'You pour a lot of your soul into it': Sask. entrepreneur Nadia Williamson expands bridal boutique to L.A.
Sask. entrepreneur, past CBC Future 40 finalist takes NWL boutique bridal store to California
Nadia Williamson's life has changed drastically in the past month. She no longer lives in her hometown of Regina. She's traded Saskatchewan's elm trees for California's palm trees, and the single life for that of a newlywed wife and stepmom.
She notes it's also much more difficult to find a flat piece of land to run on. But there's one familiar thing — she's still operating a boutique bridal store, selling women their dream gowns.
"It feels really different here," said Williamson during a FaceTime call with CBC from her new store, strategically situated on Santa Monica, Calif.'s lush Montana Avenue.
"I do love people and being around people … I think that's why I connected with this type of business."
Building a brand
The entrepreneur's journey to this point has been unexpected, but it begins and ends with Williamson's passion for people.
After years working on movies and TV shows in Saskatchewan (Tideland, Just Friends, Downloading Nancy, Corner Gas, Moccasin Flats, Vampire Dog, and Big Muddy among them) she decided to trade in long, gruelling hours on set for something a bit more stable.
Initially, she wanted to sell cocktail dresses — she credits her sense of style to her fashionable grandmother — but didn't know much about business and hadn't been a girl who dreamed about a blissful day wearing white.
"And then we did the business plan, and no, that's not really going to pay the bills," she said.
As it turned out, there was a market for wedding dresses.
"Now it's strange, because I think I know a lot about business and a lot about wedding dresses. Like, I feel like that's one thing I know. I have been working with wedding dresses and brides for about 15 years now."
For Williamson, stepping into the world of business was like a journey to another planet.
She recalls becoming part of the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce as a move into a "fascinating world, [where] I'd never been. It was almost like the first time I was on movie set — it was like, 'What is this place?'"
In 2015 (the same year Williamson became a Future 40 finalist) she became the 129th chair of the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce, one of only a handful of women to hold the spot.
She said her mentor, John Hopkins, encouraged her to take on the role and while she was initially doubtful about her applicable skills, "the seed was planted," and a year later she was in the leadership position.
Williamson encourages other entrepreneurs to seek out mentors (her tip is that friends make the best ones).
NWL in L.A.
Williamson recently moved to California to be with her new husband and brought NWL with her.
During the transitional period, she said she has come to understand the brand she's built.
"I never really recognized it until recently, and it's a really sweet feeling," she said.
"NWL is, of course, my initials. Here, it's NWLA. It's very strange because I thought, 'I'm not sure about the name' … and [someone] said, 'Well, you can always change it.'
"And, I was like, no. I couldn't do that. Because, in Regina, people will say, 'Oh I got my dress from NWL.' It was the first time when I actually said that, out loud ... people kind of associate getting a beautiful dress from NWL."
Williamson said that while the move away from her beloved hometown has been emotional, it's also been a blessing in disguise. She said she is now travelling less to see her partner and has more time to spend discussing the business with her Regina NWL counterpart.
Her boutique in L.A. opened a few weeks ago and while she's still getting used to some "aggressive" aspects of America, one bride-to-be dropped off a bouquet after buying her dress at Williamson's spot.
"No one ever bought me flowers in Regina," joked Williamson.
"You pour a lot of your soul into it, you do," she said.
Williamson said despite her sunny outlook today, being recognized by Saskatchewan for her leadership in entrepreneurship as a 2015 Future 40 finalist was a much needed pat on the back.
"There's times where, I remember when I first opened, I was like, in a fetal position on the floor, like, 'Oh my gosh, what have I done?' I remember not being able to pay … a SaskPower bill or something. So it means more than you know."
Do you know someone like Nadia Williamson who should be recognized for their positive work in the community? Nominate them to be a 2018 CBC Saskatchewan Future 40 finalist.
Nominations are open until Nov. 4.