Didi Henderson moved to 100 Mile House during her “hippie days” in the 1970s.
She was drawn to the small, remote town by friends. And while it was a shock to leave her hometown of Montreal for the remoteness of the Cariboo, she immersed herself in the community through art, dance, teaching French and more. She also began her family.
While working part-time at a gift shop, she realized how many locals were shopping there – not just tourists. She also saw a niche for fashion missing in 100 Mile. Coming from the big city, she missed clothing, and plans for her boutique began ruminating. “Living in the country, if you wore a dress in town people asked if you were going to a funeral or wedding,” she said.
The idea of starting her own business was scary. But with a background in fine arts – and an eye for fashion and design – decided to bite the bullet. After a few short business courses, she opened Didi’s Boutique in 1994.
Being your own boss comes with its own set of challenges, but for Henderson, it was freeing -from being able to create her own schedule to her kids being allowed to hang out in her shop after school.
“I had been working outside the home in various jobs but it was actually kind of nice (when I started my own business because) the kids could come up after school and sit in my office doing their homework.”
Henderson notes small businesses are the backbone of society, and many are run by women.
“I was just thinking how important it is we celebrate women’s progress but also look at how far we have to go to reach gender parity,” she commented.
Henderson said she considers her employees a team and to combat the work-life balance so many women are trying to manage, they offer one another a lot of flexibility.
Whether someone has school-aged children, is wanting to travel or dealing with sickness, they’ll swap shifts to help each other out.
“When you do that everybody’s happier in the workplace. You might have to go the extra mile one week for someone but you know it will be reciprocated,” she said.
While Didi’s Boutique is a clothing store, Henderson expressed that her business is about so much more than just selling pretty clothing, but about walking with people through different avenues of their life.
“Women and cultures over the ages have used what they wear as personal expressions of themselves … I have women coming into my boutique in all stages of life, and they share their stories about what they are looking for and why,” she said. “They may be celebrating a wedding or a loss or need soft organic fabrics because they are undergoing chemotherapy. It’s an honour to meet them in their journey and support them as best we can.”
Some of the needs women face are balancing home life with work life, as they become the sandwiched generation between their children and aging parents, all while trying to work and provide for their families.
Starting her business has been a huge accomplishment for Henderson, but it took her a while to find her voice and believe in herself within the business world, especially when the world looked different in the ‘90s.
Her advice to other women wanting to start their own business is to never be afraid to ask questions, do their research and get additional training when needed.
“Be empowered … I think [women] bring a skill set to the table that is really varied. You know, the business models have changed over the years, so I actually think women are fabulous entrepreneurs because we have to think on our feet all the time with family and life and everything … We have made progress and we should celebrate that and we should keep going forward.”
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