Who are you? & can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi! My name is Roberta Lindal and I’m the Founder of La Petite Écolière and KONSNT. I grew up in Toronto, and have been fortunate enough to work, study and volunteer at various children’s charities in Canada, England, France, and Spain. Alongside my businesses, I work at the Ontario Science Centre, and am passionate about fitness, photography, reading, and cooking!
What exactly is La Petite Écolière?
La Petite Écolière is an apparel line that inspires a dedication. For every ten products sold, we donate school essentials and meal programs for one girl in a developing country. We source our products ethically from WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) certified factories, meaning they go through a rigorous application process to ensure working environments and workers’ rights are inspected and approved.
What inspired you to start La Petite Écolière?
I used to work at a charity who’s mission was to build Canadian entrepreneurs, and we always had significantly fewer female candidates than males, as we primarily recruited from computer science and STEM programs. The lack of representation of females in these programs is amplified once you look at the number of females at the Board and C-suite levels in Canada (and worldwide). Digging into the formal research, I found a study that shows that up until the age of 5, girls are just as confident as their male counterparts, and believe they are equally as likely to succeed in life. Once they reach the age of 6, however, girls don’t see themselves as being as intelligent or confident in their abilities.
The reason why I started an apparel company originally for girls was that since at these key young ages, girls are for whatever reason losing their confidence when ironically, statistics show that they are more intelligent and better in subjects like Math and Science than boys at their age. I thought it would be a good idea to start a T-shirt company to inspire education and to have this focus on leaning being cool, because we don’t often associate being a “nerd” or a “geek” with positive images.
And, anecdotally, this amazing boss of mine used to tell her 5-year-old daughter fairy tales, but would change the ending from, ‘… and they both lived happily ever after’ to ‘… and they both went and got their engineering degrees. It’s brilliant – and she’s right. We need to encourage girls to pick up books, not Barbies, starting at those tender ages. I hope that my company can help contribute to that conversation.
How did you come up with the name?
I speak French and Spanish, and love languages. I attended a French Immersion school, and took my Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish Language and Linguistics during undergrad, so French has been a major part of my own education. When I first started my business, I was only selling toddler and youth sizes. I wanted to incorporate my love for the French language into the company from the start, so the name La Petite Écolière, which translates to “The Little Schoolgirl/Scholar” seemed like a great way to go about incorporating my love for the French language.
You give school supplies to girls in developing counties; can you tell us about that?
Education and giving back are central to my company and its mission, and is something I wanted engrained from the start. Here in Canada, we are incredibly lucky to have not only a strong public schooling system, but a wide range of non-profit programs available for youth. For that reason, I decided I wanted my donations to impact people who are unable to go to school for reasons unimaginable to most of us here in Canada. La Petite Écolière supports Plan International Canada as they educate girls, and give them the nourishment, healthcare and protection that are their right so they can flourish and go on to improve the lives of those around them. By supporting and championing the work of charities that are elevating the educations and lives of girls, I hope to remind my customers of the great advantages we have living in a society where public education is available to all, regardless of gender. I hope to spark conversations around the work there still is to be done, especially in developing nations where barriers that can be unimaginable to some are commonplace and systematic – like violence at school, child marriage and pregnancy,
This year, I am excited to say that I am open to exploring new charities to give back to that provide education and programming for girls, and look forward to growing the company’s impact!
Is there a favorite product?
I love the She Rex collection! I hired a local illustrator, Sabina Fenn, to bring the design to life. It was inspired by my nephew, Rex, and created for all the incredible, strong and fierce women in his life.
In terms of best sellers, our We Need Education shirt is a huge hit: I think people of all ages appreciate the Pink Floyd reference and simple, bold design.
What is your favorite part about running La Petite Écolière?
I love running the Role Models blog and interviewing inspiring women to tell their stories. I’ve gotten to meet so many cool women this way, who have gone on to become friends and mentors of my own.
What is your least favorite part about running La Petite Écolière?
This answer is not so much my least favorite part of running La Petite Écolière – but pertains more to the struggles of having a full time job and running a business. It is difficult to manage my time, and give as much to my business as I possibly can. Last spring, I was saying yes to every opportunity that came my way, and business was booming! Sadly, I burnt out, and wound up in a car accident, and in the hospital for other health issues. After a six month hiatus, I am now trying to find the balance where I can make the business grow sustainably, and still find the time for self-care.
How do you spread the word about your company?
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to say no, or take time to recharge. As mentioned previously, when I first started out, I said yes to everything, and it impacted my health and personal relationships. You’re better off playing the long game and building your business (especially if it is a side hustle) sustainably than to burn out and have your work feel like a chore.
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying? 🙂
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world,” Malala Yousafzai. This speaks in a massive way to our company’s mission in terms of the impact education can have both on an individual and societal level!
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I run another company called KONSNT, which is an apparel line seeking to educate and raise awareness about sexual consent, while giving back to charities that support survivors of sexual assault. Another cause that is sadly extremely personal to me.