Young Entrepreneur: Amie Heenan

As young professionals, career changes and new directions are bound to happen. Making them and embracing them is the key to financial and personal success. Amie Heenan, Co-owner of Melmira Bra and Swimsuits made the change and now owns her craft. Her commitment and passion to servicing her clientele is paramount to her business that she runs with her three sisters in Toronto. Get know Amie Heenan.

Notable: What is your Name and age?
Amie Heenan: My name is Amie Heenan, and I am 32 years old.

Notable: What is the name of the company you work for and what industry is it in?
Amie Heenan:
Melmira Bra and Swimsuits is owned and operated by four sisters, including myself.

Technically retail but primarily service. Personal and professional fittings are the source of our brand value and competitive advantage.

Notable: Elevator Pitch (we just met on an elevator, we have 30 seconds together in the elevator, please describe your business):
Amie Heenan:
Have you ever worn an uncomfortable bra or felt awkward in a swimsuit? Our business wardrobes women from the inside out. Our fitting consultants combine fashion, figure and lifestyle to build wardrobes, consequently developing long term relationships with our customers. We work in a spa-like environment, giving each customer time for herself.

Notable: Why did you get involved in your industry, why this one, what was the inspiration?
Amie Heenan:
We inherited an entrepreneurial spirit and the lingerie business has been in my family for many generations. With original ambitions in the medical field, I completed a degree in neuroscience, taught and travelled abroad, and pursued a post-graduate degree in Naturopathy. However, similar to my three sisters, all pursuing different careers, I soon redirected myself into the family business that I knew so well.

I discovered that maintaining the integrity of an established company, while continually adjusting to meet the evolving demands of the market, proved both incredibly challenging and very rewarding. Maintaining a competitive edge in availability and pricing, while exceeding expectations from our customers is our number one priority. Adapting to new generational needs, social media and other marketing tools, and keeping current with business decisions are amongst the many dynamic challenges my partners and I face every day. Confronting and solving these very challenges inspire me to move forward.

Ultimately, my true inspiration comes from my customers. Every woman is their own worst critic, and witnessing the positive impact that a well fitted, flattering, and lifestyle appropriate bra or swimsuit can have on a customer is my definitive reward.

Notable: What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis?
Amie Heenan:
My favourite responsibility is in the fitting room. There are many ‘hats‘ to wear in order to keep your doors open. While the business side is exciting and dynamic, I know each customer provides us the opportunity to excel our business.

Notable: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Amie Heenan:
Time management has been most challenging for me. I have learned to delegate tasks in order to grow. Other staff on our team grows from the same delegation and it is a win-win accomplishment.

We are a very service-oriented business and consequently, our energy is focused on our staff and customers. As a result, our online presence lagged as a priority. We have often been asked, for example, if we sell online (which we didn’t). Because we brand ourselves on the importance of personal fittings we ignored the internet possibilities. We have now learned, adapted and endorsed social media to connect and grow with customers in a different way. With our user-friendly website, we are selling a few items online (without compromising our philosophy), and have a Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter page to boot! Can you tell we’re very proud of ourselves?! I guess that’s a good start, right?

Notable: Where do you see yourself going in 5 years?
Amie Heenan: In our single destination, we have fourteen fitting rooms and apart from four owners and a general manager, we have twenty-five women on staff. Our company grows every year, and we realize that satisfying our every customer is our best endorsement, and our key to success. The natural step (and often advice from others) is to expand our business. We are very careful, however, as we feel the business thrives when the owners have a presence on the floor. Multiplying does not necessarily increase profits, and timing is very important. We are currently focusing on growing our infrastructure, though in five years we would like to see ourselves expanding.

Notable: Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Amie Heenan:
As young professionals, we aspire and mentor those who have succeeded before us. Experience has taught me that there really is no easy way to get ahead. That being said, the recipe is very simple; find a niche, believe in what you do, and the harder you work, the more rewards you will reap. Fear of failure is a great motivator and success rarely happens overnight; it is revealed slowly through hard work, careful decisions, and nurturing.

Notable: What is your greatest asset as it relates to business?
Amie Heenan:
My greatest asset, through experience, is learning not to “prejudge” anyone. That only limits one’s own potential at building quality and sustainable relationships over time. Regardless of who I am working with, I focus my energy into understanding a customer’s needs from their perspective. Finding common ground with both my staff and my customers, is a very valuable tool in business.

Notable: What does success look like to you?
Amie Heenan:
To me, success is to begin one’s day feeling inspired and motivated, and to finish one’s day feeling accomplished and satisfied.

Notable: What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Amie Heenan:
Prior to merging our lingerie and swimwear boutiques, and working with my sisters, I owned and managed the swimwear boutique for three years. The business was much smaller than it is today and I made mistakes, learned valuable lessons and built my work ethic; a milestone that pays dividends today.

Notable: Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Amie Heenan:
We certainly support our community, and the many schools and fundraisers that occur throughout the year, and believe that to be our responsibility. Apart from our neighbourhood, our cause is breast cancer. At Melmira, we cater to all pre and post surgical needs. We have all been affected in some way by breast cancer. Our boutique offers a selection of lingerie, swimwear and breast forms for our mastectomy customers, and our seamstress enables us to work with garments that most reflect their needs and desires. At Melmira each customer is made to feel not only normal but very special, and breast cancer survivors are no exception. In support of our many customers, we are actively involved in the movement against breast cancer.

Notable: What is Notable to you?
Amie Heenan:
I believe life to be cyclical. As I feel fortunate to be asked to share my story, I realize that all those reading this have their own. Listening and learning from others and understanding different perspectives are incredibly important to me, as I believe they offer me the opportunity to further my own journey.