We are so excited to launch a new series on the blog called ‘Women of Manitoba.’ Each week, we’ll be publishing an interview that we’ve done with a woman entrepreneur from Manitoba. We’re excited to share her story, her business and her journey along the way!
Our first ‘Women of Manitoba’ interview is with Judy Cheetham and Sherry Valentin,
co-owners of Gravity Lingerie.
Tell us about your business, what do you do?
Judy: Gravity Lingerie is a European influenced lingerie store that’s located in an AWESOME neighbourhood at Stafford and Grosvenor in Winnipeg. We fit women in the perfect bra for their shape, offer beautiful lingerie including silk wear, cotton, sleepwear and we even have something for the guys.
Why are you in business? What led you to do what you now do?
Sherry: We are in business because we feel that every woman deserves to feel beautiful just for themselves – that’s why we do what we do and what we strive to do.
Judy: For us, it was that we felt we could do something different and that’s what got the ball rolling. We felt we could bring something different to the city.
Did you always want to go into business and be your own boss?
Judy: No, neither of us did. This was a midlife jump that we took and haven’t looked back since. Our initial priorities were our families but once we had raised our children, they’re self-sufficient now, we were able to start talking about this. Sherry and I were looking for something at the same time to fulfill ourselves.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Sherry: We have satisfying moments all the time, every day. We get satisfaction when we see our clients’ faces after they leave their fitting because it changes them. It changes how they look in their clothes and how their clothes fit. We feel personal satisfaction when our clients come back because they have had such a good time with us in the past. It’s even better when they come back with their friends!
What has been the most challenging part of owning and running a business so far?
Sherry: Anticipating the products to carry so that we ensure that our clients’ needs are fulfilled. This is always going to be a challenge because we have to make sure that we keep things fresh and new and the market is always changing. We started out much differently than we are now. Everyone was telling us though “you should carry this, you should carry that” so we took their advice, went to market and thought “wow, this is what everyone is asking for!”
Judy: Our clients’ needs are always changing too, they’re always asking for something different.
What is something you wish you knew before going into business that you’ve since learned from experience?
Sherry: To not take things personally.
Judy: We’ve felt a little attacked at some points and we should’ve just buckled up. Don’t take things personally because you’ll get through it.
Sherry: Yes, you’ll get through it and come out better in the end.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Judy: Without a doubt, for both of us, it’s our mothers. They were both single women who raised families, they were very strong women.
Sherry: And they’re still strong women. We also admire other strong women.
To what do you most attribute your success? What would you say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?
Sherry: We listen to our customers and try to give really great customer service. We go the extra mile for our customers. When someone comes in looking for a boustiere that they can’t find anywhere else, we’ll find it for them. We also deliver product to clients’ houses if they cannot get out as easily. We provide old fashioned customer service.
Judy: The key elements to starting and running a successful business are…
1) Definitely start out with a business plan. That’s where the Women’s Enterprise Centre helped us out tremendously because we had no idea what to do or how to do it.
2) Location: the location of your business has to be great.
3) Customer Service
4) Communication Skills: Sherry and I spend a lot of time together so if we’re not getting along, it’s a disaster. We also need to communicate well with our suppliers and customers.
Sherry: The fifth point is ‘Relationship Building.’ We build relationships with our suppliers and customers. This all comes back to our families though and the relationships we have with them. Our husbands are so supportive and they believed in us before we believed in ourselves. We have great kids who support us, they’re older and they support us and believe in us. We have a good family base.
Judy: They are our backbone. Gravity Lingerie just turned two years old and we recently celebrated our second birthday. For us, we just had to take the plunge but we knew that we had the support from our families.
What was the best piece of business advice you ever received?
Judy and Sherry: Patience. Be patient.
Judy: We heard this from so many people and so many business owners.
Sherry: And we’re not patient people! This has been a learning experience and a journey.
Judy: We take it one day at a time.
Sherry: And there’s so much we want to do, but we just have to be patient.
In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Judy and Sherry: Rewarding.
Judy: There are so many words, but this is very rewarding.
Sherry: When you have women hugging you every day for how you’ve made them feel and then they come back because they felt so good and sometimes they come back just for coffee, that’s a good feeling.
Judy: That’s right! We’ve had wedding showers and wedding parties here. It’s really nice to have after-hours events, and we can do it! We can do whatever we want, because it’s our store!