An Interview with Nadine Strom, owner of Einai Designs in North Vancouver, B.C.

By Donna Marrin

Tell us about your business and how you started it.

I attended Fashion Design school at Kwantlen College. After graduating, my sister asked me to make a few pairs of boxer shorts for her boyfriend. She went out and bought some fabric and I went ahead and made the boxers. There was some extra fabric so I made extra ones up as well. She was attending Capilano College at the time. She brought the extra shorts to school, sold them and took orders for more. That same year, I decided to apply to attend a local craft fair at my old high school. It was a success! Each year I continued to apply to more and more Christmas Craft shows and grew a little more each year. In 2003, my husband passed away… I decided I had nothing to lose, so I applied to attend a Wholesale Gift Show in Toronto, and I haven’t looked back since.

What was your early vision for your business, and how has it changed over time?

Well, I started out making boxer shorts. I have to say, I don’t think I would have imagined at that time the number of products I also create today. I now make Bootie Boxers for women, Happy Pants (PJ lounge pants) for men and women, Capri Jammies, hot water bottle covers, Tooth Fairy pillows, Cup Cozies (reusable coffee sleeves), and my new product this year is a reusable sandwich, snack and treat bag (instead of using plastic baggies). I also have two women working for me on a part-time basis. As well, I attend wholesale gift shows and retail craft shows across Canada.

Your biggest learning curve?

There are many learning curves that business owners encounter daily. I would say the biggest is learning to take the blinders off and listen to advice. We don’t always know everything.

Describe a day in the life…

My day starts off early. I am usually at the shop by 7:30 am. My day can consist of cutting fabric for products, sewing, packing orders, invoicing, administration, ordering fabrics. No day is the same. My routine changes daily; this makes it more exciting and challenging at the same time. You never know what’s ahead!

What makes your business stand out?

I would say the fact that my products are all designed and produced in my shop in North Vancouver. My fabrics are high-quality quilters’ cotton. I would never change my product. My customers know the quality and wouldn’t expect anything else. My products are guaranteed for at least five years!

Do you have any interesting facts to share about your work or any of your products?

An interesting story of how I came to design my lounge pants… At the time, I was only making boxer shorts. The receptionist at my dentist’s office always asked if I would make some lounge pants—comfy pants to change into after work; she would call them Happy Pants, because when you have them on, you’re a happy person. Unfortunately, she got ill with cancer. So I sat down and designed Happy Pants. I sent her one of the first pairs of lounge pants. I never knew what she thought, but the pants have been a great success!

How do you find balance between your business and home life?

This is a good, but difficult question. After my husband passed away, I buried myself in work. I would work 12 hours a day, seven days a week… work, work, work. About four years ago, I realized I needed to get my life back. It is hard to balance the two. When things get busy, the first thing you want to do is give up your life. But I am getting better. Life is great! Taking time to ‘have a life’ also ends up making your working life easier.

What’s the best part of running your own business? The most challenging?

There are a few things that make running a business great! The first—I am an extremely hard worker; the harder you work, the better the business and the more you’ll succeed. The second—I can take time whenever I need it. If a friend stops by for a coffee, I don’t have a problem sitting down and spending some time… or going away for a few days on a whim. The problem with this is that you sometimes have to make up any lost hours. The most challenging part is not always having a regular paycheque. If the economy is not doing well, the business takes a little bit of a hit, and so does my pocketbook… unlike the benefits of having a job with a regular paycheque!

Do you have a favourite business tool or resource?

Mentors. I always think it is great to find some amazing women, also in business, to use as mentors. I have a few of them!

What is the key to your success?

Hard work and loving what you do! I’ve always said, the minute I don’t want to get out of bed to go to work, I’ll shut down my business.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting a business?

I think you need a strong soul. Starting and running a business takes a lot out of you. It definitely isn’t for everyone. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help!

NADINE STROM lives in North Vancouver, B.C. She has a great family support system. Her parents and sister have been helpful and by her side through every moment. Her father owned his own business and Nadine developed her creative side through him. She has two sistersone older and one youngerand they both run their own businesses as well. When Nadine was younger, she wanted to be a model, but unfortunately, things didn’t work out. So if she couldn’t be in front of the camera, wearing the clothes, she decided she’d be the one designing the clothes, behind the camera. She took sewing classes throughout high school and then went to Fashion Design school. When she started her business, she worked as a waitress to augment her income. Nadine feared losing that income, but taking a chance forced her to work harder to make her business a success, and she knows she made the right decision. She loves her business and her customers—whether they are the store owners that buy from her or individual shoppers! She can’t imagine doing anything else. Contact information: Nadine Strom, Einai Designs, 1405 Charlotte Road, North Vancouver BC, V7J 1H1 Phone: 604-980-9299 Email: [email protected] (New website currently under construction.)

By Adam

September 09, 2011