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Halifax boutique owner on making it 10 years in business

Johanna Galipeau inside her shop, Sweet Pea Boutique.
Johanna Galipeau inside her shop, Sweet Pea Boutique.

An hour before her tuition was due, Johanna Galipeau told her parents she wanted to drop out of university.

It was 2007, and the 19-year-old felt that she was on the wrong path in life as her heart pulled her in a completely different direction.

Dresses.

"I think maybe it was always in my blood," Galipeau said during an interview Wednesday.

Ten years later, Galipeau is the proud owner of Sweet Pea Boutique on Queen Street, a bright and girly space that attracts customer's attentions from all over the world.

Getting ready to mark a 10th anniversary is a milestone for someone who started so young, and although running a small business can prove difficult in Halifax, Galipeau said things just came naturally for her.

Some of the major struggles have included construction in the city, and Canadian winters. But overall, so far, so good.

"Knock on wood," Galipeau laughed.

After she dropped out of her general arts university program in '07, her parents helped her work on the business plan she was dreaming of. Her vision was something that felt like a high-end shop but with affordable prices.

"Somewhere that a girl could get something special, but didn't have to break the bank," she said.

Walking around downtown checking out rent prices, she stumbled upon the space on Queen Street. Sweet Pea was born.

In a time before leggings and rompers even existed, everyone in her target market was wearing jeans. While making phone calls with different brands, she realized dresses were also scarce.

"I really broke in right before the trend hit," Galipeau added.

However, things quickly took off. You can now find dresses at Sweet Pea from Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, London, and Australia. They also carry dresses made by local designer, Katrina Tuttle, who creates and choses the 'Sweet Pea Collection.'.

Galipeau has a very strong online presence and said social media makes advertising and marketing easy. The Sweet Pea Instagram account has over 15,000 followers, and gets messages from people all over the world looking to buy.

Online shopping has proven to be difficult however, since Galipeau wants to stay true to only having a few of everything. It's a balancing act that's worth it.

"It's a nice way to get Sweet Pea across Canada, but also stay true to why I started this."

Sweet Pea will be celebrating the 10th anniversary on May 4. Galipeau has a "big shopping party" planned, which will include Instagram giveaways and big sales. As she is also turning 30, Galipeau looks forward to the next chapter.

"I just love it. I'm tired and sometimes my feet hurt, but I love the clothes and all of the people," she said.

As for how long she plans to keep going?

"As long as Halifax will have me," Galipeau smiled.

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