Norah Holloway: Finding her roots in design on Haida Gwaii

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Norah Holloway. (Photo: Terry Lam)

This is the third installment of the 'Made on Haida Gwaii' feature series, by writer April Diamond Dutheil. Each week we showcase the story of a talented young person who calls Haida Gwaii home. In this vast country, our major urban centres tend to soak up most of the attention. This collection of success stories, about young people living on these beautiful but remote islands off the Pacific coast, aims to disrupt the dominant myths of what it means to grow up in Canada's North.

"It's a whole different world when you become a business owner," says entrepreneur Norah Holloway, 24, founder of Norah Holloway Interiors. Launched in 2009, the growth of Norah's design venture is among her greatest accomplishments.

Bringing function and beauty together, Norah offers expertise during each stage of the interior design process. Norah enjoys the opportunities she has had, including providing proposals to landmark projects and working with her clients.

She is impressive at her craft: Norah can draft an entire house plan in under eight hours. Always moving forward, her most recent projects include blogging about design trends and remodeling a Montessori daycare.

Coming into business ownership has been a transformational experience for Norah, both professionally and personally. Developing a new sense of confidence, "I've learned how to carry myself differently," she says.

Reconnecting to her Haida heritage, Norah first moved to Haida Gwaii as child, in grade five. "I moved around a lot," says Norah "but the islands felt like home - it was a nice small community and I made a lot of connections to the islands." Returning to the islands exposed her to "unlimited forms of native art and culture," she says. Haida Gwaii is where Norah discovered her roots in design.

From a young age, Norah realized her interest and talent for design. "When I was younger I was constantly re-arranging furniture and choosing paint colours - I wanted to do it professionally," she says. Nurturing her talent, Norah enrolled in the two-year Interior Design Program at Vancouver Island University. Regarded as a highly competitive program, Norah was identified as one of the top applicants out of a total of 80 entrants. 

"Not until I was in the field did things make sense," she says. Straight out of college, Norah started working for a design and drafting firm. Although she learned a lot, she was unsatisfied, "I wasn't doing the type of work that I wanted to."

Forced to re-examine her worth, Norah set out to start her own firm. "It's important to know your personal worth," says Norah. "This is part of the reason why I became an entrepreneur."

Launching her business has not been without its challenges. "At the start there was no one who I could ask business questions to," she explains. "There's often a cost behind getting support, there are hurdles that go along with the first phase of launching."

Now past the start-up phase, Norah continues to strengthen her clientele and the presence of her brand. Working with clients is her favorite part of the job, "I love giving clients options on how to make the most of their home," says Norah.

Hardwired for growth and personal evolution, Norah envisions growing her venture to include an on-staff design team and a side company which offers construction services.

Clearly enjoying her journey, Norah is confident with where she's going: "there are endless possibilities of where you can put your talent - interior design is a very in-depth industry."


April Diamond Dutheil is a social advocate, entrepreneur, scholar and researcher of northern and Arctic issues, one of Canada's Top 20 Under Twenty and a recipient of the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies' Northern Resident Research Award. April is committed to strengthening knowledge and understanding of the social issues facing Canada's North.

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