Anna Jackowska tears up just thinking about these words. The 35-year-old boutique owner knows all about failure and how it feels. If you’d asked her five years ago what the future had in store, Anna would never have dreamed that today she’d be a successful entrepreneur bravely facing her fears and building a new life in Canada.
Anna came to Canada for love. She had been quite content to stay in her hometown in Poland, until the day she met her husband and everything changed. He talked passionately about one day seeing Canada, where he had family. He and Anna started to travel together. They eventually attended university in England and decided one day to see if the real Canada lived up to the pictures. With their return tickets in hand, Anna and her husband stepped off the plane in Toronto. It was love at first sight and they wanted desperately to stay, but it wasn’t so easy at first. With no place to stay, little money and no papers, they faced a difficult beginning, living in cheap hotels on the outskirts of the city and surviving on food from the local Dollarama. It would have been the easy way out to leave, but they were determined.
Anna’s husband applied for as many jobs as he could and, finally, was offered an opportunity in Halifax. It was a welcome step in the direction of their dreams and they gratefully took it, even though it meant leaving beautiful Toronto. As they began to build a life in Halifax, Anna started focusing on helping immigrants in the community and working in retail. Fashion had been a passion of hers since she was young and it started her thinking…and dreaming. Here she was in this new country, surrounded by opportunities: was she going to waste it doing just any old job? She had come here for a purpose and perhaps this was her chance to find out what that was.
The couple ultimately wanted to be in Toronto, so they started looking for work and eventually her husband was offered an opportunity in the city. Anna started working for a number of different companies, gaining diverse experience and skills and discovering the retail market, how Canadian customers dress, their needs and wants. She built up her repertoire until one day she decided the time had come to start her own business. With her husbands support, Anna founded Lamania Boutique in 2013. Over the last three years, Anna has been dressing Toronto, helping her interns gain experience and providing local designers with a venue to share their collections. And it’s been one of the most fulfilling times of her life.
It’s taken Anna a lot of courage to get where she is today. When she first came to Canada, Anna decided that she wasn’t going to let fear hold her back anymore: she’d wasted too many opportunities, delayed too many dreams. Instead she decided to meet fear head-on and can say now from experience that the fear of something is far worse than the reality. Public speaking, learning English, settling in a new country – they were all things that frightened and challenged Anna, but she knows now to push through the things that scare her.
Getting over some of these fears has enabled Anna to connect with one of the most beautiful parts of her job: the people. Dressing someone is an delicate process of tapping into their personality. The clothes we wear are a part of us, layers of ourselves that say so much about who we are. At Anna’s boutique, talking with customers is almost more important than the clothing. As Anna always says: “It’s therapy”. She’s proud to be encouraging women who have worn black all their lives to embrace a splash of colour and wear their personalities on their sleeves a little more freely. She’s proud to be helping women connect with themselves and, judging by the feedback she’s received, Anna truly is changing lives.
Anna still faces struggles, of course, but she knows now that there’s no going back to living in fear. Facing her fears has helped her grow and she wouldn’t trade that growth or the beauty it’s produced in her life for anything in the world. We all feel fear, but we can work through it if we each take responsibility for our attitudes and what we do with the opportunities around us. If you really want it, there’s nothing that can stop you from achieving your dream. And yet so many of us give up as soon as an obstacle lands in our path. To that, Anna says, keep going! What if the opportunity of a lifetime is just 5 minutes down the road and you missed it because you were afraid? Your dreams are attainable if you’re willing to say ‘yes’ to the opportunities that present themselves along the way. Moving to a new country was one such step for Anna and, while she’s glad to say that Canada is her final destination, she knows her journey here is only just beginning. Where is your fearless journey taking you?
Article written by Amanda Milroy
Amanda is passionate about languages and writing and has a degree in translation and professional and technical communication. She’s honoured to be part of the SheTravels team and to help put these inspiring stories out into the world.