Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Girl Bosses

Toronto boutique owners dispel millennial stereotypes of inexperience, laziness and technology addiction and CONVEY their secrets to entrepreneurial success.

    After years of working in various levels of retail, Daniela Figliomeni and Jennifer Shotbolt were ready for a new challenge. As two young women approaching their mid-20s, both had secure jobs that were set to advance toward higher positions. However, the two had also reached a crossroads. Having felt uneasy about the trajectory of their career paths, Figliomeni and Shotbolt explain, “We questioned whether we would ever be fully happy helping someone else reach their dream rather than chasing our own. It was in that moment we decided to leave our jobs and create our own boutique, CONVEY.” The duo confronted an occupational dilemma that many millennials face when starting their careers: do I want to work my way up a company or do I want to be my own boss? More important, how do I turn that dream into a reality?
    Following months of planning in the off hours of their full-time jobs, they finally needed a brick-and-mortar location to realize CONVEY. As it so happened, in 2014, Vogue named Toronto’s West Queen West the second coolest neighbourhood in the world. A national hotspot for arts and culture with a reputation of youthful occupancy, Queen Street West is a young fashion entrepreneur’s dreamland. It can be an intimidating playground for a new business owner, but these women readily accepted the challenge. The young entrepreneurs had a meticulous vision for CONVEY and ultimately found their perfect location at 754 Queen Street West in 2015.

Image via shopconvey.com
       After CONVEY’s launch, the pair received impressive press coverage from Elle Canada, The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star amongst others. As young businesswomen that really do it all (Shotbolt is currently learning how to do the company’s accounting records), they’ve found not everyone has been confident in their professional capabilities, “We have definitely encountered people that assume we don't have the same amount of experience because of our age or who are intimidated by two young women in business. We don’t mind being the underdog and think that gaining respect and working hard is the easiest way to prove people wrong,” says Shotbolt. When asked which women inspire them most in life, Figliomeni replies, “We are both huge fans of Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amaruso. We are also very lucky to have many amazing women in our lives: our Moms, friends and mentors are all such strong entrepreneurial women and we can’t help but to be inspired by them daily.”
    So what exactly has CONVEY accomplished in the first year of business? Between creating an e-commerce platform, sourcing new brands from around the globe, adding menswear into their product line and collaborating with Toronto’s finest, the women of CONVEY have been full-speed-ahead since the boutique’s inception. With no signs of slowing down, they discussed how time-consuming the transition from corporate employee to business owner has been: “Our lifestyles have definitely changed since we started CONVEY but we both agree it's for the best. CONVEY comes first, so we don’t have all the free time or flexibility we did when we were working for someone else. That being said, our lifestyle has routine and that’s a big part of what keeps us rested and eager to work. Regardless of what you are doing for your career, you should never do anything you don’t want to do. That is something we truly discovered when our lifestyles changed,” says Figliomeni.
Shotbolt and Figliomeni at Toronto Fashion Week. Image by Elaine Fancy
         When asked to reflect on their recommendations for entrepreneurial success, the millennials offered up ambition and integrity as their foundational source: “We think the secret to success is having integrity, being nice to people and working hard. Success doesn’t come to those who wait for it. Ambition and drive are skills that cannot be taught. We wake up every day running towards our goals both within CONVEY and in our personal lives." What exactly does having integrity mean to them? "Having integrity goes beyond doing what you say you will, it’s also the courage to admit faults and take responsibility. We don’t want to be successful by stepping over people either. Reputation and respect are two things that are very easy to lose and it’s important to us to never compromise our values to gain success,“ explains Figliomeni. 
    With such a demanding workload required to run an entire business on their own, how exactly does the duo maintain a healthy balance between work and play? Shotbolt explains: “We are both very good at separating business and pleasure. In order to have the ability to do the things we love outside of work, we need to stay focused at work.” Not losing sight of the implications of constant connection to technology, the pair notes, “We also find it crucial to unplug from time to time. Putting away your phone while sharing a meal or not reaching for your phone first thing when you wake up has proven to make the hours you spend working more productive.” 
    Happy with their continued growth and excited for the future, there seems to be nothing Figliomeni and Shotbolt can’t handle. As driven entrepreneurs who sacrificed certainty for the opportunity to create their own dreams, the duo have proven that youth not only have the same work ethic as previous generations but are also able to successfully harness passions into realizing goals. Next time you hear baby boomers lump all millennials together, tell them about the boss ladies over at CONVEY, because we don’t see any contribution to stereotypes here. 

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