Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Connor Curran, and I’m one of the co-owners of Local Laundry. We’re Canadian-made garments for social good. We’re determined to make the most socially conscious and most comfortable garments possible. We make garments that make you look good and feel good.
The core of our clothing is crewneck sweaters, hoodies, t-shirts, hats, toques, and socks. We utilize eco-friendly fibres and produce everything entirely here in Canada. My business partner, Dustin Paisley, and I founded Local Laundry in Calgary, Alberta initially with our YYC Collection, our claim to fame. Over five years since our inception, our collections now include the CAN Collection, Local Collection, and Giving Garments Collection.
Our customers are people who want to make their laundry local and build a community.
We sell mainly on our online store and create custom garments for organizations looking to source more sustainably and want to design clothing for their team that they want to wear rather than ending up in their pajama pile.
We’re currently becoming B Corp certified and becoming free of all plastic that isn’t recycled by 2022.
Our mission is to donate a million dollars to Canadian charities by 2030, to date we’ve raised over $80,000.
Dustin, I, and our team have built Local Laundry from the ground up starting from a simple Google search ‘how to start a t-shirt company’. Now, Local Laundry is a million-dollar business.
When the pandemic started, we were one full-time person. During the pandemic, we doubled our revenue, and our team has grown to 5 full-time people.
What's your backstory, and how did you come up with the idea?
It all started when I picked a fight with a laundry machine. I lost the fight but had an aha moment in the scuffle: What if all of our laundries were local? Like really, genuinely local? And from the ashes of that fight, Local Laundry rose. Today, we’re headquartered in Calgary and proudly Canadian, from our manufacturers and garments to our employees and customers. But the clothes are just the beginning: Our community is the heart of our story.
I had zero experience in clothing, e-commerce, or fashion. I just had an idea, so I did what all people with a view do. I Googled it and watched a YouTube video on how to do it. From there, I became obsessed with seeing how big of an impact we could create with clothing.
The best growth advice we would have is to grow organically. Spend the time, get to know every one of your customers. Personally hand deliver, write notes, even call them. Growing a business takes time, and you can’t do it without the community’s support and customers. Invest in building those relationships.
We started by trying to sell to just one person and going from there. I worked on the business part-time for two and a half years, not paying myself, and putting all the money back into the company.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The initial design was created by Connor Curran, Local Laundry Co-Founder, initially just with the cross and YYC without the mountain. When Dustin Paisley came on the scene he added the mountain. The design process wasn’t too existential, a childhood friend of Dustin, now full-time Senior Designer and Account Manager, Erin Lawrence, put the final design together. Initially, Connor & Dustin didn’t know they had to save the design as a PNG so it would have a transparent background. So, when the first t-shirt was printed it came out with a white box background behind the design!
When Local Laundry was first created the initial idea was to create community t-shirts and designs in Calgary, Alberta. We engaged community members and designers to bring designs to life that symbolized and showcased specific neighborhoods like Inglewood, Sunnyside, and Kensington.
When we first started, we were using dropshipping and on-demand printing. We didn’t fully understand the manufacturing process and the impact it has around the world. We quickly learned some places were more responsible than others when it came to taking care of their people, the planet, and ultimately the product and how they made it.
We kept asking how come no clothing company knew of what manufacturing their garments here in Canada.
After some research, we found out that before 1989, over 70% of all clothing bought and sold in Canada was made in Canada. Fast forward to 2015, and now less than 5% of all clothing is made here in Canada. We were determined to reverse that trend.
When you produce here in Canada, it is more expensive but for good reasons. They are made by Canadians who are being paid a livable wage, work in a safe working environment, have health benefits, and are adhering to strict Canadian labor and environmental laws. It turns out when employees are taken care of; they produce a better garment. When you create a better garment, it will last longer, making sure it stays out of landfills longer.
Describe the process of launching the business.
