"Follow Your Heart. The Key to Success is doing something you love"
Gravitypope is an independently owned boutique with an excellent reputation for having a unique mix of men's and women's fashion and lifestyle products, currently stocking over 250 footwear, clothing, jewelry, accessory, and apothecary collections from Europe, Japan, and the Americas. All products are carefully selected with a focus on brand, fine detail, quality, and craftsmanship. Over the past two decades, gravitypope has become a footwear institution.
Each gravitypope store is stunningly unique and tastefully decorated with original furniture and fixtures. Both gravitypope and gravitypope tailored goods offer a unique and exciting shopping experience that compare in selection, aesthetic and service to the very best shops in the world.
We asked Louise Dirks, CEO of gravitypope, some questions about her Edmonton Made business. Here's what she had to say:
When did you start your business and why?
I have always loved fashion and enjoyed working retail. While studying clothing and textiles at U of A, I became involved in an import shop and traveled to Morocco, Mexico, Guatemala, India, and Nepal to buy artisanal products. I loved buying, importing, merchandising, and selling these artisanal goods. This led to importing footwear and eventually to opening the first gravitypope boutique in 1990.
Why did you start your business in Edmonton?
I grew up on a farm in Northern Alberta and moved to Edmonton after high school. Edmonton has been home since then. It was close to my family and where I started my own family. My husband also started his business in Edmonton. In a time when importing was not the norm, gravitypope led the way in bringing new and exciting footwear and clothing brands into the market. The interest and demand was positive and gravitypope grew in response to the demand, opening a second location in Calgary in 2000, a third location in Vancouver in 2004, two clothing stores in 2007 (Edmonton and Vancouver), a micro department store with both footwear, clothing and accessories in Toronto in 2012, and the same in Calgary in 2015.
What was your biggest challenge in the early days of your business?
When I first started, I managed all aspects of the business in addition to buying and selling product. I handled accounts payable, payroll, shipping, receiving, customs clearance, lease negotiations, and anything else that came across my path. There were many challenges and struggles including long hours, financial worries, staffing, lease negotiations, competition, and a steady flow of unexpected setbacks.
What is your biggest challenge today?
Today, although I have a larger management team, the challenges have not changed a lot and have only grown with the size of the business. The difference is that, over the years, I have learned to better manage challenges.
Do you have a support network? What does that look like?
Gravitypope currently employs 175 people. All employees are key to the success of gravitypope. I am proud to have built an excellent team of core employees, many whom have helped grow the company since the early years.
Angela Brown, COO, has been with gravitypope since 1998. She has been integral in all aspects of growth and structure of gravitypope as we are today.
Jody Kirk, Recruiting, Operations and District Manager, has been with gravitypope since 1995. She has moved to every city where we opened a store to manage, build a team, and set up systems. Jody is an integral part our team and her input is invaluable.
Brelyn Shannon, Operations and Visual Merchandising Manager, has been with gravitypope since 2005. She has worked alongside Jody and Angela to aid in all aspects of merchandising, staffing, training, sales, and operations.
Natalie Tersigni, Sales and Service Manager, has been with gravitypope since 2006. Her excellent sales and communication skills aid in building and retaining a loyal client base and sales growth.
Luc Dirks-Fafard, Sales and Service Manager, has been with gravitypope since 2001. He has worked all aspects of retail within gravitypope and his excellent sales and communication skills aid in building and retaining a loyal client base and sales growth.
Meigan Quan, Purchasing and Merchandise Director, has been with gravitypope since 2010. She oversees a team of Merchandise Buyers and Assistants, builds budgets and manages product.
Jon Berg, Marketing Manager & Special Projects, has been with gravitypope since 2005. Jon has greatly aided in building our web store to what it is today and manages all marketing programs.
Ramona Litwinowich, District Manager, has been with gravitypope since 2007. Ramona oversees all Edmonton and Calgary retail store locations and management.
Christopher Duggan, Shipping and Inventory Control Manager, has been with gravitypope since 2007. He instigates and ensures efficient and speedy movement of inventory both internally and from suppliers.
Are there any particular resources (local programs, blogs, webinars, video series, forums, books, etc.) you used to help scale/develop your business that you'd recommend to small businesses?
We are always looking to use new technology to better organize and communicate as the company grows. We have found Lynda.com to be helpful in aiding better practices and communication. Smartsheets has tremendously helped to organize all aspects of the business with more efficient communication processes between all internal departments.
Is there a piece of advice you would like to pass on to other Edmonton Made businesses?
Follow your heart. The key to success is doing something you love. Be prepared for many challenges and to work long days. Growing a business is extremely challenging and requires attention all day every day.
Is there an Edmonton Made business you're cheering on?
I cheer on all Edmonton Made businesses because I want to see Edmonton grow and prosper. Edmonton business right now is exciting with new restaurants and shops opening. There is a renewed energy in the air with an up-and-coming generation of millennials trying new things. I try to frequent local restaurants and shops as much as possible to support our city. This will help all of us to succeed and grow Edmonton. I especially cheer on Blackbyrd Myoozik because my husband owns it.
At your size, do you still feel your business is "Edmonton Made"? In what way?
I definitely feel gravitypope is still Edmonton Made. A part of our head office is situated in Vancouver; however, our main office, which houses finance and a large portion of the administration and buying team, is in Edmonton. Along with our clothing and footwear stores, our e-commerce business is also located in Edmonton. And, of course, I live here.
Anything else you would like to share about your Edmonton Made story?
A key element to gravitypope's success is our unique approach to business. We have grown organically, often choosing a path less followed, not only with unique product selection but in our company structure. Gravitypope strives to empower employees. This helps employees grow and develop in their roles, and in turn, the company grows. Gravitypope is proud to employ strong and smart individuals who want to make a difference. They are knowledgeable and well-versed on products, policies, and company values. And employees are truly the heart of the company.