advertise in. Eventually, we transitioned fully into an online presence and we’ve seen truly remarkable results!
Feedback: Although you can learn a lot through magazines, blogs and online research, the feedback from our existing clients has been invaluable. We base our clothing selection on what our clients love, not just what’s popular with the rest of the world. Through Social Media, we’ve encouraged our clients to “be the buyer”, when we’re shopping for the latest trends. This works out really well and it allows us to give our clients what they love!
WE: What would you say is your top piece of marketing advice for Women Entrepreneurs?
Nicola: One thing that I constantly struggle with is being bombarded with so many different marketing & advertising avenues. There are so many options and it’s so easy to say yes to them all! When we first launched MAD, we spent a lot of money advertising in traditional ways such as print & radio with no way of tracking its success. I made the mistake of not spending more time researching how to reach our clientele or better yet what our audience even looked like.
Know your demographic and spend some time zeroing in on the most effective way to reach them. Don’t get caught up in big expensive advertising until you know exactly who you want to reach. Get creative with your marketing and look for new ways to reach people.
Be sure to visit Mad About Style today! Thanks again Nicola! We know the future has a lot in store for both you and Mad About Style! xo