Around these parts, we like to learn about and from people who are running their own businesses – business we love and admire, and the women who are running shit behind the scenes. This week’s interview is with Nadyne of The Girl From Away – she makes amazing clothing and accessories for Maritimers, and maybe people who wish they were Maritimers. I’m from Nova Scotia, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a t-shirt cooler than her Sex Drugs & Lobster Rolls design – I knew I had to interview her. Read on to learn more about her badass designs, hear her advice for new entrepreneurs, and why you should always trust your gut.
milieu: Tell us a bit about your background (school, previous work and training, etc.) What made you decide to start your own line?
Nadyne: I’ve had a few professional incarnations. I was a TV reporter in Toronto for about ten years, and covered mostly fashion and music stories. In my early thirties, I moved to Montreal, became a hairdresser and opened a salon in the Mile End. When my dad died suddenly a couple of years ago, I found myself, once again, feeling that it was time for another big change. Losing someone you love so quickly is a brutal reminder to not waste too much time thinking about and planning the things you want to do, and to actually get down to the business of doing them. So, my mum and I moved to Prince Edward Island in the spring of 2014, and I opened The Girl From Away. That spring and summer, it was a pop-up shop in an old school house in North Milton, PEI; it’s since moved online.
milieu: What kind of research did you do prior to launching your business?
Nadyne: Honestly, not a ton. I made a survey, which I sent to a bunch of friends and acquaintances to find out about people’s spending habits, but that’s about it.
My dad was from PEI, and I’d noticed that whenever we visited, there weren’t many options available in terms of more modern looking souvenirs. There are a lot of traditional crafts, which I love but I suppose I just had a feeling that I probably wasn’t the only person on or visiting the Island who was also interested in seeing a more contemporary take on Island/East Coast gifts.
milieu: What’s the most challenging part of running your own business?
Nadyne: At this point, I’d probably have to say that, after a while, staying motivated and inspired when you’re working alone can, sometimes, be a challenge. There are times when having no one else to work with can be monotonous. Luckily, I live with my boyfriend who is also self-employed so we help each other a lot, try keep each other entertained and inspired, and give each other pep talks when they’re needed.
I’m not one to continue doing something if it doesn’t feel right anymore. I think it’s important to not be scared to try things, but also not be scared to end things if that’s what feels right. Almost always, your gut knows what’s up before your mind has it all figured out, so I try to listen to it as much as I can.
milieu: I can imagine many Maritimers, especially those of us no longer living at home, have had similar reactions to your work: I was so excited and happy to see fun, cool designs that represent where I’m from. What has the general feedback been so far?
Nadyne: It’s been great! So many people love the East Coast. I mean, of course they do, right?! How could they not? It’s breathtakingly beautiful, the people are the friendliest, most welcoming people you’ll ever meet, there’s this old-school sense of community – it’s not a hard sell. It’s a really easy place to get nostalgic about. A lot of customers are people like you, and like my dad, who grew up here, or who spent time here, and who always carry it with them in their hearts, no matter where they are.
milieu: What’s your favorite piece?
Nadyne: Let’s put it this way: I don’t make anything that I wouldn’t buy but, if I wasn’t the person making these things, and I received just one as a gift, I’d probably pick the East Coast fleece.
milieu: Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would change if you had to start all over again?
Nadyne: I don’t think so. This is going to sound so cheesy but it’s true: everything that happens along the way is a learning experience. Either you’re learning about what doesn’t work for you or you’re learning about what does. Regrets are a waste of time. If everything you’ve ever done has worked out exactly as you’d planned, you’re either still very young or you’re not pushing yourself very much.
milieu: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Nadyne: When I worked in television, a co-worker told me: “If you pay attention to every little detail and don’t let anything slide, there’s no way your work won’t stand out from the rest.” I think of that all the time.
milieu: Can you give us any insight into new collections or designs on the horizon?
Nadyne: I’m actually working on a new, side project with my best friend. It has nothing to do with the East Coast but I’m really excited about it. It’s great to work with her. We push each other to go further than we do when we’re working alone.
milieu: What advice would you give someone who is looking to go into a similar business for themselves?
Nadyne: There are so many things! I guess the first thing I’d say is that, before you do anything, take some time to figure out what your values, strengths and expectations are. Figure out if this is the right fit for you. If, for example, you’re someone who values security and who’s looking for stability, being self-employed will probably drive you crazy, in which case, maybe there’s a way for you to keep some kind of steady work and have a side project. And get a good life coach if you can afford one.
Then I’d say: make a plan. There’s nothing preventing you from doing that right now. It’s free! Talk about it with friends. Find the holes in your plan. Figure out how you’re going to make this work.
I’d also say: just do the work. Do everything you can possibly think of to make whatever you want to do happen, and to make it as successful as possible, in whatever way you define success. If you want to do something and you’re not sure of the steps, or where to start, ask someone who’s done it, or who’s done something similar. If you’re not sure about what you want to do, which, let’s be honest, is a challenge a lot of people face, don’t let yourself stay stuck for too long. Yes, you need to give it some serious thought but don’t stay stuck in indecision. Try one of the things you think you might like. If it doesn’t work out, if you don’t like it, cross it off your list and move on to the next. Expect that it’ll feel scary and confusing at times. Those feelings don’t mean that you’re on the wrong path. They’re just part of moving into unknown territory. The sonner you get comfortable with fear, the easier it will be.
Think of the worst case scenario. This might sound counterintuitive but I think that getting comfortable with the worst case scenario can help relieve a lot of the fear around starting something new. If you do this, and it doesn’t work out as you’d hoped, are you OK with that? What’s more important to you: trying and possibly not having it work out as you’d planned or not trying and never knowing?
Lastly, I’d say not to listen to anything anyone says that doesn’t ring true for you. People are always giving others advice. Take what is helpful to you, and disregard the rest.