I absolutely love living in Alberta, there is something about the Stampede combined with the prairies on one side and the mountains just an hour drive away. I used to want to move away (mostly to Cali), but even Vancouver was enticing or just trying out the 6 for a while. But as I settle myself into Calgary with a house, a career and the friends I grew up with, I don’t think I could move away from this beautiful province.
I was introduced to Alberta Branded from a friend who goes to school out at UBC where she knows one of the founders of the company. Jeff Schidlowsky & John Ross are on a mission to define what Alberta’s lifestyle is and develop it into a brand that connects the province. Both the east coast and west coast have defining lifestyle brands that have gained huge traction within the last few years such as East Coast Lifestyle. But we obviously needed something to set us apart as we sit in between the two coasts.
They felt it was time that Alberta left its mark on the lifestyle goods industry with something unique that would embody Alberta in a strong, distinguishable, yet relatable way. I had a chance to chat with the two founders about the story of Alberta Branded, and what it means to be an Albertan.
The two boys attended Western Canada High School then graduated and split up, John to St. Francis Xavier to study marketing and Jeff stayed in Calgary to play Dinos Football while pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering. Being out in the East, John was exposed to East Coast Lifestyle which inspired him to pursue the road in marketing, fashion, and entrepreneurship. The success of that brand had a huge impact on the boys’ decision to define Alberta’s own lifestyle brand sitting between the East and West coasts.
What inspired you to start Alberta Branded?
John: The whole thing started as a way for me and my housemates to represent Alberta while attending university on the East coast. I have always been interested in graphic design and entrepreneurship, so when I saw East Coast Lifestyle’s success my friends and I started thinking. We were driving back from the mountains talking about what an Alberta “lifestyle” logo would look like if someone had designed it and two major themes came up – the mountains and oil.
When I got home I jumped on my computer and designed the first iteration of AB Lifestyle. I shared it with my housemates to see if they would want a shirt like that to combat the East Coast Lifestyle craze that was quickly taking over the region. It was a resounding “YES.” I took it to Facebook and asked people if they would want a shirt with the logo I design on it and within two days I had over 100 shirt orders – AB Lifestyle was made. Alberta Branded was then conceived around two years later as a result of the recent shift in Alberta’s industrial sector to rebrand the company as a new initiative to shape Alberta’s future identity.
We’ve been inspired by highly reputable companies such as Carhartt for their durability while also embodying the everyday athletic lifestyle of Lululemon. Fashion is not about plastering the same generic logo on a hundred different hoodies, it’s about being confident in yourself and being proud of everything that made you who you are. We believe that Alberta has shaped millions of incredible people, and will continue to build character in everyone that sets foot across our border.
Where did the name come from?
AB Lifestyle was the first rendition, but we wanted to distinguish ourselves from the East Coast Lifestyle brand. The new name needed to be rooted with Alberta’s heritage in such a way that the moment anyone set foot in the province they would feel an instant connection. One day we got a call from a good friend at the Copithorne Ranch. The CL family ranch are local Alberta legends in the industry, and they invited us out to their annual cattle branding. Right then “Alberta Branded” was born. The word branded represents an undeniable connection with one of Alberta’s most distinguishable industries as well as a unique common identifier for Albertans. It was our vision to create a strong brand and company name that would help unite a province.
What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of starting your own business?
Jeff: The biggest reward right now is seeing the excitement around the brand. There are hundreds of clothing companies who focus on the west coast lifestyle, its Alberta’s turn to promote the lifestyle of this side of the Rocky Mountains.
The most challenging part is representing Alberta as a whole. There are so many dynamic lifestyles across this province that it is nearly impossible to embody them all. It took some time as we were developing are brand, but we have learned that you can’t please everyone.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs?
John: Put yourself in a position to be creative and successful. Have a purpose to your thinking. If you put yourself in a position where you are constantly thinking about a project you will eventually have your “wow” moment that really hits your audience. Put your heart into something you truly believe in and ignite it into a burning blaze that is contagious. My ideas usually happen in my daily routine like walking to work, talking to friends, or in the shower. When you establish an idea set a goal to make 10x content. This means that your content or idea is ten times better than anything that exists in that space now, no matter how narrow or wide your niche is. Put the time, effort, and thought into creating something to the best of your ability.
What keeps you motivated?
Jeff: There is a divergence in the identity of Alberta, a haze of uncertainty the spreads across our prairies and covers our mountains. We know we have a good idea and that it has the potential to be a big deal. The thought of wasting an amazing opportunity like this and letting my partners down is what keeps me motivated to do more.
What’s in store for Alberta Branded?
Alberta Branded is still a young buck that needs to be broken in. So far the growth of our company has been from word of mouth and a small social media presence. Right now we are focused on making ourselves present in the space – attending local events, collaborating with local influencers. We want to be seen as a company that creates quality clothing and designs with a solid set of principles backing us. In the long term, we are hoping to establish ourselves more in the community by selling through local vendors as well as expanding past Calgary’s city limits into the rest of Alberta.