Image by Kalen Hayman
An exclusive series by Carolyn Grisold that profiles female entrepreneurs in Toronto
Business Name: Izzy Camilleri
Owner: Izzy Camilleri, 48
Type of Business: Fashion Design
Neighbourhood: The Junction
Address: 2955B Dundas Street West
Closest major intersection: Dundas and Keele
Hours of operation: 9am-5pm
What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
I love the independence. Being my own boss is something I appreciate every day. I love what I do. I really can’t picture doing anything else.
Have you always worked in the fashion industry?
Yes, I have been working in the fashion industry for almost 30 years — I started with Winifred Callaghan a knitwear designer working as a sample maker.
When did you decide to go out on your own?
At 19 I started my own fashion line and opened Izzy Camilleri. It was both a calling and a choice. I have never looked back.
Do you have business partners?
Why did you open shop in The Junction?
I chose to operate my business in The Junction because it’s around the corner from where I live, and I wanted to be close to my two sons, now aged 11 and 13.
How do you balance work and life?
Sometimes it is hard to balance work and personal life, but that is part of being an entrepreneur. Your work is huge part of your life; it is part of who you are. I think entrepreneurs can learn how to create balance, but again being an entrepreneur is part of who you are, so it often bleeds into all areas of your life. You can’t control it.
Are you a member of any entrepreneur support groups?
Why is it important for small business owners to take an active role in their community?
Supporting the community and local businesses is incredibly important. It’s like karma — supporting like-minded companies and organization will in turn help your business be successful.
How has your neighbourhood evolved since you started your business?
The Junction is an area that’s been getting a lot of attention lately — we have a lot of new businesses opening, including cool boutiques and restaurants. The Junction Flea Market also brings in people from all areas of the city to this neighbourhood, which is amazing for the surrounding businesses.
How do you keep up with this new attention? Has it affected any specific areas of your business?
I actually haven’t changed anything in my business as a result of the growth in the neighbourhood. I have made changes to my business when I see an area that is being underserved — for example, in 2009, I launched IZ Adaptive Collection, a revolutionary line of stylish adaptive apparel designed for men and women with physical disabilities who use a wheelchair. No other designer creates fashionable clothing specially tailored and designed for the seated body. It’s also something I am very passionate about; I get to help empower people with my designs.
Do you hire consultants to work with your business?
Yes, hiring a team of people who are experts in areas that I might not be is imperative to running a successful company. I also have an assistant, pattern drafter and sewers that are also incredibly important to my business.
Have you won any design awards?
In 2006 I won the Women’s Designer of the Year award from Style Magazine, and in 2012, I won the Judge George Ferguson Award from The March of Dimes.Images by George Pimentel for WMCFW
What kind of challenges did you face when you first started?
Well, in 1984 the internet did not exist so reaching your potential audience was a bit difficult. It was such a different time. Nowadays, having a website, opportunity for e-commerce, and social media definitely makes running a business so much easier. You can reach people all over the world — and people can find you with the click of a button! Also, I was only 19 when I first opened; I was not experienced in running a business so pretty much everything outside of designing clothing was a challenge.
What do you wish you knew when you first started out?
I wish I gave myself a bit more time before I opened my business to gain industry experience and to observe how others ran their business, so I could have learned from their mistakes and successes.
What have you learned that’s been most surprising?
That I am a good writer. I write the copy for my website, newsletters, business plans etc.
What’s next for Izzy Camilleri?
Most recently I created MIZ by Izzy Camilleri, a ready-to-wear line designed for the stylish, sophisticated and mature baby boomer woman, which debuted on the runway at World MasterCard Fashion Week on March 18th!
Carolyn Grisold is the managing editor of Women of Influence Magazine and a contributing writer to various print and online publications (Post City Magazines, Toronto.com, Gallery Magazine, Argyle Magazine). Follow Carolyn on Twitter @CityandCharm. To suggest a female entrepreneur, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.