Nicole Rice

Top 40 Under 40 2017

Photography Colin Way

Age: 37

Job Title: Owner, Sweet {Jolie}

Why She’s Top 40: She’s turned a retail business into a body-positive movement, and helps those less fortunate along the way

Tucked behind MacEwan University, you’ll find a women’s clothing boutique called Sweet {Jolie}. The retail store opened in July, but started as an online-based company six years ago after owner Nicole Rice gave birth to her second daughter. Keeping in mind that her children were going to be looking up to her as a role model, she decided she needed to stop being so hard on herself and instead encourage moms like herself to embrace their bodies by offering an inclusive and empowering retail experience.

“We’re given this platform and it can’t just be a clothing store, it has to be more than that,” Rice says.

The boutique includes what Rice calls “the hub” just off the shop floor, a place where customers can entertain their children, connect with one another and have meaningful conversations.

“So many women come in not even to shop, but just to chat to us, and it’s a pretty huge honour because we are opening up those lines of communication,” she says.

Rice says that one of her favourite parts of the Sweet {Jolie} community is that many of her customers become friends. Nearly everyone on the intimate seven-person team was once a regular shopper who made a connection with the store. Other shoppers may find themselves being asked to model the clothing for the website, to showcase real customers (rather than models) wearing the inventory.

Sweet {Jolie} is also dedicated to giving back to the community. Rice started a fundraiser in December of 2015 with a percentage of sales going to the Women in Need (WIN) House. She now supports a different foundation, related to women and children in Edmonton, every month. In 2016 alone Sweet {Jolie} raised over $22,000 for organizations including Adopt-A-Teen and the Canadian Alopecia Areata Foundation. Rice explains that while the pace of fundraising this year has been exciting, going forward she would like to focus on only four fundraisers throughout the year. She hopes that this will allow her team to provide more substantial donations and organize time to do some hands-on volunteering with the foundations.

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