In honour of International Women's Day, March 8th, we're chatting with some of our fave female business owners (and Blanche Macdonald grads) in Vancouver! Here, Lauren Clark of Hey Jude Vintage Shop tells us about herself, her success and her girl power! —Noa Nichol
Hi Lauren! Tell us a bit about yourself to start!
I’m a co-owner of Vancouver-based retail shop, Hey Jude, alongside my partner Lyndsey Chow. I grew up in Vernon, B.C., and moved to Vancouver shortly after high school to pursue my interest in fashion. We started our company more than nine years ago with pop-up shops when they were a newer concept. We used that model to fine-tune who we were and what we wanted to offer. We have now passed our third year in our brick-and-mortar location in Gastown. When I’m not working on my business you can find me at an art gallery, taking photographs or on the seawall.
What inspired you to get into business and open Hey Jude?
I’ve been interested in any form of visual arts for as long as I can remember. As a somewhat shy kid with a vivid imagination, I loved that I could use my clothing as an outlet to creatively express myself. I attended the Fashion Merchandising program at Blanche Macdonald and through that experience I discovered which aspects of the industry I was most drawn to (styling, buying, history) and was introduced to some valuable work experience and contacts. I met Lyndsey at a restaurant job in our early 20s and one of the things that connected us was our love of thrifting. Quite early on we mapped out a lofty dream to open our own retail shop and sat on it for a few years. It was at an entrepreneurship workshop hosted by Danielle LaPorte that the fire was lit under us to put our ideas out there for others to see and we haven’t slowed down since!
What’s a day in the life like for you?
A typical day would be setting aside at least an hour in the morning before anything else for my meditation and tea practice. It has really helped me stay clear and balanced, it changes the trajectory of my day. I will either work the day at the shop or from home on my laptop. We pretty well manage all of the business between the two of us so that includes all the buying, merchandising, marketing, retail sales and social media, as well as all the back-end finances and business tasks. Since our clothing collections are vintage there is a constant turnover of product in the shop, which keeps it fresh and exciting. A day at the shop will include more product management and helping customers with their experience. Most of my evenings will either be spent making dinner with my boyfriend, watching a film, reading or catching some live music.
How does Hey Jude empower women?
We started our business because we found wearing vintage was an empowering way to express our personalities through how we dressed ourselves—an extension of how we felt on the inside. We love that our choice to recycle (and re-imagine) perfectly good clothing doesn’t add to negative environmental effects of the fashion industry. Yet can still be on-trend and stylish. Having customers come in and play around with the clothing and find something that that speaks to them and seeing how they choose to wear an item is probably my favorite part of the business. We want to create a safe space to get exploratory and creative in!
What are the current challenges for women in your industry? How do you overcome them?
I can’t speak for all women in the industry and only from my personal experience, but our biggest challenge was being taken seriously. There has always been a handful of people across our business journey who have thought our business was “cute” or “that looks fun,” followed by an assumption that we would eventually need to find a real job. We’ve experienced that same energy in different aspects of our business from negotiating leases on pop-up spaces, securing financing from the bank and even just strangers coming into the shop and quizzing us on who really owns the store or if our parents paid for it (no they didn’t—we just worked really hard!). We’ve also found this experience not to be surprising nor do we think it’s unique. On the flip side, through these experiences we’ve gone on to find unwavering support from the next person we’ve approached for a service or partnership. I think women have to recognize that there is still a bit of resistance, an unlearning of past beliefs, that needs to happen, and to believe in their vision and keep going until they find someone who sees it as well. Throughout this process we need to lift each other up and make sure we are supporting our peers, so we can shift this change together.
How do you create a supportive environment for yourself and your team?
I started my business with my best friend so have always had an open and honest space to communicate and explore myself at work. I think most entrepreneurs start their businesses because they desire freedom and flexibility both in their personal lives and through their work. We try to honor and make space for that for each other, while still running a day to day business at the same time. As we grow we hope to continue to expand on that and allow others to thrive in this environment with us.
Who has been your greatest influence/mentor in your life?
My greatest mentors have been my parents. They’ve always supported my decision to follow my dreams and never shy from the opportunity to tell me they are proud of me. Having that support really allowed me to push through the challenges and trust I had the skills to be successful.
What are you most proud of doing/accomplishing?
I’m definitely most proud of my business. It has been my greatest challenge, the catalyst for most of my personal growth and also the most fulfilling dream I’ve accomplished.