Meet Alison and Sarah, two creative entrepreneurs running a successful fashion business – Boutique La Muse, with two stores throughout Ontario. You’re mistaken if you think it’s just a store!
Today I had the pleasure to speak with Alison Camely from Boutique La Muse. A small business owner who, while conducting the interview, was driving from Toronto to Ottawa to visit their second location. As Alison spoke about her business and employees it reminded me that there are still good people in this world “I’d rather take the team out for dinner than fly first class” she said, I really believe her.
La Muse is not a fast fashion brand or even retail “we see ourselves more as stylists; servicing clients is the business” Alison explained to me. As I browse their collections online, I am reminded of bespoke fashion, tailor made for the individual, built to last “something that you can wear even after 2 washes”.
Sarah Barr, owner of La Muse, grew up with fashion therefore starting a small business was a logical step. Even in 2009, Sarah knew that eco-fashion was the next big thing. From one small business to the next Sarah and Alison finally opened La Muse in 2017. “Sarah had the product and I was the process” says Alison. Alison and Sarah are selling sustainable fashion, “people are hungry for quality but aren’t ready to pay for it”. However, they’ve found their niche clientele selling Scandinavian flare with a Parisian twist.
With two stores across Ontario now, their brand is growing so where do we tie in? “I feel supported, worth every penny” exclaims Alison about working with Zenbooks. “How would I even do that myself, where would I start?” said Alison as she spoke about the new Ontario employee regulations concerning Covid. Alison mentioned how easy it was for her to virtually send all the info to Nina, who does payroll for Zenbooks. I can’t even imagine how hard the clothing and fashion industry were hit by Covid. Employees working from home, two years of lockdown where sweats and yoga pants became the predominant style. But the world is opening again “and people are looking to get dressed again. It’s been 3 years of spending New Year’s Eve at home. This summer is the summer of weddings” said Alison. It gave me hope and it made me want to get out of my sweats. Working remotely and living in the peak of Covid you tend to forget about style and fashion.
I wanted to know what it has been like as a small business owner, have they encountered difficulties along the way. Alison told me, plain and simple “if it’s not good, don’t stick with it. I feel really lucky, growth is hard but you always need challenges and change.” The world is changing and therefore so is business. Alison forecasts that more and more businesses will move to the virtual world. She told me how easy and simple it is for her HR, who are also virtual, to contact our Zen team and get everything done at light speed. For Alison, it makes all the difference because she can focus on what she’s good at, office management. What makes La Muse so special, well after one conversation with Alison I was sold. Not only are they a people first company she made me feel like they were in it for the right reasons. “You’re only as good as your weakest member” Alison said as she told me about her team and how they strive to give them liveable wages and treat them well.
I’ve only been at Zenbooks two months and I have that same feeling. Our family dog suffered an unfortunate accident during my second week of work, I tried hard to keep it together. However, when Eric, Principal, saw me he said “what are you doing here? Take the day off, there are more important things in life than meetings. Everything can be rescheduled” I type this with a tear in my eye. I asked Alison: are more and more and more companies taking the humane approach? She told me that like minded people, and companies, always find each other.
Our hour long conversation, which felt more like 15 minutes because speaking with Alison was such a pleasure, was sadly coming to an end. As I wished Alison a happy weekend she reminded me that having a small business was like having a child. “You never sleep, you never have a day off but when your child does good you’re proud of it!” Right before we said goodbye Alison told me “You guys are the best! Zen are a good hub and a great place to put people together. You should build a Zen community.” I felt proud to be part of that community.
Zenbooks has been Canada’s go-to cloud accounting firm since 2015. Business Highlights will showcase our clients and their various businesses. Zenbooks combines modern cloud technology with our in-house expert analysis to provide you with the online accounting service and guidance that best suits your business needs. From tax planning to payroll and monthly accounting services. They’re your finance team! (follow our blog here.)
Mia graduated from Concordia University with a Bachelor in Political Science and a Graduate Diploma in Public Relations Management from McGill University. Her wide range of experience includes organizing media ethics events worldwide, political and marketing campaigns, teaching at summer camps to founding two experiential learning centers in Belgrade, Serbia. Mia loves hiking, adventures and exploring with her family. Environment, ecology and reducing her carbon footprint are issues she finds very important. Her dream is to one day have a backyard and garden.