Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sascha Lafleur, co-founder of West of Main, located in Ottawa, ON, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

West of Main consists of our award-winning full-service interior design firm, West of Main Design, and our online and brick-and-mortar store, West of Main Shoppe, where we offer high-quality, curated furniture and decor. We also offer virtual design and decor services to help our customers and clients create their dream spaces with convenience.

Our design firm and shoppe are greatly inspired by the artisans, textures, and natural materials found around the world, which gives all that we do a collected and traveled feel.

Our customers are people who appreciate quality craftsmanship and are drawn to an organic and layered design style. They are seeking investment pieces and designs that will stand the test of time and can blend well with their existing treasures and lifestyle.

Tell us about yourself

Having grown up in a family of creatives and artisans (woodworkers, home builders, fashion designers), I've always naturally felt drawn to the beautiful world of interior design. I took a drafting class in high school and loved designing my childhood bedrooms.

I graduated with a general degree in mass communications, then moved to Montreal for design school, which was a very inspiring place to be. After graduating, I worked at a few design firms early in my career to gain some experience and learn about the industry. I was grateful to work with some truly talented people – one woman specifically. She was so business savvy and a major hustler. She taught me a lot about the ins and outs of running a business.

While I was traveling, I met my husband, Justin. Our interests collided, and our work, travel, and life experiences complemented each other. I've always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic for beautiful things. I had this vision for starting my own design firm. And Justin, while still very creative, is more risk-averse and a realist. We felt that our qualities could pair well to start up what is now West of Main. We believed that together we could create something unique from other firms. Not just from a design perspective but in how we chose to invest in our team.

We started the design firm from our home in 2015 and worked hard to find the right people to bring on board at this stage of the business. We needed people who were passionate and cared deeply about their craft – from designers to contractors to builders. As we began to take on projects, our team quickly realized we simply couldn't access the style and quality of products we wanted to use in our designs. That's when we decided to open West of Main Shoppe! Opening a retail store allowed us to source products that were aligned with our aesthetic and standards and also shared our favorite pieces with customers. We found the perfect spot in Ottawa, where we still are today, to remodel into a boutique showroom and office space.

Cue COVID-19. We were fortunate in that we were already putting the pieces together to launch our e-commerce site before the pandemic hit. Our online shoppe has definitely helped drive our success.

What motivates me? I love design. Truly. And I will say, learning what it takes to be an entrepreneur is a lot easier when you're doing what you really love. I'm excited every day to work on our projects and what we offer through our shoppe. It's also very rewarding to collaborate and see all the hard work our team has put forth come together.

Collaborating is very rewarding. Seeing all the work come together. Watching your baby thrive outweighs the cons and frustrations. It's important to enjoy your life. You need to learn how to take time and care for yourself in this life so that you can continue to enjoy what you're doing.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Building the team that we are today and finding people who also have enthusiasm for their craft to help us evolve and execute our vision. Because you're never going to be able to do it on your own. And by team, I mean our internal team but also our trusted builders, millwork contractors, painters – all of the people we collaborate with. We've built a trusted network we're proud of and enjoy working with.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

This is specific to my situation, but I work with my husband, and that comes with its challenges at times! Financial and operations management aren't the sexiest parts of the business. But things like forecasting, cash flow management, people management, and creating key processes are foundational elements of running a successful business. I've learned a lot from Justin about these core areas of the company, and we've made mistakes along the way but learned from them.

Your worst experiences create your guidelines and mold your processes. For example, a difficult client experience will teach us the things that we want to include in standard contracts moving forward.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Find people that care because you can't do it alone. If you want to scale your business, you need to find people that you can trust and share the revenue with. Outsource things. Don't be afraid to share the wealth that comes with growing.
  2. Keep scalability in mind in everything you're doing. Think: what am I doing, how do I create a process for it, and how do I teach it.
  3. Be willing to adapt to the times and constantly reflect on what is and isn't working anymore. Collect data as you go to help you understand the impact of your decisions and changes.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Be kind to yourself throughout the process. Make sure you're taking care of yourself so that you're still finding joy in your work. Don't be afraid to be wrong or to change your mind and stop holding on to things – let go of the ego!

Where can people find you and your business?





If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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