Women in Charge

Founder of Trouvaille, Britt Barkwell, on leaving high-end fashion for entrepreneurship and motherhood

Britt Barkwell

Finding the perfect outfit or decor to reflect one’s own style sensibility can be difficult as is, add to that a busy schedule of a working professional or mother and the time to do so becomes limited, if not non-existent.

Written by Holly Walker

While working for eight years as the resident editor of Holt Renfrew’s first-ever digital magazines, Holts Muse and Holts Men, Britt Barkwell spent time travelling the globe from Paris to Milan, where she managed the digital platforms, attended shows with the design team and ultimately learned how to spot emerging trends and brands. However, when Barkwell was back at home on maternity leave, she found the biggest gap in the in the market, and an opportunity for a Canadian-focused company.

While on leave from Holt, Barkwell found herself inundated with messages from time-starved, style-conscious friends seeking her help to find and curate outfits for them for events they had to attend. The idea behind Trouvaille was born after she realized many women needed an easier, more efficient way to shop. Barkwell took a leap of entrepreneurial faith in May 2018 and left her position at Holt Renfrew, launching Trouvaille only months later in August.

French for “a lucky find,” Trouvaille, is a bespoke digital platform that offers on-the-go women a solution to their style and time woes through curated collections of fashion and decor catered to their preferences and price points. Users simply fill out a quiz on their style preferences and receive a list of suggested items to buy, accompanied with styling options. The website also offers weekly editorial content so customers can find style inspiration, as well as curated shops based on a themes such as florals that includes everything from home decor and fashion to beauty products.

Here she shares some insights.

Trouvaille’s holiday pop-up runs until Dec. 21, at Toronto’s Commerce Court 

Why was being a Canadian-focused retailer important to you?
Part of my job at Holt Renfrew was to partner with digital influencers on different platforms and I noticed that we were reaching out to American platforms and influencers. There wasn’t many in Canada, which seemed like a missed opportunity. There are services similar to our style customization service in the U.S, but there was no one catering to the Canadian market and bringing that next level of customization. We try to feature Canadian brands, and brands that ship to Canada with relatively little duties and fees. In the few months since launching we’ve worked with CHANEL and are working on larger partnerships with them in terms of coverage, so I think there’s really an appetite as a platform in the Canadian market.

How do you navigate running your own company and being a mom?That is definitely an ongoing thing. I did go back to Holt for about six months after maternity leave before I ultimately left to start Trouvaille. The nice thing is having flexibility in terms of my schedule. I can work around things, I can take calls while I’m doing other stuff but it is a constant juggle. You learn to be very efficient with your time and every minute counts. Whatever you’re doing, you have to ask yourself if it is worth your time,  because your time is your most precious commodity.

What has been the biggest challenge or learning curve since starting Trouvaille?
We are still relatively new so there’s challenges everyday.  I’ve never run a business so a big thing for me was the learning curve of the different aspects of a business. From the different revenue streams and trying to identify what works, you learn how to be proactive and to be able to pivot.  At Holt, our goal was to drive the bottom line, drive traffic and sell products. But now that this is what I do for a living, I’m so much more aware of what we need to be doing. As an editor you’re always very particular. At Holt I had a team of six and I was able to let things go and delegate, but that’s a work in progress for me right now. Learning to delegate is important, but since Trouvaille is my brand and my baby, it’s difficult. That’s something I’m working on constantly.

What style advice do you have for new moms?
A lot of the customers that we’ve been working with are new moms. What they struggle with, and that I am as well, is that your body changes and you need to learn how to dress your body again. We recommend not worrying about the size. Find pieces that might not be exactly what you used to wear but that you can wear now that makes you look and feel good. When women don’t feel like their wardrobe reflects their style, or they don’t feel confident in their clothes, that isn’t a good feeling. We are trying to help women easily, effectively, and cost efficiently. Whatever their budget is we can find things, whether it’s a $500 budget or a $5,000 budget.