With summer winding down, it’s time to start thinking about getting back into those Onesies. Local online comfort clothing company Thuggies, which you might recognize from Dragons’ Den or your friends wardrobe, fills us in on their business journey and what’s in store moving forward.
Who are you? Tell us about your business and what inspired you to create it.
My name is Brad Westerop, I am a partner and Business Director for Thuggies, an online comfort clothing company. Our business began with extra-long hoodies to lie around at home, or to use while camping or after surfing. It has now evolved into a brand that sells a range of sweatshirts, adult onesies, and accessories. We originally created it as a costume for a birthday party, the minute we finished making it and put it on we realized we had something.
Where in the fashion/clothing world do you categorize Thuggies under and are there any competitors you need to look out for?
We are in the comfort and action sports industries. Our clothing is some of the comfiest stuff you will ever put on and it’s designed to be functional. Ever try to change out of your ski clothes in a parking lot? It sucks without a Thuggie. We have a few competitors, some that are still around and some that have passed. Poler out of Oregon is definitely one of the strong ones. They just released a sleeping bag with leg holes so you can walk around in it.
How has Vancouver’s rising startup community played a role in the development of Thuggies?
We started a few years back and I think Vancouver’s love for independent brands and products that stand out. The whole “yea I bet you’ve never seen this” aspect came into play for sure. On the business to business side, we have worked with a few local startups to create promotional material that makes a difference and speaks their character to their audience. Our latest collabs include Chuggies for Traction on Demand (tractionondemand.com a cloud based software development firm), Chuggies for a new startup Notch Cold Brew Coffee (instagram @notchcoffee), and we launched a new same day shipping service with Zipments.ca.
What core problem is your company specifically solving and/or what’s the main value you provide?
Thuggies provides a means to comfort after your favourite activity. No one is wearing crappy sweatpants anymore and do you really want to get into yoga pants when you’re still wet and sandy? The colourways and goofiness of some of our best sellers, give our customers an experience to share with others. Everyone that tries one on says “woah, I’m never taking this off”. We have made being comfortable easy.
How did you end up becoming an entrepreneur and what challenges did you personally overcome to succeed?
The challenge to help people or make an experience the best it can has always pushed me. I have always worked for entrepreneurial companies especially at Colliers International, Thuggies was in its growth stage when I worked there and they were more than supportive when I transitioned to full time at my own gig. The biggest challenge for me was to decide to go from a hobby business on the side to a full time job. The leap to make sure I had enough money to eat and Thuggies to grow was a tough.
What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
I don’t have a single person to credit my inspiration to. I would say locally it was the leaders at Colliers, Howie Charters, Gordon Easton, and Jim Smerdon. They provided the support and future outlook for growing Thuggies. Outside of Vancouver, I would say people that have taken a rare opportunity and made something out of it inspire me the most, from Lil’ Wayne to Nick Woodman (founder of Go Pro).
What Vancouver celebrity/influencer would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
It would be great to see Trevor Linden ditch the suit and wear a Canucks-themed Thuggie for a game…can you guys make that happen?
If you could tell your younger self something what would it be?
I would probably tell myself to save a little more cash for ventures like this one. I have never been overly short on cash but I love starting new ideas and growing them. Through university, I bought and sold cars on Craigslist.
What are some accessible resources used and winning habits you have developed to learn and grow as an entrepreneur?
Resources can be tough, financial resources (banks and the government) like to say they help youth-run and new businesses but there are so many catches. The biggest supply resource we have taken advantage of is Alibaba.com, you can find anyone to make anything there. The overseas thing can be scary and quite a learning experience. Other than that, the best resource is your customers, friends, family, and co-workers. You typically get a lot of side tracked ideas that would branch off what your goal is but every once and a while there is a genius idea that you can work with. As for habits, best one is hand written to-do lists. Makes sure I actually get through the day with what I planned on doing, and if I don’t finish it, it shames me a bit.
What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
Avoid debt and try to keep equity unless it’s going to surely help in the future. Try to not just focus on the money that is brought in by an equity sale, but the new skills added to the company that are going to bring your brand to the next level. I have learned that as much as I know nearly everything about how my business is run, outside thought and talent brings new encouragement, stronger sales, and a sometimes needed re-focus.
*End of interview*
It’s great to see how they have innovated what might seem to some as a one time wonder fad into what is a uprising industry of comfort clothing. Everyone likes to be comfortable and if with good marketing and clever applications for the brand, the potential is limitless. Vancity Buzz of course saw this potential four years ago when we introduced Thuggies in an old school article of ours – check it out!
*Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to paul(at)vancitybuzz(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit.