We eat local food and drink local craft brew, but why is our clothing not local? This is what Connor Curran, Chief Laundry Folder at Local Laundry, thought when he started the Calgary-based clothing company while completing his MBA in Sweden.
Local Laundry was founded in 2015 with the unique mission of using clothing to bring people together. It creates a positive impact on the community through five guiding pillars: representing where you come from; sharing stories from the community; collaborating with others who also want to have a positive impact; giving back through local charities; and producing Canada-made clothing. Today, you can purchase their Canadian-made garments directly at locallaundry.ca.
Connor Curran, Founder and Chief Laundry Folder at Local Laundry, wearing the YYC Baseball Hat.
What inspired Connor to start the company? He credits his parents for introducing him to entrepreneurship and community building.
"My parents immigrated from Ireland with no money and no education, but they worked very hard to do what all Irish immigrants do when they come to Canada; open an Irish pub. I was able to see how, through hard work and sheer determination, they were able to build a life for themselves; be their own bosses, provide for their family, and give back to the community, all through entrepreneurship. I knew I wanted to create something that I could use as a vehicle to give back. I was always fascinated with the idea of clothing and how it can express one's values and thoughts. So, with little to no experience, I did what any Millennial does; just hit up the ol’ Google machine with ‘how to make a t-shirt company’ and watched a tutorial."
What makes Local Laundry a unique Canadian clothing company?
Unlike the other big Canadian clothing companies, Local Laundry produces only made-in-Canada garments to support Canadian manufacturing, jobs, and the economy. Despite starting out with overseas manufacturing, Connor saw an opportunity to make his laundry even more local by washing, printing, warehousing and shipping garments in Canada.
"We made the switch to local manufacturing, and it was the greatest decision we ever made because it also separated us from all the major players. Few of the big Canadian clothing companies, if any, make their clothing here, so instead of having to compete by price or other means, we were competing on quality and supporting Canadian values," says Connor. "People are willing to pay more for quality, sustainable and ethical sourcing, and supporting the products that were made here."
Local Laundry uses their Canadian apparel to make a difference in their community by making monthly charity donations (with over $60,000 raised to date), organizing volunteer and networking events, and designing unique gear for social movements. Their mission to give back is supported in part through collaborations with other Canadian community builders, such as Lululemon, Brewsters, and the Canadian Institute of Calgary.
"What shocked us was that not only do Canadians want to support Canadian-made, but organizations do as well; they wanted to source locally, and create garments that people were proud to wear and that they look good in. We have the ability to make it here, we just need people to support us."
Austin Knibb modelling some Local Laundry swag.
Photo byHunter Duncan.
Creating a digital presence
Behind the brand name
"We were in Sweden and we had a tiny house with a washing machine in our shower. It was terrible. Everytime you did a load it would dance all over the bathroom, so we would constantly have battles with it. After one particular night of losing a battle with the washing machine, my exhausted wife said 'you want your laundry to be local? Just call it local laundry!'".
Local Laundry adopted .CA as part of their efforts to promote Canadian values to customers, both locally and abroad.
"Even though I was living in Sweden at the time, we knew that we would be moving back and that our core demographic was going to be Canadian, especially Calgary, so we got a .CA almost immediately," says Connor. "It’s a shorter URL, and it showcased the Canadian values that we were going for in a way that .com couldn’t. Even though we’ll secure the .com, I think a .CA will always be the number one domain for us partly because of the brand value that Canada has abroad; the quality that Canada brings, the brand recognition. I personally believe that a .CA has more brand appeal internationally than a .com does."
Sharing community stories
Connor credits the success of Local Laundry to collaboration, saying the company is constantly coming out with new campaigns where they are creating content with other entrepreneurs in the community that expose them to a new audience.
"The big thing for us was marketing. We knew that in order to grow the brand and get it out there, we had to market. Well, we didn’t have a lot of money, so we knew that the way to grow and market the brand was to work with the community and other people starting small businesses. When I moved back to Canada a few months after starting Local Laundry, I sought out every little Canadian company that started out the same way as me. We worked with anyone and everyone who had just started out that shared the same values of wanting to grow and wanting to build the community. Through this organic reach, we would share their stories and they would share our stories, and we just grew from there."
A word of advice to entrepreneurs
"Stop talking about it and do it. Just get it up there. Don’t be afraid to fail. You have to remain relevant and agile. When the pandemic hit, everyone had to transition online. There’s always going to be something else [in your way] and you have to be willing to change and adapt. It’s about taking a step back and seeing what you’re good at, what assets do you have and how can you rejig them in a way to benefit your current situation."