Reflecting on 20 Years: A Conversation with Our Founder, Sarah Dougall

In honour of Women's History Month, we sit down with our founder to talk about women in business Toronto.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re excited to share this exclusive interview with our fearless founder, Sarah Dougall! For over two decades, Sarah has been at the helm of our beloved brand, steering it through the winds of change with unwavering determination and a keen eye for innovation. From humble beginnings to becoming a cornerstone in the Toronto jewellery community, Sarah’s journey is one of resilience, creativity, and relentless pursuit of excellence.

As we sit down with her today, we explore her experiences, triumphs, and lessons learned along the way. Join us in celebrating the indomitable spirit of women like Sarah as she shares her invaluable insights, reflects on the ever-evolving landscape of business, and shares the secrets behind Made You Look’s enduring success. We’re honoured to be inspired, informed, and uplifted by the wisdom of a true visionary.

Welcome Sarah! Tell us a little bit about your day today.

After 22 years of running my retail store and studio (open 7 days a week) I am slowly learning how to carve out some routines and activities for myself that are not work-related. I have a special room in my house that has creamy white walls and luxurious carpet and I usually start my day by sitting in there in silence. We sold our family cottage last year, so I created this room, with a faux fire too, as an alternative to the Northern escape that I had come to depend on for stillness and peace. This space has become more restful and restorative than the cottage was and my routine ensures that I don’t get swept up by the business of the demanding world outside.

Another favorite activity of mine that helps me unwind is thrifting, something I have done since I was a teen. I am currently gathering items to sell at our sidewalk sale/street market. It is kind of like a high-end garage sale, with curated items. It is very gorilla, no goal or agenda…just pure fun! You can find us @heartmarketsale on Instagram.

What changes or insights have you seen over the years when it comes to being a woman in business?

I think Instagram has created the most significant change for women in business. When we first opened back in 2001, aside from doing trade shows or trunk shows, bricks and mortar was the only other option. Today, Instagram allows a business to “tell a story” in a way that bricks and mortar, alone, can not. This phenomenon has really impacted the brick-and-mortar landscape, Instagram allows businesses to operate without a physical location. My hope is for balance, less time in front of a screen, and more time outside enjoying our neighborhoods, which are anchored by our brick-and-mortar locations.

Many StatCan reports say that about 50% of small businesses make it past the first 5 years. What were your first 5 years in business like and what do you think made MYL able to bust through that statistic?

When I was in my late teens, I saw a bumper sticker on a car that said “Create the world that you would like to see,” it significantly impacted the way that I navigated life ever since. My approach is simple, I do things that bring me joy and see if they spark joy in others too. Through this experiment, we have created our own little world in our Parkdale shop that uplifts and inspires anyone who walks through our doors. The unique nature of our business shows people that anything is possible!

We survived beyond the 5-year mark due to my relentless nature and unwavering commitment to follow through with my vision. I’m a fake-it-til-you-make-it type of entrepreneur and that, coupled with my vision, has never let me down in the 20+ years we’ve been around. We also chose to open our shop where rent was more affordable to ride out the early years with a standing chance.

“Today I am grateful to be cloaked in a rich tapestry of experience and material to draw from and rely on as I embody the role of an elder in our community.”

Thinking about who you are as an entrepreneur today and who you were on day 1, what are the biggest differences between those two versions of you today?

My 23-year-old self did not know how hard this was going to be. Working retail 7 days a week is physically demanding, but it’s also emotionally and psychologically demanding to house a studio for artists. I also raised a Son as a single Mother during this time. “Ignorance is Bliss” might be the best way to describe my entrepreneurial self on day 1. Today I am grateful to be cloaked in a rich tapestry of experience and material to draw from and rely on as I embody the role of an elder in our community.

Looking to the future, what’s one thing you’re really excited about?

Looking forward, I am excited to take a little more time off. I am really passionate about tiny living and I enjoy doing trips where I can travel and stay in an RV. I love driving and find the road to be very relaxing and meditative. I like being in my own little bubble. When I get proper rest and adequate breaks from work I can tap into new and deeper levels of creativity and come back to work with a fresh perspective.

Out of all the jewelry you’ve seen in the 20+ years you’ve been in business, what’s one piece you absolutely adore and still can’t get enough of?

Oh my gosh! This is a fun one, but it is so hard to say. I love so many things and even if something is not my personal style, I am still very excited about the fact that someone made it and that it exists! I love anything that I have not seen before. My favorite piece of jewellery at the moment is a ring that I commissioned by my dear friend Jilian Maddin. It has an iridescent purpley-pink sapphire, bezel set. I wear it on my pointer finger and I like to direct traffic with it. 🙂 My role requires me to be a conductor, and this ring is like my baton. Tucked inside is a hand-carved kiwi bird, which connects me back to my birthplace in Auckland New Zealand. I like jewellery that contains something that only the wearer would know about.

As we draw this interview to a close, we are left inspired by Sarah’s amazing journey and the enduring legacy she has built at Made You Look. Her unwavering dedication, innovative spirit, and commitment to excellence serve as a beacon of empowerment for women in business everywhere. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us not only honor the achievements of pioneers like Sarah but also continue to champion diversity, equality, and inclusion in all aspects of entrepreneurship. We extend our deepest gratitude to Sarah for sharing her wisdom, passion, and insights, reminding us that with determination and resilience, anything is possible. Happy Women’s History Month from all of us at Made You Look!

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