Vivian McCormick ’99 is a co-founder and owner of Flax Sleep – a Vancouver-based bedding company that offers a range of simple, beautiful French linen sheets, quilts, robes and bedding for babies, online and through pop-up stores. Vivian joined forces with two other women to start Flax Sleep in the fall of 2017 and two years on they are going strong.
More than just selling sheets, the company is committed to providing a #SafePlacetoSleep to women and children in need and donates part of their proceeds, and all returned goods, to Atira Women's Resource Society to reduce textile waste and give back to the community.
After graduating from Crofton House, Vivian headed to UBC to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce (Human Resources and Labour Relations) and then a law degree. Practicing law, first at a private firm and then in-house for the Business Development Bank of Canada, Vivian would not have described herself entrepreneurial.
But her work brought her into daily contact with business owners and what went on behind the scenes. “I just started to see more people who were trying to run businesses and the pain points that they were experiencing. A lot of times, I think especially when you're successful actually you get busier and you get less organized.”
This planted a seed and Vivian started to think about how she could help small and medium sized business owners operate more efficiently. In 2017, she started her own firm acting as an advisor to entrepreneurs and providing support in many areas including operations and strategic planning.
Soon after, Vivian’s friendship with co-founders, Anna Heyd and Oana Papuc, sparked their Flax Sleep journey. The idea was born, like many businesses, by seeing a gap in the Canadian market and trying to solve that problem. Their unique strengths and professional backgrounds began to shape their roles in the company but being friends first they “sat down and wrote out founders vows. We said these are the things that we need to take care of because this is our friendship. It's how this all started, and it should be what comes out of it at the end.”
Running a successful company is certainly not all that Vivian has on her plate. She has thrown herself full force into supporting other entrepreneurs – especially women – succeed. “One of the most amazing things is that we have really wrapped ourselves into a group of like-minded female entrepreneurs.” What started out as a group of female entrepreneurs coming together to connect socially and provide each other with support has grown. This September, their first annual Lady Business Summit “designed to provide tactical support, practical resources, and community for early stage womxn entrepreneurs” was held in Vancouver.
In addition, Vivian divides her working time between Flax Sleep and Spring Activator, an incubator and accelerator company that works to support socially driven entrepreneurship. Their mission is simple but bold – “to change the world through entrepreneurship”. In Vivian’s words she teaches entrepreneurs with “amazing ideas, ones I could never think of, to harness certain skills to be effective and to be successful”.
Vivian witnesses daily the power of connecting with other people - being able to connect, share ideas and offer support. She also recognizes that it takes hard work – a skill she thanks her time at Crofton House for. When asked what she would share with Crofton House students about her entrepreneurial journey, that topped the list! “I would share that it's hard work, but so rewarding. I work harder now than ever, even when I was in a private law practice. But it's different, it's for me and it feels like it's for a broader purpose.”
Another piece of advice she often shares with young people is the importance of gaining experience. “I tell people don't rush. Young people today are brave. They don't see anything as a barrier, which is amazing. A lot of them want to start businesses very early but there is something to say for gaining experience before you start. I had worked for a number of years before we started this business, and that experience taught me a few things - like how to really get gritty and how to just do the work and the need to grind sometimes. Working for others also really helps you figure out what you do and don't want to do when you become a boss.”
Vivian’s journey certainly showcases the power of connection – and the strength of women working together.