Oksana Ringsma is the co-founder and president of Nicole Bach, and along with founders Jasmine Janowski and John Chao, she is revolutionising custom suiting for women. But for Ringsma, Nicole Bach isn’t just a business—she sees it as a barrier-free platform for women to look and feel their best, as well as a space to discuss gender equality.
We had the opportunity to chat with Ringsma about what she’s learned on her journey so far, and the one quality she feels is necessary to succeed as an entrepreneur.
From Bra-fitting To Feminism 101
An early start in the lingerie industry proved the catalyst to Ringsma’s entrepreneurial savvy. At age 16, she began working at La Senza, where she found herself educating women twice her age on the merits of a proper bra fit. It also gave her an intimate window onto how much women struggle to navigate the clothing industry from within the literal, and figurative, confines of a changing room. But not only did she gain a deep understanding of other women’s body and clothing issues, she identifies with them firsthand, “I know what it feels like to get emotional in a changeroom because nothing fits.”
For Ringsma, women are a constant source of inspiration. From university courses in feminism and women’s rights history to gaining motivation from women peers who cultivate their own brands and businesses, Ringsma is proud to call herself a feminist and passionate about working with women, “Since my business is solely focused on women, I’ve had the privilege to connect and collaborate with them in a very positive way.”
And so from up-close-and-personal experiences in retail, Nicole Bach was born.
Bespoke Suiting, Tailored Service
If bespoke suiting is a niche industry, then bespoke suiting for women is ultra-niche. While many custom suit shops exist for men, almost no one offers high-quality custom suit services for women. “We’ve flipped the concept of a made-to-measure suit shop to one that caters to women,” Ringsma says. Nicole Bach stands apart because it’s been crafted especially around Ringsma’s experiences as a woman working within the clothing industry, as well as her own experiences as a consumer, “Being a woman is a strength in this business. It’s a role that I feel should be carried out by a woman.” According to Ringsma, women can see this, and appreciate it. Pushing their specialty further still, the Nicole Bach team proudly sources quality fabrics from mills throughout Europe, designs patterns in-house, and manufactures their suits in Canada.
For better or for worse, appearances remain as important today as they always have, and even more so for women—something Ringsma is acutely aware of, “I feel the pressure of how to present myself and how to dress, because I know it has an impact on my career. Power dressing is a very real thing, and if it takes a perfectly-fitted blazer to provide a woman that extra edge, then I want to be the one to provide it. I see Nicole Bach as a service for women to look and feel their best, without all the obstacles we normally face. It’s about professional attire that promotes confidence and sets women up for success.”
The Blurred Lines of Personal and Business Finances
Asked if she considers herself financially confident, Ringsma says she does feel financially literate, since it takes a certain amount of financial confidence and know-how to become an entrepreneur, hard money lessons included. She’s quick to clarify there’s little separation between her personal and business finances. For her, the business comes first. Nicole Bach is mostly self-funded, which has had a significant impact on Ringsma’s personal life, “My personal financial goals are very much tied to the success of Nicole Bach. I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices, and have compromised in other areas to prioritize the business.” While she does have her own financial goals, she adds, “I’m not quite on track yet, but I definitely can say I regret nothing.”
When it comes to what it takes to handle the rigour of starting a business, Ringsma doesn’t hesitate to keep it real: “I have strong opinions and have never been afraid to speak my mind. Entrepreneurship is seen as a glamourous lifestyle choice that people seek for freedom and money, but starting a business is lonely, stressful, emotional, and a whole other range of things that are far from glamourous. It’s been the most amount of stress I’ve ever experienced—it tests your limits in every way.”
These days, there’s no shortage of advice on how to make it as an entrepreneur—Ringsma’s trajectory proves there’s no one tried and true way. She does, however, insist on one personality trait: “Grit. A lot of grit.”