Natalie Dusome is the founder and designer of Poppy & Peonies, a sustainable, functional Canadian accessory brand named after her daughter Poppy. With dreams of becoming a fashion designer since she was a young girl, Natalie founded her brand in response to a direct personal need of hers: Functional accessories that could accommodate being a new mom. Confident she wasn’t alone in that need, Natalie created Poppy & Peonies to design practical pieces that would help other women navigate motherhood a little easier and much more stylishly. Since the brand’s formation, Natalie has appeared on Dragons’ Den and Poppy & Peonies continues to grow rapidly, collaborating with other brands and influencers in the process.
How have you managed your business finances through the pandemic?
COVID really affected our business — we had to examine our entire business model and pivot quickly to survive. We had to preserve cash flow and lean out on all aspects of the business, from our marketing spend to our inventory purchasing. We participated in and were very grateful for the government programs available, including wage subsidy, rent subsidy, Métis Business Recovery Financing loan, and the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan. We didn’t want to take on any more debt, but we couldn’t turn down the forgivable portion of these loans — especially when we really needed the cash flow to offset the slowdown in sales. These funds came in handy to optimize our website and get in front of our audience who was now spending more time online shopping.
Has your approach to sales and marketing changed?
Social media platforms play a huge role in how we connect with our customers. As a brand, we had to get crystal clear on our brand values so we could connect with our customers on a deeper level. Our marketing strategy has definitely shifted since COVID. Video content has never been more important, especially since Instagram is competing with Tik Tok and is no longer a photo sharing platform, but an entertainment platform. We had to get more comfortable in front of the camera talking to our customers on Instagram stories and creating videos and reels. We also launched an affiliate program where we could partner with, empower, and reward brand ambassadors for creating and sharing user generated content.
How has technology played a role in your business during this time?
We made the decision a year ago to have our entire team work remotely permanently. Women need more flexibility in the workplace to juggle the new, ever evolving landscape of school, work, kids’ activities, and trying to balance it all. Our team is more productive and much happier working from home. Having a remote team requires technology to keep us connected; we use a number of software tools for that. We use Shopify and a ton of apps to optimize our website. We also switched our bookkeeping to cloud accounting, which means less paperwork, more efficiency, and better monthly finance reporting.
How have you managed your mindset (and that of your team)?
As a company, we really try to focus on the silver linings of COVID. We believe in gratitude, and express it regularly to our community of customers and our team. When you come from a place of gratitude there is so much to be thankful for, so the energy is high and positive. We believe in a growth mindset, always learning new ways to work and optimize the business, and new ways to grow — this keeps us curious and sharp.
For personal care, I really value meditation. I try to squeeze in one or two five-minute sessions a day; it resets my mind. Time blocking has really helped with my productivity. Instead of bouncing around between five different tasks, I’ve learned to focus on one task at a time. This allows me to get into a flow and produce a higher quality result. I’m also learning that rest is productive — our brains do a lot of problem solving when they’re resting, so now, instead of burning the midnight oil, I go to bed.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to all entrepreneurs in your industry today?
This year, I got a mentor and it’s changed everything. She’s someone who really inspires me; she’s in my industry and is where I want to be. She’s also a mom, a CEO, and is running a huge online Canadian brand, and the advice she gives me is like gold, because she’s been there and done it. My advice would be to find a mentor in your industry who inspires you and is where you want to be. You’ll probably talk yourself out of it by thinking, they’re too busy — why would they want to help me? But be bold, reach out, and just ask and see if they’re interested; 30 minutes once or twice a month isn’t a lot to ask, and it’s rewarding for them too.
My other advice is to get clear on your business goals. Write them down, hang them in front of you, look at them every day, and ensure every step you’re taking that day is getting you closer to that goal.
Lastly, get out of your comfort zone as a business. The opportunities that gave me the biggest rewards were the ones that scared the shit out of me the most — like going on Dragons’ Den or collaborating with Jillian Harris. Get comfortable being uncomfortable; that’s where the growth happens.