Emma May, founder of the Canadian women’s fashion line SophieGrace, is working to redefine the options available for women in work attire. Focused on comfort, simplicity, and versatility, SophieGrace aims to offer women a different set of choices for office wear.

Emma May
Emma May

Gender and Business Ownership in Canadian Fashion

Two of Canada’s successful fashion brands targeting women, Lululemon and Aritzia, were founded by men. Emma May, a Calgary-based entrepreneur, has observed this gender discrepancy in ownership and aims to address it with her brand, SophieGrace.

Diverse Career Background

Emma May has an extensive background in various industries. She initially worked as a lawyer and later served as an aide to Alberta premier Jim Prentice. In 2020, she ventured into the fashion industry by launching SophieGrace, a line that targets women looking for office-appropriate attire.


Launch Amidst a Pandemic

SophieGrace came into existence just weeks before the global COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this timing, May remained undeterred. “Thirty-two boxes showed up on my driveway on Feb. 23, 2020,” she said. The initial challenges did not deter her; instead, she adapted her business strategy to the changing environment.

Addressing the Complexity of Women’s Work Attire

SophieGrace aims to simplify the decision-making process that women face when choosing work attire. The brand offers a mix-and-match range of jackets, pants, shirts, and dresses that can be coordinated easily. May noted that current fashion choices often cater to younger demographics, which limits options for women who need professional attire that helps them be taken seriously in their roles.

Financing Challenges

Financing the venture has presented some challenges. Emma May took out a $140,000 line of credit to place her first product order in January 2020. May has found that conversations with potential investors, primarily men, often falter. Despite these challenges, the brand has seen steady revenue growth. May remains focused on her business, stating, “This is no hobby. We are doubling revenue every year.”

Projections and Expectations

SophieGrace has ambitious goals, with plans to double its revenue year-over-year. “I’m in the middle of a million-dollar financial raise,” May said. She expects the brand to generate $4 million in sales this year and double that figure next year.

The Gender Gap in Fashion Entrepreneurship

SophieGrace aims to fill a perceived gap in the women’s fashion market for versatile, comfortable, and professional work attire. Despite initial challenges and the ongoing hurdles in securing financial backing, the brand is poised for growth. Emma May is part of a growing trend of women entrepreneurs who seek to create solutions within industries traditionally dominated by men.