It’s never been easier to start a business than today. We utilized word of mouth via our friends and family, engaged early on Local Laundry brand fans and people who wanted to get involved in marketing the brand. Through our social media networks, we began building communication, awareness of Local Laundry, helping to fuel our growth. During 2015 the Calgary economy was not in good shape, however, it gave reign to a surge of small businesses. We aligned with those other small business owners and started collaborating, creating content, getting together for coffees, even hosting events now titled Start-Up & Beers. We align ourselves with other entrepreneurs and really grew together throughout the last 5-years. Some of those businesses being Calgary Heritage Roasting Co., Friday Sock Co., and more!
I searched how to make a t-shirt company and then watched a YouTube video outlining the step-by-step processes. The journey of bringing Local Laundry to life during the early days is all outlined here in one of our most searched blog posts, Any Idiot Can Start a T-shirt Company.
Within 48 hours of having the idea of the business, my website was live.
We self-financed the entire business from day 1; we’ve never taken investment or long-term debt. Instead, we built a company that was profitable and could support its growth. We never want to lose sleep about how we will pay the bills or try to keep our investors happy.
The biggest lesson when starting a business is just to start. It doesn't have to be perfect or have lots of money spent on it. It just has to be. It has to exist for it to grow.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The best growth advice we would have is to grow organically. Spend the time, get to know every one of your customers.
Personally hand deliver, write notes, even call them.
Growing a business takes time, and you can’t do it without the community’s support and customers. Invest in building those relationships rather than spending money solely on digital ads that line the pockets of tech giants.
Give back to the community, volunteer, donate to charities, work with other small businesses to learn and connect with others.
How do you bring customers back? Treat them like real people. If they email you, talk like a person and not a corporate drone. If you made a mistake and a customer is upset, make it right. Go above and beyond. Blow all expectations away. Be so good that they go out and tell ten people about your business right away.
In a world that revolves around transactional relationships, be different and be good to everyone your business interacts with, from customers to retailers, strategic partners to manufacturers, your accountant, team members, etc. Remember birthdays, acknowledge life goals or achievements, show your support when they need a helping hand. Sometimes even saying thank you can have a monumental impact.
Understand the value of compound interest. Nothing happens overnight. Things take time. It can take years and years or even decades for your vision to come to life. Take your time, enjoy the ride.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today we have over five employees working full-time. We sell our garments to people across Canada and beyond.
We get the chance to work with exceptional individuals and organizations who share the same values and vision for a better community as we do.
We will be one of Canada’s top clothing brands and the most socially conscious clothing company in our space.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Making money isn’t everything. Working on something you enjoy with people you like to work with and spending time with your family and friends is all that matters.
We’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, and that’s ok. As long as you can learn from those mistakes and move on.
You have to be willing to improve yourself constantly. I gave up drinking and partying to focus on growing the business. You have to have focus and stay focused. Don’t hop from one shiny object to another.
Have a vision, share that vision, and have a plan to attain that vision. What will you do in the next three years, one year, 90 days, this week to achieve that vision?
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- SuperHuman (email)
- Google Docs and Sheets
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- The E-Myth Revisited - by Michael Gerber
- Extreme Ownership - by Jacko Willink
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less - by Greg McKeown
- Let My People Go Surfing - by Yvon Chouinard
- Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
- The Art of Saying No - by Damon Zachariades
- The 5 AM Club - by Robin Sharm
- Zero to One - by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
- Never Split The Difference - Negotiate As If Your Life Depends On It - by Chris Voss
- This is Marketing by Seth Godin
- We started a business book club during the pandemic! To join click here.
- Podcasts - How I built this, Masters of Scale, Business Breakdown, Business Wars
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Just start it. Don’t overthink it. Don’t wait for the perfect time. Don’t wait until you have the perfect business idea or plan. Just start.
Don’t spend money or raise money before you start. Try to start with spending the least amount of money or no money at all. Money can be devastating to businesses just starting because any problems you encounter, you can just throw money at it, but it won’t solve the problem.
Find a good business partner who has the opposite skills to you. Invest in that relationship, make sure you have the same goals and vision. Don’t let ego kill your partnership or business.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Not at the moment but always open to chatting and to new ideas! Fire us an email at [email protected].
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Local Laundry has provided an update on their business!
2 months ago, we followed up with Local Laundry to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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