Growing up in a household with "Tiger"-style parenting and traditional gender roles, Vietnamese-Canadian Nicole Pham says she often heard: "you can't do that because you're a girl."
So when Pham, a new mom and university student studying biology, started thinking seriously about pursuing her dream of owning her own business, she realized it was time for her to step up and carve out her own path.
At first, her initial plan was to set up an online shop specializing in elegant, gift-able boxes of chocolate-dipped strawberries and run it like a side hustle.
Having ordered a similar product for herself, Pham was instantly taken by how beautiful - and delicious - the product was. But she also loves flowers and says the plan for her business, La Fraise Rose, "blossomed from there." Leaving her studies for the time being, Pham set about getting her business off the ground, first online and then brick-and-mortar.
Pham tweaked the initial business model a bit, expanding to include dried and preserved floral arrangements along with show-stopping boxed chocolate-dipped strawberries, and opening La Fraise Rose inside the Richmond Centre mall.
Now, just over a year later and La Fraise Rose is on the brink of its next chapter.
Pham says the Richmond boutique will close in mid-June as she prepares to open La Fraise Rose in Vancouver at 481 West 6th Ave, located in the bustling area off Cambie down the hill from City Hall and near the Cambie Street Bridge.
This new retail space will be "quite different from what we have now," notes Pham.
"When a customer steps into the store I want them to feel like they're walking into a floral Eden," says Pham, describing a space with "bubblegum pink walls" and "shiny white floors," and dried and preserved florals everywhere, alongside art pieces.
Customers can order from the counter; everything will be made fresh daily, like the chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Though the strawberries do make perfect special occasion or hostess gifts, Pham also sees the treats as being something anyone can enjoy anytime. "We don't see the product as just a gift, we want it to be for the person who wants to have a delicious chocolate snack."
Ultimately, the desire to shape her business around giving people a beautiful space in which to enjoy things like chocolate-covered strawberries and floral-infused lattes is why the next step for Pham will be to open up a La Fraise Rose café in Vancouver - once this new shop is up and running.
This busy mom and entrepreneur also knows that raising other women up is essential; that's why she makes sure to make annual contributions from La Fraise Rose's profits to support women-centred causes and organizations, like those that help victims of sexual abuse, female entrepreneurship and women's rights. Doing so is one other way Pham is countering all the gender-based stereotypes that surrounded her in childhood, too.
Customers have a little more time to visit La Fraise Rose in Richmond, and Pham says the new Vancouver shop should be open by early August.