Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
The Unsung Hero Apparel brand was built to represent the blue collar community and the everyday heroes who sometime go unnoticed in our lives: the 9-5 grinders, thankless public servants, and just everyday people living honest lives. Unsung Hero Apparel was built to represent people who have a goal and won’t stop at anything until that goal is achieved. With this mantra in mind, the tagline “No Quit, All Hustle” was developed which fully embodies everything the UH movement is about. So, on the surface the company sells hats, t-shirts, and tank tops, but really what Unsung Hero Apparel is selling is a lifestyle. A lifestyle to be a better version of yourself everyday. A lifestyle to make everyone around you better. A lifestyle which embodies the ethos “Rise & Grind”, “Community”, “Sweat Equity”. Unsung Hero Apparel lives, breathes, and sells the No Quit, All Hustle lifestyle. Unsung Hero Apparel designs and develops all concepts featured on their gear. The actual garments are printed by a local supplier with the vision of moving to an overseas manufacturer.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
CEO Styler Winsor started this brand out of his own bedroom in Timmons, Ontario. When he was 15 years old (11 years ago), he made Unsung Hero’s first order of 10 t-shirts for $100. He’ll admit the designs have come a long way since then, but the substance was always there. The shirts simply said “Unsung Hero” with the tagline “No Quit, All Hustle” printed underneath. The shirts were sold to friends and family who were impressed by the tenacity and vision of the young entrepreneur. So I would say the first sale of Unsung Hero Apparel was earned in the most organic fashion. A small town believing in a small town kid’s dream. The online genesis of Unsung Hero in 2012 was a massive step for the company. More importantly, the Shopify platform helped give a small company a professional ecommerce presence without the massive price tag. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have really helped build a following for Unsung Hero and all (mostly Facebook) have been mainstays in generating traffic to the website. Outside of the online world, Unsung Hero still sticks to their lunchpail, hardhat approach by participating in trade shows, throwing charity events like the Unsung Hero Christmas Gala which donates money every year to the Ottawa Senators Children’s Foundation, and growing the brand with personal connections. The office, located in an Ottawa suburb, is frequented by ambassadors and fans of the brand who drop in to meet the team, check out the office, and pick up the latest gear.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
The biggest impact for the online store is the Shopify platform itself. In 2014, Unsung Hero brought on Ryan Jacks as a full-time web developer and he immediately praised the Shopify platform for its ease of use and flexibility when it came to customizing the store. Shortly thereafter, Unsung Hero launched a fresh, customized template (expanded from a Shopify free template) which gave the company a dynamic, professional web presence. Another massively impactful tool is the Shopify POS system. As previously mentioned, Unsung Hero participates in numerous trade shows and does a substantial amount of business through their headquarters via foot traffic. Having the Shopify POS system saves the headache of managing online and street sales and gives UH a centralized database of product inventory. Combine that with Shopify’s reporting system and Unsung Hero has as professional of product tracking one can ask for. All shipping and order fulfillment is done through Unsung Hero’s headquarters in Ottawa. However, Unsung Hero’s own Pete Gillis has been known to personally drop off orders made on through the site to local Ottawa addresses.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Enjoy the grind. Having a successful online business doesn’t happen overnight. But if you wake up everyday excited to grow your brand and grow your business, you’ll get there. Remember the value of organic connections. In this modern day of social media, its easy to get caught up in acquiring “Likes” and getting retweeted, etc. Don’t get me wrong, having a strong social media following is important in generating online sales. But remember to make those face-to-face relationships by talking to people about your brand. Let them feel your passion and enthusiasm. Those are the true building blocks of a successful business. Battle. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. When Unsung Hero was starting out in the online world, we would have several days (sometimes weeks) go by without an online sale. Believe in your brand, believe in yourself, take the “No Quit, All Hustle” approach to everyday life and you’ll get your business to where you want it to go.