Alicia Vianga – Canadian Small Business Woman of the Month of September 2013

Alicia Vianga

Alicia is a big-hearted entrepreneur who combines her expertise in trend forecasting, bra fitting, and fashion knowledge to give women in Toronto an authentic and educational shopping experience.

Before starting her journey into entrepreneurship and advocating for women who have battled breast cancer, Alicia spent over 19 years in hospitality.  As a catering and sales specialist in the industry she had the opportunity to work for esteemed organizations such as the University of Toronto, Colony Hotel, Hotel Plaza II, and the Marriott Hotel Bloor Yorkville. While she attributes her business savvy to her experiences in the hospitality industry, Alicia knew she was meant to start her own business and fill a niche many women didn’t know existed. This led Alicia to found Premier Jour Lingerie and Swimwear, a boutique that provides its customers with unique lingerie and swimwear as well as certified bra fittings.

Since starting her business Alicia has been sought out for her expert bra fitting skills and knowledge. From befuddled husbands shopping for a loved one, to the readers of her blog for the Huffington Post and Revive Magazine, people are hungry for her specialist opinions. One of Alicia’s biggest and most interactive audiences has been held at Dundas Square where she gave a bra fitting workshop for over 1,000 women.

Alicia and her company Premier Jour have been featured as a pre and post breast augmentation bra fitter on Hollywood’s 10 Best This Week, Entertainment Tonight Canada, CFRB 1010, Rogers Day Time TV, Weddingbells Magazine, Toronto Star, Slice TV’s Plastic Makes Perfect, LOVE INC, Jeanne Beker Post News, SNAP Magazines, and Avenue Magazine. Premier Jour was also voted the Best of the Best Readers Choice Lingerie Boutique in 2012.

Alicia strongly believes in giving back to the community. She is an active board member of the Corso Italia BIA, whose goal is to preserve and promote the beautiful neighbourhood of St. Clair West in Toronto. Alicia also supports non-profit events such as The Jeanne Lottie Pink Bedroom Party, and Covenant House-Celebrate Mom.

Alicia, in conjunction with Premier Jour, was asked to review the official Bra Fitting Guide for a major hospital chain in Toronto. Through this affiliation with the Hospital, Alicia identified a major gap in the health care system; there is no program that provides necessities for women who have battled breast cancer who are financially strained. It was this realization that encouraged Alicia to found After Breast Cancer, a charity aimed at ensuring survivors of breast cancer lacking financial means have access to necessities such as bras and/or prosthesis. Alicia understands that when women move from breast cancer patient to breast cancer survivor, the world is a different place for them.  Obtaining properly fitted prosthesis and bras enables survivors to begin their journey to regain their self confidence and restore their feeling of being whole again.

After Breast Cancer was launched on October 14, 2012 during Breast Cancer Awareness Month at a Toronto Argos Game. The charity has been featured in Toronto Is Awesome, OMNI Television’s Culture Avenue, Samaritan Magazine, Girls of T.O, Urban Moms, CP24 Breakfast, and Global News’ Susan Hay Making a Difference segment.

Along with founding After Breast Cancer, Alicia is also the creator of Bras for Congo, a charitable organization that accepts donated bras which are then given to women in the Congo. Each year, Alicia accepts hundreds of bra donations from the public to distribute to hospitals in the Congo.

Alicia is a socially responsible, passionate, and determined business woman and she lives her life trying to make a difference…one bra at a time.

 

 

Q & A with Alicia

 

*What inspires you?
*As a small business owner, what achievements make you most proud?

As a small business owner, I am most proud of seeing the smiles, and sometimes tears of happiness from my clients face.

As the owner of Premier Jour Lingerie and Swimwear and a Certified Bra Fitter; I know that a bra is not just a item of clothing. The right bra gives a woman hope, it could make her feel whole again, it could make a mother feel alive and renew after nursing her child/ children, it’s a foundation to a woman’s beautiful posture, it’s give a new job seeker confidence and allow her to sit and stand tall. A good bra, give woman relieve from back pain and nick pain.

I am very proud of my charity “After Breast Cancer” because this program changes women’s lives.  It gives them hope. It provides resources that contribute to woman’s Quality of Life (QOL) due to breast cancer. We provide women with no insurance and limited financial resources with bras, camisole and breast prosthesis at no cost to them after breast removal surgery (mastectomy).

Women undergoing breast cancer treatment face many “out of pocket” expenses and the cost of breast cancer to the individual has been well documented.

Through the work of After Breast Cancer, we are beginning to address the aftermath of the devastating blow that breast cancer continues to deliver to our mothers, sisters, friends and their families. We are just beginning to scratch the surface in terms of the support services required to give survivors the whole and meaningful life that they fought so hard to live for.

Our Goal at After Breast Cancer is to help eliminate as much stress from women’s lives as they goes through the healing process of breast cancer, we want our friends/ sisters/ mother to focus on getting well and not worrying about as my survivor friends once said to me… “I just want to feel whole again”
*What advice would you give to other aspiring small business owners?

Do something that you love and most importantly, always give back, because the more you give the more you will receive.  Be kind and loving.

Owing your business could be very rewarding, and it gives you a sense of accomplishment. But having a business takes lots of hard work, sometimes sleepless nights, because you are the accountant, the marketing director and window washer.  Be mindful if you have a family, and don’t ignore them to get rich.  Most of my older mentors tell me that’s their biggest regret.

And most importantly, don’t forget to smile; smile when you are on the phone and smile when you see a new or old client.
*What new things can we look forward to from your business in the upcoming year?

This year, we hope to launch our on line shopping for Premier Jour, we get lots of request from our clients who already know their bra or swimwear sizes and they just want to shop on line.

We look forward to continue building great relationships with the community and our clients.

we are excited at Premier Jour as our “Bras for the Congo” program is growing and this year we hope to ship 2500 bras to women in the Congo, the rape capital of the world.

And we so look forward to the growth of “After Breast Cancer” as we launch our program in two more cities within Canada

 

Contact Alicia at:

 http://pjlingerie.com

Facebook.com/afterbreastcancer
Twitter.com/ABC_program_

 

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