It took a Dragon to convince Brody Hatch to disband his company.
When Hatch, ArtSci ’14, was 18 years old, he had the opportunity to sit down with Arlene Dickinson, a venture capitalist from CBC’s business reality show Dragon’s Den.
Canada is investing in youth entrepreneurship after the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment identified that youth enter the marketplace at three times the rate of entrepreneurs over 45.
Additionally, a third of Canada’s youth-owned enterprises are located in Ontario.
Hatch has been a part of that statistic since he was in his teens.
At the time, Hatch operated a company called Canuck Lacrosse that produced apparel such as t-shirts and sweatpants for the Canadian lacrosse community. He started the venture when he was just 15 years old, and had sold thousands of dollars worth of his clothing to retailers.
“[Dickinson] said basically if you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, however much money you have, you’ll never really achieve true success,” he said. “I was never really happy.” The products his company sold were cheaply made by brands such as Gilden, and he wasn’t certain they were being produced in an ethical way. After his conversation with Dickinson, he chose to disband the company.
During this time, Hatch worked out of his family home in Oshawa.
“Being so young, I was definitely on a budget. I researched silkscreening. It was an art in itself,” he said. “I researched it and made my own silkscreen press and put it in the basement.” He then used social media platforms and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to market his brand.
SEO is how he got a Scottish Company to start purchasing his clothing items.
“We have orders coming in from Scotland for university teams. Which is ironic because it’s a Canadian brand,” he said.
When he disbanded Canuck Lacrosse, he wanted to focus on his schoolwork. But it only took a few years for him to get back in business.
This Feb. 1 marked the launch of his sweatshop-free clothing business, Nude Voice Apparel. In its first month, the company has sold more than $1,000 worth of merchandise, which can be purchased online.
Brody said 10 per cent of all sales goes towards charity. The company sells two collections — one called “Raise Your Voice,” that has shirts which correspond to different social movements. The second, “Nudity,” allows a customer to choose what charity to donate to from a predetermined list.
“I really wanted something that was very transparent and that people could relate to and also know that there’s something out there that could be a part of them, that they could really embrace,” he said.
Ownership of the company is a partnership between Hatch and his younger brother. In the first day, Nude Voice made sales to places as far away as Vancouver and Texas, and has had web hits in Australia and Paris.
For Hatch, the hardest part of running a business as a student is balancing schoolwork and his entrepreneurship.
“I always keep my phone on me. If I get an idea in the middle of a class, I’ll write it down there,” he said.
In selecting the charities for Nude Voice to support, Hatch also needs to make sure that the causes’ aims don’t conflict with one another. So far, the company has four charities for customers to choose from.
Startup costs are still popping up for Hatch, such as legal costs, and money to fund the purchase of equipment to make clothes at a quality that can compete with other companies out there. He’s also had to apply for permits to sell the apparel internationally.
Hatch said the reason he started this company was because of the passion he has for selling this type of merchandise.
“I never said one day I want to be an entrepreneur, I want to run a business,” he said. “I always had a knack for it.”
For David Sinkinson and his brother, their opportunity to become entrepreneurs began on campus when they created SeQure — an app to act as a fast connection to campus security resources.
“The real trick to this entrepreneurship stuff is being persistent. You have to really be dedicated. It’s a lot of long hours,” Sinkinson, MBA ’13, and ArtSci ’11, said.
Sinkinson said that although Queen’s is a decent environment for starting up a business, it could benefit from a designated physical space for entrepreneurs to work in offices, called an incubator.
“I know there’s been some push for this in the Kingston community and here at Queen’s,” he said.
Sinkinson said that there’s currently an incubator at Innovation Park, located at Princess St. and Bath Rd. He believes that, ideally, it should be located on campus.
“There’s sometimes a lack of political will,” he said. “The AMS wants to use the space for clubs, which is fine, and Goodes has the same space issues as well.”
As someone with business experience, Sinkinson chose to collaborate with his brother, who had coding experience in order to have a team with a diverse skillset.
Although he was able to form a team with diverse skills, he feels there’s a certain disconnect between business-minded people on campus and those with more practical skills.
More collaboration between business students and other students, such as those with computer science skills, would be beneficial, he said. “There’s just a good environment here to have a lot more communication about these sorts of things,” he said. “But they just don’t happen.”
This article has been updated to reflect the following clarification: Canuck Lacrosse did not purchase American Apparel products. The brand is one that Nude Voice Apparel has come to trust. Incorrect information appeared in the Mar. 1 issue of the Journal. The Journal regrets the error.
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