Where were you born and raised?
My brother, Michael, and I were both born and raised right here in London, Ontario.
What is your educational background? Your professional background?
I have a Master of Teaching degree, and I taught secondary school in Northern Ontario for 5 years before becoming a mom and starting Os & Oakes. During that time, I also worked part-time at LEAP Junction Entrepreneurial Services at Fanshawe College and was inspired by all the young ideas and energy around me. Michael completed the Electrical Techniques program at Fanshawe College, but he found his real passion working at Apple for the last 5 years.
What is your company name?
Our company name is Os & Oakes. The Os (pronounced oz) in our name represents our quirky, little ostrich logo, and Oakes is named after my two boys (Michael’s nephews).
Where are your operations located?
We are a home-based business, but our production occurs in London, Toronto and Vancouver.
How long have you been in business?
We started the company in July of 2016 and have been in operations for about a year and a half.
Why did you get started in this business?
Both Michael and I felt compelled to start something fun and wanted to channel our creativity. Personally, as a mom of two little boys, I found it frustrating when I was trying to find cool, trendy clothing in neutral styles for my boys, so Michael and I collaborated and created some designs. Michael came up with our awesome bird logo, and then we put our visions into action!
What are your specialties?
My specialties are all things communication — I communicate with our manufacturers and customers, run our social media platforms and keep track of inventory. Michael is behind our graphics, website and photo editing.
What direction are you taking your business in?
Right now, we are definitely in a learning and growing phase. We are focusing on getting to know our customers and determining what they love about our brand, and we are figuring out how to improve. We have expanded our business into wholesale and are sold in over 10 retail locations. This has been a great experience for us as we are happy to be working with some very accomplished and respected retailers that are great cheerleaders for our brand. Ultimately, in our near future, we are hoping to grow our online store and focus on growing our loyal customer base.
Who or what is your professional inspiration?
There are definitely a lot of local London business owners who are inspiring. To be honest, the entire community inspires us. It is amazing to be an entrepreneur in this city at the moment. Young people are taking risks and following their dreams. To be in business alongside such a supportive and energetic community is definitely inspirational to us.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment with your business?
We have done a lot in our year and a half. We participated in Vancouver Kids Fashion Week, Toronto’s One of a Kind Show and have had backing from some incredible social media influencers. However, our greatest accomplishment just happened when we recently participated in The Modern Mom Show, an amazing new tradeshow right here in London developed by Sabrina Mallucci of The OVer Company. The response to our brand during this show was unbelievable. Not only did we have incredible sales, but we were also overwhelmed with the amount of support. The kind words shared, and the overall positive response we received from our customers and other business owners within our community really reaffirmed our hard work, and that we have a good thing going on!
Why do you think your business is successful?
I think our business is successful for three reasons. Firstly, it’s different from what you can find in a lot of stores. We use an amazing eco-friendly, bamboo fabric that is incredibly soft for little ones and sustainably sourced. Our customers care about where their clothing is made and what it is made from. Secondly, we keep it simple and pay attention to the small details, like our use of embroidery or elbow patches. Our clothing line portrays an adult style that is unisex and sophisticated. It often has our customers requesting we expand into adult sizes. Finally, we have developed a consistent brand image among our social media platforms and have created a lot of engagement within the Instagram community. This has definitely helped us reach customers all over Canada and grow a loyal customer following.
What do you love about your business?
My favourite part about owning this business is seeing our clothing being enjoyed and worn “in the wild.” It’s so awesome to run into a customer wearing our brand and loving it. Having someone stop and ask me where my boys got their clothing is a true compliment, and it never gets old. I love the relationships I have developed with customers and other business owners. Although social media can have a bad rep, I like the opportunity that it has given us to “meet” and communicate with our clientele all over Canada.