"Beauty fades, fashion styles change, but your intelligence
is what’s going to keep you going in this world."
Tell us about La Petite Écolière- what inspired you to start an apparel company?
I officially launched La Petite Écolière (“Little school girl” in French) last September. I had been working at various children’s charities and lived in southern France for a while, where I mentored a 10-year-old girl who was two years behind in school. She came from a family who spoke a different language at home, where she lived in a one bedroom apartment with five other people. I experienced first hand what happens when you fall behind in education and how lucky I was to have gone to a private school, to have my own bedroom and computers and a house that was equipped for studying. From there, I worked at another charity in England called Big Change, and they help build soft skills for youth - Richard Branson was one of the major supporters I then moved back to Toronto and worked at NEXT Canada, an entrepreneurship institute. I realized I wanted to do something entrepreneurial, but given my charity background and education, I wanted to be doing something good for society.
At that time, everyone was talking about the lack of women in the STEM discipline. There is a study that shows that up until the age of 5, girls are just as confident as their male counterparts, and believe they are equally as likely to succeed in life. Once they reach the age of 6, however, girls don’t see themselves as being as intelligent or confident in their abilities.
The reason why I started an apparel company originally for girls was that since at these key young ages, girls are for whatever reason losing their confidence when ironically they are more intelligent and better in subjects like Math and Science than boys at their age. I thought it would be a good idea to start a T-shirt company to inspire education and to have this focus on learning being cool, because we don’t often associate being a nerd or a geek with positive images. Beauty fades, fashion styles change, but your intelligence is what’s going to keep you going in this world.
You heavily advocate for education for girls, with proceeds from your company funding girls’ school essentials and meals through Plan International Canada. Can you tell us more about this cause and why supporting women in the world is so important to you?
When I wanted to start my company, I originally wanted to focus more on STEM, but as I started doing more research on girls’ education around the world, I found that in small towns in Africa, girls are not allowed to go to school once they get their period. They’re married off at age of 15 as a child bride, they can’t go to school because conditions are unsafe - education is important everywhere, but it’s especially important in communities like those because it’s the only thing that’s going to break the social stigmas and the oppressive traditions. Furthermore, women in those countries who get an education are far more likely than men to give back to their communities and to their families, and to raise children who go to school.
Plan International Canada has a program called “Gifts of Hope”, where we give a donation no matter what the margins are or if items are on sale. For every ten items that we sell, we donate back school essentials and meal programs to girls in primarily Nigeria. So far I’ve made donations for 25 girls, and I think it will be significantly higher at the end of this month, which is exciting!
La Petite Écolière sources only from ethical companies - can you tell us about this process? Was it more challenging or was it easier than expected to source ethically?
I’m in the process of changing my sourcing as we speak. Originally, it was sourced right here in Toronto with a company that uses organic bamboo and cotton and non-toxic dyes. Since then, I’ve changed my supplier to a print-on-demand, WRAP-certified (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) organization in the US, which means they have to have the highest human rights standards for their workers and the highest environmental standards. So staying along my lines, having everything be ethically sourced and I’m able to offer more sizes, colours, and styles without having to purchase all the inventory upfront.
Do you have any morning routines or evening rituals to keep you balanced?
I drink lemon water every morning and work out at 6AM, which keeps me energized for the whole day. I also do a five minute journal practice, every morning I write down things that I’m grateful for and things that make today great, and then at the end of the day I will reflect and write 3 unexpected things that happened that I am grateful for. This practice helps to keep my mindset really positive and helps me to set goals for my business.
What’s one skin care product you can’t live without?
Phloretin CF. It’s a heavy duty face oil (vitamin C and F) that I use once a day, and it has completely transformed my skin. I would usually get hormonal acne around that time of the month but I haven’t broken out at all. I also love a good lip scrub!
Learn more about La Petite Écolière!
Follow and support education for girls!
If you liked this interview, you might like our recent interview with Katia Ameri, founder of Mirra