In the apparel industry, where quality is often overlooked in favour of lower production costs and fast trends, Westwood Leather Co in Nanaimo, B.C. stands out with items that are both beautiful and durable. Driven by an interest in slow fashion, owner and leatherworker Olivia D’Alessandro turned her passion for leather into a business in 2021.

“My background in fashion design and special interest in slow fashion led me to seek out new hobbies that I could do with hand tools, alone and on the go,” Olivia shares. “During the three years I spent travelling North America with my partner, I was able to develop my leatherworking skills and turn my casual hobby into a growing business. Westwood Leather Co is a one-woman show – I do every step of the process with my own two hands.”

With Export Navigator’s support, 30% of the company’s sales now stem from clients outside of Canada, providing a foundation for Olivia to plan further business expansion.

International distribution can be frightening

As Olivia landed and fulfilled her first international orders, she discovered the complex web of international shipping.

“I was fortunate enough to have a few international orders under my belt already when I joined Export Navigator, but every time I dropped off a package, I was just hoping for the best,” Olivia says. “Figuring out shipping information, delivery terms, as well as tax and duty specifics on a global scale can be daunting.”

Attracted to Olivia’s thoughtful design and quality construction, Westwood’s customer base grew within B.C. and then across Canada. Just when it was time for international expansion, Olivia was approached by Export Navigator’s Brady Calancie. Olivia was keen for Brady’s support as an export advisor to help her navigate international markets.

“Being approached by my export advisor, Brady, to join the Export Navigator program felt serendipitous,” Olivia shares. “At that time, I had just expressed to my partner that I was feeling uncertain about whether I was fulfilling international orders correctly.”

Entering international markets with confidence

With the support of her dedicated export advisor, Olivia has gained the know-how to send orders worldwide with confidence. However, Brady’s support went far beyond solving shipping challenges.

“Brady has not only helped me navigate specifics related to shipping but has also helped me with other areas of business and linked me to valuable resources in my community,” Olivia notes.

Today, exports reflect approximately 30% of Westwood Leather Co’s sales. Olivia plans to leverage the knowledge and resources gained through Export Navigator to push her international business growth and expand her team.

“I highly recommend Export Navigator to anyone looking to grow their business,” Olivia says. “Having the support of a knowledgeable advisor has been extremely valuable when trying to balance the creative with the business side of the company. Whether it’s to tackle a specific challenge or to simply bounce off ideas. I advise prospective business owners to dive in and try to extract all the insights they can from their export advisor and the awesome resources they provide. And it’s free. Why the heck wouldn’t you join?”


Brady Calancie