Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Elise Goncalves, Owner of Marca Elise, located in Montreal, QC, CA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Marca Elise was created to accentuate and celebrate diversity and personal expression while honoring the delicate process of slow, sustainable fashion through crochet and handmade pieces. My designs and colors are inspired by all that makes me happy in life, from our beautiful earth to the elegant silhouettes of vintage fashion, to the lively colors of the 70s and 80s. My pieces are meant to be romantic and elegant, making those in them feel beautiful and like they are wearing something that is more than just a piece of clothing.

My customers must know that each piece they order was handmade, with love, out of natural, repurposed, or recycled materials. The consequences of fast fashion are becoming increasingly concerning, and it is important to shop sustainably whenever possible to help look after our planet and those living on it.

Tell us about yourself

As a 21-year-old self-taught designer, I have always been drawn to the opportunity for self-expression through fashion and design. I was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. Growing up, I rarely felt I could find clothing that made me feel like myself. I have always believed that fashion is about more than just a specific article of clothing - it's an experience that can provoke very joyful feelings. Although fashion intrigued me, I followed a more traditional path studying science up until university. During my second year at McGill University, earning my B.S. in Psychology, I started making more of my own clothing. I didn't have a sewing machine, and I could not crochet yet, so I stuck to simple pieces for myself. I quickly noticed people taking an interest in my original pieces. Soon after, I started seriously contemplating starting a business. In my fourth year, I took a minor in entrepreneurship, learned how to crochet, got a sewing machine, and soon after, in the last semester of my undergrad, I slowly began launching my brand.

I'm still figuring everything out, but every day I get more and more excited about being an entrepreneur and following my passion. It is a massive learning experience that is full of hard work but also so much joy.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I am very early in my journey as a business owner, so right now, I would say that my biggest accomplishment has been getting over my fear of the unknown and just starting. Growing up, I always had this idea in my head of ending up in a more traditional, steady career. When I realized that working in fashion as an entrepreneur was what I really wanted, it was difficult to give up the idea of a more steady job for something quite uncertain. It has been very freeing to let go of expectations and follow my passion, no matter how much fear comes with that.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

One thing I have found to be the most difficult as a small business owner is handling the logistics of running a business. For example, figuring out international shipping can be quite intimidating! Honestly, when I made the jump and decided just to start, I had no idea what I was doing. I still don't know what I'm doing all the time, but that is just part of being an entrepreneur - you learn as you go. It can be scary at times, but I think it is a great way to learn what works for you and your business.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Don't be afraid of failing. Failure doesn't mean that you can't do it; it's just an opportunity to see what isn't working and what you need to do next to get closer to success. Starting and growing a business is a process. You should try to see every setback as a valuable lesson to move forward.
  2. Be flexible. Things won't always work out exactly how you expect them to, and you will likely face many surprises. Try to remain flexible in your thinking towards running your business and be open to pivoting, making changes, and taking advantage of any opportunity, no matter how unexpected.
  3. Accept that starting and running a business is hard work. Being your boss does not mean you can always be on vacation. If you want to run a business, you need to put in countless hours of hard work. However, don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Just start the business. Stop listening to that voice in your head that is telling you that you'll fail or that there's no point in trying. If you don't try, you'll always regret not giving it a shot. Take the leap!

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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