Calgary is a city that is quickly on the rise, with a wealth of talented and innovative minds. It is a place where a great idea, paired with dedication and hard work, can flourish in a wide variety of niches. The city continues to surprise me with its abundance of forward thinking and exceptionally driven locals who never fail to acknowledge their roots. Entrepreneurs and their businesses are single-handedly moulding Calgary's landscape, providing depth and spark to our local community.
Even Odds Collective ranks among the top businesses who are doing just that.
Even Odds Collective is a company that understands the need for self-expression and produces quality headwear and apparel that helps it’s customers do so. Designed right here in Calgary, Even Odds Collective encompasses what #MyCalgary stands for - forward thinking, passionate individuals who are committed to seeing this city develop and grow.With a mantra of "All in. All the Time." this local company believes in getting back what you put in, delivering on the promise of working to enhance the development of passionate people in and around our beautiful city.
I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and have an intimate conversation with the creative minds behind Calgary's most upcoming apparel brand – Even Odds Collective. It was such a pleasure to not only meet Dave Rutherford and Hillary Beney, but also to share in their collective passion when it comes to their business. They were gracious enough to welcome me into their creative space and share their personal journey with me.
What ignited the spark in you to start Even Odds Collective?
Dave: "It’s kind of been a long time coming. I grew up snowboarding and skateboarding for 14 years and even use to BMX in the summer. During the course of that things evolved and I quickly realized that fashion tied in with sports like these very well. I moved on and realized I didn't want the 9-5 job so I focused on building Even Odds Collective as a brand that reflected my love for these sports."
What has been the most exciting part of owning your own business?
Dave: "Probably the growth - watching the whole thing grow. It ties back to snowboarding and skateboarding where you don't want to be doing the same thing over and over again. You want to continuously be evolving and growing. That, to me, is the most important and coolest thing to see. The other one is going around the town and noticing a lot of people wearing the brand. Showing up to a concert, walking around town, going to a show and seeing people wearing the product is a really cool feeling."
Hillary: "It's also cool seeing the product come in and seeing the final product. The brand as a whole is similar to Dave's style - everything is so clean and simple. It really resonates with our customer base."
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?
Dave: "I don't have that much non work time to be honest. I currently work two jobs, so when I'm not doing something with Even Odds Collective, I am at work as a commercial electrician. In my spare time snowboarding takes up a lot of time and I do a lot of fitness related activities. In the summer we recently just went paddle boarding which I hope catches on. For the paddle boarding we went to Canmore, snowboarding is typically kept in Banff – like Lake Louise and Sunshine. We also travel so if there is some good powder or if we see a good storm we chase it to places like BC."
Where do you see yourself and Even Odds Collective in a year from now? 5 years from now?
Dave: “I'm not big on forecasting because it's super hard to predict where you actually will be. We've kept the business broad and general in order to encompass a lot of different areas. If something really picks up, I'd say we will target that. So for example, if snowboarding becomes the forward trend we will target that. If the music scene picks up on us we will target that. Obviously we are working to get our products into stores as well. Within a year we would like to have a bunch of retail spots in the city and then within 5 years we are definitely hoping to be a national brand if not an international brand. We do some dealing with the states right now but I would like to get more involved with the states and then open up our shipping internationally.”
What advice would you give to someone who wants to turn their passion into a business?
Dave: “Honestly, I think just go for it. Like I said, the whole brand, the whole idea, has been a long time coming. I think I sat on it for 4-5 years and in hindsight I wish I would have done it 4-5 years ago. Obviously I’m a little more experienced now, and a little bit of a better thinker than I was at 19. But with that being said, you just have to kind of jump into it. You learn your basics, you learn your foundation and a bit about the industry you are going into, and I think you just kind of go for it. The whole idea of business is a learning process - you are never going to come into it with 100% knowledge. If you just kind of jump into it, be adaptive, and learn as you go I think that's the best way to do it. It gets you started and as long as you get your foot in the door, you go from there.”
Hillary: “And there's going to be road blocks so it’s important that you learn from them, call it a bad day and just keep going. We’ve had a few things were it's been a bit of a setback but you just look at them as learning experiences for your future.
Dave:” I don't think you'd classify anything as a failure. Its corny, but it really is more of a learning experience.”
How do you define your Calgary?
Dave: “It's really a community. Growing up in Ontario you are about an hour from Toronto so when I came out here I had the idea it would be a big city as well. But it’s really much smaller than you think. Everyone knows everyone and there are a lot of tight knit circles that provide a huge amount of support. I think it’s a good community for growth.”
Hillary: “Calgary is very entrepreneurial and a very young city. A lot of people we have hooked up with so far are so young, around 20-24, and have so many ideas and so much creativity. There is a lot of artistry in the city which is inspiring for us to because it keeps you motivated. It’s cool to see how very connected everything is.”
How do you stay motivated?
