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Meet 6 Businesses Changing the Canadian Fashion Industry in "Shaping the Six"

It's been 6 years strong for Fashion Zone, and we caught up with 6 of our all-star businesses to hear their Fashion Zone stories
By: Kelvin Li
July 31, 2019

July is a big moment for the Fashion Zone, as this month marks our 6 year anniversary since opening doors in 2013. What started as 3 enrolled companies has now grown to a community of over 160 companies and over 1,200 total members. Our network and our impact continues to grow, with Fashion Zone companies creating 1,018 jobs, and achieving total revenues over $129 million dollars.

In celebration of our 6 years, we are excited to release "Shaping the Six" - a feature of six successful Fashion Zone companies and their Fashion Zone stories.

Credits:
Photographer: Freya de Tonnancour, external link
Videographer: Kelvin Li, external link

Meet 2020 Armor's Ali Ghafour - the makers of the premier electronic vest and app for martial arts training and scoring. 

“I've never built anything physical, and we create electronic vests. One of the things we had to do was do a tech pack. I did not know what a tech pack was for the vest itself so our manufacturers can actually build it for us. We didn't have that skill set at all, so it was crucial to have access to that equipment and that talent that can create this tech pack for us which is essential for us to build our actual product.

So I'm used to working in an environment where it's just computers - you don’t actually have to work on anything physical. And then coming to a space where there is fabric, pad printers, and 3d printers, and having that accessible, and so I felt an immediate sense of comfort that we're in the right space for us to move forward. 

Founder and CEO Ali Ghafour’s advice to new and prospective members? “Everything is a resource for you to exploit, so don't expect the resources to ask you what you need.“

Ali Ghafour, Founder

Meet Finley Jewelry's Nathan and Kathleen, a sustainable jewelry powerhouse.

“Coming in every day and looking forward to seeing people, being our own team or the people at Fashion Zone. I think everyone is very helpful in the Fashion Zone, the teams have very good energy. You don’t always talk to people because you're always busy doing your own thing, but it’s good to know that you can just turn your head and say hey to someone and they will definitely reciprocate that positive energy that you do. 

Co-founders Kathleen and Nathan have been working on Finley for just shy of two years. Their advice to individuals interested in applying to an accelerator? 

“Do it. Definitely. I think that it's always scary applying to these incubators, and accelerators, and you might feel like your product isn't there yet, or your business is too early. But I strongly recommend starting the process earlier on because there is so much growth to be had and even if you have an established business coming to the Fashion Zone. I believe that if you haven't already done it, you should be doing it.

If you are lucky enough to get in, make sure you put 100% don't come in here and say I have this space and let me just lounge around. You come in here and put 100%  make sure you communicate to the staff and let them know what you need because if you don't put in anything, you won't get anything back. It's all about reciprocity at the Fashion Zone."

Kathleen Chan and Nathan Tran Trinh, Founders

Meet Authentic or Not (AoN), leaders in product authentication and connective product technologies.

“It’s very fashionable. Everyone is dressed up very well. I used to come in track pants, and now I come in a 3 piece suit. I found a community that was welcoming and everyone was rooting for each other and wanting to help each other out. My first impression was help everywhere and just a lot of resources, so that’s when I knew that I wanted to stay here as long as I can until you guys kick me out.

The mentors and advisors, that was gold to me. They gave me good inside, really helped shape where the tech was going. It's the place to be  if you want to thrive in the fashion industry.”

Ahmer Beg, Founder

Meet Odessu's Leon, an award-winning technology company that makes shopping for the right fit as easy as a browser extension.

“When I heard about the Fashion Zone, I thought it would be a really cool opportunity for me to be around company is within the same industry. I was very impressed to find that the Fashion Zone is not just clothing, it's also retail, tech, accessories, shoes, and platforms to sell those. So that allowed me to learn more about branding and marketing. And so I really thought with all of the workshops that Fashion Zone was offering that it would be a great home for Odessu as well.

The advisors have been a really big segment. Having an in-house advisor like Olena be there for me anytime I needed to ask a question. I remember there were a couple of weeks where I would go in a 3 days a week for an hour and sit down with her and have these ideas back and forth, that was a really cool thing.” 

Leon's advice to others?

“Use it to most of your ability. I think it has a great network, and I think as far as marketing, branding, and shipping, these are things that Fashion Zone has connections with to third party companies, has awesome people come to talk and give you feedback. And if you're aware of when these things are happening, you can just benefit so much and learn so quickly.”

Leon Nsengiyumva, Founder

Meet Eddy from Inlighten - creators of the world's best and brightest fiber optic light-up apparel.

“The Fashion Zone is a very busy place. A lot of things are happening, people are chit-chatting. It's very alive. It's overall a very positive vibe. I really enjoy having conversations with people here because everyone is easy going, very upbeat. They all have very good ideas  and are brilliant brilliant minds. I learn a lot from people here, and I know that I am in the right place. It's somewhere that is hard to leave.

I think it's very comprehensive. And I think one of the best things Fashion Zone's efforts is that Fashion Zone really tries to listen to what the members are saying, what the members really want. When I needed help with tax, they held tax workshops. When I needed help with marketing, there are marketing workshops. I think one of the best things that Fashion Zone offers is being responsive.”

Eddy Song, Founder

Meet Stuart from Passen - new age body measuring technologies that brings unprecedented ease and accuracy to shopping in-stores and online

“Day 1 It was kind of exciting. All these new people. And getting into the same physical space as these people that are at a similar stage of their lives and the company they are working on. Meeting all the staff members, it was a fond and memorable time. It's nice to be around people who are going through a similar experience as you. To be able to be around people who truly empathize with the craziness that entrepreneurship is comforting.

For Passen, a general theme has been exposure. All of the different opportunities to showcase our company and our solutions. Like the space for showcasing in April, bringing people through having a curated experience.

Talking to other entrepreneurs has probably been the most valuable. When it's 11 PM on a Wednesday and there's another person sitting across the room hunched over their computer, there's kind of empathy and curiosity and like "What are you working on?" So you start talking and they start telling you their story and they start telling you their challenges, those connections have been the most valuable.” 

Stuart’s advice to our readers?

“Do it. Go through the process and meet the people and see what it has to offer by taking the first step and applying. It's been incredibly valuable. You learn and meet people.”

Stuart Campbell, Founder