Women in Charge

Nadège Nourian is redefining the bakery experience in Canada

Chef and owner of namesake Nadège Patisserie, Nadège Nourian, is redefining the bakery experience in Canada

Written by Alison Joutsi 

After moving to Canada from her native country, France, Nadège Nourian has faced many obstacles being both a female chef and business owner. She combined her refined pastry skills, European flare and innate business acumen to create Nadège, an inviting, magenta-hued patisserie. Nourian is a woman who believes that “the limit of a business is only the limit of the person.”

Here, she talks about building an authentic brand, and how the government can support female entrepreneurs.

On building Nadège:

A Nadège store in Toronto’s Yorkdale mall.

I started Nadège Patisserie in 2009, when I was 32 years old, with my savings and a small family loan that I’ve now paid back. I always dreamed of creating a high-end culinary brand with the highest quality of products, and a store experience different from anything else.

Designing the store’s architecture was a two-year process. I hired an architect to curate my colourful, pink-and-orange vision. Most bakeries don’t use architects. I wanted my shop to be very modern, with sleek lines, and bright, magenta-pink branding to create a unique experience for my customers as they enter every store. This design feature runs through every piece of my brand, from the bright packaging to the cakes and macaroons. When we first opened, customers didn’t know what we were selling.

Every product in my store is freshly baked, and all the ingredients are made from scratch each morning, which shocked people at the time. Brand authenticity and high-end quality product is what differentiates Nadège from other bakeries.

On the obstacles of starting a small patisserie:

When I arrived to Canada from Europe, I was completely culture-shocked.

Being a female small business owner, suppliers were not interested in working with me. They did not want to give me a chance, due to the high failure rates of small businesses. This was the same with the banks. It took three to four years until the banks would finally support me.

I had trouble finding suppliers that would sell me the top-notch ingredients that I wanted during the early stages.

On what governments can do to support female entrepreneurs:

Compared to other countries in Europe, Canada is not doing enough to help female business owners. For example, the recent minimum wage hike in Ontario and the high cost of electricity hurts small businesses. We recently had to replace all of our light bulbs in our new kitchen, costing our business thousands of dollars.

The daycare system in Canada is another issue. In France, the state funds 80% of all childcare, providing women with greater flexibility to work and have children. Whereas in Canada, the government gives women the time off – which is great – but if you are a small business owner you might not be in a position to take this time off.

Why should women feel like they have to be at a certain point in their career to have a child? Why can’t you have both?

When I had my children, we were privileged enough to pay a nanny 40-to-50 thousand dollars a year. Not everyone can afford to pay this. I also find that there is a system of guilt here in Canada that you do not find in France. Being a career mother, you experience a sense of guilt being away from your children that I have never seen before in my life. I believe the government can help alleviate this by providing more support for female entrepreneurs and business owners.