Dave: “Day to day? It’s tough. My day typically consists of getting up at 5:30AM, and then I head to work as a commercial electrician for about 8 hours. I get home around 3-4PM and plug away from there. Basically I think there are a lot of different factors that motivate me. Friends and family are a huge one. Hillary, my girlfriend, has helped me a lot more than I can even think of. As well, when you see different things, and look at different brands you envision the growth of your own brand. Certain factors will push me on a certain day so it’s not one specific thing. Everyone has peaks and valleys when it comes to motivation so not one specific thing can really get you to your endpoint, but as long as you can draw from these different factors, it all evens out. Sometimes I’ll think to myself okay I've been slacking today and that forces me to look at something to motivate me more. Sometimes all it takes is me looking at Hillary while she’s working away and that gets me through it. So basically I think it's a combination of different factors and a lot of coffee that gets me through.”
Hillary: “It's also seeing how people react to the product as well. Like even when we go out and see people wearing it too, it pushes you to keep on going. It's like oh my goodness, I don't even know this person and they are repping it. There is so much positive feedback. I've done a lot of the sales so I've heard a lot of what the customers have to say and I've tried to motivate Dave by relaying this information to him and showing him that people are dedicated to the product. I have people who buy everything in the catalogue, not just one product! That's motivating enough, a little bit on my end too because it shows that people really connect with the brand.”
How do you build a successful customer base here in Calgary?
Dave: “Most important thing for us is putting out a quality product. If we aren't putting out a quality product we can't build a customer base. We are also creating a brand and family. People are more geared to a brand that is really involved in the city, doing positive things within the city. So our first event we did was the Lilac fest this summer. What we did in that was we actually donated a portion of our events to the Chill Foundation, which gets kids out on the hill and teaches them how to snowboard. A big thing for us is the community based approach. Donating to charities, getting involved with a bunch of different shops in the city, a bunch of different events in the city all works towards getting the community involved in our brand. Building this sense of community first is the most important step before we begin to branch out.”
Hillary: “We have a team that we picked out too. We have a couple of hip-hop dancers, we have skaters, we have skiers and the majority of them are in Calgary and we invite all of their friends to use their promo code too. So it’s like building a community. We’ve gotten pretty close to them and we are building a family. We operate primarily on word of mouth and we always encourage participation of family members and friends of our team.”
Dave: “The big thing about that is that we are getting exposure for them. It is exposure for us in a sense because they are pretty talented individuals, but we want to get them out there. Calgary isn't the biggest demographic for the music, snowboarding, skateboarding scene so we haven't been internationally recognized as a city. But I think that that's going to gradually start changing and start to pick up. The biggest hubs are Vancouver and Toronto right now but the way Calgary is developing quickly. The music scene we have just recently gotten involved in is really picking up, COP is huge for snowboarding and skiing - so getting them out there and getting exposure for them is really important to us.”
Who or what is your greatest inspiration so far?
Dave: “I don't really have a specific answer. I'd say there are a lot of different ones. Both my parents have been a huge one. My dad started his own business and it has always been a dream of mine to follow in his entrepreneurial footsteps. In terms of other motivation, I’d say our inspiration. I look at the core companies and see where they started from and how they've grown. It’s really those rag-to-riches stories that motivate me, the stories about how people started by selling t-shirts on street corners and seeing how those very same t-shirts are in every department store in the nation. So that I guess is the biggest inspiration because anything can happen in my opinion.”
Hillary: “My greatest motivation is you Dave! It’s crazy to see someone so young have a degree, be a third year electrician and start his own company! It is very surreal what he's accomplished in like 10 months and he motivates me to so much. I doubt I would be where I am today if it wasn't for his influence.”
If you were stranded on an island, and could only bring three items, what would they be?
Dave: “Wow that’s a pretty tough one! If I could maybe lump friends into one category that would be pretty cool. If I could get my cell phone with some sort of solar charger, I would have to go with that. And then, I guess if there were mountains, maybe a board or something to keep fit and active for sure. I would say snowboarding but on an island I'm not sure if that would be possible but definitely something to keep me active would be on that list.”
If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?
Dave: “I'd be too embarrassed to sing in the first place. See my taste in music rotates too. One month I’ll be super into Two Chains, then it'll switch to Wu-Tang, and then back to heavy metal. Right now I think it would have to be anything by Jay Z, for sure. Not only is he a musical inspiration, but from an entrepreneurial standpoint, he is pretty huge as well. Plus if I did anything Jay Z, I wouldn’t have to sing anything on key so I would sound okay. Anything from The Blueprint for sure.”
Hillary: “Have you ever heard of Halsey? She’s an up and comer. Anything from her new album I just scream and belt it out there with no chill at all!”
I would like to extend the hugest thank you to both Dave and Hillary for taking the time to sit and chat with me. Their passion for Even Odds Collective and for the city of Calgary is awe inspiring and something that all brands should strive to achieve. Their ability to stay true to a brand that exudes such Calgary pride is so necessary in this expanding landscape and speaks numbers to the quality of the products they produce. Their team and fan base are so refreshingly diverse, pulling form a variety of diverse backgrounds and interests. I, for one, will continue to follow the growth of this company because I saw first-hand the dedication and hard work that has already gone into it. Even Odds Collective is a local gem and one that makes me proud to be a part of our city of Calgary.