For anyone who has followed by blog and online career over the years, you may remember my online shop, The Chic Canuck, that was dedicated to showcasing and selling great, up-and-coming Canadian brands. We weren’t about selling anything involving lumberjack plaid or pictures of beavers; no, we wanted to show that buying and supporting Canadian companies and brands could be just as chic as any other major country. What I learned while running The Chic Canuck was that getting this message across was no easy feat but it’s one that I (obviously) still believe we all need to help spread further, one by one. Of course, while always on the lookout for the next “Chic Canuck Approved” brand (especially while regularly scouring the market for the best new local brands as Flare’s Toronto Localist), I came across Province of Canada: a laid-back Toronto-based brand that managed to capture the essence of Canadiana cool in a minimalist and, well, chic way that I loved. Dedicating your brand to truly being Made in Canada is both challenging and expensive which is why I have so much respect for the brands who really commit to it, and never waiver. As a big fan of the brand, the products, the quality and the design, I’m so excited to share a look into the entrepreneurial world of Julie and Jeremy who are the co-founders of Province of Canada. Keep reading to learn more about them and what they do!
Business Name: Province of Canada
Name & Title: Co-Founders, Julie Brown and Jeremy Watt
Age: 34 & 36
Education: Graphic Design
Edit Seven: Tell us about your brand, what do you do?
Province of Canada: We champion made in Canada manufacturing by creating modern lifestyle products for your closet and your couch. We like to say that we’re ‘the Made in Canada lifestyle brand’ because all our products are designed and produced in Canada. Another thing we’ve been saying these days is, ‘It doesn’t have to look Canadian to be Canadian’, which is a manifesto and the jumping off point for our design process.
E7: How did you start your business? What inspired you to start?
POC: It’s a bit of a Canadian graphic designer love story. When we met and connected the designer dots, we always knew we would create something together. Over time, because of our passion for retail, that ‘something’ became a brand. The inspiration behind the concept of Province of Canada developed over time. Our exposure to made in Canada and well-made home and apparel products shaped the goal of our brand. That goal is to design and manufacture every product we create in Canada.
E7: Why do you love what you do?
POC: As designers, Province of Canada has focused our creative energy. It’s a world for us to create in and allows us concentrate on our vision. That vision – the pursuit of developing life lasting, made in Canada products. That’s what gets us up in the morning and keeps us up at night (in a good way).
E7: What makes your business special?
POC: It may sound super chill and basic, but we take a lot of pride in caring. We care a lot about our products, customer service and, really, our approach to everything we do. We might have the blinders on a bit, but we feel that Province of Canada has a higher purpose; a purpose routed in our 100% made in Canada products. We believe that the brand we’re trying to build every day needs to exist in Canada.
E7: What makes your products special?
POC: Other than designing and producing every product in Canada, what makes our products unique is the design we filter them through. What may look like a simple crewneck sweater may actually be an homage to our two official languages. What may look like a simple print may actually be commentary on other “Canadian” brands over-using Canadian stereotypes. 95% of the time we’re trying to create product stories that no one else is telling.
E7: What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from running your business?
POC: Running a business takes up all your energy and time. You have to 100% love what you’re doing or it won’t work. If you 100% love what you’re doing and have the patience to see it through, you might just ‘make it’.
E7: What have been some of the pros and cons of building your business in Toronto?
POC: The world has become a much smaller place. More and more, we feel as though we could run Province of Canada from anywhere in Canada. With that said, working out of Toronto has more pros than cons. There’s a rhythm and cadence to the pace of life here (which is a con some days) that forces you to keep working and challenges you to push yourself – and your business – further. The startup culture is growing and the business-building community is strong here.
E7: What have been some of the pros and cons of building your business in Canada?
POC: With Canada in our name, it would be wrong of us to mention any cons. The main pro is simple: We’re fortunate to work and create in such a great country.
E7: Province of Canada is committed to ensuring your products are 100% Made in Canada. How easy or difficult is that been to achieve and maintain?
POC: It’s difficult on multiple layers. Timelines, cost, design limitations. When most people around you are going offshore and offering a cheaper product, it can get frustrating; however, with four years under our belts, we’ve got a good flow going when it comes to Canadian manufacturing. As difficult as it is, it gets easier every day.
E7: Have you found it to be more challenging or less challenging to stay committed to producing everything in Canada as your brand has grown?
POC: As we grow, certain aspects of the manufacturing in Canada have become easier. We have great relationships with our manufacturers and we owe them a ton of thanks. Despite this, the limitations of producing everything in Canada creates many design hurdles. We have burning passions to produce certain products, but sometimes, it just can’t be done locally.
E7: What is your #1 piece of advice to keep in mind when starting your own business?
POC: Are you in it for the long haul? Is this the business you want to hang your hat on? Unless you know that the business you’re wanting to start is a short-term project, you have to think long-term. Is this the thing, product, business, or idea that I’m willing to sacrifice my retirement for? Ask yourself the forever questions.
E7: Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting your business?
POC: Not really. We knew what we were getting into. You could always benefit from a crystal ball, but that’s part of the ride with entrepreneurship. If you knew everything, you wouldn’t take the plunge.
E7: What is a challenge you’d tell future entrepreneurs in the clothing business to prepare for?
POC: The tools are out there for anyone and their dog (literally), to start a ‘clothing business’. In the future, it’s only going to get easier. Focus on the things that you believe will set you apart, or you’ll be ignored.
E7: What advice would you give to smaller clothing brands that are looking to grow their business?
POC: I think the best advice goes back to caring. If you care, things will snowball.
E7: Are there any new products or plans for Province of Canada that you can share with us?
POC: We’re always exploring and doing R&D for new products. In 2018, we’ll be launching new home products, framable prints, a French Terry hoodie, a surfboard (yeah), and our first button down shirt. Other than that, we’ll be expanding off of our classics.
E7: How do you stay organized, balanced and motivated?
POC: We do yoga. Just kidding. We just had a kid and have thrown balance and organization out the window for now. Organized chaos mixed with hard work is how we keep going. Motivation comes from the desire to build and create something we’re proud of.
E7: Who are some of your mentors/role models?
POC: Our parents who didn’t have anything but gave us everything. After them comes anyone who’s built a lifestyle brand from the ground up. Pre-jail Martha Stewart if you need a name.
E7: Do you have a daily or regular ritual you practice that you love?
POC: Lattes. Trying to turn that into working out, but it ain’t working out.
E7: Where do you go or what do you do to look for inspiration?
POC: We try to spend our time looking into Canadian themes that no one else is exploring. There’s no such thing as an original idea, but we try to dig deep and find those simple concepts that haven’t been tackled yet. Those kind of ideas surface from daily team conversations and everyday experiences.
E7: Who is the Province of Canada client and where can your products be purchased?
POC: We try our best to be approachable. We even call our customers, ‘citizens’. Every Canadian, honourary, Canadian, and aspiring Canadian is a friend of the brand.
All of our products can be purchase at provinceofcanada.com
(Story by Editor-in-Chief, Gracie Carroll)