Every month, we are showing our support to an Entrepreneur that inspires us by spotlighting them and their brands. We want to know their successes, their struggles, how they got started and how they tackle it all.
Entrepreneur: Jesse Paradis
Brand Name: Team Issued Ltd
First, let’s talk about your business:
1. Tell us about your business, how long you’ve been building it and what you offer.
Team Issued is a clothing brand that offers a wide variety of sports and leisure apparel, headwear, and accessories. The brand was established in the Fall of 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
2. How did you come up with the concept?
The concept for Team Issued Ltd was born out of my love for team apparel. Growing up, I was an avid player and lover of sports. This led to a wardrobe full of items from teams I played on and friends I played against. As my collection grew, so did my love for team-issued gear and I decided I needed my own. I started with an order of hats that I sold to my teammates and friends. From there, with the help of all my loyal customers, I’ve grown Team Issued into not only a brand, but a community.
3. What was your mission when you started?
When I started, my mission was to provide cool apparel and headwear to my friends. Now, my focus is on building a brand that makes everyone feel as though they are
4. Do you have a personal brand, a business brand, or both? What are the benefits?
I have a business brand, built solely around the products and the customers that enjoy them. I do have
personal social media platforms, but only use them to share my personal life. Since the beginning, I’ve been a very silent owner since the beginning, keeping my identity unknown to people outside of my friends. I’ve always wanted the clothes to speak for themselves, but I do see the benefits of bringing a more personal touch to my branding. I’d like to share more of the personal side of my life, allowing me to build deeper connections with my audience.
5. An elevator pitch is a very important part of your brand strategy, how would you describe what you do in 30 seconds or less?
We are a clothing brand committed to connecting individuals from all walks of life. Everyone deserves to feel like they can be a part of a team. To feel like they are a part of something bigger, not just a brand, but a community full of all different types of people.
6. What message do you want your brand to convey, how do you want people to feel?
We want our audience to feel like when they put on that hat, or one of our sweatshirts, they feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves. That they are a part of a community that holds the same values and goals when it comes to inclusiveness and diversity.
7. What makes your business unique from others in the same industry?
The small, local feel of the brand. I handle all the customer service myself, including packing and shipping every order. When orders are local, I take it a step further, handling the deliveries personally. This allows me to meet my customers face to face.
The connections I’ve made while playing sports has also afforded me a solid base of ambassadors for my brand. They have helped propel the brand all over Canada, the US, and the World.
8. When starting your business, who was your target market and has it evolved over the years?
At the beginning, my target audience was hockey players like myself. I wanted to provide affordable, high quality, stylish gear they never wanted to take off.
My target market has definitely evolved over the years, focusing on young adults that want more than just affordable, high quality gear. They want to support brands that are doing more. That are building communities focused on supporting diversity and inclusiveness.
9. How do you communicate with your audience and how do you build credibility with them?
I mostly utilize the brand’s social media outlets to communicate with my customers. I also hand deliver 10-20% of my orders, giving me the opportunity to create deeper connections with my local customer base.
To ensure my customer’s satisfaction, I provide numerous contact options, including text, email, and direct message.
The brand’s credibility is built through word of mouth reviews and customer content on social media.
10. How do you advertise your business?
Word of mouth and Influencer Marketing are two of the biggest advertising tools we utilize. Other forms of advertising I use for Team Issued are prize donations, social media giveaways, and paid Facebook ads.
11. What would you say is the most important thing you can do to grow your business?
Create forecasts and yearly plans for new launches (in my case, collections) in order to set budgets to help achieve attainable goals. Know how many items you need to sell every year to turn a profit.
12. What are some of the mistakes you wish you could have avoided in the beginning?
I didn’t have a live website for the first 3 years of business, which will always feel like a missed opportunity. Creating an online space for my customers to buy my products has changed the way I do business.
I also wish I had developed a plan for my social media. At the beginning, I didn’t know what my audience wanted and wasn’t consistently showing up for them. Working with professional photographers to build content has been a game changer.
13. Have you ever turned down working with a client or a partner? How did you do it and why?
Yes, I have. Their goals and values didn’t align with mine, or the company’s.
How? Simple, I say “No thank you”. As a business owner, I have the freedom to work with who I want to.
14. On a more positive note, what has been your favourite client or partnership experience so far?
Getting my gear into the Moose Jaw Warriors store earlier this year was a pretty cool milestone for me. As I once played for the team, the fact that their team-issued gear played a role in the development of Team Issued Ltd makes it all feel full circle. From rocking their hats every day, to stocking their store with my own.
15. What are some of your goals for the business? Where do you want to see it in 5 years?
One of my primary goals is to grow Team Issued Ltd into a fully sustainable, locally-source operation that includes a commercial space.
Another is to build a second source of revenue, expanding into fully custom apparel for teams, businesses, and more.
Now, let’s focus on you as an Entrepreneur:
16. Is the business we’ve been talking about your only venture?
Yes, it is.
17. Do you still hold another job, or do you focus on the business full time?
I also work full time as a financial analyst, currently working towards my CPA designation. Once I complete my designation, my goal is to focus more on the business in order to grow it to the point that it can be my only, or main, source of income.
18. What made you decide to become an Entrepreneur, or have you always been one?
I feel like I’ve been an Entrepreneur my entire life. It started with selling goo that made fart noises to my classmates in Elementary school. Then, in junior high, I would gather lost golf balls, repackage them, and sell them to my teachers.
When I started playing junior hockey I continued with my entrepreneurial ways, opening my own dressing room barbershop operation. I got pretty good too and ended up “opening shop” with most of