Williamson always had business in her blood

Looking back, Jessica Williamson (BMgt '02), owner and operator of the successful yoga/active-wear retail business, Hoopla Clothing, can't remember a time when she wasn't hooked on business.

"When I was about 13 years old, my brother and I started selling leeches for live bait," laughs Williamson. "I think I edged toward business because my dad had his own seed cleaning operation. I grew up with the entrepreneurial spirit in my home and I always knew I would have a business one day."

Williamson grew up in Pambrun, Saskatchewan, a very small town of approximately 50 people. After her high school graduation in 1998, she was offered, but later declined, a scholarship to attend the University of Regina.

"I had done some research on several universities that were not in Saskatchewan. Coming from such a small community I felt it was time to spread my wings and go where I didn't know everyone and where I would have new opportunities and meet new people," says Williamson.

Jessica Williamson has established a thriving business since graduating from the U of L.
Attracted to the University of Lethbridge because of its location, relatively smaller size and the opportunity it provided for management students to specialize in different areas, Williamson enrolled in a bachelor of management degree with a specialization in marketing. Finding a healthy balance between work and play, Williamson volunteered for events run by the Management Students' Society and participated in the Western Business Games. Working with several other students, she also won a business case competition for KPMG.

"People say that high school is supposed to be the best time of your life, but I seriously felt like university was one of the best times of my life. I always felt like the faculty and staff cared about the quality of education they were providing and about me as an individual," remembers Williamson. "Taking so many different classes opened my eyes to things I had never heard or thought about before and allowed me to learn and grow. The University is where I took my first yoga class. In retrospect, I realize that was a pivotal point in my life."
After graduating with great distinction in 2002, Williamson moved to Calgary. She began working for Canadian Pacific Railway and continued to dabble in yoga in her spare time.

"During my time at CP Rail, I had the opportunity to do some traveling across Canada doing process improvement work. It was a great experience and on the weekends we would travel to the area attractions and it gave me a bit of a travel bug."

After five years, Williamson knew it was time for a career change, so she turned in her resignation and took a month off.

"I wanted to go on a vacation that had a purpose. I went to a yoga retreat in Costa Rica, earned my yoga alliance certificate and became a registered yoga teacher. The retreat taught me to look inside, do what is in my heart and be happy about what I was doing," says Williamson.

Following her heart, Williamson moved to her future husband's hometown of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to open Hoopla Clothing in 2007.

"I applied to the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) for funding. It was a good process to go through.

It is not just about giving you a loan; it is about making sure you have done the proper planning. Once I opened Hoopla, CYBF set me up with a mentor, local business owner, Al Norman. He helped me set some long and short-term goals and stay on track with those goals," says Williamson.

Stay on track she did. Since opening, Hoopla Clothing has surpassed the $1 million mark in sales. In 2008, Hoopla launched an online catalog, and has expanded to include seven employees.

Williamson plans to expand her business to another Saskatchewan city in 2010 and is excited to begin her next adventure in early December when she and her husband have their first child.