One of the goals I made for East Coast Mermaid’s blog in 2017 was more fearless sirens.
Translation: More amazing, fearless girl bosses doing EPIC things at any age, both on the East Coast and around the world.
So today I’m very excited to showcase a girl boss that first stole my heart with a unicorn pin (see it here for reference) and then later became one of my favorite girl bosses to tweet with, chat with, and she also happens to have helped me fill my closet with some stellar pieces of clothing.
Yeah. You want to get to know Dominique Leger, the beauty and brains behind Saint John’s wildly successful In Pursuit Mobile Boutique.
In Pursuit is a FASHION BOUTIQUE IN A TRUCK. Sorry, I get excited just talking about it. From beautiful clothing to trendy + fashionable accessories to gifts – this pink fashion truck has everything a girl could ever want.
Bonus: When you fill your closet with items from In Pursuit, you will have everyone, every where you go ask who dressed you with hearty eyes. Like, it happened for me in both Minnesota AND Texas. True story.
Of course, this isn’t my story to tell. Here’s everything Dominique had to say about starting your own business, being a girl boss, fashion, food trucks, and more!
What inspired you to open your own fashion truck? Why did a mobile business appeal to you?
My road to entrepreneurship was a bit of a twisty, turny one, to say the least. I wasn’t one of those people who said from the time they were little that they would be a business owner and I had definitely never thought of opening my own boutique.
I grew up in Fredericton and the fashion industry was really the only thing that kept my interest for any length of time. After high school graduation, I had my sights set on the big city and moved immediately to Toronto, enrolled in the Fashion Marketing and Merchandising program at the International Academy of Design & Technology. After graduation I returned to New Brunswick (Moncton, this time) and began a career in retail that saw me move through the ranks from Associate to Management and then, after a move to Ottawa, a transition into Visual Merchandising at a regional level, responsible for all marketing directives in all stores from Ottawa east to Newfoundland.
My position came to an abrupt halt as the company restructured and they eliminated the role. Accepting my fate and early retirement from the industry, I realized my heart was missing the ocean and I decided to return to New Brunswick; this time to Saint John where I started a career in Business Development at a large corporation. I remember being so excited on that first day. After living in government-centric Ottawa I was convinced the 9 – 5 Monday – Friday routine was the structure and freedom I was looking for after 10 years in retail and 2 years on the road, working nights and weekends and being on call 24/7. I even emailed my mom with excitement (and way too many exclamation marks) about my window seat and “very own file cabinet.”
That excitement wore off quickly. From the beginning, I felt like I didn’t really fit in. I was used to a fast paced environment, on my feet for 8 – 12 hours at a time, never really sure what events would unfold throughout the day. I thrived on a challenge and constantly having to be on my toes, ready for the next marketing directive to be released. This new role was the same, day in and day out. All day, every day. With the repetitive nature of the position and having to sit still for 8 hours at a time, I struggled to find my place. I felt like what I was contributing wasn’t acknowledged or good enough. I didn’t know how to talk to my colleagues. I was “from away” and I felt like instead of being embraced for that, I was an outsider looking in.
I realized just a few months in that something was definitely missing. I was unhappy and my anxiety was increasing by the day. I carried the guilt of knowing other people would excel at the position I had, and I didn’t want to keep them from it any longer. Around the same time. I read a blog post about “uncovering your purpose” one of the million articles I had read during that time with the same type of headline and promise of answers. The author had written something about how it’s our own responsibility to make an impact while we’re taking up physical space somewhere, regardless of the time spent there. The city or town we’re in doesn’t owe us anything. It’s up to us, as individuals. I had never thought about life in that way. I had become angry and resentful. I felt I had made the wrong decision and was somewhere that I didn’t belong and was taking it out on everyone else instead of digging deep and asking myself what it was I needed to get back to my old, cheerful self again.
