Fashion Grad First Woman in Business Hall of Fame
October 17, 2008
Dona, 46, is the founder of Optionelle, a business she launched more than 25 years ago. At first, she sold mostly lingerie and then expanded into stylish, everyday wear and career wear for women. The company currently posts annual sales of more than $10 million.
Optionelle has about 250 home-based consultants working across Canada selling directly to customers through home parties, private consultations and corporate sales. The company is currently expanding operations into Europe, first to Britain and Germany and then Holland.
Dona first learned about home-sale parties during a work term while she was at Fanshawe. After graduation, she worked for an apparel manufacturer during the day and sold jewellery at home parties in the evening. After about a year, when she was ready to go into her own clothing business, she started from her parents' basement with her own lingerie designs. The business was initially called Underlines Inc. She soon added employees to cut and sew and after that moved into the Pacific Court business complex off Clarke Side Road and then to the current head office location on Industrial Road.
During the 1990s, the business reinvented itself, shifting from lingerie to casual and career wear. Canadian designer Tonia DeBellis was hired to exclusively design the collection each season.
Dona has a continuing relationship with Fanshawe College. She employs students during school work terms and has hired graduates, including designers who work for Optionelle in design development.
"My time at Fanshawe College enabled me to start my business and really was a launch pad for my current business," Dona said.
In 2006, Dona ranked 36th in the Profit Top 100 Business women in Canada, the only London businesswoman to make the list that year.