WEST CARLETON – Wedding dress entrepreneur Justina McCaffrey is seeking something blue for her quest to Parliament Hill.
The Kanata resident and business owner is seeking the Conservative Party of Canada nomination for Kanata-Carleton Riding. She sat down with West Carleton Online at Alice’s Village Café on Friday, Aug. 10 to discuss her experience and her platform if she successfully wins the nomination.
McCaffrey made her career in the garment industry and opened Justina McCaffrey au Couture in 1996 in the heart of Ottawa’s haute couture neighbourhood – Sussex and Clarence. McCaffrey became a well-know wedding dress designer making one of a kind pieces in the $4,000 range. Her dresses sold all over the world with 95 per cent of her work being exported to U.S. markets.
“We were so efficient and had such good quality, we got calls all the time from New York looking for our product,” McCaffrey said. “It’s what I’m most proud of.”
The businesswoman grew up in Winnipeg during a time of Conservative strength. She remembers attending the leadership convention in 1983 when Brian Mulroney defeated Joe Clark for the leadership of the party.
“It was exciting and high energy and I was right in the middle of that,” McCaffrey said. “I got involved in a delegate role. Brian had that showmanship. It was kind of cool to be a part of all that.”
Mulroney went on to win back-to-back majority governments in 1984 and 1988.
The Conservative membership drive closed Aug. 9 and a nomination meeting is expected in four to six weeks. McCaffrey says she is spending that time meeting the riding, listening to their concerns and sharing her qualifications.
“Problem-solving is what I really enjoyed in my time in business,” she said. “I want to take those skills and help make the community better.”
McCaffrey feels she would like to transfer her success in creating an internationally desired brand for her dresses to successfully branding Canadian culture and making it attractive to the world.
McCaffrey said she promoted her brand and her product as clean, classic and white and was able to turn that success in to being named popular TV show Say Yes to the Dress’ Number One dress in the $4,000 price point.
“I would like to see Canada robust in that way,” she said. “Growing our culture and monetizing it.”
Locally, McCaffrey says the West Carleton area is already on its way. Canadians are renowned for their beer to a point it is perceived as a cultural strength, making Canadian micro-breweries such as Carp’s Ridgerock Brewery an attractive product. The local farm products in the area are growing popular outside of its own community.
Kanata North, the tech capital of Canada, is also enjoying that prestige to some point.
“We’re good at helping them start up, and maybe getting them to the $10 million point,” McCaffrey said. “But why can’t we get them to the $100 million point? We’re experiencing a lot of brain drain in Kanata with big American companies recruiting. If we can grow our own companies, we can keep that talent.”
McCaffrey says in the agriculture industry, she’s hearing a lot of discontent with the dairy system.
“A farmer wants to farm, and they don’t want to be overly involved with logistics,” she said.
McCaffrey says she learned a lot just by listening to local agricultural leaders and it changed her opinion.
“Many of the farmers actually like the board,” she said. “I thought they were more libertarian. But why can’t we work together to hire a ‘sales representative?’ Pay them 10 per cent and create a better working environment.”
For more on Justina McCaffrey, click here.