Laura-Jean Bernhardson founded Fresh Collective in 2003. Her background is in neither fashion nor business – she simply followed her heart and did what she loved.
Looking back however, it all makes sense. She was entrepreneurial even as a child, coming up with schemes to make money including a comic book library run out of her neighbour’s shed. (It went out of business in a few weeks when to avoid fines, kids didn’t return the comics.)
A more successful business venture involved making jewellery in high school. She sold to friends and through a local hair salon. Her first sales rep was her best friend Kim who got free jewellery in exchange for taking orders from the servers at her restaurant job.
A self-taught seamstress, Laura-Jean made clothes and sold them to her friends in high school. However growing up in Saskatoon, a career in fashion design didn’t seem a practical choice. She ended up going to Concordia University for a Bachelor of Fine Arts program with a major in Photography, graduating in 1992.
Arriving in Toronto shortly after graduation, she started working on a career path returning to what she loved and what came naturally – making things and selling them.
In 1994, her fashion design business specializing in sweaters, Fresh Baked Goods, was born and registered as a business. Laura-Jean was dubbed Toronto’s Knitting Queen, from there she decided she was a fashion entrepreneur and started down the road of learning about business by trial and error!
Fresh Baked Goods has morphed into Fresh Collective's in-house line, Palette by Laura-Jean which is co-designed by Laura-Jean and Jane Haselgrove. Samples are made in the basement studio below the Beaches location of Fresh Collective, and the line is produced in a small local factory.
Laura-Jean also runs another business that is out to change the world – Rowanwood Daycare. She joined its founder, Annie Chan as a business partner in 2009 after her son was one of the first kids at the daycare. Laura-Jean fell in love with Annie’s vision of childcare; one with an emphasis on curiosity, creativity, fostering a love of learning and imagination.
After over two decades learning the ropes of entrepreneurship, Laura-Jean's latest venture is as a Business Coach. Here she helps other women create the businesses of their dreams through one-on-one coaching and services like bookkeeping and financial management for entrepreneurs.