The more I followed bloggers and added new fashion-related accounts on Instagram and checked in daily with tweets from DKNYPRGirl and read fashionista.com like it was a bible, the brighter the light shone. I missed fashion. I missed the industry. I missed the hustle. I missed the conversations about colors and hemlines and designers and marketing and merchandising the perfect wall display and I missed experiencing that moment you help a customer find THE perfect outfit. I needed to find my way back there. That was my happy place.
Fast forward to 2010, I spotted a virtual internship opportunity on fashionista.com for a Community Manager position at StartUp FASHION based in NYC. I didn’t know if someone from a different country would be considered but I did know that I had all day access to a PC, a smart phone and the deepest desire to have conversations that felt like they had purpose and to and help would-be designers get started in the business. I applied. I was hired. I finally felt like I was getting back to a place where I belonged. I was responsible for all daily online communication with designers, members of the StartUpFASHION community, retailers, and anyone else who came into contact with us. I was also responsible for contributing a weekly column on the retail industry. Whether it was encouraging designers to approach retailers to sell their collections to or discovering new apps and innovative boutique ideas, I was back!
One of the StartUpFASHION articles that had been written previous to me joining the team was about “The Fashion Truck” a mobile retail store based in Boston. It was a brand new trend at the time, with less than 10 trucks existing in the US and 0 in Canada. It piqued my interest but it wasn’t until I spotted it in person on my next trip to Boston that it hit me.
THIS. WAS. IT.
With my experience in retail and obsession with the industry as a whole, I knew I needed to be involved somehow but a) didn’t want to move again so soon and b) didn’t want the responsibility of an all day, every day bricks and mortar location. Winters in Canada are very long and very hard, to say the least. The day that I spotted The Fashion Truck at the SoWa Market in Boston, there was a crowd around it so big I didn’t even have the chance to go inside, but I knew.
Everything was tingling.
I would have my own truck someday.
It combined literally everything that I loved. Fashion. Retail. Merchandising. Marketing. PR. Customer Service. Plus, my desire to travel and explore how and when I wanted. I am a gypsy by nature, I get restless when I am held down too long (I can’t even do a Netflix marathon on Sundays because the thought of sitting still for so long makes me antsy) Being able to go somewhere for a short time and then pack up and go somewhere else was ideal. I could travel near or far, or if I really wanted to I could just stay right around the local area.
A store on wheels isn’t for everyone, it comes with a very unique set of challenges. Especially when you’re the one and only on the entire East Coast, everything you do is trial and error with no previous information to fall back on. But, that’s all part of the adventure. I am so in love with my truck and my career and the ability to live my dream every day, I want to shout it from rooftops.
When you first launched, did you have any confused customers wondering what the truck was all about?
Tons! Even 3 years in I still have people every single time the truck is open come in and wonder “what the heck is this thing?”
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?
Whenever you try to do something new, it’s difficult to convince people to see your vision the same way you do. Saint John is a very conservative city and very resistant to change. I was trying to communicate that I wanted to park a hot pink truck full of clothes on the corner of historic Uptown and sell things to passersby and it wasn’t exactly working. The biggest (and longest) obstacle I faced was getting the official “yes” I needed for permission to park in the Uptown core. It took a year and a half. I called the same people multiple times per week and multiples times per week heard “no” to my question. No one wanted to be the person who said yes to me in case it was a massive failure or massive headache. My persistence eventually paid off. At the time, I was frustrated by the long wait but 3 years later I recognize what a blessing in disguise it was. It allowed me the time I needed to really refine my business plan, it was also an amazing opportunity to connect with influential people in various departments and gain their trust and get them excited about what was to come. Some of those people who originally weren’t able to help me are now my biggest supporters and encouragers.
Can you hint at anything to come in 2017? What’s next for In Pursuit?
I have my fingers crossed that In Pursuit #2 will happen this year!
You are the owner of a fashion truck, so we have to ask – are you a fan of food trucks?
What’s the best kind of food truck?
