Cloth­ing re­tailer

NOW Magazine - Class Action - - EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS -

I did my un­der­grad in man­age­ment and eco­nomics at the Uni­ver­sity of Toronto, and then I did my MBA at U of T’s Rot­man School. My con­cen­tra­tions were in mar­ket­ing and strat­egy.

When I was around 14, I wanted to run a comic book store, and when I did my un­der­grad­u­ate work I knew I wanted to do some­thing dif­fer­ent. I knew it was go­ing to be fash­ion-re­lated and that I was go­ing to do some­thing in re­tail, but I needed a) the work ex­pe­ri­ence and b) the life ex­pe­ri­ence to get to where I am to­day.

I can­not tell you how valu­able hav­ing an MBA is. Peo­ple fo­cus on the let­ters and the school you go to, but it’s more about the ex­pe­ri­ence, the peo­ple you meet and the knowl­edge you gain in those two years. What you learn in day-to-day class ac­tiv­i­ties... it makes you think in a dif­fer­ent way be­cause you’re ex­posed to all th­ese dif­fer­ent peo­ple. That is by far the most valu­able thing you gain with an MBA.

I run two cloth­ing re­tail shops. Lost + Found has an in-house cof­fee bar, and Work­ing Ti­tle has an art and photography book­store; both are def­i­nitely think-out­side-the-box ideas. If you cre­ate a des­ti­na­tion shop and you don’t know what the walk-by traf­fic is, a cof­fee shop at­tracts the res­i­dents, who start rec­og­niz­ing that there’s cloth­ing, and word of mouth starts. Throw in the fact that you’ve started a new re­tail ex­pe­ri­ence in Toronto and that gets even more word of mouth out.

MBA school taught me to think like that: have a fo­cus and do some­thing dif­fer­ent from what’s nor­mally done in an oth­er­wise stale in­dus­try.

Go­ing to MBA school started me down the path of re­tail and fash­ion. When I was in first year, I started a cloth­ing line with two school­mates; that’s some­thing I’d wanted to do since I was 20. We had dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences and qual­i­fi­ca­tions but the same dream, so it was nice to meet th­ese peo­ple who pushed me in the di­rec­tion of fash­ion.

Peo­ple like to rush into things and start stores or la­bels. I’m telling you right now, you’ve got to gain ex­pe­ri­ence and an un­der­stand­ing of an in­dus­try be­fore you start some­thing. You can’t jump into it.

Fash­ion is so small in Toronto – and Canada – that you’re con­stantly fight­ing for brands to sell. You don’t want to step on any­body’s toes, and you want ev­ery­one to get along, but it’s com­pet­i­tive. You do make friends and you do make enemies, as sad as it is. School def­i­nitely pre­pares you for that re­al­ity. I went to school with some cut­throat peo­ple, so I’ll al­ways have that in the back of my mind: we’re in a com­fort­able po­si­tion right now, but to­mor­row could be to­tally dif­fer­ent.

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