Onside media sat down with Sarah-Marie Doherty, founder of the Kingston-based e-commerce apparel site, Shop Dressr. Specializing in trendy University apparel that students want to wear, Sarah-Marie explains how creating a shirt to wear to Queen’s University homecoming turned into a small business.
Why did you start Shop Dressr?
In my last year of undergrad at Brock University, I went to the University of Florida. I was obsessed with the University of Florida apparel because everything was so cute and available at Dicks Sporting Goods and Walmart stores. The culture and school pride are so different in Canada, and one of the reasons is a lack of options for school apparel. I went to Queen’s homecoming with my boyfriend, and I made myself a shirt that said, “I kissed a Gael, and I liked it,” and it got much attention from my friends and students asking where they could get the shirt. Seeing the demand, I dropped a collection for Queen’s St. Patrick’s day 2020. My goal was to sell 25 shirts, and I sold 75.
Why do you only sell apparel for Queen’s, Mcmaster, Laurier, and the University of Toronto?
When I first started, none of the designs on the shirts were licensed. Eventually, I got Cease and Desist from the schools because we overgrew, and I didn’t want to get sued, so I ultimately got licensing deals with the four schools I work with. All the designs I currently have been approved by the schools and follow particular design guidelines. There is more demand for other Ontario universities, but first, we need to get the schools’ attention and onboard them for licensing deals.
How do you get design inspiration?
I went to Brock University, so I’m familiar with the culture. I also have people who go to the schools and work with me to better understand the cultures to ensure the apparel and marketing are relevant to those specific students/alumni. I also follow trends happening at USA Universities because those trends often trickle down into the Canadian market.
How do you work to prevent fast fashion?
Everything is made to order so merchandise doesn’t get thrown out if it isn’t ordered. I have an entire storage room of blank products. This way we can make the one-off items, and everything gets a home. I only carry up to size XL in stock online because when I first started, I carried up to 3XL, and the demand wasn’t there. My wholesaler provides up to size 4XL, so I can order it on demand if anyone contacts me looking for a larger size. This way, I’m not wasting stock due to it not being ordered. I would love to carry larger sizes in the future when we get more capital.
Is there anything new coming to your business?
I’m currently talking to Trent University about launching their stuff which is super exciting because their community has so much pride. I’m also working on an alumni project with Brock University. My goal is to continue getting more partnerships with schools, and long term, I would like to create a non-branded clothing line.
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Author: Kathryn Intini, Content Writer, St.Catharines, Canada. Kathryn is a fourth-year Business Communications student at Brock University. With an interest in big data analytics and a commitment to lifelong learning, she hopes to work in technical sales. She has been recognized for selling over $1 million in products at her summer sales job and her commitment to Autism Speaks Canada. If you have any stories or comments, kindly email: – kathrynintini.theonside@gmail.