We are thankful for the business community leaders who are committed to empowering women in our community!
Naela Safadi – Owner, Bonita Runway @bonitarunwayyyc
Naela Safadi is a self-made entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in the fashion and retail industry. She has extensive knowledge within the fashion industry working as Supervisor of Cactus Clothing representing Western Canada and opening various Femme De Carriere stores in Calgary. Her expertise ranges across multiple sectors within the retail industry including sales, buying, marketing, and consumer behaviour. Naela has been frequently featured on CTV and Breakfast Television as an expert in the fashion industry. She has been the owner and CEO of Bonita Runway Clothing for over 11 years, a high-end ladies boutique in Calgary that brings the latest fashions from around the world. She is an expert in the international market and frequently travels to Paris and New York Fashion Week. Her passion is empowering women to feel strong and beautiful (inside and out). She is a great advocate for non-profit initiatives that support the health sector, education, youth, and female empowerment. Some organizations and initiatives she has supported include the Alberta Children’s Hospital, the University of Calgary, and the Cinderella Ball Project.
What drew you to become a part of Women of Inspiration?
What drew me to become a part of Women of Inspiration is ultimately its aim to empower women and its support of youth. I believe that it is a beautiful thing to be able to connect women from all different stages of their life and career – to be able to unite, mentor, and learn from one another. I not only want to share whatever tools/lessons I have learned throughout my experiences through Women of Inspiration but also learn from the stories and experiences of others. It was also important to me to be part of something that celebrates the growth and achievements of women. A huge component of female empowerment to me is as women celebrating how far we have come and standing together in envisioning where we can go.
What is your definition of a Woman of Inspiration?
The definition of a Woman of Inspiration to me is a woman who exudes resiliency. A woman who keeps going despite facing challenges and adversities. My biggest mentors and women I look up to always have stories of overcoming personal and professional failures. I think these women have a great level of wisdom to share because they learn from these situations rather than dwell on them. I also think that a Woman of Inspiration is a woman who looks to support other women in her community. Whether this means supporting non-profits, supporting local businesses, or celebrating fellow women in the community. A Woman of Inspiration also looks for ways to make a positive impact on the growth of her community and in the support of equality for all.
Why is celebrating and elevating female role models critical?
I think that celebrating and elevating female models is so critical because it allows coming generations, both boys and girls, to have strong female role model figures to look up to. Going through my career first starting as a babysitter with limited knowledge of English when I came to Canada and even now as my daughter builds her career – women (while there are great figures) are still harder to find moving up the ladder. I think that the more we celebrate women making big impacts in their community and in control of their destinies the closer we will be in having more of these figures out there. For me growing up with a young widowed mother with nine children naturally shaped my own resiliency and even my business lessons. For many generations, women were put into a box of who they should be, where they should work, etc. Celebrating women who follow their dreams and take risks for equality further tells generations that you are in control of your destiny and there are no limits on what you can achieve. Click To Tweet
Who is your SupportHER (s) that empowers you to Dream Big?
I would say that one of my biggest SupportHER (s) are individuals who I have met through opening my boutique Bonita Runway. This includes my clients, suppliers, and others I work with who are really more like a family to me. Not only do all these individuals support me in my business, but I am lucky to be surrounded by an amazing group of women who I constantly learn from. All my Bonita family comes from different backgrounds and a lot of them in high-level positions. But what is so great is how when we come to the store we all drop the labels and simply become women, and men, who celebrate each other’s celebrations and happy moments. Through these strong role models, I have also gotten connected to initiatives and opportunities I may not have known otherwise. I learn every day from these individuals and they encourage me to try new endeavors and always learn and grow.
Also, my family is a tremendous level of support. They build me up and encourage me to take risks in my growth. When I opened Bonita Runway it was with my daughter Isra, who starting working there from a young age, we grew and learned so much together. My son Samer was the individual who encouraged me to take the risk of opening when I was fearful – he actually helped come up with the store name and sat me down to watch the movie Rocky to boost me. I also could not have had the opportunity to take these risks if not also have a very supportive partner, my husband Nader.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
The biggest accomplishments in my life that I am most proud of is having my children Samer and Isra and opening my boutique Bonita Runway. Being a mom was the greatest moment of my life. You love something/somebody in a way that words cannot describe. Having children also gave me the motivation to be the best person I can be, as I now had two individuals going into the world and I wanted them to make a great impact/have good role models to look up to. They are kind and compassionate, which is the most important thing to me.
Opening my store was a big accomplishment because it was always my dream, but I always had the fear that I could not do it on my own. Taking the leap to first open and now having the store for over eleven years teaches me to always have faith in myself first and foremost.
Share the best advice you were ever given.
The best advice that I was given was that “quitting is never an option”. This is different from “failure is not an option”. I believe that every resilient and successful person has failed at something or even failed at many things. But the difference is that we cannot get stuck in that failure and let it define us. With every hardship, we face we have to stop and then build ourselves up thinking, “what did we learn from that situation?” I try and teach this to my kids that we can be frustrated or upset, but we also have to move on to plans B/C/D… and keep going. Another great quote that a customer told me was “it will all be okay in the end and if it’s not okay it’s not the end”.