Is there such thing as a “bad” food truck? I’m a huge fan of Moncton’s Bangkok Thai Truck but my heart has tacos written all over it. On the other hand.. there’s wood fire pizza trucks and pulled pork sandwich trucks and french fry trucks in Ontario and cold pressed juice trucks in Vancouver.. Oh, and have I mentioned Chimneys? You have to try a Chimney.
If you could talk business with any female entrepreneur, who would it be?
From a Canadian perspective, I would love a chat with Arlene Dickinson. From a fashion perspective, Aliza Licht is someone who I have followed and admired for what feels like forever.
What is your favorite piece of fashion you own?
My favorite piece is actually an accessory. I wear a silver butterfly ring on my right hand every day. My dad moved me to Toronto from Fredericton and while we were there we stopped at the CNE and I picked up the original ring. On a trip to Ottawa years later, I was with my mom and my brother at the Byward Market and picked up the existing one, it’s a little larger than the original one but I still wear it on the same finger of the same hand as the original. It keeps my family with me every day. Not to mention the symbolism of butterflies; the ability to transform, the reminder to be soft and graceful, the freedom to travel and the independence to do it all on their own.
Who is your Style icon?
This changes daily! I am a freak for red carpets, I love classic looks and risk takers all at the same time. I look to celebrity style often for tips on trends but bloggers never cease to amaze me with the way they put together an outfit of unexpected pieces.
Favorite book – about style or business?
Is it too cliche if I say “Girl Boss”? My copy is so well read it’s full of underlines and folded pages.
Food trucks, fashion trucks, what’s next?
I’ve definitely noticed a lot more services based businesses become mobile. From pet groomers to nail salons to spas offering bridal pampering on wedding days, etc. People are busy! It’s difficult to manage jobs and children and activities and still make it across town to take your pooch in for a check up. Anything that’s available as a bricks and mortar option can also be turned into fun on wheels!
Best part about being a girl boss?
Freedom! I see the impact every one of my decisions has almost immediately. I choose what to buy, I choose when to open, I choose which charities to support, I choose if I’m going to a buying show in Las Vegas or New York, I chose who to market to and how.
I have this incredible opportunity to serve the people in my community. Maybe to some people fashion is frivolous and unimportant, but to me it’s the difference between a bad day and a great day. It’s about building confidence and making connections and telling stories. Whether it’s my story, a customer’s story or a story from one of the entrepreneurs I work and collaborate with.
I don’t have a business for myself, I have a business to make an impact and inspire other people; regardless of what it is they go on to do. Maybe they’ll be a little more persistent or maybe they’ll put their ideas on paper or maybe they’ll go away for school or apply for an internship or travel the world. Owning my own business allows me the pleasure to do all of the things I love.
The truck is a meeting space of sorts. For brilliant minds and creative souls and this squad of incredible, passionate, inspiring customers male and female alike that I am honored to interact with on a daily basis.
Name a fearless siren you admire and why:
You! I am inspired by your talent in your field (I watched one of your Facebook live broadcasts recently about getting press and was FLOORED by not only your amazing advice but your ability to deliver the content in a way that was perfectly understandable) I am also inspired by your energy and positivity. I know not every day is sunshine and roses but I admire the cheerfulness that radiates through your posts. I admire your go-getter attitude and your passion for female empowerment and entrepreneurs. I’m ecstatic we’ve had a chance to connect in the last few months and your thoughtfulness will stay with me, always.
Spoiler: I was not expecting that last response and teared up when I read it. THANK YOU Dominique – I’m so so so so SO ecstatic we’ve been able to connect too and it’s an honor to feature as a Fearless Siren!
And can I add that using pics from our visit last summer is really making me long for summer right now?
If you’re inspired by Dominique and her story, please leave a comment and some good vibes for her below or tweet her. And make sure to follow In Pursuit on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to know where Dominique and the truck will be this Spring + Summer!
Thank you Thank you Thank you Dominique! 😘