Young Calgary entrepreneurs find success with provincial clothing line

Young Calgary entrepreneurs find success with provincial clothing line

Alberta Branded harnesses provincial pride for shirt sales

 By: Mathew Silver For Metro

Sometimes the best ideas come from the most unlikely places.

For Calgarian entrepreneur John Ross, 22, the idea for his T-shirt company, Alberta Branded, came on the drive home from his cabin in British Columbia. And what started as a brainstorming session between friends quickly turned into a viable business.

“It started as a joke, and [the shirts] got over 100 pre-orders,” said Ross.

After about a year and a half of modest success, Ross realized that he needed something to take the brand – which was called Alberta Lifestyle at the time – to the next level.

Enter Jeff Schidlowsky, a 23-year-old mechanical engineering student and former high school classmate of Ross’ at Western Canada High School. The duo collaborated on a project in English 10 at Western, but didn’t imagine they would become business partners in the future.

When Schidlowsky approached him with some updated designs, Ross says he was surprised but realized he had found his new artistic director.

Since then the company has built its identity around being a truly Albertan brand, incorporating the landscape, lifestyle, and spirit of the province into their design.

Ross says that their main goal is to give back to the community, and they did just that when fire blazed through Fort McMurray in May. Ross and Schidlowsky went from entrepreneurs to philanthropists, donating 100 per cent of their profits to the relief effort during the month.

“We wanted the message to be sent that we were doing everything we possibly could,” said Ross. The effort was particularly close to home for Schidlowsky, whose sister is a forest fire fighter who was stationed near Fort McMurray during the disaster.

Now their product has landed in stores from Inglewood to Waterton, and their Instagram has accrued over 4,000 followers – a considerable following for a local brand that was built from the ground up.

Both of them are optimistic despite the downturn in the economy, and find the risk of starting a new company exciting.

“We are so young right now. There is only room to grow,” said Ross.

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