Following a dynamic path as an entrepreneur, activist, and mom, not to mention a former attorney and political staffer, Emma May recognizes the struggle of maintaining a sharp appearance amidst the pressures of time. Back in 2018, against her expansive closet backdrop, she questioned why there wasn’t a brand catering to the creation of refined, easy-to-pair staples. In response to this, she shaped her own path.
Emma May, with her professional attire line, SophieGrace, carries her ambition beyond casual commitment. As she remarks, “This is no hobby. We are doubling revenue every year.” A former lawyer and political aide-turned-business leader, this woman of strong ambition is reminiscent of a phoenix, continuously reinventing herself from the ashes of her previous ventures. At 51, she has been an attorney, established a high-end real estate enterprise, and even served as a senior aide to the Alberta premier, Jim Prentice. Most recently, in 2020, she launched SophieGrace.
Characterized as ‘Lululemon for the office,’ SophieGrace is a fashion brand named after her daughter, aspiring to revolutionize the concept of business attire. Although its first product launch was just before the global lockdown in 2020, Emma accredits her fledgling success to the seamless blend of function, comfort, and timeless elegance her brand offers career women.
The concept for SophieGrace struck Emma as she felt the frustration of the inundating fashion choices facing women. “It’s simple for men; they buy suits, Emma declares, but all the choices are frustrating for women.” Thus, traditional uncertainties regarding selection and coordination all gave way to her innovation – a range of mix-and-match compatible pieces providing versatile combinations.
SophieGrace interfaces seamlessly with the fashion demands of women who wish to be taken seriously in their workspace, be it as a premier, a Supreme Court justice, or a young intern. Emma aims to provide adequate options to these women, a welcome alternative to the overwhelming youthful, hot, and sexy designs crowding the fashion landscape.
Backed by her head of product, veteran Lululemon employee Lisa MacCarthy, Emma set foot in Los Angeles to source fabric, injecting a flurry of energy into her startup journey. The funding for the venture was bootstrapped, with Emma taking a $140,000 line of credit on her home. The SophieGrace inventory exemplifies quality, offering attire that exudes comfort and style, something Emma believes will quickly assume the status of the new normal, reshaping the power suit for the working woman.
Yet, Emma understands that more than just styles need to be revolutionized. She aims to turn the tide against traditional business models that have been inherently prohibitive, resulting in the phased exit of enterprises such as Nordstrom from Canada. Emma’s approach is centered on streamlining the customer’s experience, be it online or in person. SophieGrace utilizes pop-up shops across high-profile locations and hosts social events doubling as shopping opportunities, staying true to a sustainable business model.
The journey is not without its challenges. Dealing with men who still control the financial world can be daunting. However, Emma’s tenacity is unwavering, and she emphasizes that SophieGrace is far from a side project.
The ceaseless energy, paired with an adept team, facilitates the seamless functioning of SophieGrace’s operation between Calgary and Vancouver. The brand is confidently marching towards an estimated $4 million in sales this year, projecting to double the following year. With her firm belief in women demanding equal respect and representation, Emma May is bolstering a revolution in business fashion through SophieGrace.
As the CEO of a thriving fashion brand, Emma consolidates her impression, “It’s about building your confidence, so you feel good every day.” Through her journey, she stands as a testament to the unwavering spirit of women revolutionizing the world, one step at a time.
Follow SophieGrace on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter, or visit their website at www.sophiegrace.ca for a sneak peek into the poised fashion revolution.