Copyright Laura-Jean Bernhardson. All right reserved.

My Story

Originally from Saskatoon, I'll always be a prairie girl at heart!

 

In my early 20s, I headed to Montreal to study photography at Concordia University. I knew I wanted a creative career and my stint as yearbook editor in high school made me think photography was a practical choice. 

 

When university was done, I headed to Toronto, to seek my fame and fortune. With no clue how to start a real career, I worked various part-time jobs as a waitress while making some jewellery to try to sell in local boutiques.

 

Somehow, I thought, "If I don't know to get a career job, maybe I'll just start a business." 

I guess entrepreneurship was always in my blood.

 

As a kid, I roped in some friends to help me build a mini “amusement park” with ring toss sets and other games that we charged the neighbourhood nickles and dimes to play.

 

We even had a comic book library running in one of our backyards at some point, though that business model failed when kids just didn't return the comics!

 

By grade 9, I was making my own clothes and jewellery, and selling them to friends and small businesses in town.

 

I always loved the idea of having control of my life through creative money-making ventures. Growing up, it was something that represented freedom and independence for me.

 

As I looked ahead, I knew that I wanted to always be able to have dogs in my life, and eventually kids.

 

Those were probably my biggest motivators to pursue a career that allowed me so much choice. I just couldn't fathom a 9 - 5 job in some office with a boss and a commute. I wanted freedom and the chance to create my own work that excited me.

For the next couple years, I continued making jewellery and selling it in local boutiques. Picking up commissions for local fashion studio Peach Berserk and working part-time there as a silkscreen printer gave me a front row seat on the workings of a small business.

 

In 1994, I set aside my fears and launched my own knitwear line, Fresh Baked Goods!

 

I dubbed myself Laura-Jean the Knitting Queen, decided I was a fashion entrepreneur and started learning about business through trial and error! Lots and lots and lots of trial and error over the years. 

I opened my first sweater shop in Kensington Market (1998-2019) and set up knitting machines in the back. My knitting princesses and I knit all day in the back of the shop and sold sweaters in the front.

 

A few years later,  Fresh Collective fashion boutique was born in 2003.

 

Fresh Collective started out as a shared space concept with local designers. This provided me with a selling space and a vibrant work environment full of creative energy. Designers rented space and worked in the store.

 

Over the years, the business model has evolved. We've become more focused in the selection of our products, more in-tune with customer needs, have gained the love and loyalty of tons of great ladies, and now design clothes under our own in-house label, Palette by Laura-Jean!

In addition to Fresh Collective, I run (and have run) several other businesses. I was co-owner of Rowanwood Daycare for over a decade.

 

Current roles include co-founder of The Space for Wellness and co-founder of Women Growing Empires.

 

Running multiple businesses in various industries has taught me that business is business. It's all about creating something unique and exciting, and providing value to your clients. 

 

When I saw how incredibly creative one can be in approaching business, I realized I had an endless supply of creative fun to tap into!

 

And this is why I love coaching.

 

Working with my clients and helping them discover creative breakthroughs and practical solutions to whatever has them stuck is my biggest passion.

 

I know their struggles and I love helping them uncover their confidence and see possibilities where they didn't see them before. 

 

Through my own journey, I found inner strength I didn't know I had. I grew to see myself as tough, smart, capable, and strategic. I learned that so much of that strength comes from the hardest times and biggest failures!

 

I live an extraordinary life that allows me to have fun and improve myself every day.

 

Best of all, with the mastery I've gained—not only in the mechanics of a small business, but the mindset it takes to succeed—I can now work to help others find ways to realize and capitalize on their strengths.