Episode 4: When Flexibility and Perseverance Pay Off

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When Flexibility and Perseverance Pay Off

 “Challenge? Bring it on.”—Monique Primeau-Lascelle

The businesses

Dazzling Costumes is a Cornwall-based retail and online store that sells an incredible array of costumes, accessories, and decor items. 

The challenge

Raising a family of four kids—including one with special needs—presented obstacles for Monique and her business. 

The pivot

The Dazzling Costumes story is one about flexibility. Monique first moved her home-based business into a retail store; when family life demanded more of her time, she shifted to e-commerce. Then when the opportunity presented itself, she most recently bought a building, opened a brick-and-mortar store again and used the extra space to hold inventory for ecommerce. 

The result

Thanks to a positive attitude, perseverance, and flexibility, Monique’s business is not only surviving but thriving. 

Finding flexibility

Almost 35 years ago, Monique was asked to sew a mascot for a company in Ottawa. She enjoyed the process so much that in 1987, she decided to start a home-based business making and selling costumes. By the 90s, her home was bursting at the seams with 6,000 handmade costumes, four kids, and an endless stream of customers. That’s when she decided to open a retail store on Montreal Road called Costumes by/par Monique.

She loved having a separate space for her business but when one of her children needed more care, she made the decision to shutter the retail space and move exclusively into e-commerce.

“Making that move meant I could spend more at home but still continue the journey with the costume business.“

Monique’s deep dive into ecommerce took place in 2002, long before online stores were popular. 

“It was easier then to reach an international audience because there weren’t as many people online,” she says. “We were really successful.” So successful, in fact, that she had to rent a 3,000-square-foot space to warehouse all her sales items.

By 2002, her children were all grown up and moved out. Monique found herself with an empty house and lots of energy to spare. So she made another bold move and purchased a 15,000-square-foot building at 305 McConnell Avenue. She currently operates a retail store on the main floor, and uses the other three floors to hold inventory for her ecommerce operations. 

The arrival of COVID-19 on Canadian soil in 2020 was difficult on a business that revolves around celebrations and gatherings. Monique says revenue dropped 45% last year and she laid off all her employees during the first lockdown. 

Though she says that was heartbreaking, she also insists that “longevity comes through the ability to roll with the punches.” She has since rehired staff, retooled her retail stores, continued to push online sales, and even added a whole new product line to her offerings: balloons!

“It’s something that’s been on the backburner for a long time and I think it’s a good fit and a good opportunity for our store. Pandemic or not, we’re expanding and putting in a big balloon section in the store.”

Lessons learned

Monique has more than three decades of experiences with pivoting and refocusing her business based on her family’s needs but that doesn’t mean everything has been smooth sailing.

“I have no problem admitting that I’ve messed up. I’ve been stuck with tons of stock because I misjudged trends or didn’t order something in time. Or because a pandemic happens. Here’s the thing: As a business owner, you should have a business plan. But you also need to be ready to accept that life will throw you curveballs. Don’t give up. Grab the opportunity to make changes and adapt. If you want to keep doing what you love, that’s the only way!”

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