Life is a journey – not a destination. Reflecting on my life I realize all the parts coalesce to make the whole. Everything I have done has brought me to this present moment. I started my career as a model and it evolved from there. My hands were in a diverse assortment of pots working in fashion, entertainment, journalism and media. I fell in love, got married and became a wife. I had children and became a mother. There have been so many things in between. I’ve always loved fashion and engaged in charitable initiatives. My family has supported World Vision for as long as I can remember and contribute to a number of distinguished causes. Giving back is vital. Fast forward in time and I was presented with the opportunity to be a member of The Real Housewives of Toronto. I was a very private person at the time so it was a bit out of my comfort zone, but I genuinely embraced the opportunity. Even though it only aired one season the show opened new doors and really made me think, ‘what do I want to do? What are my passions?’ ‘What is the bigger picture and how I can make an impact?’ Now this is my time! I have combined fashion and philanthropy to create the Joan Kelley Walker Collection. It has been this small-town Canadian girl’s dream to see this vision come to life. Follow your heart because dreams do come true.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business?
How did the idea for your business come about?
We all have the capacity to give back in some way - big or small - and I believe it is our responsibility to contribute with creativity. My idea was to align my love for fashion with my dedication to philanthropy. I wanted to merge my passion and the JKW Collection was the perfect solution. It was fresh and new, and it worked! Now I am committed to inspiring others to do the same.
I have all women in mind when I design each piece. My goal is to make women feel good about wearing the clothes and feel good about purchasing them, knowing that with every purchase a donation is made to Breakfast Club of Canada ensuring children across Canada start their day with a nutritious meal.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
There have been countless hurdles along the way and the entire experience has been a substantial opportunity for learning and personal growth. It often feels like everything is moving at warp speed. I’ve embraced this pace because I love the industry and the work that we are doing. It’s important to take deep breaths and trust the process. I work with a team of dynamic and talented individuals who help guide me and contribute greatly to the entire process. Trusted mentors, partners and allies are essential. I’m not sure any of us know exactly what we are doing but we have a goal and we work with dedication and integrity to achieve it.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
I just finished reading “Forgiveness” by Mark Sakamoto and ‘the Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris. Both are based on true stories from the Second World War. I like learning about history; I find inspiration in the resilience of the human spirit.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I am from a super-small town in Saskatchewan and I feel like my family and friends have been concerned from the get-go about my entrepreneurial pursuits. I remember my family being worried that things might not work out. I was ready to fly away from the nest young with big dreams eager to see what I could accomplish and they didn’t want me to be disappointed. I know this concern came from a place of pure love. They were my biggest cheerleaders back then and they still are today. Their love and strength give me power to follow my dreams and I thank them for it every chance that I get. Their hesitation made me clarify what I really wanted. It pushed me to create a plan and set achievable quantifiable goals. Planning and continually reworking one’s plan are essential on the road to success. If I did it again, I don’t know that I would do anything differently. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
DETERMINATION. Just because something has never been done before does not mean you can’t do it.
Before I started, people would ask, “why would you do that?” Now they ask, “HOW did you do that?”
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I would tell my younger self to believe in her own power more. It is a valid force that we all have. We need to tap into it and harness it.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
The art of listening is indispensable and often overlooked. Listen to your intuition and listen to others.
Seek out mentors. Ask a lot of questions and listen carefully to their answers so you can translate and apply them to your own journey.