Patricia Gallagher is an Elite+ Mompreneur member based out of Saint John, New Brunswick, and is the VP of Marketing for Strong & Free™. The Strong & Free™ Emblem was created from leaves in Patricia’s backyard to provide proud Canadians with a way of showing their national pride. It began with a plaque for the home and has expanded into a wide variety of quality Made in Canada apparel and souvenir products. Strong & Free™ is a registered trademark, licensed to Canadian manufacturers who sell it wholesale and online all over North America. We are thrilled to share Patricia’s Success Story!
What is your “WHY” behind your business/being an entrepreneur?
Having spent many years in corporations, I had always wanted to have more control over my day to day lifestyle and really be my own boss. Starting my entrepreneurial journey via a home and decor store really helped me fall in love with everything retail! When we launched the Strong and Free brand and it began to take on an amazing life of its own, we knew it was time to focus on that full time. The brand landed in Canadian Tire, Zellers, Sears and on and on. Focusing full time on brand sales has catapulted us into boutiques and Duty Free locations from coast to coast. I think the journey of the brand and my role into entrepreneurship really exemplifies the idea that if you put it out to the universe, great things can happen.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
Fundamentally it was a desire to spend our life doing what we love and on our own terms. We had the passion, the product, the fearless nature and a load of tenacity.
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
Everyday is Friday! We love what we are doing and never dread Monday!
Describe people and/or experiences that have been instrumental to you along your journey to entrepreneurship – what impact did they have on you, and how did they help you get to where you are in your business today?
Working with a partner has been key — I would say it has been the power of 2 that has been instrumental in our success. We are both very competent but very different people in our skill sets which are very complimentary, and this has made us quite a dynamic duo. My partner Denise is a strong business woman with several years of experience in management, and my experience in HR helped hone my ability to develop and maintain long term relationships, which is key in marketing and sales.
What values do you believe in and live by, and how do they shine through when it comes to your role as a business owner?
There are a lot of ups and downs when you’re an entrepreneur, but you can’t stay down long, you have to pick yourself up and take another step forward. We like to have lots of “irons in the fire”, so any flames that go out are not as much of an impact because there is always something else burning! We also believe there is enough for everyone — don’t limit your best practice sharing or experiences; use them to help others along the way!
What are you most proud of when it comes to your business/being an entrepreneur?
In 2010 we drove the Strong & Free RV from the Atlantic to Pacific to cheer on Team Canada for the Vancouver Olympics, and were followed by Canadians across the country on CBC radio. It was a very ambitious undertaking, but also the trip of a lifetime, one we are very proud of to this day. Occasionally we have a brief moment of reflection and say wow, look at everything we have done (there are literally thousands of Strong & Free items sold and making their way around the world)… it’s impressive by any standard, but we like to remain humble – after all, we are Canadians!
What does the future look like for you and your business?
Canada 150 back in 2017 was a huge boost for us; we drove the Strong & Free RV to Ottawa for the celebrations and had a banner sales year. With more focus on marketing and sales since then, we are now in Duty Free shops all across Canada with more to come online in 2019. We are looking for more opportunities to partner with other Canadian companies who have products that would benefit from leveraging our trademark. Together we are stronger ! #buycanadian #wearcanadaproud
Any tips for other women thinking of starting a business?
First of all, I always tell people it can take ten years to be an overnight success so prepare for the long haul. Find the right model that works for you, have a strong partner who supports and shares your passion and always have a plan “B”- that way it will reduce the stress if you have something to fall back on.