Laura-Jean Bernhardson founded Fresh Collective in 2003. Her background is in neither fashion nor business – she simply followed her heart and did what she loved.
Looking back however, it all makes sense. She was entrepreneurial even as a child, coming up with schemes to make money including a comic book library run out of her neighbour’s shed. (It went out of business in a few weeks when to avoid fines, kids didn’t return the comics.)
A more successful business venture involved making jewellery in high school. She sold to friends and through a local hair salon. Her first sales rep was her best friend Kim who got free jewellery in exchange for taking orders from the servers at her restaurant job.
A self-taught seamstress, Laura-Jean made clothes and sold them to her friends in high school. However growing up in Saskatoon, a career in fashion design didn’t seem a practical choice. She ended up going to Concordia University for a Bachelor of Fine Arts program with a major in Photography, graduating in 1992.
Arriving in Toronto shortly after graduation, she started working on a career path returning to what she loved and what came naturally – making things and selling them.
In 1994, her fashion design business specializing in sweaters, Fresh Baked Goods, was born and registered as a business. Laura-Jean was dubbed Toronto’s Knitting Queen, from there she decided she was a fashion entrepreneur and started down the road of learning about business by trial and error!
With the Fresh Baked Goods line now retired, Laura-Jean has her focus set on creating Fresh Collective as a scalable business model that can grow globally. By creating a solid and innovative retail framework for connecting local designers with customers, Laura-Jean and her team see themselves revolutionizing the fashion industry; creating an easier entry point for independent designers and the support they need to succeed and grow, while providing customers with awesome products and a connected and fun shopping experience.
Laura-Jean also runs another business that is out to change the world – Rowanwood Daycare. She joined its founder, Annie Chan as a business partner in 2009 after her son was one of the first kids at the daycare. Laura-Jean fell in love with Annie’s vision of childcare; one with an emphasis on curiosity, creativity, fostering a love of learning and imagination. Together, they are also working on a scalable business to bring The Rowanwood Way to as many families as share their ideals.
Laura-Jean is a dreamer and a doer. She is a passionate and emotional entrepreneur, approaching her businesses and life as an art, a cause and a movement bigger than herself. In her spare time she works on growing her reading and leadership club for kids, Bookworms, and hangs out with her son Dexter, her awesome musician and producer husband Steve Singh, and their two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Stuart and Jefferson. They live in a big old house in Toronto’s west end.