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Striving for the Impossible

The Clifton Review

The Clifton Review is a tri-weekly column that examines the question of the Clifton project along with the evolution of the war between two billionaires. We covered the start of this war with articles describing the battle over easement rights, the mysterious burning of a home, the blocks to rebuilding, and countless questionable court filings.

The 2018 series salutes fashion mogul Peter Nygård’s Golden Jubilee detailing his rags to riches story and incredible business success over these past fifty years. The Clifton Review will take an inside look at how he did it.

Striving for the Impossible

By P.J. Malone

Fashion mogul Peter Nygard once said, “One thing about striving for the impossible is that you have very little competition.”

No one believes that success is easy. If it were, everyone would be experiencing lots of success in their lives. It makes sense that what it takes is going after impossible goals and committing to the efforts to make it happen.

In looking back at how Nygard achieved 50 years of business success in this series, we’ve discovered some interesting anecdotes. Hilkka Nygard, Peter Nygard’s mother, had an interesting reaction to an interview with Peter Nygard and a goal of making a million dollars. Hilkka Nygård could not imagine aiming to make such a large amount of money as one million dollars.

In a 1969 (Manitoba) Tribune Business Profile article, Peter Nygård was asked if he wanted to be a millionaire. He told the reporter that everyday, he just thought about doing a better job the next day.

The reporter, George Froehlich, insisted that Peter must be thinking of trying to make a million dollars at some point. Nygard acquiesced and said, “Yes, I suppose.” The reporter had his headline. “Young EXEC shooting for millionaire status”.

Despite the fact that Nygård was pressured to answer that question, Hilkka was embarrassed when the article came out. Hilkka thought her son aspiring to be a millionaire was an impossible and overly optimistic dream. She ‘couldn’t imagine what he was thinking to say such a thing’.

The article opened with, “Peter Nygard hopes to be a millionaire by the time he is 30. And anyone who knows the 28-year-old women’s fashion executive would have to say his chances are pretty good.”

The reporter was right. In 1968 when Nygard took over Jacob Fashions Ltd., it had 100 employees and was doing 800 thousand a year in sales. Two years later, Nygård had more than doubled the sales.

Ten years in, by the age of thirty-six, Nygård had already expanded into the United States. He had 700 employees and was making twenty-five million dollars in sales. He then set his sights on a goal of making 100 million in sales by 1987.

By 1985, not only had Nygård reached 100 million in sales; he had surpassed it. He had made 140 million in sales and had 1500 employees and became Canada’s largest apparel company. In 1993, he was up to 200 million in sales.

At Nygård’s 35 Anniversary mark, he had exceeded 500 million in sales, and in 2007, the sales total was 850 million dollars with twelve thousand employees.

Hilkka Nygård needed not fear her son reaching for the impossible goal of one million dollars by the age of thirty. She and Peter’s father Eeli had built the very foundation within their son that made such a goal possible. And given all of the positive values they instilled in him, he remained humble and grateful for all he has ever achieved.

In the “Sunday Life” section of the Winnipeg Free Press in a 1993 article, Peter Nygård was asked the question, “Are you surprised by your success?” He responded with the following:

Yeah, that’s a question that goes through my mind many times. How is it that it happens to some people and not to other people, and what’s the difference? Where are those crossroads? What’s that little extra that you do? What’s the break in life you get? When I walk through my business and the places that I have, I say, my God, are you ever a lucky guy. Am I ever lucky that I was born in Finland instead of Estonia, that I was born on the right side of the Iron Curtain, and that I was lucky enough to come to Canada, the land of opportunity, and to be able to put all my energy to work and be repaid and rewarded for it. To come from being a poor boy of nothing to this, it’s a constant reminder. It’s shocking.

So what did he do to make it all happen? We’ll examine that next.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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