Former Brandon resident enters premium women’s hat market

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Brandon’s Brady Damsgaard (now Von Niessen) left Brandon in 2006 to move to B.C and now calls Salt Spring Island home. She is the Owner/Creator of West Von, a company that “offers a boutique collection of premium women’s hats made with 100% pure Australian wool and natural straw” which are designed in Canada.

Brady tell us where you found your Entrepreneurial spirit?

After taking Business Management in College in Vancouver, I ended up getting into sales and wasn’t really thinking about starting my own business. I really just stumbled upon it after having my daughter in 2014.

In 2015 you started your first business, Macey & Co – tell us a bit about that business and how you started it. 

I was having a hard time finding quality, modern hair bows and headwraps for my very bald baby girl when she was born. I decided to make my own (with the help of my mother in-laws sewing machine) and started to sell them online. Throughout my Maternity leave, I was able to build the business and not have to go back to my wine rep job, after my maternity leave was over. I grew the business over the course of 6 years, selling bows worldwide. The majority of the business was build through social media. I had a small team of seamstresses who sewed the bows and then I would assemble, pack and ship each order. I also had a virtual assistant who helped me online with launches, e-mails etc. It was extremely rewarding and allowed me work and still be at home with my two young children. 

You started your new business, West Von in 2020 how did you come up with that business and how did you manage running both businesses? 

Honestly, West Von started after a Saturday night online shopping with a glass of wine! I was searching for a quality, wool hat and wasn’t able to find one from a Canadian company. I figured there had to be a market here and immediately started getting to work on a new brand. After nine months of designing hats, custom boxes, samples and branding, I launched West Von at the peak of the pandemic in June 2020. The business took off right away and I was having a really hard time juggling both businesses. In August, an acquaintance of mine approached me about selling Macey + Co. It was a hard decision for me because it was something that I worked on for so long, but I knew it was time and that I wouldn’t be able to manage both businesses. I sold Macey + Co in September 2020 to pursue West Von full-time. 

You have some really amazing logos and branding plus the photos are exceptional, is this all you or did you hire a marketing company.

Everything from the website to social media, is all me! I learned so much when it came to marketing and branding over the 6 years of building my first business through social media. I had a clear vision of this brand, but I do have to give credit to my husband who helped come up with the final logo! We had a designer bring it to life after he drafted a quick drawing. In terms of the photography, I’m super fortunate to have worked with many talented photographers over the years. I collaborate with them to get the content for our social media and the website. I also receive so many images from customers and love sharing their pictures on our social media accounts. 

On your website you state that you have to be a boutique or brick and mortar store to sell your hat, I assume you don’t want people flogging your hats on Amazon.com

A lot of people want to be able to see, feel and try on the hats for themselves and because we are an online shop, that can be a bit difficult! I received a lot of wholesale inquires as soon as we launched and decided to expand that part of the business 3 months into launching. We are now in approximately 25 stores from BC to Ontario right now, with a long wait list of stores who are also wanting to carry them. Managing  online orders and wholesale orders over the past 7 months has been pretty crazy. I am slowly taking on more wholesale accounts, but hope to be in more stores over the next year. 

What would you say is the best selling feature of your hats?

I think ultimately the quality of the hats along with our sizing. Many struggle to find a quality made hat that fits well. We offer two sizes and all of our hats have a tab on the inner band to allow the hat to be tightened for the perfect fit. 

Is your husband at all involved with this or is it you working 80 hours a week?

Life is pretty crazy around here! My husband works full-time as a Captain for BC Ferries. I manage the majority of the business and we really just juggle kids, dinners, school pick ups as best we can and work together as a team. He has been extremely supportive with the whole transition of businesses and we are just learning as we go on how to manage it all.

You mentioned that CBC show Dragon’s Den emailed you about considering applying to the show. 

I was pretty surprised to receive an email from Dragon’s Den, to be honest! It wasn’t really something that I have ever seriously considered. I’m planning on applying for the upcoming season and hope to get on, so we can get help scaling and expanding the business.