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Laura-Jean Bernhardson: Knitting Queen, Collective Scene

January 22nd, 2009     by Desirée O     Comments

Every Thursday I profile a new incredible woman, each from a different walk of life. Different professions, causes, backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, and anything/everything else!

So without further delay, let me introduce the fabulous Laura-Jean Bernhardson…

Known as Laura-Jean the Knitting Queen, Laura-Jean Bernhardson is not only the designer of the clothing label Fresh Baked Goods and owner of the Toronto boutique of the same name, she’s also the designer for the child/infant clothing line Bun, and runs the retail shop Fresh Collective which along with Fresh Baked Goods, is operated collectively by the designers who work and sell their items there. Even with all of this to juggle, Laura-Jean still takes time to give us some awesome tips for running your own business and loving what you do.

What drives you to do what you do?

I’ve always loved making things and always felt the key (or at least part of the key) to a happy life was finding work you love since you spend such a good chunk of your time doing it. Over the years of my business, I’ve grown as a person through what I do, and gained confidence by overcoming challenges and getting through tough times. I’ve also been shaped by the fun stuff: the creativity, the relationships I’ve developed working with other designers and helping newer businesses grow. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to do what I do, but at the same time I’ve worked ridiculously hard to make it all happen.

How does being a woman empower / challenge you?

Since I’ve never been anything else, I have nothing to compare it to. Sometimes it occurs to me that it’s fun that I work primarily with women and sell to women, so I live in a pretty girly world, but gender doesn’t play a major part. I am who I am, and being a woman is part of that. I would say now that I’m a mother, I feel more fiercely than ever that I want my business to work so I can provide for my son and have a happy life with him.

What advice would you give to young women who want to follow in your footsteps?

Find something you really love to do. There are so many times when the sheer emotion of needing to do your thing is what gets you through a tough time.

Name one person, place, or thing every young woman should know about?

A super important part of building my business was keeping my credit record clean. I started so small, borrowing $600 from my roommate and buying yarn on Visa. I was able to build and build because I always kept my money in order. Borrow sparingly. I always felt comfortable borrowing amounts I could pay off by getting a waitressing job if need be. Many people fall into the trap of thinking “I just need a big loan and then I can do the things I need to do to build my business,” but without good decision-making behind your spending, the money goes quickly and you end up back where you started but in debt. By growing in slow spurts, and paying off the debt of each phase before taking the next step forward, you build a strong business and learn to make great decisions.

What is the most important thing we can do in order to change the world?

Be nice to each other.

If you are in the Toronto area, you can stop by Fresh Baked Goods at 274 Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market, and Fresh Collective at 692 Queen St. West. Or you can check out the stores online here.

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