March | Catherine Braconnier
Meet Catherine Braconnier aka “Cat”
Avid cyclist, equestrian, animal lover, mixologist, designer, art director, entrepreneur, artist and creator of her newest ceramic collection, EQUUS.
With Women’s Day coming up, we decided to feature this dynamic young woman who exemplifies strength, perseverance and creativity.
Cat grew up in Sorel-Tracy and is a graduate from the Interior Design program at the International Academy of Fashion and Design, here in Montreal. Shortly after graduating, she began her career at Céragrès, initially in sales and then in showroom management. Over time, she created her own brand of world-renowned products in partnership with CIOT named MUDtile. Her collection graces well-known buildings throughout North America and beyond. Aside from designing, she also carefully curates all of the elements of a project from initiation to completion. She often collaborates with companies that request her critical eye and creative flair for their product branding. Needless to say, she’s one of a kind.
Fast forward to an evening at the stable visiting her horse, where she was inspired to create yet another ceramic collection which she named EQUUS. Clean, sleek and beautiful. It quickly went international and is selling in Europe and North America.
Like many of us this past year, Cat suffered a tremendous loss. Her adored mother Nicole, her number one fan and biggest inspiration who had Alzheimer’s. Without thinking twice about it, Catherine put her life on hold to care for her mother who sadly passed away in the fall.
We asked Cat what inspires her, she said; “My mother’s smile, her strength and positive attitude even in her most vulnerable state. I am extremely fortunate that she recognized me as her daughter right up until the end. Being a caregiver has definitely changed and inspired me to be more grateful. It gave me a new perspective on how just a simple smile to a stranger can make their day.” She adds, “I visited my mom daily and spent lots of time with her. I noticed that not all women in her situation had that privilege, so I would often pull a few chairs into my mom’s room and invite “my new ladies” to watch TV, play cards and listen to their stories. These were simple acts but nothing else ever made me feel this good. No fancy trip, no designer handbag; just giving time to someone who needs it.”
What has she learned about herself this past year?
“I probably should have learned this a long time ago…but this year, I finally learned to stand up for myself, and to ask the uncomfortable questions when something doesn’t feel right or honest. I also learned the importance of connecting my mind, body and soul. I’ve become obsessed with pilates! I’ve been doing it online daily with MTL Pilates and it’s a sure bet you’ll find me at their studio the second gyms are allowed to open up again! It’s helped me cope with my anxiety…of which there’s been plenty, lately. I highly recommend it for anyone, especially during these tough times.”
What advice can she provide to the women who are part of our JETELOVE tribe reading this right now and who want to take a leap of faith and follow their dreams but are hesitant?
“It’s always better to have an “oopsy” than a “what if?. My best advice? Take action on your dream, so it becomes a goal. Start by simply putting it down on paper, whatever it might be. I also recommend talking about it to people you trust as this often fuels the dream. The positive vibes of encouragement you get from your friends can motivate you to take the first step. If you have pessimistic friends, be sure to avoid talking to them about it…stick to talking about the weather instead. Secondly, identify what you’re good at and what you suck at…then surround yourself with people that will complement your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses. Never be afraid to ask for help or say, “I don’t know”. I always make it a priority to let the people I hire know that I’m grateful for their help in accomplishing what I can’t do on my own in order to bring my vison into reality. Teamwork makes the dream work!”
How have women’s roles in the workplace changed in the past 10 years?
I’ve been working remotely for a long time, not just since the start of the Covid pandemic. I’ve always made riding and show jumping a priority and structured my business model so that I could maximize my freedom. It’s been a minute since I had to go into the office to do the 9-5 thing! I actually miss it now. But I have noticed that more and more women in all different fields of work are being heard, noticed and recognized. We are seeing woman land high profile executive jobs that used to only be left to the gents. Just think about Valérie Plante or Kamala Harris paving the way for woman to dream big.”
What has been her biggest challenge?
“Reardless of your gender, a big challenge in my industry is competitors copying my products and producing knock-offs. As an artist, it’s a feeling that is hard to express in words. I would often joke around and say, “I’m not international but my knock-offs are!” The reality is that often (and especially in commercial projects) the floor covering is one of the last items to go in, so sometimes if projects go over budget, it’s tempting to choose a tile that looks identical for half the price. For this reason, I prefer to establish relationships with architects and designers that have that respect and understanding for the creative process behind my products.”
Where does she see herself in 5 years’ time?
"Let’s touch base in 5 years…I’ll let you know then."
You can check out the Equus collection at www.catlab.ca and on certain days, you can find Catherine at Mariette Clermont being the creative guru that she is, offering her design advice, always accompanied by her gorgeous smile!
Keep leading the way and inspiring us Cat, your joie de vivre and talent are remarkable.